Archive for July, 2011

Choosing Natural Health Products Shouldn’t Be So Hard

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

The natural health marketplace encompasses a panoply of healing philosophies that include homeopathy, Chinese traditional medicine, Ayurvedic, chiropractic, macrobiotics, and naturopathy. These approaches share a common emphasis on ideals of holism, but each offers distinct philosophies of wellness, diagnostic models, and ideas for treating specific body electric health conditions. These various holistic approaches support an even wider assortment of natural health practices: acupuncture, acupressure, herbal treatments, massage therapies, intricate regimens of vitamin and nutritional supplementation, aromatherapy, chelation therapy, music therapy, meditative techniques, healing touch, and colonic cleansing. The techniques and products that accompany these approaches have made for an ever-expanding natural health care market.

But an unquestioning faith in everything in the natural health field is in opposition to the value of mindfulness that many people who buy natural health products advocate. It is up to the consumer to decide which natural health products are worth investigating.  The market is largely unregulated in the U.S., and in Canada where it is much more regulated, such strictures have proven controversial.  Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once compared the natural health product market to the snake oil days of a century ago that led to passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.  Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994.  It exempts the manufacturers of dietary supplements from having to prove safety or efficacy before putting their “natural health products” on the market.  The responsibility is on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to show that something is not safe.  Moreover, the FDA has to rely on an inefficient system of voluntary reporting of negative health effects and symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that more than half of U.S. adults use dietary supplements such as multivitamins, minerals, or herbs.  In Canada, over half use natural health products in the form of traditional herbal products; vitamin and mineral supplements; traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other medicines; and homeopathic preparations.  There are many misconceptions, however, that all these natural health products are naturally safe because they are derived from natural plants.  There are a range of adverse effects possible, including inadequate or excessive dosing, low-quality herbs or supplements, misidentified plant species, contamination, interactions with prescription drugs, and allergies.  Some are intrinsically toxic.

From the beginning, consumers should ensure that natural health directory supplements they purchase are thoroughly researched and that the manufacturer has a solid reputation.  Buyers should also do their own extensive comparison shopping of the prices and quality of the natural health product in which they’re interested.  When shopping online, also go for sites of good repute.  Check when the site was established.  Consumers who read the fine print in ads will increase their chances of avoiding “snake oil”.  As well as your doctors and other health professionals, consult with friends, magazines, and health journals.

On the whole, a healthy skepticism of the natural health products on which we are devoting larger and larger portions of our total health budgets is a good thing.  The search for holistic health should not be counterproductive.  We shouldn’t be stressing out over natural pain and stress relievers.