How to spot wellness knockoffs, from sham CBD to mock matcha – New York Post

Health is nothing but wealth to some snake-oil salesmen.

So if you’re looking to give your body a boost with trendy — and unregulated — wellness products, such as manuka honey, matcha tea or cannabidiol (a cannabis-derived oil known as CBD), you may want to take a closer look before shelling out.

Goods sold by companies around the globe marked as “100 percent pure” might be just the opposite — packed with fillers and potentially harmful chemicals.

CBD fraud has grown so rampant that, following an edict from the Food and Drug Administration, the NYC Department of Health will confiscate food and drink products that contain the substance starting on Monday.

“People need to be skeptical of these products,” says Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta and research director of its Health Law Institute. “You just don’t know what you could be getting.”

To suss out bogus stuff, look for red flags such as an unusually low price and lack of certifications. An old-fashioned taste test is also a reliable indicator of quality.

Occasionally, Mother Nature is to blame for inferior products.

On Monday, a class-action lawsuit filed against Trader Joe’s alleging that the store’s 100 percent manuka honey only contained about 60 percent manuka was dismissed. That’s because the store wasn’t mixing in cheaper honey — the bees were simply pollinating plant life other than manuka bushes. (Trader Joe’s would not provide a comment.)

Keep in mind: Even if they contain legit ingredients, there’s no guarantee these wellness remedies will work. There’s a lack of proven clinical studies, according to the pros.

“If claims sound too good to be true, they probably are,” FDA spokeswoman Lindsay Haake tells The Post.

Here, we’ve broken down all the tips and tricks to identify the real versus the fake, according to experts.

Manuka honey

Prized for its antibiotic properties, celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Kourtney Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow swear by the honey’s purported health and beauty benefits, including combating infections, treating skin ailments such as eczema, soothing sore throats, aiding irritable bowel syndrome and evening out skin tone.

The prebiotic-packed honey — made only by bees in New Zealand that feed on the indigenous manuka bush — is flying off the shelves despite its cost, which is more than three and a half times the price of the regular variety (roughly $1.79 per ounce for manuka versus 48 cents for standard honey).

The sticky substance can fetch such a high price because it can only be made in New Zealand, making it both rare and expensive to ship, says Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and author of the best seller “Keto Diet.”

“Making sure it’s specifically manufactured in New Zealand and has a certification from Medsafe, a division of the New Zealand Ministry of Health, is huge,” says Axe.

Another important indicator is to check the UMF, “unique manuka factor,” rating on the label, which should be a 10 or higher.

“That will indicate how strong the anti-microbial benefits are,” says Axe.

‘If claims sound too good to be true, they probably are.’

You can also turn to your taste buds for help.

“Manuka has more of a bite to it,” says Axe. “It doesn’t have the same sugary sweet taste as normal honey. It’s more astringent.”

While manuka is often cut with regular honey, it usually doesn’t contain any harmful additives, he says.


An extracted marijuana compound, this non-psychoactive cure-all is popping up in establishments all over the Big Apple, from bodegas to cafes, movie theaters to markets, and in forms such as oil, candy, drinks and more.

CBD remains unregulated in New York, but is widely used and prescribed by doctors as a solution for anxiety, pain, movement disorders and epilepsy.

Experts agree that the most reliable types of CBD are found at a certified dispensary, where “there are laws, regulations and specific measurements,” says Dr. Tanuj Palvia, a pain specialist at Physio Logic, an integrated rehab clinic in Brooklyn.

But if that’s not an option, people should look for a certificate of analysis on the product’s label, or ask the retailer to provide one.

“That’s the document that shows the testing results for the potency and purity, and [ensures] it’s not contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals,” says Lisa Gill, an editor at Consumer Reports, a nonprofit dedicated to consumer advocacy.

If a retailer hesitates to show this certificate, Gill says, “steer clear.”

“The responsible companies are the ones that offer the consumer the COA willingly and readily,” she says. “A tanning salon that sells CBD is probably not the best option, and I would skip bodegas, too.”

CBD sold in New York shouldn’t contain THC, the weed compound that gets you high. But there’s no guarantee that it’s THC-free. An allergic reaction to contaminants is also a potential risk, Gill says.


Essential oils

Chances are, if you’ve had a massage, or stepped into a public restroom, you’ve whiffed an essential oil.

The elixirs are derived from fragrant plants such as lavender, peppermint, patchouli and eucalyptus, and are often inhaled through a diffuser or applied to the skin diluted with a neutral oil (called aromatherapy).

Essential oils — fraudulent or otherwise — could pose the most serious risk to your health.

Severe allergic reactions, respiratory problems, dermatitis and chemical burns are some potential risks from inhaling, ingesting or applying the oils, and could be life threatening.

According to a 2017 annual report by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were six instances where essential oils, including clove, eucalyptus, pennyroyal and tea tree, caused “major” health risks, the category just before “Outcome: Death.”

Chemicals, including benzene, used in synthetic fragrances added to the oils can also be toxic if inhaled or ingested, according to Axe.

Fakes can be more heavily diluted with carrier oils, such as vegetable and canola oils, which shouldn’t exceed 10 percent, says Axe.

“The pure stuff will always have a ‘certified organic’ sticker,” he adds, which is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture.

“If they have that, you know they’ve gone through a rigorous process.”



The potent green tea — used in sacred Japanese tea ceremonies dating back to the 11th century — has gained so much popularity that it’s now sold at Starbucks, where an iced venti matcha green latte goes for $5.25.

Though both matcha and green tea are made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant (or “tea plant”), the former is ground into a fine powder rather than cut up, yielding higher caffeine potency. It’s also touted by health enthusiasts for its wellness benefits, including anti-oxidant, anxiety-relieving and anti-aging properties.

But buyers should think twice before enjoying the powder at the next cafe they see, as some do not contain high amounts of the tea’s most beneficial amino acid, L-theanine. The harvesting process is very particular, so expect to pay between 75 cents and $1 per gram, according to experts.

“Matcha should be grown in the shade for several weeks and free of pesticides,” says Axe, who adds that only the softest tea leaves must be handpicked to make the powder.

The tea should always be certified organic, but the real indicator is taste and effects, says Axe.

“It should taste very fresh and green,” he says. “And you shouldn’t get the jitters . .. If you do, it’s a bad batch.” Axe adds that the L-theanine in quality matcha should offset any edginess from the caffeine.

Counterfeit tea might be cut with regular green tea, or accidentally laced with arsenic from factories.

“A company should do testing to show they’re free of heavy metals,” he says.

MCT oil

Since the carb- and sugar-free ketogenic diet exploded in popularity over the past year, many are reaching for MCT (short for medium-chain triglyceride) oil to enhance their meals.

The oil is a specific fat derived from coconut oil, and some believe that it can sharpen the mind and increase energy.

To ensure it’s the real thing, consumers have to do a little homework.

“The biggest thing you need to look for is the source,” says Michelle Miller, a clinical nutritionist at Physio Logic.

“I’d be concerned it could be mixed with palm oil, which isn’t as healthy,” says Miller, who recommends looking for versions made from reputable coconut-oil manufacturers.

That’s because palm oil is relatively high in saturated fat.

Buyers should also make sure the oil contains at least one strain of fatty acid, labeled C6, C8, C10 or C12.

Last but not least: Check for an expiration date.

“No matter what,” Miller says, “you want to make sure it’s not spoiled, or it could make you sick.”

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