FDA sent the warning letter to a company called Hanna’s Herb Shop. The company sells a wide variety of dietary supplements at a retail location in Boulder, CO as well as online.
Legendary herbalist in late 60s
The company follows in the footsteps of Hanna Kroeger, an herbalist and natural healer who emigrated to the United States after WWII. Kroeger was born in Turkey to German missionary parents and was educated in what she referred to as ‘missionary nursing’ in Germany in the 1930s.
Kroeger, who passed away in 1998, was a fixture of the Boulder counterculture scene in the late 60s and early 70s. According to a recent retrospective published in the Boulder Daily Camera (which seems to have come out coincidentally with the issuance of the warning letter), Kroeger was charged in 1971 with practicing medicine without a license. The case featured undercover work by Pinkerton detectives who posed as patients.
Kroeger ran a health food store in Boulder where she also consulted with customers on their ailments. According to the Camera article, she had a devoted following, many of whom showed up at her trial to protest what they viewed as her persecution by authorities. Kroeger told the Camera in 1971 that she believed she had been targeted because many of her devotees were hippies and the city government wanted to force them out.
Charges eventually dropped
The charges against Kroeger, who also claimed to practice astral projection, or the leaving of one’s body, were eventually dropped when she agreed to amend her practices. However, in 1989 Kroeger was again charged with practicing medicine without a license, whereupon she decided to give up her practice and retire.
The company that grew out of her herbal practice seems not to have taken their founder’s history as a cautionary tale. Kroeger’s difficulties predated the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which by law states that supplements cannot claim to prevent, cure, diagnose or treat any illness, making plain what a marketer can and cannot say a dietary supplement can do.
Laundry list of claims
In the warning letter, which was mailed earlier this month, the company was cited for a number of noncompliant disease claims on its website. Hanna’s Herb Shop sells dozens of different dietary supplements, and FDA noted illegal claims relating to 18 of these.
Among the claims were :
- “Hawthorn [an ingredient in the product] has been used to prevent heart disease for centuries””
- Rosehips may help prevent and treat certain illnesses like colds and flu . . . helps to lower cholesterol”
- “Used to . . . decrease dementia, depression, impotence, inner ear dysfunction, M.S. & retinopathies.”
Surprising, given history
Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, was familiar with Kroeger’s history and said given that it was surprising that the company was so lax in its language.
“It does not appear this company has retained competent counsel. You would think given their history of brushes with the law—and the large number of competent food and drug lawyers available—that that would not be the case,” he said.
Hanna's Herb Shop did respond to a request for comment in time for publication.