Herbal product claims: boundaries of marketing and science

Stephanie Y. Crawford (Department of Pharmacy Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Catherine Leventis (McKesson Medication Management, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this article is to explore boundaries in marketing and science with respect to labeled claims of herbal products and other dietary supplements.


Supplement manufacturers are allowed to include claims on product labels without meeting an acceptable substantiation standard, as long as such claims are accompanied by an FDA disclaimer statement. While manufacturers are prohibited (though the regulation is often violated) from making specific claims about prevention or treatment of disease, the implied associated health benefits of using dietary supplement products are usually clear from marketed claims. A case example on themes expressed in labeled structure‐function claims for ginkgo biloba is presented to illustrate the issues.


Marketing of product claims is controversial due to differing perspectives about the truthfulness of claimed health benefits and quality of information presented to consumers. Although dietary supplements could have pharmaceutical‐like properties, they are not required to demonstrate safety and efficacy before market availability. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can take action only if supplements are shown to be unsafe after market introduction.

Practical implications

The need for consumer choice, meaningful information and free‐market access to dietary supplements must be balanced with the demands for truth‐in‐advertising and consumer protection from unreliable claims and adverse health events. Marketing and policy implications are described.


The outcome would help increase consumer confidence, while continuing to allow free‐market forces for the dietary supplement industry, to a large extent.



Crawford, S. and Leventis, C. (2005), "Herbal product claims: boundaries of marketing and science", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 22 No. 7, pp. 432-436. https://doi.org/10.1108/07363760510631183

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