A Smart Guide to Buying Supplements

By Tod Cooperman, MD, President, ConsumerLab.comConsumerLab.com is offering a 24-hour free pass to Dr. Oz viewers. Visit ConsumerLab.com/DoctorOz now and get immediate access to ConsumerLab.com’s unbiased testing of fish oil, ginseng and St. John’s Wort supplements.

Posted on | By Tod Cooperman, MD

Valerian is used as a natural sedative designed to help you de-stress or sleep well. It is commonly found in relaxation drinks.

Scam: More than 70% of valerian supplements that we tested failed for not containing the labeled or minimum expected amount of valerian. In one product, we couldn’t find any valerian. Even worse, there is a risk of contamination from lead, as found in several of the products tested. 


  • Give valerian a few weeks for maximum sleep effect.
  • Look for a product that provides about 600 mg of an extract or 2 to 3 grams of dried herb – take it about 2 hours before bedtime.

Coconut Water
Fresh coconut water – the liquid inside green coconuts – is filled with electrolytes that can help hydrate and replenish your body.

Scam: Of the three biggest brands sold today, only one out of three actually contained the electrolytes that they list on their labels.


  • If you just drink coconut water for its taste, then falling short on electrolytes is not a problem. But if you want hydration after serious exercise, choose one that delivers at least 110 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Of the products tested, bottled Zico coconut water actually contains all of the electrolytes promised.

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Know what you need for your age and gender and make sure a supplement does not provide too much of any vitamin or mineral. You can check your Recommended Daily Allowance and upper limit of vitamins and minerals at ConsumerLab.com/RDAs.
  • ConsumerLab.com provides reviews of multivitamins and supplements with specific vitamins and minerals. These reviews include information on which products are not contaminated with heavy metals, deliver their listed ingredients, and break apart properly to release their ingredients.

Article written by Tod Cooperman, MD
President, ConsumerLab.com