Alternative Health Care

More Canadians are using natural health products (NHPs). Health Canada has developed new regulations that will help ensure that natural health products are well prepared, safe to use, effective and come with instructions on how they are to be used.

I personally use a variety of alternative health services and products that are not measured by contemporary medical science. Science is not the be all and end all of everything. It certainly has its place in our modern world, however there are many forms of alternative health practice and products that will never pass the test of science.

You will need to use your own good judgment. Ask questions. Talk to other people who use the product. It is true that there are useless products and shams to be avoided. And there are a lot of services and products that are very good and much less invasive than what our medical community will recommend. So, let the buyer that would be you beware.

Background: Canadians are using natural health products in many forms, including herbal products, vitamin and mineral supplements, traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and other traditional medicines, and homeopathic preparations. While the effectiveness of NHPs is often supported by traditional use and anecdotal reports, more frequently this initial evidence is being measured by contemporary medical science.

Most NHPs have enjoyed a long history of safe use, and many people take some form of a NHP on a daily basis. Individuals often select NHPs to gain more control over and positively influence their health. When used appropriately, NHPs can be an integral part of an individual's health management. However, some people assume that because a health product is labeled natural, it is safe. NHPs, like drugs, may have potentially serious side effects. Any substance, whether natural or synthetic, that has an effect on the body, has the potential to be a risk to health. Children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, seniors, those diagnosed with a serious disease or those scheduled for an operation are particularly susceptible to risk.

Health Canada has responded to concerns that consumers need to have access to products that are safe and effective, and to the information on how to best use them. After extensive consultations, new Natural Health Products Regulations were prepared, and apply to these products as of January 1, 2004. The regulations, which will be phased in over the next two to six years, cover the way products are manufactured and brought to market, and the information that is on the label. Natural health products that have been approved under these regulations will either have a NPN or DIN-HM on the label (Natural Product Number or Drug Identification Number-Homeopathic Medicine). A NPN or DIN-HM lets the user know that the product has undergone and passed a review of its formulation, labeling and instructions for use.

With the new regulations in place, manufacturers will label their natural health products with useful information such as what it should be used for, the recommended dosage, the length of time you should take it, the ingredients, any known risk factors associated with the product and other information.

Source: Health Canada

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