Video: Purchasing

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The best spice merchants knew full well that they were not merely selling calories, cures, or scents but also the stories that came along with them that might magnify the value of each item.”   –

Gary Nabhan, Cumins, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey

What to Look For

It is overwhelming to stand in a supplement aisle trying to decide which product to buy. Herb companies invest a tremendous amount in marketing their finished products. And in an era of green washing, it is hard to know what and who to trust.

Company Values

Though the messages on the labels may seem similar, companies have differing values and philosophies that guide the company. Some companies are homegrown and grassroots while others are closer to the pharmaceutical side of herbal manufacturing. As a consumer it’s worth deciding what level of herbal medicine you prefer—bulk teas or standardized extracts in a capsule—and finding a company that produces that product from high quality, sustainably and equitably sourced herbs.

Purchasing organically certified herbal products

Certifications and Definitions

“There is a market for easier standards. And there are weak standards out there that are difficult to differentiate from the rigorous standards.” — Josef Brinckmann

Below is an overview of regulations that guide production and manufacturing of dietary supplements. These regulations provide a starting point for evaluating a company’s claims.

We will expand on this information soon.


  • Certified Organic

USDA National Organic Program; Final Rule

  • Fair Trade

Fair Trade International (FLO) Fairtrade Standard for Herbs, Herbal Teas & Spices for Small Producers/Traders

FLO Fairtrade Standard for Herbs and Herbal Teas for Hired Labour and Traders

  • Biodynamic

Demeter Biodynamic® Farm Standard

Wild-Collection Standards


The dividing line from GACP to GMP is the point at which the herb leaves the raw material storage of the producer (whether farmed or wild collected) and enters the warehouse of the product manufacturer, whether that product is a Botanical Drug Product (OTC or Rx), an herbal dietary supplement product, an herbal food product, or an herbal cosmetic product.

  • For the U.S. context, AHPA-AHP GACPs and the FDA Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) for dietary supplements regulate quality assurance for production, handling and storage of botanical raw materials.

Overall Sustainability of Companies:

  • B Corporation: Companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems and must report on their efforts.