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Midwest Natural Medicine is a clinic that strives to care for patients of all ages with any acute or chronic illness, as well as those just trying to reach a higher level of wellness. If you are interested in writing a piece for an upcoming issue of c2c, we would be very pleased to hear from you.
In some ways, natural health products are not that much different from any other medicines. Canada defines natural health products (known as dietary supplements in the United States) as a group of products used for health-related purposes whose active ingredients “exist in nature.” Most herbal medicines, vitamins, minerals, probiotics and essential fatty acids available for purchase in Canadian pharmacies and health food stores fall into this category. For example, natural health products are not necessarily made from natural sources – so your “natural” product may in fact be synthesized in an unnatural laboratory. A second assumption is that if a product is legally sold in Canada and the label says it is good for treating headaches, it actually works for treating headaches. Some people may want to purchase a medicinal product that has been used for a long time by traditional healers, but this is not the same as scientific evidence of efficacy. Research, specifically double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, is needed to test the medicinal claims associated with natural health products.
Yet, people continue to believe that “natural” products (or at least products composed of compounds found in nature) are somehow better for them than are medicines designed and synthesized in a laboratory. Some of the most potent toxins in the world come from natural sources – arsenic and snake venom for example. For example, much preliminary work is needed to determine what part of the plant should be used, when it should be harvested, how it should be processed and what dosage should be given.
Given the pace of the science, claims of miracle cures from natural health products abound for health conditions that are notoriously difficult to treat (such as cancer).
Canada has some of the highest quality natural health products in the world, because of our strict regulatory system. Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD is a Professor and the Associate Dean – Graduate Education at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto.
There is an incredible number of holistic and naturopathic practitioners in the Boulder area and resources aplenty for anyone in the region looking beyond western medical science for treatment. Naturopathy is the study of medicine incorporating the idea that the body is a complete unit, working in perfect harmony and that each person is unique.
This particular natural medical focus believes that everything in the body is connected and so the whole body must be treated in order for healing to be effective and lasting. In Boulder, there are dozens and dozens of clinics and individual practices devoted to the art of naturopathy and holism.
The big news in Colorado legislature this year has been the legalization of recreational marijuana use, but the state has allowed the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons since Amendment 20 was passed back in November of 2007.
With Amendment 64, it is now legal for anyone over 21 (with a valid Colorado ID) to possess up to one ounce of pot and grow up to six plants (still only three flowering at a time).
Boulder is the very definition of a progressive city–her people watch after the environment, each other and their health with positivity and an open mind.
Our goal is to treat our patients with the most up to date, effective, least invasive and most natural options for their condition. As a researcher studying the safety and efficacy of natural health products such as herbs and vitamins, I often hear the claim that these products are safe simply because they are natural. Some appear to be beneficial for individuals with specific conditions, and since they work by having some action on the human body, this means natural health products can also have adverse effects or undesirable drug interactions. To check a specific product, look for the Natural Product Number on the label, which is a sign that the product is approved for sale under some of the strictest regulations in the world for these types of products.
For example, vitamin C, chemically known as ascorbic acid, is much easier and cheaper to synthesize from scratch in a laboratory than it is to isolate from natural sources. What you may not know is that a natural health product can be approved for sale in Canada in one of two ways. Sometimes these studies confirm the traditional use, but more often, the studies show that natural health products do not work as well as originally thought.


