Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 36° Cloudy
News >  Features

When buying vitamins look for USP mark

The Spokesman-Review

Q. I am spending a huge amount on vitamins and herbal supplements. I wonder if I am wasting my money.

My doctor says you can’t trust the manufacturers of these products because they are not regulated like drugs. How can I tell if things like glucosamine, ginkgo, fish oil, CoQ10, calcium or a vitamin-B complex really contain what’s listed on the label?

A. Your physician’s concerns may be justified. There is very little regulation of dietary supplements. The Food and Drug Administration does not have the resources to check on the purity or quality of most herbs or supplements.

That does not mean you have to take chances, however. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is an independent, nonprofit organization that has set quality standards for pharmaceuticals for more than 180 years.

The USP is now testing supplements. Products that pass muster have a USP-verified mark on the label. Some of the brands that carry this identifier include Nature Made, Kirkland (Costco store brand), Equaline (Albertsons’ store brand) and NutriPlus. You can learn more at

Q. I tried Vicks VapoRub on my rough heels, and it made my feet feel too warm. Is this dangerous?

A. The warmth you experienced is probably due to the menthol and camphor in Vicks VapoRub. For more than 100 years it has been used to ease chest congestion. While the feeling should not be harmful, if it is uncomfortable you ought to use a different moisturizer to soothe your rough heels.

Many readers report that Vicks can help sore, cracked feet, toenail fungus, calluses, paper cuts, headaches, seborrheic dermatitis and coughs. In fact, parents may put it on the soles of their children’s feet to calm a nighttime cough. (Socks protect the bedsheets.)

We include more details on these Unique Uses for Vicks in our Guide. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. Vi-76, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. I read that you can make a tea with a common cooking ingredient for flatulence. I’ve lost the recipe and can’t remember what it was. Can you help?

A. Mint tea has its champions, but we prefer fennel tea for flatulence. Smush a teaspoon of fennel seeds with the back of a spoon, and use them to make a cup of tea. It will have a pleasant licorice-like aroma with none of the dangers of licorice.

Q. I have high cholesterol and high triglycerides, but I have had bad reactions to all the statin drugs and to Zetia as well. I was told that omega-3 fish-oil capsules might help, but no matter when I take them, they “repeat” for several hours. Is there any way to keep the flavor and fumes from coming back?

A. Fish oil can help reduce triglycerides. The fish-oil aftertaste or burp might be associated with lower-quality fish oil. You might want to look for “pharmaceutical-grade” products such as Nordic Naturals, OmegaBrite or OmegaRx. Storing it in the freezer might diminish the taste and odor when you take it.

Q. Years ago, I heard that a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses would alleviate leg cramps. I used to rely on it, but haven’t found it recently.

A. Ask your grocer or check a health-food store. Blackstrap molasses is rich in potassium and iron and also provides some calcium and magnesium.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.