Herbal supplements have become a top seller in health food stores and online. It seems like every day a story is popping up about some new miracle supplement that yields too-good-to-be-true results. And as it usually turns out, that’s just what most supplements are: too good to be true.
Now, that’s not to say all supplements are scams, because they aren’t. However, you need to use some common sense and caution when buying a supplement, especially online.
Here’s a checklist of things to look at before you buy any supplement.
- Research the ingredients—Supplement manufacturers almost always boast about their ingredients, but unless you’re an expert, you probably don’t really know what those ingredients actually are. Sure, the names sound impressive, but do they actually work? That’s why it’s always a good idea to thoroughly research all the active ingredients in a supplement before you buy it. Read up on what each ingredient is supposed to do, and find out if there are any side effects associated with them.
- Find actual user reviews—When buying a supplement, your top priority is to cut through the marketing hype to get straight to the facts. Reading user-submitted reviews gives you insight into the experiences of real-life customers like yourself. I recommend trying to find reviews on a nonbiased third party website as some companies make up their reviews or only publish the positive ones.
- Seek out the negative—As consumers, we have a tendency to only look for the good things about a product we’re interested in buying. I recommend seeking out the negative. Hit up Google and search for things like “(Supplement name) scam” or “(Supplement name) doesn’t work.” Using negative search phrases will help you find criticism about the supplement, giving you a more well-rounded assessment of the product.
- Check the parent company’s reputation—Usually, a supplement can be traced back to a parent company that puts out several other supplements. Do your best to find out who the company is behind the supplement you’re considering, and spend plenty of time reading up on them. What’s their reputation? If a lot of consumers are complaining about their other products, it’s probably best to stay away.
- Know the side effects—Supplement companies love to highlight the benefits of their products, but they almost never tell you about the side effects. Every supplement has potential side effects, so make sure you find out what they are. The more you know, the better a decision you’ll be able to make in regards to your health.
- Find studies that prove the claims—Check out the website of any supplement, and you’ll come across some bold claims. Some supplements claim to make your body 20 years younger. Others claim to help you lose 25 pounds in a month. But unless there’s actual proof, this is just marketing hype. Look for case studies and experiments that back up the claims being made. If you can’t find any, there’s a good chance the claims just aren’t true.
- Read the fine print of free trials—It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. The supplement manufacturer lures customers in with a free trial. A month later, the customer can’t believe they’re receiving another bottle of the product, and they’re outraged to find their credit card is being charged hundreds of dollars. That’s because many free trial programs require you to enroll in an auto-subscription for the product. They bill you each month by sending you a new batch. So, before you sign up for any free trial, read the fine print so you know exactly what to expect.
Have you ever purchased any supplements online? What was your experience? Share your insight—positive and negative—by leaving a comment.