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Natural health products are like apples and oranges

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Apples and Oranges are different, right?

Published on April 19th, 2021

Nigel Pollard, Director Metavate

Did you know that there are 33,000+ plants with documented medicinal actions? Many prescription products were originally derived from natural sources. Even animals use medicinal plants when they are sick. This amazing resource already provides medicines for most of the world’s population. Nowadays people are realising that these complex medicines, when properly made and researched, can be part of mainstream health care for billions of people.

For millions of years we have evolved with plants and other natural substances with medicinal properties. To unlock their potential to benefit our health we need to see the value in the complex chemical mix that gives them their biological properties. Modern medicine is increasingly recognising that complex human health problems logically have complex solutions. This complexity includes the variability between each of us and the bacteria that live inside us. Rather than a new single chemical, that the world has never seen, more complex biological solutions make more sense.

When choosing a natural health product, we are going beyond new single chemicals and patent driven health innovation. When it comes to consistently made, clinically tested natural health products, it is important to know that products that look the same on the shelf can be as different as apples and oranges.

Going back to the thousands of plants with medicinal properties, when I studied biochemistry at university, my least favourite subject was plants. They seemed primitive compared to human biochemistry. But as I have learnt more about the amazing journey of developing a modern evidence based natural medicine product I have been blown away by the sophistication of the “source to benefit” process to create positive health outcomes! It involves understanding how a plant has been used and grown over centuries. Then you must identify some of the mesmerizingly complex biologically active constituents in these plants, and how to maximise them. Then the challenge is to extract the active chemicals, minimising any toxic ones, and processing them to be effective and safe. Manufacturing a product out of them, like a tablet that is easy to take and stable on the shelf, is another complex step. Finally, how they should be used, and the health benefits measured, with real people is also crucial. Getting each step right is the work of a lifetime for people with highly specialised skills. Just one step, if not done exactly right, means a completely different result. Each step can define an apple or an orange.

I am inspired by the natural health products that have “source to benefit” controls, whose manufacturers make sure that the product is essentially the same every time you buy it. When these products are shown in clinical trials to work then you can really believe in them, harvest after harvest, year after year. Compared to products that are not made in this way, these “source to benefit” controlled products are on another planet.

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