Everything you need to know about Natural Health Products (and then some)

Spoons with Natural Health Products.

Living a healthy and natural lifestyle means making decisions that are good for your body, mind, home, and the environment.

It means finding your balance, whether you’re the proud owner of an organic rooftop garden or you just want to find a good natural floor cleaner. You only have one body and one planet, so they’re definitely worthy of care. Natural Health Products are a great way to pivot into this mindful lifestyle. They’re products that are part of a holistic approach to health, aligned with the principles of living your best life, the natural way.

So, you’ve decided to live a more naturally healthy life by adding more natural products to your day-to-day. Amazing! You’ve come to the right place. And for those who went down an internet rabbit hole and ended up here accidentally—we hope you’re getting something out of this too.

With all the information and misinformation on blogs, vlogs, and especially in the comments section, (never read the comment section) it’s hard to know what’s true. Fortunately, you can relax because we’ve done all the homework for you. So, sit back with your chamomile tea, and ease into facts (like the difference between natural products and Natural Health Products) and tips for living your best life—the natural way!

Hands grabbing packaged pine nuts from store shelf.

What is a Natural Product?

Natural products—a vague term you’ve likely come across already. A lot of products label themselves as “natural” these days, but what exactly does that mean? Not much, to be honest. The term natural isn’t clearly defined in Canada, so many companies use it to describe their products without having to follow a list of standardized requirements. Basically, natural is a marketing term used by companies based on their own definition of what the term entails. And that definition often changes between products/brands and so on. In other words, you can state that your handmade soap business is natural because you’re naturally awesome at everything you do (and perhaps you included one natural ingredient). This means that there can be some ambiguity when it comes to certain natural products. To find out what naturally really means, check here. Ultimately, if you’re looking for products that follow a set of guidelines, Natural Health Products are the way to go.

What is a Natural Health Product?

Natural Health Products are a class of health products used to restore or maintain good health, such as vitamin and mineral supplements, herbal remedies, traditional and homeopathic medicines, probiotics and enzymes. Unlike natural products, Natural Health Products (NHPs) are regulated in Canada (yay for regulation!). This means that the government makes rules to ensure these products live up to a set of standards: They are safe, tested and live up to the claims they make.

Vitamin C supplements spilling out of bottle.

Natural Health Products are regulated by the Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), under the Natural Health Products Regulations (NHPR), which have been in place since 2004. NHPs must have a product licence: demonstrated by either a Natural Product Number (NPN) or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. And the Canadian sites that deal with manufacturing, packaging, labelling and importing the product in question require a site licence (no licence, no luck).

According to the Government of Canada these licences are only granted when specific labelling and packaging requirements are met, good manufacturing practices are followed, and proper safety and efficacy evidence is provided (i.e. they’re all labelled clearly, made well, and are safe and effective). The evidence required to support product claims and ensure consumer safety include clinical trial data or references to published studies, journals, pharmacopoeias and traditional resources. The type and amount of supporting evidence required depends on the proposed health claim of the product and its overall risks. This is all to say that Natural Health Products are trustworthy (unlike those unsourced Facebook articles shared by your uncle).

Rest assured, when you’re buying a Natural Health Product with an NPN on the label, you know what you’re getting!

Examples of Natural Health Products

Natural Health Products span a wide range of goods with the common goal of keeping you healthy and living more holistically. Here’s a peek at some of what they cover:

  • Calcium or Iron (mineral supplements)
  • Omega 3 (essential fatty acid)
  • Vitamin C (vitamins)
  • Probiotics and prebiotics
  • Traditional medicines like Traditional Chinese Medicines or Ayurvedic Medicines
  • Homeopathic Medicines
  • Everyday consumer products (specific types of toothpastes, antiperspirants, shampoos, facial products and mouthwashes that contain ingredients as defined by the NHPR).

Buying Natural Health Products.

When you’ve decided it’s time to finally go shopping, there’s a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure you see an NPN or a DIN-HM on the label. That way you know that your NHP has met the regulatory requirements and is safe and effective.
  2. Reference this database: Health Canada issues an NPN or DIN-HM to NHPs that meet the requirements, and includes them in The Licensed Natural Health Products Database (LNHPD). 

For more detailed information on shopping for NHPs, read this.

When making choices that support a natural lifestyle, there’s comfort to be had in that the products you purchase can stand on the claims they make.

And since not all “natural” products are made equally, it’s in your best interest to make sure your product is a Natural Health Product. So, with all this in mind, go forth and live your glorious life—naturally!

  1. “About Natural Health Product Regulation in Canada”. canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/regulation.html
  2. “Information Kit – Regulation of Natural Health Products.” canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/regulation/information-kit.html
  3. “Licensed Natural Health Products Database (LNHPD).” canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/natural-non-prescription/applications-submissions/product-licensing/licensed-natural-health-products-database.html

As part of the senior leadership team, Michelle develops implements and leads communication initiatives that support the strategic priorities of the Association. She is responsible for overseeing the integrated communications strategy including both internal and external communications, the management of all public relations, marketing, advertising and member communications.