How to find a reliable natural healthcare product
Searching for a natural healthcare product can seem overwhelming. With a huge number of natural health products available, many with similar uses and claims, how do you find one that’s reliable and really delivers the health outcomes you’re looking for?
Consider the evidence
Clinical trials can help to demonstrate a product’s effectiveness in an objective and scientific manner.[1A,2A] Lots of traditional or generic evidence may exist for a particular herb or plant – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is always reliable, or applies to the specific product or brand that you have selected.
While many of the modern uses of herbs are based on relevant traditional or ancient medicines, there are also many myths to be wary of when it comes to finding a product that you can rely on to be helpful.
Top tips for researching natural health products:
Check whether the product claims are referenced to published clinical papers
A referenced claim will often have a superscript number next to it, to indicate there is substantiation for the claim
Usually the published paper will be listed at the bottom of a page, with the author, journal name and date
Generally, more recent evidence is likely to be more reliable, because standards of scientific testing have improved over time
Ensure that the research is specific to your particular product or brand – and not just the generic plant or ingredient
For example, the Flordis product KeenMind, uses a specific extract of Bacopa monnieri called CDRI08. The clinical evidence for KeenMind is based on 8 clinical studies using that particular extract (CDRI08), as opposed to using generic data on any Bacopa monnieri.
Quantity AND Quality – When it comes to the evidence itself, look for randomised controlled trials and large observational studies. Be wary of ‘marketing research’ studies.
Understand the process
Not all plants or herbs are created equal; they are highly complex and have multiple active ingredients which are responsible for their efficacy and tolerability. Ensuring a consistent composition and concentration of active ingredients is essential from batch to batch.[1B]
The composition of a plant can vary considerably depending on where it’s grown, how it’s cultivated, when and how it’s harvested - just like the grapes in different wines, or the coffee beans in your coffee make it taste different.
The particular extract from each plant can also vary depending on the extraction process, and manufacturing process. These differences can have a significant impact on the properties of the finished product.
Be specific, be standardized
Standardization means that the specific extract contains a consistent composition and active ingredient profile, helping to ensure it will produce consistent results. Standardisation processes are unique to each product.
Specific ‘standardised extracts’ sometimes have a trademarked or proprietary name.[2B] For example the Panax ginseng in Ginsana is known as G115®. This means it always contains the same composition of active ingredients in the same amounts. What’s more, because standardized extract has the same concentration of active ingredient, it is possible to accurately investigate its safety and effectiveness in clinical trials - and replicate the results in real life!
Look for products that state they contain ‘standardised extracts’ so you can be sure you are getting a consistent product each time.
Confirm your need
What are you hoping to achieve from taking a natural supplement? Have you spoken to a healthcare professional? They may have specific recommendations, and help you better understand your health concern and any relevant issues in taking a natural healthcare product.
If you think that a natural healthcare product is right for you then make sure you are aware of the dosing, any possible side effects and precautions or interactions with other medicines
Be sure that you are willing to commit - some products may take a few months before the effect becomes apparent
Remember, natural healthcare products can be a very effective and well tolerated means of managing your health – just make sure you’ve done your research and checked that the specific extract you’ve selected has the clinical evidence to support it!
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Using Dietary Supplements. Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/supplements/wiseuse.htm Accessed August 2018.
BeBrainFit. How to Choose Nutritional Supplements that Work. Available at: https://bebrainfit.com/choose-nutritional-supplements/ Accessed August 2018.