Herbex has a strong social media presence and ship internationally.
Below, we take a closer look at a company which at first glance seems to have a lot going for it, and a lot to offer its customers, wherever in the world they may be. But then again, things aren’t always what they seem.
For example, for many of their products users are told that for best results they should be used daily for at least three months, which can mean multiple orders to start with … but there’s always the possibility of an ongoing discount, depending on how much you spend with Herbex.
Herbex was founded in 1995 by Eddie Bisset in Cape Town, South Africa. From small beginnings, the company has grown since its inception to supplying over 70 natural slimming products in South Africa to both pharmacy and retail trades, and exports to other countries. It’s one of the largest health companies in South Africa and is considered to be the undisputed number one slimming product supplier.
Another arm of the Bisset supplement empire is Regal Pet Health, the ‘dominant range in complimentary medicine for pets in South Africa’ which announces to the world that their herbal formula is ‘healing your best friend at home’.
And indeed the website displays their Regal Skin Care Remedy for itchy skin, allergies hot spots, eczema and rashes. However, less prominently displayed on that web page is the South African equivalent to the FDA statement on American supplement websites: ‘This medicine has not been evaluated by the Medicines Control Council. This medicine is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease’.
Now, if that’s the kind of claim and disclaimer combination you can expect from a company when it comes to animals, how’s that going to work out when it comes to what the company can do for its human customers?
That might not be a catch, per se – but it did inspire us to think a little more deeply about the company and its values. One thing that struck us while looking at its online presence is that much of the way it represents its clientele leaves a lot to be desired regarding any kind of political correctness, remembering that this is South Africa we’re talking about here.
In so many cases, successful slimmers are represented as being white, and it’s hard not to think from their poses and location shots that they’re pretty affluent as well.
And as for the representation of many those just starting out on their weight loss journey, well let’s just say they don’t exactly appear to be affluent. Or white. Not all of Herbex’s promotions are like that, though – but there’s enough of them to leave us scratching our heads in a puzzled kind of way and wondering whether that’s just very, very clever marketing … or in this day and enlightened age the company just didn’t care about its customers and how they felt.
And as we looked deeper into Herbex the answer became more and more obvious.
With over 70 slimming products on the market, it’s possible that a Herbex product could help – but throughout the website visitors are constantly reminded that it’s not just the products that will bring weight down – it’s also got a lot to do with diet and exercise.
And diet and exercise is going to cause anybody to lose weight, whether or not they decide to buy a supplement to help them do just that.
So we looked into Herbex’s Attack the Fat tablets and found active ingredients including Buchu, which ‘will assist in efficiently ridding the body of water weight’ according to the company and is also, according to WebMD, ‘used to disinfect the urinary tract’ and ‘promote urine flow’ – which sounds very much like a diuretic to us.
The tablets also contain Cape aloe leaf juice, which, says the web page, ‘has a strong laxative and detox effect’.
So yes, there’s definitely a weight loss element involved here, but not so much the fat loss alluded to in the product name.
Let’s stick with Attack the Fat tablets: they also contain Garcinia, which may or may not reduce food intake depending on whose study you read.
But if traditional doses and those used in such studies are between 1 and 5 grams per day and Attack the Fat’s daily dosage totals 1.2 milligrams a day, in this case we can safely assume that whatever effect Garcinia could have here would be minimal.
However, we also have green tea leaves in the ingredient list, which tells us – unless we’ve got this totally wrong – that the total amount of caffeine in each tablet is a massive 2,576 mg.
Massive? Well, the Mayo Clinic considers a safe daily amount of caffeine to be ‘up to 400 milligrams’. We’ll leave you to do the math.
But before you start dividing 2,576 by 400 to see how many days a single tablet could keep you awake, we could just save you the trouble and refer you to CAMcheck, the South African consumer guide to complementary and alternative medicine.
There, you can find a list of Advertising Standards Authority rulings against Herbex and its products – including one against Attack the Fat where the company was instructed to withdraw their weight loss claim and the product name. Neither of which they appear to have done as yet, and it’s been a few years now.
But before we get to the biggest concern we have about the company as a whole, let’s start with the most ferocious disclaimer we’ve ever seen on a website, as in:
Herbex Health, its directors, employees, suppliers or service providers disclaim all representations including the accuracy of content or information, products or services.
Essentially, it tells us not to believe a single thing anyone says there.
And that comes as no surprise when other web searches bring up online news stories like ‘Herbex admits to scams’, and how the company is basically evading new laws when it comes to the definition of supplements and medicines in South Africa.
And that’s basically our biggest problem with Herbex: Bisset – the founder.
A while back, laws were changed in South Africa to protect consumers, requiring complementary and alternative medicines to be tested for quality and safety but – more importantly – to be registered with the Medicines Control Council.
At a public meeting Bisset explained how instead of selling his herbal products as such, he was going to get around those new laws by marketing those products as food, thereby avoiding those tests and that registration – for whatever reason.
And here’s a direct quote from a report about that meeting:
Doms, using quite a bit of legal jargon, explains that any product that makes claims to repair your health is seen as a medicine by the law. This is what Bisset’s products do, so they fall under the new regulations.
Doms writes, ‘Evasive or deceptive tactics are not acceptable… A product that has been used for years and promoted as a medicine to the public … does not become a foodstuff because it now suits the seller.’
Bisset says with a grin, ‘Customers are foolish enough to believe what you put on your label’. Then he pauses, maybe realising that he is saying too much, and adds, ‘but you have to tone it down’.
Interestingly enough, not that long afterwards Bisset suddenly left the country and took up domestic residence at a suite (i.e. a box number) in a serviced office building in the UK – and from there soon afterwards moved to another box number in that building. Why the moves? Who knows?
However, a box number in an office building is hardly a domestic residence, so we can’t help thinking that things might have caught up with him in South Africa. Since we’re not legal experts we’re just going to say the thought had occurred to us that there might not be an extradition treaty between the UK and South Africa, and leave it at that.
There’s a slim chance that a Herbex product could help with people’s weight-loss programs, if its ingredients are in appropriate quantities, which – CAMcheck tells us – many of them aren’t.
However, we’ve got that horrendous disclaimer and the founder’s attitude towards the law and his customers to take into consideration.
And if that’s the kind of attitude that’s at the top of the company, it’s going to filter downwards if it hasn’t done so already – so although there’s that chance that any of their products could possibly work for you, because of that attitude we’re steering well clear of Herbex, and advise you to do the same.