FAQs: Do Natural Health Products Work?

Do natural products really work? You might hear people talking or have watched a documentary or seen things online and wondered.

We like to ask and answer questions about health around here, so we did a little research and here's what we found.


Let’s talk about what natural products are

Under the Natural Health Products Regulations, which came into effect on January 1, 2004, natural health products (NHPs) are defined as:

  • Probiotics
  • Herbal remedies
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Homeopathic medicines
  • Traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines
  • Other products like amino acids and essential fatty acids


Natural health products (NHPs) are naturally occurring substances that are used to restore or maintain good health. They are often made from plants, but can also be made from animals, microorganisms and marine sources. They come in a wide variety of forms like tablets, capsules, tinctures, solutions, creams, ointments and drops.


Fast fact: 71% of Canadians have used natural health products like vitamins and minerals, herbal products, and homeopathic medicines. 

What can Natural Health Products be used for? 

NHPs are used and marketed for a number of health reasons, like the prevention or treatment of an illness or condition, the reduction of health risks, or the maintenance of good health. They must be safe to be used as over-the-counter products. Products needing a prescription are regulated as drugs.

Should I consider Natural Health Products for my Wellness Journey? 

Yes you should, if you’re interested in

  • Products created from plants and herbs
  • Treating your sensitivities or allergies mindfully by limiting your chemical exposure
  • Avoiding unpleasant side effects of chemicals and synthetics

Do I need a prescription?

In order to qualify as a legitimate natural health product, NHPs must be safe to use as over-the-counter products and do not need a prescription to be sold. Products needing a prescription are regulated as drugs under the Food and Drug Regulations.

Does natural equal safe?

Natural products require the care you would give to using any over-the-counter medication.

For example, taking a recommended dose of a pain reliever during the recommended time frame is considered a safe use of the product. But taking too many tablets, or taking them too close together can be hazardous to your health. 

And before taking any new medication or health product, it is important to talk to your doctor to find out if the health product will interact poorly with anything else you might already be taking.  

How can I use natural health products safely? 

  • Talk to a health care professional like a doctor, pharmacist or naturopath before choosing a product. This is especially important for children, pregnant or breast-feeding women, seniors, and people with serious medical conditions.
  • To prevent interactions, make sure your health care provider knows what other drugs and natural health products you are using.
  • Use approved products. Look for NPN / DIN-HM numbers that identify licensed products.
  • Be skeptical of health-related claims that seem too good to be true. Don't rely on ads: do your own research and talk to your health care provider.
  • Read and follow all instructions on the product label.
  • Report unwanted side effects (adverse reactions) to your health care provider and Health Canada.

Are Natural Health Products Effective?

Products with a licence have been assessed by Health Canada and found to be safe, effective and of high quality under their recommended conditions of use. You can identify licensed natural health products by looking for the eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label.

This Licensed Natural Health Products Database is managed by Health Canada and includes information on licensed natural health products, including:

  • vitamin and mineral supplements herb and plant-based remedies 
  • traditional medicines like Traditional Chinese Medicines or Ayurvedic (Indian) Medicines
  •  omega 3 and essential fatty acids 
  • probiotics  
  • homeopathic medicines 
  • many everyday consumer products, like certain toothpastes, antiperspirants, shampoos, facial products and mouthwashes

How can I identify safe and effective Natural Health Products?

Look for the 8-digit NPH or NPH-HM number on the product packaging. 

To find out if a product is right for you, speak to your doctor or trusted health professional, and make sure to discuss any other medications or health products you are currently using.


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