*[Image Goes Here]* The use of herbal remedies, traditional medicines, and vitamin and mineral supplements to treat disease and prevent illness is very popular. As a result Health Canada has decided to take steps to ensure that consumption of these health products are safe for the public.
Natural health products may include: herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, vitamins, minerals, traditional medicines, probiotics, amino acids and essential fatty acids (such as Omega-3).
What many consumers don’t know is that there aren’t any regulations for these health products in place. This means the product manufacturer is not required to have a license to sell the natural health product in Canada nor provide research proving the safety or efficacy of their product. Furthermore, natural health products are not required to include an ingredient list, warnings and possible negative effects on the label. In other words, when you purchase a natural health product in Canada safety measures do not apply.
Why is this a problem? Many herbal mixtures or traditional medicines make claims in their advertising that it will improve health or cure an illness. Even though herbal products claim to be “all natural,” they may not be safe for everyone. The active ingredient in herbal medicines may exacerbate some health conditions. Also, some herbals may cause damage to organs, or block the action of prescription drugs.
Health Canada has developed guidelines that will regulate natural health products, helping guarantee the safe use of traditional and herbal medicines. Once regulated, consumers will be in a much better position to make more informed decisions about the natural health products they consume.
Regulations include: product licensing; research data to prove the safety and efficacy of the product’s health claims; insurance of quality and safety of the product; standardized labeling that includes the amount of the active ingredient, warnings and possible negative effects; as well as a system to report negative side effects.
Consumers will know a natural health product has been authorized for sale by Health Canada when they see an 8 digit product license number, proceeded by the letters “NPN” on the label. For homeopathic medicine, the label will bear the designation DIN-HM.
Before taking any natural health product, always check with a medical doctor, pharmacist, or a dietitian first.
To learn more, contact the Natural Health Products Directorate of Health Canada by calling (613) 952-2558, or visit their website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpfb-dgpsa/nhpd-dpsn.
Information adapted from the above website and “Natural Health Products in Canada” by Dianne Oickle, MSc, RD.
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