Aaron Chy, BSc, BSc Pharm/PharmD. Candidate
“Medications don’t work.”
How many times have you heard this? Or even said it yourself? The reality is, taking medications can be both frustrating and confusing. We all go through the routine of seeing the doctor, then the pharmacist, then taking our pills day after day, only to feel no difference in the end. Then, when you throw in things like side-effects and drug interactions, it can seem as if you’re taking on more problems than you’re solving. Finally, to top it all off, you may begin to wonder what exactly you’re putting into your body in the first place. You may begin to question whether it’s safe to be putting these manufactured substances into your system.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something simpler, something that worked… something natural?
In my experience working in pharmacies, this is probably one of the most common things I encounter; the desire to choose alternative, “natural” solutions for treating medical conditions. And when you consider all of the above, it’s not surprising that Canadians spend over 16 billion dollars on Natural Health Products, also known as NHP’s every year. The reality is that many individuals turn to NHPs to take care of their health and many times, even replace medications entirely with natural products.
Do natural health products work?
From what I’ve seen in practice, there are two main reasons why people pursue natural health solutions. The first is the notion that they work better. That said, there are some products with evidence supporting their benefit towards sleep, mood and other conditions. However, when you look into the vast majority of ingredients currently on the market, the evidence for effect is very weak at best. In addition, labeling laws can be very lenient towards what companies are able to say, and you can’t always be sure the product you’re purchasing is of the same consistency as the next.
How can I make sure I’m safe?
The second main reason people choose natural medications is safety. Now of course, no one could be blamed for wanting to find something safe for their body – and to avoid consuming “chemicals” and other “substances.” However, it’s important to note that just because a product is natural, does not mean it’s safe. In fact, any NHP has just the same potential for unwanted side effects and drug interactions as prescription medications. And depending on someone’s disease state or medical conditions, certain NHP’s may cause sickness.
The safe use of NHP’s relies on knowing what exactly you’re taking, and informing you care provider so they can make the right decisions from their end. Unfortunately, many individuals don’t do this because they don’t feel it’s relevant or they’re unsure how their care provider will react. Therefore, there’s also a responsibility on care providers to have these conversations with their clients, and more importantly, to listen with respect and attentiveness.
Between “conventional” and “alternative” medicine a safe balance can be found. By working together, clients and care providers may be able to find that balance.
Do you or anyone you know include natural medicine as part of their lifestyle? Feel free to comment or email our team at email@example.com for questions or discussions!