6 Haram Substances That Might Be In Your Supplement

Khadija Ahmed

July 12, 2023
Dietary supplements with haram ingredients

Did you know that your favourite supplement might contain a haram substance? That's right, with the huge explosion in supplements ranging from protein powder to pre-workout to creatine to multi-vitamins, we're less and less aware of what exactly goes into making each of these products.

Fear not, because we're here to help advise you on what to look out for, next time you're about to buy your next batch.

Can supplements even be halal or haram? 🤔

This is a question we hear a lot. In short, yes, your supplement can be halal or haram based on both which ingredients are present, and the manufacturing processes involved.

In this article we're going to focus on the former, so here are six haram substances that you may not be aware of.

1. Gelatin from non-halal sources 🍮

Gelatin is a commonly-used ingredient in many supplements and capsules. Gelatin is a translucent, colourless, flavourless food ingredient usually derived from collagen taken from animal parts. It can be used to make make-up products, ointments and foods as it's a thickening and gelling agent.

It is essential to ensure that the gelatin used in your supplement has been derived from halal sources, such as bovine or fish gelatin. Gelatin derived from non-halal sources, such as pork, is haram and renders the supplement non-permissible.

Note that gelatin may appear as gelatine on certain packaging, but it still refers to the same thickening or gelling agent.

2. Ingredients with alcohol content 🍸

Some supplements contain ingredients derived from alcohol, such as ethanol or alcohol-based extracts. These substances may be used as solvents or preservatives, or even used in the distillation process when extracting fruit powders.

Again, it's important to verify the source and extraction methods of these ingredients with the brand or directly with the manufacturer to ensure they are alcohol-free or derived from permissible sources.

3. Non-halal enzymes 🧪

Certain supplements may contain enzymes derived from non-halal sources, such as porcine (pig) enzymes. These enzymes are used for various purposes, including digestion or protein breakdown.

Enzymes can also be used in the manufacture of whey protein. One of these enzymes is called rennet and it helps separate out the whey from curds when added to milk. Rennet can be animal-derived or plant-derived and the animal-derived rennet can be haram if it comes from a non-Islamically-slaughtered animal.

4. Carmine (E120) - red colouring 🩸

Carmine is a red colouring or food dye and is derived from carminic acid. It can be used to make packaging or print look more vibrant. It is usually extracted from the dried bodies of certain female insects. Sometimes it's used in food supplements and this is where it gets tricky. 

There are different rulings on the permissibility of carmine depending on which school of thought (madhab) you follow. Overall, all madhabs seem to agree that eating insects can be distasteful but there is a consensus that carmine has been transformed from its original form and may therefore actually be halal.

5. Other animal-derived ingredients 🐄

There may exist other animal-derived ingredients that are also not sourced from halal-certified suppliers. Examples include non-halal collagen, animal-based amino acids, or animal-derived vitamins. In all these cases, we need to ascertain whether the derived ingredient comes from a lawfully-slaughtered animal and is therefore halal or haram.

6. Prohibited stimulants ⚡️

Certain supplements which are brought to market as energy boosters or performance enhancers may contain stimulants that are prohibited in Islam. These include taking caffeine in excessive amounts where it becomes harmful to the body or substances like ephedrine or yohimbine in high dosages. This is because some of these substances produce adverse side effects and therefore are considered makruh.

Finally, Allah knows best. Islam is meant to be an easy religion to follow and by understanding simple rules and mentions of what is lawful and not in the Quran, we can enjoy life without the rules becoming an overbearing burden.