You get what you pay for!
Taking a low quality supplement for anything is like needing a backhoe for a big project, but you got a pitchfork.
Why buy the more expensive product?
Once upon a time, I worked at a quaint little Herbal Apothecary in New York where my very first private practice was born. People would come in daily to solicit free advice on what products would help their situation, then they would leave and go to Walmart and buy their supplements. Eventually they would be back, complaining about how that product didn't work. Taking a low quality supplement for anything is like needing a backhoe for a big project, but you got a pitchfork. Let me tell you why.
First of all, every plant and mineral has a species and is broken down into a genus. One Species can have multiple genera, and some may be medicinally beneficial but others are not, and some may even be toxic....but they are all from the same family (a.k.a. Species). Some genera are more bio-available (can be easily absorbed and utilized in the body) than others. Take Calcium for example. In this case, Calcium is the Species and the genus is the different forms of it. Let's compare Calcium citrate to Calcium carbonate. The -citrate genus is derived from the salt of citric acid, and is commonly used as a preservative in food. Calcium carbonate is literally chalk. Calcium citrate is water-soluble, and is easily broken down and assimilated in the digestive process. Calcium carbonate is not. In fact, this type of Calcium can contribute to plaque build up and cause more harm than good. When you take Calcium carbonate, it does next to nothing for your bones and you are quite literally pissing your money away. This type of Calcium is the one most commonly used in lower quality Calcium supplements.
Secondly, you want to be savvy on where your products are being resourced and how they are being produced. Things like pesticides and radiation are not only dangerously toxic, but they render the product absolutely useless . Going organic is typically a pretty good fail-safe, but that doesn't guarantee that the product wasn't chemically altered or adulterated along the way. You want to know what else is in your product and how it was made. For example, Herbal Extracts can be extracted in a number of ways. Typically a food grade solvent is used to extract the plant's properties, but if a toxic solvent was used, then the result is a useless and adulterated product. Even if it was grown or resourced organically, other ingredients in the product can counteract it's potency.
Companies that produce lower quality products are not going to invest in standardized quality control, because they are more concerned about profit than quality. Therefore, you also want to make sure that the company you choose invests in third party testing to ensure a higher quality product. All of this information should be fully transparent and easily accessible to the public. If you can't easily get your answers by doing some quick research, then I would not trust that company. Any company can make claims like "purity guaranteed" or other mumbo jumbo to make their product sound superior, but that doesn't mean they have integrity.
Thirdly, a lot of Plant and Mineral Species are currently endangered and on the verge of extinction. Less reputable companies don't care about this fact, and will obtain these resources illegally and then charge an astronomical amount for a profit (i.e. Ginseng and Sandalwood). Other companies just want to take advantage of you for no reason. For example: Frankincense resin is not endangered nor difficult to acquire, but some essential oil companies jack up the price anyway. Be an educated consumer, and don't support these types of unethical companies.
And finally, let's talk Fillers and Binders. Even if the main ingredient is of good quality and sustainably resourced, other ingredients may be added to the end product that alter it's purity and effectiveness. This is more common with Tablets than Capsules, but even capsules can be made of poor quality ingredients. Take vitamins for example. Most come in a tablet form, where they use other fillers to bind to the main ingredient(s) to produce a solid material. These fillers and binders may not necessarily be toxic, but they still need to be digested. In worst cases, if someone's gut is already compromised, a tablet is going to be more difficult to digest and their body is not going to efficiently utilize the main ingredient(s). But regardless, these extra ingredients mean less of the main component which results in a less potent product and ultimately a waste of money. You can get better results if you consume a better source of the main ingredient(s), like from food or an herbal infusion.
A note on bio-availability:
Supplements made from food sources are going to be much easier for your body to absorb and assimilate. When your body recognizes a product as food, it is going to be broken down and utilized more efficiently. So this is another important factor to consider when choosing quality ingredients and yet another reason to always read labels. Liquids are more easily digested, and absorbed much quicker than a tablet or capsule. That is why I prefer to recommend an herbal infusion or tincture over a supplement in pill form. Infusions made from high quality herbs will contain many vital nutrients including vitamins and minerals, in addition to the main healing properties of the herbs.
It's important to make the distinction between herbal teas and infusions though: teas are great, but are usually only steeped for a few minutes and enjoyed for their flavor. Infusions are more therapeutic and intentionally medicinal. They are really easy to make by pouring boiling water over your chosen herbs and steeping them in a covered container for much longer periods. Infusions may not always taste great, but that is not the point. The point is to facilitate healing through plant medicine, and the longer they steep the stronger the infusion.
So to summarize:
Here is a list of companies that I recommend for quality Herbs and Supplements:
Of course this is an ever evolving list, and I am sure there are more reputable companies out there. I am always open to hear more suggestions! This is an exhaustive list of companies that are easily found online for convenience, but I always encourage you to support local whenever possible. I have my own product line called Bare Essentials, and I source a lot of my ingredients through the bulk herb suppliers listed above when I can't find a local resource. I also offer consultations to determine which products and specific brands are most appropriate for your unique situation. I would be happy to discuss your options with you!
*A special "thank you" goes out to my Mentor for adding some suggestions to this list. It is her shop in New York that I was referring to above. If you are ever in Dunkirk, NY, please stop by Herbs For Life and tell Toni Jo I sent you!