Ask the Community Pharmacy & Seniors Wellness Expert – Jayesh Changela, 4th Year Pharmacy Intern


What is a Herbal Product?

Herbal products are generally derived from ‘naturally’ occurring materials found in our environment. However, just because they are natural does not guarantee they are safe for you to take.

Are Herbal Products Safe?

Herbal products can be used safely and effectively with the appropriate knowledge and proper administration, just like any other drug product. All herbal products should have an NPN meaning they have a Natural Product Number, similar to drugs and their DIN (Drug Identification Number). The NPN ensures that the herbal product has gone through screening and regulation approval by Health Canada. Do not use health products without an NPN number, because there is no way to ensure the safety and quality of that herbal product without Health Canada approval. Although an NPN means it has been approved by Health Canada, this does not guarantee that it will be safe for you! It is important to consider the following when choosing a herbal product.

Things to Consider

Are you taking any concurrent medications? Herbal products may interact with other medications you are currently taking, potentially causing drug interactions and making them unsafe. Always talk to your pharmacist or other health care professional before starting to take any new herbal products. They will be happy you asked. Also, beware of advertisements claiming herbal products as ‘miracle drugs’. As much as we want to believe these miracle herbal products exist, it often is a marketing scheme by companies for consumers to purchase their product. This is not to say all herbal products do not work, because each product is unique and some products can provide relief in a safe and effective manner, but just remember ‘buyer beware’.

Final Thoughts

Most herbal products can be used safely, but ALWAYS check with your pharmacist or other healthcare professional first before starting to take a new product. Ensure your product has a NPN, and if it is deemed safe by a professional and you believe the product will help, give it a try. But remember, natural does not guarantee safety. Education and talking to your health professional is the key!