By Charlotte Traas, New Chapter® Director of Education and Board-Certified Master Herbalist
Say you’re checking out a supplement—it’s on the shelf in a store or right there on your screen. How do you know if that supplement is a high-quality product? When you see that ingredient list on the side of a supplement box, how sure are you that the product inside actually matches the label? With media stories about product adulteration being entirely too prevalent, it’s natural to want assurances when choosing a dietary supplement. At New Chapter®, we’ve got you covered!
One of the things that sets New Chapter apart is our commitment to validation and quality. For your peace of mind, we confirm the identity of our ingredients by working with exceptional third-party partners. Recently I visited one of our accredited partners, Alkemist Labs, to learn more. I got answers to 6 key questions about how New Chapter’s herbal ingredients are validated—it’s pretty cool!
Who is Alkemist Labs?
Alkemist Labs is a 25-year-old family-run laboratory that tests plants used in dietary supplements. They focus specifically on testing the identity and potency of plants. Alkemist is also known for their exceptional culture, focusing on teamwork and employee happiness.
At New Chapter, we follow the wisdom of “Trust, but verify.” When buying plants or ingredients for supplements, there are often accompanying papers. These papers give information on the phytonutrient ranges of the plants you are buying, and of course, the identity. When we buy plants, though, we take the extra step of enlisting partners like Alkemist Labs to help validate the identity of the plant.
Why do we need to do this? Well, plant identity can be difficult to determine. Even practiced herbalists may sometimes have trouble identifying a plant using organoleptics (using sight, taste, smell and touch). Oregano and Marjoram are an example of commonly misidentified plants. Both have oval-shaped, fuzzy green leaves and purple flowers. They are both members of the mint family, and they are both used in culinary dishes. However, only one, Origanum vulgare or Oregano, has extensive research on supporting immune health. Origanum majorana (Marjoram) has a milder taste and only has a few studies done on rats for supporting the healing of the mucosal lining and a small study on hormone health and its association with insulin levels. So, identity is super important for making sure the herb is Oregano and not Marjoram.
New Chapter goes above and beyond federal guidelines for regulatory compliance by working with Alkemist Labs to test the identity of incoming raw materials.
What is Next Generation Transparency™?
Alkemist Labs and New Chapter are partners in a new concept called Next Generation Transparency. This program aims to give customers clear testing results for the ingredients in their dietary supplements. This level of transparency is driven by consumers who want to know more about ingredient identity and the science behind their use. New Chapter and Alkemist Labs are at the forefront of this movement. We’re working together to share higher levels of detail with our customers. From developing consumer-friendly assays (test reports) that are easy to understand, explaining ingredient choices clearly, and investing in third-party identity and potency testing, New Chapter and Alkemist are poised to deliver a new chapter in transparency to the supplement industry.
What kind of testing does Alkemist do? All about HPTLC Testing
Alkemist Labs uses state-of-the-art testing to determine the identity of botanicals. One important testing tool is called High Performance Thin-Layer Chromatography (HPTLC). This test confirms ingredient identity by comparing the herb in question to world-class, verified samples of the same botanical. It’s a step beyond the testing guidelines that are required by law. In fact, HPTLC is one of the best methods available to determine plant identity and quality!
What does it take to be a world-class botanical sample?
In order to confirm identity, Alkemist Labs has a room called “The Herbarium.” It’s temperature controlled and kept under strict conditions to house over 15,000 verified plant specimens from around the world. These samples must pass rigorous tests to be classified as world-class botanical models of plant identity and quality. Alkemist Labs has relationships with botanists around the world who collect botanical samples as needed when they are called upon to test a rare plant not already in the Herbarium.
Since plants can vary in composition by many small variables, depending on the region they are grown in and the season, it makes statistical sense to compare the incoming test samples to more than just one control sample. Alkemist Labs has the capacity to do that, and that’s what makes them so special.
How long does a sample take to get tested?
When you have the right cutting-edge lab equipment run by skilled lab staff and the right botanical reference samples to test against, HPTLC testing can take over an hour and a half to complete. Some samples may take even longer, but the cost and time investment is well worth it when confirming the identity of plants.
Communicating the results
New Chapter and Alkemist Labs are partnering on the best ways to communicate about our outstanding quality practices. It’s part of leading the way to make this deeper level of transparency a standard within the dietary supplement industry. Meanwhile, rest assured that the herbal products that Alkemist tests for us are exactly the excellent quality botanicals listed on our labels. These herbs include Chinese Skullcap, Elderberry, Rosemary, Schizandra, Valerian, Green Tea, Ginger, Ashwagandha, Passionflower, Hu Zhang, Black Seed, Barberry, Turmeric, Chinese Goldthread, Cardamom, Eleuthero, and many more.
Together we ensure that the plant that is listed on the side of the box is indeed the plant you are getting… and so much more.
New Chapter’s quality testing investment
In addition to our relationship with Alkemist Labs, New Chapter works with many third-party partners to ensure quality. We’re proud to say that we spend over two million dollars per year on testing to ensure the quality of our supplements! We leverage the expertise of a variety of internal and external resources that include third-party auditors, independent labs like Alkemist, and exceptional quality control methods. New Chapter is committed to quality our customers can rely on.
For Your Peace of Mind!
Purchasing supplements doesn’t have to be a game of quality roulette. When it comes to New Chapter products, you never have to guess if the ingredients match what’s inside the bottle. We will continue to work together with our independent partners, like Alkemist Labs, to set a new industry standard that is led by Next Generation Transparency. Quality is a very important part of doing wellness well… so you can do you!