Ginkgo, ginseng, bilberry claims pulled in UK

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Medicinal plants

The voluntary UK advertising watchdog has pulled up two Guernsey-based supplements manufacturers for making unsubstantiated claims about a host of mostly herbal products including ginkgo, ginseng, bilberry, St Johns Wort, milk thistle, valerian, soy isoflavones and black cohosh.

The two companies – Healthy Direct Ltd and Healthspan Ltd – said they were abiding by the rulings and had either removed the marketing transgressions or were in the process of doing so.

A spokesperson for Healthspan told NutraIngredients the company was adjusting its marketing strategies in line with new European Union regulations for claim making about herbal products, vitamins and minerals and other substances.

“We have been making changes to how we advertise our products and these rulings reflect that,” ​she said.

Most of the issues stemmed from the fact the herbal products were making health claims only permitted for products that achieved herbal product registrations under the 2005 Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD).

Under that Directive, specific products must achieve a registration if they seek to make claims, a situation that means, by example, that while an anxiety relief-valerian registration has been granted for another product, it is of no benefit for other products such as Healthspan’s valerian version.

ASA press officer Matt Wilson said ASA advertising codes reflected the imposition of EU claim-making law such as the THMPD and the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation, but had not changed drastically.

“The rules are slightly more straight forward perhaps,” ​he said.

He said a public consultation period on such changes had closed and “tweaks”​ to the code would be published within the month.


In this light, a number of Healthspan claims were challenged by UK retailer, Holland & Barrett, including:

  • Whether a St John’s Wort product could claim to promote a ‘Happy Mood’ and ‘Happy Days’
  • Whether valerian could ‘help natural sleep’
  • Whether ‘pharmaceutical-grade’ joint health glucosamine claim was accurate
  • Whether L-carnitine anti-ageing claims could be substantiated
  • Whether lycopene ‘may be especially important for your heart health’
  • Whether bilberry could improve blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the eyes
  • Whether devil’s claw could support healthy joints
  • Whether black cohosh could manage hot flushes
  • Whether ginseng could boost energy
  • Whether milk thistle could maintain a healthy liver
  • Whether Echinacea could benefit immunity
  • Whether ginkgo biloba could boost circulation to the brain and extremities
  • Whether Alpha Linoleic Acid and Acetyl-L-Carnitine can battle free radicals
  • Whether Korean pine nut extracts could control appetite

The Healthspan spokesperson said the complaints related to brochures it circulated in July and August 2009 and which it had altered by the time the ASA contacted the company in November last year.

“As requested by the ASA, where Healthspan feel there is robust clinical evidence to make the claims, we will be submitting these to the ASA to consider for future use,”​ she said. “Until an approved ruling is given by the ASA we will not be re-using these claims. Healthspan is now working closely with the ASA to ensure all product brochures comply with the code.”

Healthy Direct

Healthy direct was similarly censored for ginkgo biloba mind and memory claims; ginkgo-ginseng combination product memory and concentration claims; ginkgo and omega-3 combination memory and brain development claims; Korean ginseng and energy and vitality and L-Arginine for circulatory wellbeing.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

SiMoGel: Driving innovation in gummy delivery forms

SiMoGel: Driving innovation in gummy delivery forms

Rousselot | 18-Feb-2021 | Product Brochure

SiMoGel™ is a specifically designed gelatin to support the hygienic production process that is required to produce gummies with functional or active ingredients....

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more