Calling a manufacturer about an herbal product is an excellent way to gain information and confidence. A good starting question is how a company identifies herbs when it receives them. A large manufacturer that gets shipped tons of elecampane (Inula helenium) may say they use an in-house lab to microscopically identify the specific root structure of the raw material, then spot-chemical test it to identify the specific marker compounds unique to elecampane. A boutique herb farmer may say when he goes out to his organic patch to dig the root, he identifies when the plant is in bloom and knows from experience exactly when to harvest. Do you prefer the apparent rigor of scientific instruments or the appeal of a hands-on farmer? Both answers are certainly satisfactory. Listen closely and decide for yourself. Here are six other questions to ask.

  1. Where was the herb grown?
  2. Who put this formula together, and what are their qualifications?
  3. What support do you have for the activity of the herb? Can you provide a copy of the studies?
  4. Is your specific herb product—including formulation, dosage and dosage form—based on current knowledge?
  5. How do you ensure the quality of your herbs?
  6. How is the standardized marker compound related to the presumed activity of the plant?