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Herbalist Mitch Coven

The Dirty Secrets of The Supplement World with Herbalist Mitch Coven

This week, Medical Herbalist Mitch Coven covered the sourcing of herbs and what makes Wellness Way supplements different.


  • Vitality Works
    • located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Headed by Mitch Coven, Medical Herbalist & CEO/
      President, who studied botanical medicine and traditional Chinese medicine
    • Established in 1982

*2022 is 40th year anniversary in producing botanical medicine

Mission is to never compromise and cut corners in order to make cheaper products which then results
in lower quality and less effective products.

Quality control:

  • Contrary to popular belief, dietary supplements ARE regulated by FDA
    • Under 21 CFR – code of regulation 111
    • Vitality Works also OTC drug registered through FDA
      • Stricter code of regulation to follow: 21 CFR 210 & 211
        • Guidelines for pharmaceutical drugs
    • Prescription drugs need efficacy studies, dietary supplements do not
      • Dietary supplements technically regulated under subset of food laws but regulated more
        closely to drugs
    • FDA does randomly inspect supplement facilities
      • “483” document is violation warning to company for being in violation of manufacturing
      • Vitality Works has never received 483 or corrective action suggestions
        • Self-audits 20-40x/year through 3rd parties to assure their procedure is of highest
          standard and within regulation
  • Tests every lot of herbs received even from same vendor (above FDA standards). FDA allows “skip lot testing” for dietary supplements, meaning if one lot of specimen meets standards, it’s not required to test every lot from same supplier.
    • Testing for: Potency, genus and species identity, heavy metals, biological contamination
    • Assures their products are Non-GMO, kosher, gluten free and mold free.
      • Whole facility is gluten free and continually tests for gluten contamination
      • Immediately reject products if they do not meet standards
    • Approved through “FDA” of Canada (Health Canada) – higher standards than U.S. FDA
    • Thorough cleaning and testing for airborne allergens and surface contact so there’s no cross-contamination during production process.
      • Little to no adverse effects in supplement world as reported by CDC unlike common food recalls
  • Buying WHOLE product, not powder
    • Most botanicals are traded as powders
    • Why buy whole? The company has the ability to visually see herb and inspect for mold, quality of plant, and contaminants
      • Examples:
        • Saw Palmetto berries – commonly harvested too early – green berries. Berries should
          be dark purple since fatty acid content is highest and most effective
        • Chaste tree berries – Assures no contamination with bird droppings or leaves from
        • Myrrh – Received whole product- found bark, twine, bandaid, and part of animal.
          • Immediately rejected but shows example why whole product is more important than ground powder.
  • Highest freshness
    • Contracts with growers 12-36 months in advance to assure harvest of specific time.
    • Contracts with local farms in US to grow herbs for “closer-to-home” accessibility instead of from other countries
    • Conscientious of sustainability of natural plants
      • Example: Most of wild goldenseal is gone and now must be cultivated. Vitality Works supports certified organic farms.
    • Herbs are ground/powdered immediately before encapsulation or extraction process since this keeps highest potency similar to whole bean coffee vs ground coffee.
  • Extraction process and absorbability
    • May extract with:
      • Hot water bath for water-soluble components
      • Extraction with alcohol for non-water-soluble components (25-95% alcohol, based on components desired)
        • Examples:
          • Kava requires 60% Alcohol/40% H2O
          • Goldenseal requires 70% alcohol/30% H2O
        • Alcohol in bottle is alcohol from extraction process.
      • High pressure extraction phase
      • CO2 extraction for high fat components
      • Steam distillation for oils
        • Dialed in to exact temperature and time required for the specific compound
    • Some herbs must be fresh since their dried products change active components.
      • (Packed on ice and shipped overnight for immediate extraction)


  • 100% testing in house
    • 2-4 different identity tests performed to assure batch of product is correct genus and species
      • Macroscopy – Visual identification of whole plant
      • HPTLC – High Performance thin layer chromatography
        • Compared against verified reference standard of correct genus and species sample
      • UV visibility
      • HPLC – High performance liquid chromatography
        • Usually for steam distillation products.

        • Example: Oregano oil
      • Other testings
    • Must identify purity per FDA standards
      • Controlled dry to assure no mold or bacterial growth
    • Heavy metal testing
      • ICPMS (testing procedure)
    • Pesticide testing
      • Ginseng most commonly pesticide-sprayed
    • Allergen-testing
    • Gluten-testing
    • pH
    • Density of liquid testing for active solids
    • Viscosity
      Stability-testing ** – Very important to assure shelf life and potency at end of shelf life.

      • Common expiration date – 5 years but tests beyond 5-year mark still find stability and potency
  • Commonly performs 30-50 tests and inspections throughout process to end product assuring
    highest quality
  • Continual researching and testing to see what part of plant has highest constituent concentration
    and best process to extract.

    • Example: Kava
      • Commonly extracted from stems and vertical roots.
      • Horizontal/lateral roots of plant found to have highest content – 4x stronger than vertical

Submitted by Patrick Rebadow


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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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