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The Reynolds Office of Health
Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
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Sue Reynolds, Master Herbalist
Sue Reynolds, M.S.W.
Lifestyle and Health Coach
Master Herbalist

Updated November 7, 2018
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Quality Assurance


Testing Procedures and Information

Microbiological Testing
Bacteria testing
Total Bacteria testing
Mold and Yeast testing
E. coli testing
Salmonella testing
Herb and Purity Testing
Organoleptic ID testing
Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
Foreign Materials Testing
Ash testing
Acid Insoluble testing
Gamma counter
Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectometry (GC/MS)
Other Testing
Inductive Coupled Plasma Spectrometer (ICP)


In a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to human health, there has never been a greater demand for products that take a natural, holistic approach to wellness-an approach that is designed around the interdependence of the various systems of the body.

Nature's Sunshine products perfectly meet this growing worldwide need by marrying time honored wisdom with cutting-edge technology. By placing in your hands the finest quality herbs and nutritional supplements, Nature's Sunshine gives you the tools you need to take charge of your health and to look and feel your best.

At Nature's Sunshine, uncompromising quality is not an option-it is an obligation. It is not a vague goal -- it is standard operating procedure. That's why Nature's Sunshine is the acknowledged quality leader in the industry.

Quality begins in the fields, where only the finest herbs and raw materials are selected. The company's global sourcing of raw materials ensures that the highest quality products are chosen from each harvest season.

After harvesting, these materials are shipped to the Nature's Sunshine manufacturing facility where they are subjected to a series of in-depth quality control tests to ensure purity, potency and cleanliness. All incoming raw materials arc thoroughly tested before they are released for use in Nature's Sunshine products. Quality checks continue throughout the various stages of manufacturing, as well as at the completion of production.

By maintaining this intense level of quality control and developing new methods and techniques to ensure top product quality, Nature's Sunshine perpetuates its long-standing position at the forefront of the industry. The natural result is a large and growing family of customers--men and women throughout the world who wouldn't think of buying any other brand than Nature's Sunshine.

As a company, Nature's Sunshine Products takes enormous pride in the quality of the products they offer. Indeed, quality is the first part of the Nature's Sunshine creed "Quality, Service, and Integrity." In order to produce high-quality products, they start with the finest raw materials available.

They subject each incoming shipment of raw materials to a battery of tests to establish the quality of the material before they use it in any of their products. Because quality is so important, they continuously test and retest raw materials and products throughout the entire production process. NSP has invested millions of dollars in high-tech testing equipment to ensure that their methods and facilities are state-of-the-art. And they employ quality control experts who conduct a total of over 150 different testing procedures.

The health products Nature's Sunshine offers are the very best in the world, and they are committed to leading the industry in product testing and overall product quality. This article provides helpful information about some of the tests they conduct so you can better understand the stringent testing procedures NSP follows and can have the utmost confidence in the products they offer.



Bacteria testing
By testing for and counting the bacteria on machinery, equipment, and personnel in the production area, Nature's Sunshine can evaluate the standard hygiene level and the efficiency of their cleaning procedures. By checking the bacteria counts in the production areas they ensure that their products will not become contaminated in the manufacturing plant.

NSP utilizes two different methods to test for bacteria: swabbing methods and a device called a bactometer, which uses advanced computer technology to test for the presence of bacteria in raw materials, liquids, and finished products.

Total Bacteria testing
To determine the number of microbes which might be contaminating a product, they take a total plate count. They test a sample of raw material or finished product and determine the amount of aerobic microbe contamination in the sample. They then compare this count to our stringent allowable spec levels. If any raw material counts are higher than allowable levels, the batch is rejected and returned to the vendor. Finished products are also audited to ensure they meet NSP quality specifications.

Mold and Yeast testing
Nature's Sunshine regularly performs yeast and mold counts by using a count plate. A count plate is a specialized dish which contains the elements a mold or yeast would need to sustain life if it were present, and a dye which helps these organisms appear visible.

E. coli testing
The dangers of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are well- known. Present in large enough quantities, this bacteria can be fatal. NSP tests raw materials for the presence of F. coli using specially designed E. coli count plates which contain an indicator that turns the bacteria blue if present. This allows for visual identification of the bacteria and, of course, rejection of that particular batch of raw material.

Salmonella testing
Salmonella bacteria is responsible for many food poisoning cases. NSP tests for salmonella bacteria in herb raw materials and products using what is called a 1-2 test, This test allows them to obtain results much more quickly than standard culture methods.


Organoleptic ID testing
This is usually the first step in the identification of herb samples coming into the Quality Assurance testing area. This analysis includes testing with the senses, i.e. checking the taste, odor, color, and appearance of the raw herb material.

A microscopic evaluation is performed on incoming herb samples to validate exactly which plant parts the sample contains (roots, leaves, fruit, bark), and to look for any foreign matter such as insect parts. This test involves the preparation of a slide of each herb powder to be tested. By analyzing the cell structure of the sample under the microscope, NSP can confirm the plant species, cell type (part of plant), and see possible contamination.

Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
TLC is a reliable analytical technique that allows us to identify herbs and measure their quality. Different components of an herb extract are separated from each other using adsorption and capillary action. These components are spotted onto a plate, and the intensity of the spots represents the concentration of each component in the extract. Trained personnel can identify the components by color, and colorless substances are identified by using a special detecting spray or ultraviolet light. The TLC test allows us to "fingerprint" the herb sample and compare it to a library of known standards. Used in combination with the FTIR test, we can be assured that the key components in a particular herb are present in the sample. NSP occasionally uses TLC to do comparison testing. They test NSP products against similar products made by competitors to ensure that the NSP products potency and purity are greater than that of their competitors.

Inftared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
Its official name is Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. The FTIR herb test validates the authenticity and purity of an herb sample. A beam of infrared light is passed through a sample of the herb. As the beam shines on the sample, the sample absorbs energy from the beam at certain frequencies. If they chart the frequencies at which the sample absorbs energy, they get the "absorption spectrum" of the herb. No two herbs have the exact same absorption spectrum, so by comparing these charts to existing charts, NSP can positively identify the herb.

This test is critical because some herbs look, smell, and taste exactly alike, but one may cost 25 times more than another. Without FTIR resting, suppliers may be tempted to dilute the more expensive herb material with inexpensive "fillers." For example, golden seal plants have been over-harvested in recent years. And as a result, the supply is limited and the raw herb is very expensive. Some suppliers may be tempted to dilute their golden seal with other herbs which have similar chemical composition. The FTIR test makes it impossible for suppliers to get away with this.

This test also measures the level of the key components in herb samples so NSP can maintain consistent levels of potency from one batch of product to the next.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
This extremely sensitive, computerized tool allows us to analyze the ingredients in a mixture. NSP places a dissolved sample of a mixture in the autosampler unit and pump it through the analytical column. The mixture separates into different vitamin (or herb) components, and the highly.sensitive detector measures the amount of each component in the mixture down to parts per million. By analyzing printed HPLC plots, they can verify proper ingredient ratios in a given mixture.

They also use HPLC to examine the purity and potency of raw materials. For example, they use liquid chromatography to measure the parthenolide content in Feverfew and the ephedra content in Chinese Ephedra.


Ash testing
Nature's Sunshine burns a small sample of herb material in a special microwave furnace for one hour at 700 C. This burns away all of the organic (plant) matter. Any ash that remains after the burn is mineral content or dirt, and this is weighed. Every herb has a characteristic mineral content and a corresponding typical ash content. If, in testing, NSP finds an ash content that is significantly higher than the typical ash content, they suspect the presence of dirt or some other foreign inorganic material. Dirt is a common problem, especially with herbs harvested from plant roots. If harvesters do not take the time to completely clean the dirt from the roots, NSP will reject the herbs.

Acid Insoluble testing
The inorganic ash left after ash testing is treated with hydrochloric acid and burned again. Any remaining ash is called acid-insoluble ash (AIA). A high AIA value may indicate that the herb sample is contaminated with metal particles.

Gamma Counter
Some raw materials that come from eastern Europe may be contaminated with radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. The Gamma Counter will show if the materials are contaminated and will help keep products free from radiation.

Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS)
By using Gas Chromatography, NSP can separate complex mixtures of compounds into individual components. A sample of a mixture is placed in the GC machine where it is heated and becomes a gas. As this gas travels through a tube in the machine, the individual elements in the mixture separate out and attach to a special coating in the tube. These separated elements enter a detection unit called a Mass Spectrometer which graphs the individual elements and allows NSP to identify the compound. By examining these graphs they can look for unwanted elements such as pesticides. This use of leading technology gives Nature's Sunshine the quality advantage in ensuring the quality and purity of their natural health products.


Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometer (ICP)
The ICP has a flame that burns at 8727 C. NSP dissolves a sample of raw material or finished product in acid and then sprays the solution into the middle of the flame. Inside the flame the different elements glow with their own unique colors. For example, calcium will glow with a different color than potassium. A highly sensitive meter graphs the brightness of each mineral in the flame, and the graph shows how much of each mineral is present in the sample down to parts per million. If there are any unwanted elements in a test of raw material, the shipment is rejected.

This testing device screens raw mineral samples for unwanted elements like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The ICP is also used to test finished products like Super Supplemental and Mega-Chel to ensure the mineral content in these products meets label claims.


Nature's Sunshine meticulously tests all of the raw materials they receive. Their quality assurance testing continues throughout the entire production process. In all, they use over 150 tests and procedures to ensure the quality of the raw materials used and finished products sold. The following list represents a few of the most important rests they conduct:
  • Acid Insoluble testing
  • Ash testing
  • Bacteria testing
  • E. coli testing
  • Foreign Organic/Inorganic Matter
  • Gas Chromatography/Mass
  • Spectrometry (GC/MS)
  • Heavy Metals testing
  • High Performance Liquid
  • Chromatography (HPLC)
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma
  • Spectrometer (ICP)
  • Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Microscopy
  • Moisture testing
  • Mold and Yeast testing
  • Organoleptic ID testing
  • Particle Size
  • pH testing
  • Potency testing
  • Salmonella resting
  • Tablet Disintegration/Dissolution
  • Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
  • Total Bacteria testing
  • Viscosity testing
  • Volatile Oil
  • Every test conducted leads to better product quality, and excellence in product quality is what has put NSP's products where they are today . . . at the top of the industry. You can be assured that with each new product developed and manufactured, their commitment to excellence will continue.

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