Dietary/Herbal Supplements

Databases: Evidence Summaries

The premiere resources for finding evidence are systematic reviews. You should also look for meta-analyses and randomized controlled trials. Some resources specialize in making evidence available. These include:

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database

Evidence based information on dietary supplements. Search by supplement or by health condition.

Natural Medicines

Summarizes the evidence on the safety and effectiveness of supplements and drugs. Search by supplement name or health condition.  Note: while the database is not as current as the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, it features a valuable Evidence Table for each supplement that it profiles.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Library (requires Academy membership password)

“a synthesis of the best, most relevant nutritional research on important dietetics practice questions in an accessible, online, user-friendly library. “

Databases: Journal Articles

PubMed (1996]-)
Note: PubMed (MEDLINE) is the NLM’s premier bibliographic database covering the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. Coverage is worldwide, but most records are from English-language sources or have English abstracts. A feature relevant to those in Nutrition is the “Dietary Supplements” search set.

Note: An abstract database covering the information on all issues related to food and health – from food composition and safety to obesity, parenteral nutrition and allergies. It includes papers relevant to human nutrition selected from more than 6,000 academic journals (including all the core nutrition journals), books, reports and conferences published worldwide.

Note: If you are researching an interdisciplinary topic, you may want to perform a search in Google Scholar, which indexes articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions across disciplines. To enable the “Find @ BU” links in this database, click on the gear shaped icon in the upper right hand corner, then click Scholar Preferences, and search for Boston University in the library links box. Be sure to click the “Save Preferences” button at the top of the screen when you are done.

Market Information

TableBase: An excellent source of reports with general sales data for dietary supplements.

Mintel: A good source of general sales trends and public opinion towards dietary/herbal supplements. This is a free resource, but one-time registration is required to use the database.

Vitamin & Supplement Manufacturing in the US: This report provides an overview of the demographics behind sales data for supplements, and highlights supplements for weight loss and sports nutrition.

ABI/INFORM Complete: This full-text journal database is an excellent source of market information for various herbs and supplements. Here is an example of how to set up a search in ABI/Inform:


Several journals available through BU Libraries include articles about the dietary supplements market. They include, but are not limited to:


Locating journals in the library or online

To check to see if BU has the full-text of articles, click on the sfxfind icon in our databases, then click on “Get It” or “View It” on the next page. Watch me retrieve full-text in PubMed in this video. If you cannot find the article, follow this flowchart. If you need an article or book that BU Libraries does not own, request it for free through interlibrary loan.

Web Resources

Office of Dietary Supplements

The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements provides both professional level and summarized supplement fact sheets available in English and Spanish on their website.

Dietary Supplement Label Database

A database maintained by the NIH & NLM that contains label information from dietary supplements available in the United States and supplements that were available in the United States that are no longer on the market.

ANSI Consumer Resources on the Web

American National Standards Institute list of U.S. Federal Government Regulatory Agencies, U.S. Based Consumer Organizations, and Non-U.S. Based Consumer Organizations with resources for consumers.

Center for Science in the Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine

FDA: United Stated Food and Drug Administration

FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Publishes reports and studies in series such as Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA):

  • Database of evaluation summaries: This searchable database contains the summaries of all the evaluations of flavours, food additives, contaminants, toxicants and veterinary drugs JECFA has performed. Each summary contains basic chemical information, ADIs/TDIs, links to the most recent reports and monographs as well as to the specification database, and a history of JECFA evaluations. The database allows to search by partial name or CAS number, by first character (letter or symbol), or by functional class.Includes all updates up to the 71st JECFA (June 2009)
  • IPCS INCHEM database: Searchable database of all JECFA Monographs and other IPCS Risk Assessment documents.
  • WHO Food Additives Series (FAS): These monographs, published by the World Health Organization, contain detailed descriptions of the biological and toxicological data considered in the evaluation, as well as the intake assessment. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th through 52nd series of FAS monographs are available in HTML format. WHO monographs beginning with the 51st series are also available in PDF format.

National Academies Press

“Created by the National Academies to publish the reports issued by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, all operating under a charter granted by the Congress of the United States. The NAP publishes more than 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health, capturing the most authoritative views on important issues in science and health policy.” Includes more than 4000 books available online for free.

A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition. 2009.

“This dictionary is intended for anyone who enjoys food and would like a handy, non-technical guide to the terms they encounter on food labels, in advertising, or in the media. The wide spread of entries makes it an ideal reference guide for consumers, cooks, and students and practitioners in the fields of catering, home economics, food technology, food science, nutrition, and health care.”

Food Policy Institute, Rutgers University.

“The Food Policy Institute (FPI) is an academic research unit of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, that addresses food policy issues. Our mission is to bring the depth of academia’s knowledge to bear on pressing issues and challenges facing the food system by providing timely and relevant research that is responsive to the needs of government, industry and the consumer.” Includes online publications.

International Food Policy Research Institute.

Washington, DC-based institute whose mission is to “achieve sustainable food security and reduce poverty in developing countries through scientific research and research-related activities in the fields of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries, policy, and natural resources management.”

Additional Assistance

You are warmly invited to contact, Kate Silfen, the Mugar Health Sciences Librarian, at if you would like assistance with any aspect of your research.