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China’s Possibly-Fake Health Supplement Market

What do brain pills do?

After developing a suspicion that there is something defective with my brain, I have recently been taking supplements to help improve my memory. The mission of these pills is not so much to give you super memory, but rather to fill in any gaps in your nutrients that may be preventing your brain from firing on all cylinders. They are filled with B vitamins, DHA and niacin. 

Here are some brain pills on Taobao.


Buying Health Supplements in China

In the US, vitamins and pills are beyond suspicion. You can go to any Wal-Mart or Target and buy a bottle of any kind of supplement for about $6.  For this reason, I always assumed that most vitamins are cheap to produce. 

But in China, its a completely different situation.  People are very suspicious of vitamins and supplements. Vitamins are assumed to be fake unless they have a big fat “Made in the USA” sticker. Even better if the package is branded with an American flag or eagle. 


Get yourself an American flag, and you’re in business. Putting kids on the package is a good indicator of safety as well. Check out this fabulous product:


Youth’s Hyper – 33rmb. This is probably a pretty good choice if your child is lazy. All of these pills are meant to help the brain. And I do not recommend any of them.

So do brain pills work?

Like I said at the start, I did buy some interesting pills to help memory. They said ‘Made in the USA’ on them, but an Internet search revealed that they are probably from Vietnam. I have now taken an entire bottle, 30 days worth.  They are not poison, but I do not notice any difference in my memory. 

And that’s probably what makes health supplements such an attractive thing to fake. You really can’t notice any difference either way. 

Does anybody have any suggestions to help me improve my brain?

Related: Taobao Partners with Chinese FDA


  • Charles said:

    “Putting kids on the package is a good indicator of safety as well.”

    Not just any kid.. gotta be foreign kids 🙂

  • henry said:

    I used to have a part-time job where I faked being the VP of an American vitamin pill company. 600 yuan a day and all the baijiu I could drink.

  • The Field Guide (author) said:

    I think you are right – it even looks like the same little blonde-haired girl on both packages.

    I will quit my job right now for a 600rmb/day & baijiu package. How come I am the only laowai who has never been asked to impersonate someone important?

  • Liora said:

    Ginko Biloba helps with memory. Omega 3’s (DHA) and B vitamins help memory to a lesser degree but really help mood.

  • The Field Guide (author) said:

    Thanks for the Field Report on memory boosters! I want to believe in these things, but most of my internet research was very pessimistic about herbals’ real-world impact on memory.

    I don’t mind. I just bought two more bottles of Brain Speed!

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