5-HTP is an amino acid that is produced naturally by the body and converted to the chemical serotonin. To be used as a medicine, it can be obtained from the seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia, an African shrub. 5-HTP is used for a healthy mood balance, relief of symptoms of fibromyalgia, migraine prophylaxis, weight management and as a sleep aid.
Bacopa monnieri also known as Brahmi or water hyssop) is a very popular attraction in aquariums. This plant has been used for more than 3000 years as an Indian Ayurvedic medicine for improving memory, increasing brain function and promoting longevity. Pharmacologically active compounds include glycosides, alkaloids, flavonoids and saponins.
Affirming the effectiveness of a supplement explicitly by writing it on the label or implicitly by the color of the bottle or by the brand name. Claims must be backed up by evidence in the form of clinical trials or laboratory testing.
The safety and efficacy of NHPs and their health claims must be supported by proper evidence so that consumers and Health Canada know the products are indeed safe and effective. Evidence may 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.
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that decreases the activity of the nervous system. When GABA attaches to a protein in the brain known as a GABA receptor, it produces a calming effect. This can help with feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. Many drugs work in this manner to prevent seizures.
Ginkgo biloba, the only surviving tree species of the order Ginkgoales, has been around for about 280 million years. It has been used in Chinese medicine for more than 5000 years. Common applications are to treat cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. In modern medicine, the extract from its leaves is standardized to 22-27% flavonoid glycosides and 5-7% terpene lactones.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are the part of quality assurance that ensures that drugs are consistently produced and controlled in such a way to meet the quality standards appropriate to their intended use, as required by the marketing authorization. For example, GMP would require the premises to be adequately ventilated and have good lighting conditions (measured quantitatively by humidity and lumens).
Health Canada is the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, while respecting individual choices and circumstances.
Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. Traditionally used in the beer industry, it is also used in herbal medicine to relieve anxiety, as a sleep aid and to improve appetite. Pharmacologically active components include essential oils and terpenes.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is considered a calming herb. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep and relieve indigestion. Consisting of terpenes, tannins and eugenol, rubbing the leaves results in smell of tart and sweet, like lemons.
A broad category of products meant to restore or maintain good health and are generally safe to be purchased over the counter and do not need a prescription to be sold. In Canada, they include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, probiotics, homeopathic medicines and traditional medicines.
Natural Health product Regulations (2003, last amended 2018) govern the standards for manufacturing, packaging, labeling, storage, distribution, sale and import of NHPs and cover the relevant definitions.
The Natural and Non-prescription Health Products Directorate is the Canadian regulating authority that authorizes sale of natural health products and non-prescription drugs. They ensure that Canadians have ready access to a wide range of products for which safety, efficacy and quality standards are in place.
Once Health Canada has assessed a product and decided it is safe, effective and of high quality, it issues a product licence along with an eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM), which must appear on the label. This number lets you know that the product has been reviewed and approved by Health Canada.
Also known as Passiflora or Passion vines, they are a diverse genus consisting of 550 species of flowering plants. They are used ornamentally, as edible fruit (passion fruit) and traditionally as a sedative (in form of tea). Due to the alkaloid content, passion flower extract is used as a nutritional supplement to relieve nervousness and restlessness.
Products with a licence have been assessed by Health Canada and found to be safe, effective and of high quality under their recommended conditions of use.
Consists of cautions, warnings, contraindications (conditions when one must never take the supplement) and adverse effects. NHP regulations make it necessary to write the risk information on the label so that the consumer is aware.
Regulations requires a manufacturer, packager, labeller, and/or importer of NHPs for sale to hold a valid site licence. A site licence issued by the NNHPD gives the licensee authorization to conduct the activities listed on the licence. These activities must be carried out according to Good Manufacturing Practices.
A detailed description of the ingredients used to make the finished product. These specifications are decided by the NNHPD and must be conformed to.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a plant with yellow flowers that people in European countries have used for centuries to treat mild to moderate depression. The name St. John’s wort apparently refers to John the Baptist, as the plant blooms around the time of the feast of St. John the Baptist in late June. It is also known to induce liver enzymes and cause drug interactions.
A standardized herbal extract is an herb extract that has one or more active components present in a specific, guaranteed amount, usually expressed as a percentage. The intention behind the standardization of herbs is to ensure that the quality of the herb is consistent from batch to batch. E.g. Ginseng extract standardized to 10% ginsenosides would mean that even though other contents may vary from one plant of Ginseng to another but the extract will always contain 10% ginsenosides.
The medicinal ingredients as well as finished product should be tested against the specifications described in pharmacopoeia. The tests usually include checking for impurities such as pesticides, heavy metals, identifying the medicinal ingredient and its concentration, micro-organisms, toxins and solvent residues. Other tests check the integrity of the finished product like dissolution and disintegration testing and stability testing.
L-theanine is an amino acid, identified in tea leaves by Japanese scientists in 1949. It is also found in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. Research indicates that L-theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness by boosting levels of relaxing chemicals like GABA and lowering s levels of “excitatory” brain chemicals. Fancy a cuppa?
Insomnia is defined as “persistent difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation or quality.” Chronic insomnia is characterized by symptoms that occur at least three times per week for at least three months. Short-term insomnia is insomnia that lasts less than three months.