In Canada, natural health products are substances you eat or drink. They can be vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants, amino acids (the individual building blocks of protein), or parts of these substances. They can be in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form. They supplement (add to) the diet and should not be considered a substitute for food.
Natural health products are widely available in Canada in health food stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, on the Internet, and by mail. People commonly take them for health-related reasons. Common natural health products include vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin C or a multivitamin), botanicals (herbs and plant products, such as St. John's wort), and substances that come from a natural source (such as omega-3 fatty acids).
Makers of natural health products cannot legally say that natural products can diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. But they can say that they contribute to health maintenance and well-being.
People have used the active ingredients in natural health products for thousands of years to help health and to treat illness. Sometimes those natural products are the basis for some of today's common medicines. For example, people have used willow bark tea for centuries to control fever. Pharmaceutical companies eventually identified the chemical in willow bark that reduces fever and used that knowledge to produce aspirin.
The Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products must be reviewed and approved by the NNHPD before they can be sold in Canada.
People use natural health products for many health conditions.
Researchers have found that some natural health products do not help prevent or treat certain health problems. For example, beta-carotene and vitamin E do not lower risk of heart disease or heart attack.
Not all natural health products are safe. If you are unsure about the safety of a supplement or herb, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health products or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product. This is especially important for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When using natural health products, keep in mind the following.
Other Works Consulted
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2014). Vitamin, mineral, and multivitamin supplements for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsvita.htm. Accessed March 28, 2014.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineBrian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofMarch 3, 2017
Current as of: March 3, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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