Refine Naturals™

Seeing the unseen: How to read natural health product labels?

The market is crowded with numerous natural health supplements that lack strong scientific evidence. The challenge today is to identify the brand that you can trust.

Ever got confused standing amongst several natural health supplements with disparate labels? You are not alone: In a survey led by Patients for Patient Safety Canada (PFPSC) to identify problems with labelling of non-prescription health products, 29% of respondents said that they had wrongly purchased a natural health or homeopathic product, or over-the-counter drug owing to their inability to understand/ read the label of the product.[1] To reduce this confusion, Health Canada recently came up with regulatory changes to labels (2019-2021: Self-care framework), that will necessitate essential risk information to be presented in a standardized format, with minimum font size and black-on-white contrast as well as use of plain language which can be easily understood by Canadians.[2]

How to read natural health product labels; Claims too good to be true:

In a study done in 2020, [3] 558 natural health supplements pages were analyzed and it was revealed that 20% of these made direct claims to treat or cure cancer, while 30% made indirect claims. All such cases (except 3 web pages) were found to be in violation of the law. Furthermore, only 13% of the product pages listed their Health Canada license number (NPN), despite the requirement to do so. In another incident, makers of Cold-FX (remedy for symptoms of cold) were asked by Health Canada to take corrective actions when they were found to advertise their product for the immediate relief of flu despite any lack of such evidence.[4] The ‘Guidelines for Consumer Advertising of Health Products’ laysghjklo down ethical rules so as to create claims in a reasonable way that does not mislead consumers. For example, stating that a product is ‘powerful’ is certainly an exaggeration.[5] Also claims printed on the label need to be approved by Health Canada.

Source: Kondro W. Natural health products: New labels, new credibility? CMAJ 2004;170(6):941–941.

While these are examples of wrongful claims, at Refine Naturals, our claims are rational and always within the evidence for the product. We make our labels easy to understand and compliant to standards. At Refine Naturals, we do not advertise any claims which we are not deserving of.

How to read natural health product labels; Medicinal Ingredients:

While name of the medicinal ingredient and its strength should always be present, some information such as part of plant used (e.g. leaf), potency of the extract (e.g. 55% Bacosides), ratio of extract from raw herb (e.g. 50:1) has to be made available for certain herbs.

At Refine Naturals™, our labels clearly state all the necessary information.

How to read natural health product labels; Non Medicinal Ingredients:

Many of us prefer to avoid consuming animal derivatives as part of non-medicinal ingredients. Did you know that Hypromellose is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin with excellent physico-mechanical properties?[6]

Some other ingredients to keep in mind are allergens like nuts and gluten, added sugar and caffeine. Caffeine, although not harmful in small doses, causes multiple actions in the body. It occurs in almost 60 types of plants and is also present in a lot of foods, beverages and supplements, which is why we need to take control of its consumption.[7]

At Refine Naturals™, we pride our natural health supplements in being free of gelatin, caffeine and gluten.

How to read natural health product labels; Organic Claims:

Only products with organic content that is greater than or equal to 95% may be labelled or advertised as "organic" or bear the organic logo. Additionally, they need to be certified by an accredited certification body. Exaggerated claims such as ‘Certified Organic’ or ‘100% organic’ or ‘Made with organic ingredients’ are considered misleading.[8]

Claims such as Vegan, Product of Canada, Kosher and Halal are also often seen. Whether the brand owners actually get their products guaranteed by an institution or even abide by the definition is again, a matter of doubt.

In our blog titled "Not all Natural Health Products are created equal" we talked about the importance of NPN number and how you can trace it to Health Canada’s database to verify other things on the label such as recommended use and risk information claims on the bottle.

At Refine Naturals™, we realize that not all natural health supplements are created equal. We concentrate our expertise in choosing quality and evidence backed medicinal as well as non-medicinal ingredients. We keep our labels and marketing practices compliant to advertising standards, so as to never mislead consumers in their decision making.

At Refine Naturals™: We believe “You Deserve Better than FINE!”

  1. Results of 2018 Public Survey Related to the Labelling of Non-Prescription Health Products [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 23];Available from:
  2. Health Canada. Forward Regulatory Plan 2019-2021: Self-Care Framework [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 30];Available from:
  3. Health Supplement Retailers Make Illegal Claims [Internet]. Bad Sci. Watch [cited 2020 Jun 23];Available from:
  4. Does Cold-FX work instantly as claimed? | CBC News [Internet]. CBC2012 [cited 2020 Jun 30];Available from:
  5. Nonprescription Drug and Natural Health Product – Library – Ad Standards [Internet]. [cited 2020 Jun 30];Available from:
  6. Missaghi S, Fassihi R. Evaluation and Comparison of Physicomechanical Characteristics of Gelatin and Hypromellose Capsules. Drug Dev Ind Pharm 2006;32(7):829–38.
  7. Institute of Medicine. Caffeine in Food and Dietary Supplements: Examining Safety: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014.
  8. Government of Canada CFIA. Organic claims on food labels [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2020 Jul 2];Available from: