Natural Health Products: More Than Just Medicinal PlantsNearly three out of every four Canadians regularly consume natural health products (NHPs) to prevent or treat various health problems. Many products are safe and effective but some may cause adverse effects or could be contraindicated if you have health problems. It is therefore crucial to do your homework before using them.
What is a natural health product?
When you hear the term “natural products” the first thing that springs to mind may well be “medicinal plants.” However, in Canada, the natural health product category includes several types of products:
- Medicinal plants
- Vitamins and minerals
- Homeopathic remedies
- Traditional remedies, e.g., in Chinese medicine
- Other products such as enzymes or essential fatty acids (omega-3s)
NHPs come in a wide range of forms, depending on the type of product and its use. For example, they include tablets, solutions, drops, and creams.
Choose a quality product
All products licensed by Health Canada must meet stringent manufacturing standards. They are clearly identified by an 8-digit NPN (Natural Product Number) or DIN-HM (Homeopathic Medicine Number).
Be wary of products available for sale online, which are not necessarily subject to the same strict manufacturing standards as those applicable in Canada, and that may contain ingredients not listed on the label.
Make an informed choice
Choosing the right NHP, especially a medicinal plant, is not always easy when many options are available for a specific health problem.
It is best not to rely solely on someone’s personal experience: what worked for them may be unadvisable for someone with different health issues. And while the Internet may help, finding unbiased information can be a challenge.
Your best option is to rely on your pharmacist’s expertise. They can recommend the product that is right for you.
Helpful tips before taking an NHP
If you are thinking of using an NHP, you should ask yourself the same questions you would with an over-the-counter medication:
- What is the recommended dose?
- How long can I take it?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Do the precautions apply to me?
Talk to your pharmacist before adding an NPH to your medication, as some products may interact with prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Ask for your pharmacist’s advice if the NHP is to be taken by a person who falls into one of the following groups because their health is more fragile:
- Older adults
- People with chronic health problems or weakened immune systems
- Pregnant or nursing women
Never discontinue a treatment and replace it with an NHP without discussing it first with your doctor or pharmacist.
Lastly, inform all your healthcare providers (doctor, pharmacist, dentist, etc.) that you are taking an NHP, especially if you are scheduled to undergo a medical or dental procedure, even a minor one. Some natural health products affect the body in a way that could create complications like bleeding, for example.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.