In the 16th round of product testing since 2017, NOW tested more than 30 Berberine supplements after surveying the online marketplace for questionable products and identified serious quality problems from “no name” brands sold on Amazon and Walmart.com.
Berberine is one of the latest dietary supplements highlighted on social media. With any rapid rise in popularity, there is the opportunity for deceptive sellers to cash in by offering inferior or adulterated products. This has proven to be true with berberine.
Berberine is an intensely yellow coloured alkaloid extracted from various plants such as Barberry and Oregon Grape Roots. Berberine supplements (like NOW’s) are typically made in hydrochloride (HCl) form, which is obtained from an extraction of Berberis aristata bark.
Berberine HCl dihydrate is typically used as the supplement source of Berberine HCl and is 85–90% potency. This means that if brands claim 500 mg of Berberine on a label and it’s in the HCl form, the supplier must input 550-575 mg of Berberine HCl dihydrate to meet the label claim.
Some brands claim “Berberine” in the Supplement Facts panel for potency, whereas others list “Berberine HCl.” Although both are technically legal, full disclosure would list: “Berberine HCl 500 mg (from 550 mg of Berberine HCl dihydrate).”
Labelling, testing and calculations are complicated, making it harder for consumers to evaluate the information.
“We purchased two bottles of each product from 33 brands, including NOW, sold on both Amazon and Walmart.com,” said Dan Richard, NOW Health Group’s VP of Global Sales and Marketing.
“It was obvious even before testing that many brands were fraudulently mislabelling potency on the front label panel and many others had suspiciously high claims.”
The quality of each brand was assessed by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with ultraviolet light detection (HPLC-UV). HPLC was also used to quantify the amount of berberine hydrochloride in tested products.
NOW also sent one unopened bottle of each brand to Alkemist Labs to provide an independent report on the same products.
HPLC was performed by both NOW’s in-house lab as well as Alkemist Labs, an industry leading contract laboratory NOW partnered with on a previous round of marketplace testing. Below are highlights of this testing group.
- The products chosen were purchased from both Amazon and Walmart.com in early November 2023. These brands were picked because they are less known and sold almost entirely on these platforms. (We have chosen not to test health food store brands or practitioner brands as our experience shows them to be less of a concern.)
- The results of this round of testing showed serious levels of low potencies with every brand testing below 100% potency, except NOW. Seven brands did contain over 80% labelled potency and three brands contained 90-97% potency.
- NOW has tested some of the same brands previously, while testing other categories, and found similar problems.
- Eighteen of the 33 brands tested contained less than 40% of labelled potency. That’s more than half of all brands tested that didn’t even contain a mediocre 40% level of potency.
- Seven of the 33 tested samples had 1% or less of Berberine potency in each product. All of these seriously flawed brands were tested for the first-time in NOW’s testing programme and may be new brands.