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Former homeopathic remedies find success as dietary supplements

By Hank Schultz , 28-Feb-2013

Rebranding products from homeopathic remedies to dietary supplements has helped one California entrepreneur boost sales by more than 80%.

The line, called Dr. Garber’s Natural Solutions, was created over a period of years by Dr. Stuart Garber, DC, PhD in his practice in Southern California.

“I created the formulas individually, one at a time for patients in my practice,” Garber said.

Garber, whose PhD is in homeopathy, created the formulas using homeopathic principles and was using them in that way in his practice.  So as he created a retail line of products it was natural to brand and market them as homeopathic remedies in the beginning.

The formulas are unique, Garber says, in that they combine the three principles of homeopoathy, gemmotherapy, lithotherapy and organotherapy.

Gemmotherapy remedies are extracts of the actively growing parts of plants such as the buds, rootlets, young shoots and seeds. Components of plants taken at this stage may contain chemicals that are not present in the mature plant, which is why this is sometimes called “plant stem cell therapy.”

Lithotherapy utilizes mineral containing rocks which have undergone the process of trituration (being reduced to a fine powder) and infused into a liquid form. Organotherapy remedies are made from minute amounts of healthy organ, gland or tissue extracts.

Anti-homeopathy bias

Using the formulas in his private practice and trying to sell them on the open market were two very different things, Garber discovered.  Patients who came to him were already open to the benefits of homeopathy.  But in the open marketplace there was resistance, and even hostility, Garber said.

“The controversy out there is vehement.  People who are anti homeopathy are not just anti.  They are vehemently against it,” he said.

When he started thinking about freshening the look of the line, he contacted a consultant, and it was then he discovered the option to rebrand as dietary supplements.

“I was shocked by the choice.  It depends on what you say about them and how you label it,” Garber said.

Appropriate levels of active ingredients

Many homeopathic remedies, including those that rely on potentially toxic active ingredients, are refined to the point that none of the actual substance is present. According to homeopathic practitioners, only the “energetic” aspects of the active ingredient remain.

Products formulated along those lines would be a poor fit as a dietary supplement, which are generally judged on whether they contain an efficacious dose of the active ingredient.  But products formulated along gemmotherapy lines do contain healthy amounts of the plant actives, Garber said.

“75% of my formulas are what are called gemmotherapy formulas. The plant actives are present in a very concentrated form,” he said.

Among the work that was needed to rebrand the products was lab workups to accurately characterize the ingredients.

“What I had to have my lab do then is analyze the actual material components in it so that we would know what was in there,” Garber said.

Stucture-function claims

Also, Garber said the messaging on the products needed a major overhaul.  Garber was using these products in his practice to treat conditions and diseases. And even if he might believe they still can have those effects, he can no longer say so on the packaging or in his other messaging.

“I have to make structure-function claims. As an example, I have a product for depression.  So I had to say it was for relief of temporary depression or occasional feelings (of despondency).  Not that it treats depression.  My joitn formula, I couldn’t say it treats arthritics anymore, rather that it promotes healthy joints,” he said.

In a couple of other cases, the products themselves had to be renamed, Garber said.  Garber’s legal consultant advised him that products with “allergy” and “diarrhea” on the label implied a disease treatment claim.

Garber, who began selling his formulas in Whole Foods stores in Southern California in 2008, has recently contracted with a distribution partner called Brandstorm to broaden the line’s distribution. The products can now be found in 45 Whole Foods Markets in CA and NV and in other retail chains and is also sold through health practitioners.

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