To foster safety and product knowledge, Stern has created an herbal
awareness program out of his Burbank store.
Called the Green Bag Program, Stern's free, ongoing one-on-one
consultations are based his Brown Bag Program, which received nationwide
attention in the mid-1970s.
"People take these natural products like medicine, but it doesn't work
that way," Stern said. "There's a lot of industry-generated promotion of
products which gives people false information."
Like the Brown Bag Program -- which focused on mislabeling and
outdated medications before federal law required expiration dates for
prescription medicine -- the Green Bag Program also stresses the
importance of paying attention to expiration dates.
People participate in the program by picking up a green bag at Dana
Drug Store, stuffing it with their herbs and supplements and then
returning for a consultation.
"We'll tell them what the products are intended to do, whether there
are complications with prescription medicine and we'll make
recommendations of things they are not taking that may be beneficial,"
Because herbs and natural supplements come under the area of food and
not drugs, Stern said regulations governing their sale are less
"We are under the assumption in this country that we are still
protected by laws," Stern said.
Dr. Lillie Grossman, professor of nutrition and dietetics at Cal State
Northridge, agreed the lack of regulation is unsettling.
"Personally, I wouldn't take them (herbs and natural supplements)
because there is limited or no research on the long-term effects,"
Grossman said. "The FDA, who we look to for quality control, provides no
control here. There are serious consequences in trusting the
manufacturer. What is on the label is not always in the bottle."
While saying that herbs and supplements can promote health, Jack
Levinberg, owner of Tower Pharmacy in Burbank, said people should still
consult professionals beforehand, especially if taking prescription
Stern likewise urged caution.
"People think because the word 'natural' is used that these products
are safe, but that's not necessarily the case," Stern said.