Discount Vitamins and Herbs: Why You Should Check the Expiration Dates

Over-the-counter discount vitamins and herbs are used by millions of consumers every year, making it a big business. When you buy, make sure you first check the expiration date. Nearly all supplements carry such a date. After the expiration date, the product should no longer be used. If there’s no expiration date, don’t buy it. Dietary supplements may lose their potency over time, particularly in hot and humid climates. And don’t buy a product if you won’t use it before the expiration date. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements, suggests that from time to time you check the expiration dates of all the over-the-counter products in your home, just to be safe.



Don’t Use It After The Expiration Date

Self-medication with over-the-counter vitamin and herbal supplements is a big business.  Millions of consumers buy such products every year, sometimes using them as low-cost alternatives to visits to the doctor’s office or more expensive prescription drugs. Nearly all such supplements carry an expiration date, the date beyond which the product should not be used. By law, expiration dating is required to ensure the product appropriate standards of identity, strength, quality and purity. Regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require the expiration date to be determined by appropriate stability testing. When you’re buying the supplement, make sure you will finish it before its posted expiration date. Most vitamins can keep for at least one year.

Potency Can Be Lost Over Time

Be sure to store your dietary supplements properly. Dietary supplements can lose their potency over time, particularly in hot and humid climates. It’s important to store them in a cool, dry place. If the supplement doesn't have an expiration date on it, don't buy it. Once your supplements reach their expiration date, toss them out. If you are taking herbs along with certain medications, your doctor may have adjusted the drug dosage to reflect that. But if the herb is no longer potent, then the drug dosage may be off. For example, ginger and Ginkgo biloba may decrease platelet clumping, increasing the risk of bleeding, enhancing the effect of anti-clotting medicine such as Coumadin. 

Routinely Check Expiration Dates at Home

Most over-the-counter products have a long shelf life and move through an efficient distribution chain to the consumer in a short period of time, well before their expiration dates. Even so, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements, suggests that from time to time you review all the over-the-counter products in your home and throw away any product whose expiration date has passed. This helps make sure that the product is as effective the day it left the factory.

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