Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Natural Does Not Equal Safe

What is the number one reason some people choose a natural health product (NHP) over a pharmaceutical one? Safety!

It’s a common misconception that a natural product is safer than a “chemical/synthetic” one. There are several natural substances that are toxic and even deadly, like arsenic, lead and venom, just to name a few. Many people fall into this trap and end up choosing a product that is less effective for one they think is safer but it may not be as safe as they think.
 Recently an article was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal criticizing Health Canada for its leniency when it comes to approving natural health products. The editor of the journal, Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, was quoted as saying "They simply have to show that someone, somewhere once used this as therapy for something". He went on to claim that manufacturers of NHPs have to stop advertizing  that their products are remedies because they have very little evidence for their actual efficacy.  Furthermore, the director of general of natural and nonprescription health products for Health Canada stated that “Health Canada has the power to recall a bag of chips, but does not have the power to recall an unsafe natural health product”.

There is clearly a big safety and efficacy gap that needs to be filled at Health Canada regarding NHPs. I used to think that even though NHP efficacy was questionable their safety was not, but now I’m not so sure.  Thankfully, Health Canada is currently reviewing the regulations that govern the sale of self-care products, which includes NHPs. All products, whether they are termed “natural” or pharmaceutical should follow the same strict and rigorous testing to ensure our safety.  Just because something is chemical doesn’t mean it isn’t natural and just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.


Chemistry begins in the stars. The stars are the source of the chemical elements, which are the building blocks of matter and the core of our subject.”
Peter Atkins