There is no evidence that the body somehow “knows what to do with” natural products any more than it “knows what to do with” with other types of medicines. Also, natural products can have adverse effects, cause allergic reactions and interact badly with other medications. Although there is growing research into the safety and efficacy of natural products, it takes seconds to make a claim about a product and years to test that claim properly.
If this preliminary work (sometimes called pre-clinical studies) is not completed properly, scientists risk spending millions of dollars on a clinical trial only to discover that the reason the product seemed not to work in the trial is that they used the leaves instead of the root, or they did not give the trial participants the right dosage.
Natural health product labels have lots of useful information about the safety of the products; however, not all the claims on the labels are supported by scientific evidence. She originally trained as a pharmacist and currently co-directs IN-CAM (the Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research). C2C aims to create debate and foster the promotion of democratic governance, individual freedoms, free markets, peace and security. Her people are always working towards striking the perfect balance between innovative progress and harmony with the natural world. They don’t play lemmings, standing quietly in line to receive shots and pills from corporate health giants. Through physical therapies, herbal and botanical medicines, homeopathy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, psychological counseling and good old fashioned one-on-one doctor-patient connections, naturopathy and holistic medicine is capable of diagnosing, treating and curing any number of diseases and conditions.
It’s yet another reason Boulder is considered such an epicenter of progress in Colorado and rest of the country. The amendment allowed for qualified individuals to possess up to two ounces of pot and own up to six marijuana plants (though only three can be mature and flowering at a time). There’s a long list of diseases and conditions that medicinal marijuana is used to treat.
This further expands the nurturing of natural medicine in Boulder since people with pain who are unable to obtain a doctor’s note can now benefit from the medicinal painkilling and healing properties of marijuana. The prominence of natural medicine within her city limits is just a little slice of proof that Boulder is a place with a resourceful eye on the present and the future, making it such a wonderful place to live. For more information, see my disclosures here.A few years ago, natural remedies were anything but simple in my home. Our practitioners are highly trained to seek out and treat the underlying cause of a disease rather than just treating symptoms. Many myths about natural health products continue to circulate despite growing research – more than 5,000 studies on herbal medicine alone have been published in the last five years. The regulations generally guarantee that what is on the label is in fact what is in the bottle.
One way is to present scientific evidence that the product works for something: It prevents colds or helps you sleep, for example.
For example, according to The Cochrane Collaboration, a group dedicated to finding and summarizing all the clinical study evidence on specific products, cranberry juice or tablets really do help to prevent urinary tract infections.
Scientists are making progress, and each trial teaches them something about these products, but it is still a lot easier to make a claim about a natural health product than it is to do the research to test the validity of that claim. Similarly, conspiracy theories that large pharmaceutical companies are trying to keep us from knowing about a herbal product that will cure conditions such as cancer are highly overrated.
That they are composed of materials found in nature does not mean natural health products are safe for everyone. She is the President-elect of the International Society of Complementary Medicine Research. Instead, many Boulderites embrace natural medicines and practices, choosing to first find help through holistic means.
With three cupboards full of herbs, essential oils and tinctures, a large tote full of herbs in the garage and a drawer full of accessories, I decided it was time to simplify natural remedies. Natural health products are not always as natural as many people think, nor are they always safer or better for you than medications designed in a laboratory.


This is more than can be said for herbs and other supplements purchased in many other countries or over the Internet. As a scientist, I will argue that your body cannot tell the difference between vitamin C synthesized in a laboratory and vitamin C isolated from natural sources. The other is to provide information that the product has been used in a “traditional system of medicine” (for example, traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine from India) for a specific condition for a minimum of 50 consecutive years. Scientists are becoming increasingly sophisticated at figuring out exactly how the body works (and thus what happens when we become sick) and at designing medicines that are specifically targeted to interact with receptors on cells or specific metabolic pathways in order to help mitigate human disease. Unless you are a trained botanist, it is unlikely that you are going to suggest adding those mushrooms to your meal. Given they might be poisonous!
Unlike most conventional medicines, which are single chemical entities (which we know a lot about since we constructed them), natural health products often contain many active compounds (sometimes hundreds), thus making it challenging to figure out how the whole product affects the human body.
Rather than being the enemies of natural health products, pharmaceutical companies are big promoters of them since they own some of the most popular natural health product brands. Moreover, there is no reason to think that they are somehow better for us than other medicines. She served as the Chair of Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Committee for Natural Health Products from 2006-2009. They also protect Mother Nature with their open spaces system and enjoy her gifts with an incredible variety of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, rock climbing, skiing, and gardening. What are your experiences with them and why would you recommend them to others who mainly utilize western medical science?
Utilizing this philosophy creates a very personalized medical experience and optimizes your healing potential. However, many assumptions about natural health products (and the regulations) are simply not true. However, if someone picks those same mushrooms, dries them, puts them in a capsule and labels them as a natural health product, many people suddenly assume that they must be completely safe for everyone. Clinical research is time-consuming and expensive, so we need to make sure the specific product we choose to test contains enough of the “active ingredients” to be a fair test of its effects. For example, Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, a division of Pfizer, a multi-national pharmaceutical company, owns Centrum®, a well-known multivitamin (and thus a natural health product). The bottom line is that natural health products should be treated like any other medicines. Scientific research clearly shows that some natural health products can be beneficial, but consumers should beware of unrealistic claims of safety or efficacy. Only careful study of such claims in clinical trials will help us understand what works and what does not.
If this matters to you, read the label carefully – if it does not say it is from a natural source, it probably is not.
Pharmaceutical companies now market “natural” options of familiar products such as Gravol® that are actually natural health products with no relationship to the original products. She is the author of a textbook on natural health products and over 100 academic publications. Johns wort with warfarin (a blood thinner) or the birth control pill, the effects of these conventional medicines may be decreased and they may not work as intended. Under Canada’s regulatory system, known adverse effects, drug interactions and contraindications are listed on the labels of natural health products. Nevertheless, the assumption that these products are completely safe is so strong that some people might not think to check this information. I also pour my infused oils through my brewing basket after the initial straining to get tiny bits of herbs out. Small muslin bag with drawstring Very helpful for steeping bath herbs Medicine dropper that holds 30 mL Labels Storage containers I like a few different storage options for things like tinctures, balms and essential oil blends.




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