The most important thing you should look for when buying supplements

The most important thing you should look for when buying supplements

| Cathleen Harnick

There is a good chance that if you are interested in your health or appearance that you are targeted by social media ads for supplements and health products. There are many different types of natural health products (NHPs) available. In Canada six (6) categories specifically are considered natural health products:

  • Probiotics
  • Herbal remedies
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Homeopathic medicines
  • Traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines
  • Other products like amino acids and essential fatty acids

What is the most important thing you should look for when deciding which NHP to buy?

The most important thing you as a consumer should look for is a Natural Product Number (NPN) on the packaging. Health Canada regulates natural health products so that Canadians can have confidence the products they use are safe, effective and of high quality.

A Natural Product Number (NPN) is an eight (8) digit numerical code assigned to each natural health product approved to be marketed under the Natural Health Products Regulations in Canada.

NPNs should matter to you as a consumer because it means the product meets Health Canada standards for labelling and packaging requirements, good manufacturing practices, and the product is deemed safe and effective by evidence.

All NHPs must have a product licence before they can be sold in Canada. To get a licence, applicants must give detailed information about the product to Health Canada, including: medicinal ingredients, source, dose, potency, non-medicinal ingredients and recommended use(s). Many products you may see advertised are from the United States and they do not have the same regulations. In the United States, dietary supplements are considered to be food products under the Dietary Supplements Health Education Act, so claims may not be made about the use of a dietary supplement to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure a specific disease. Also, these products are not subject to mandatory review, approval or quality requirements, and do not go through testing for identity, purity or potency of active ingredients. Therefore, they cannot be sold in Canada until they have gone through a proper assessment with Health Canada for safety and efficacy.


You can search for licensed natural health products using Health Canada's Licensed Natural Health Products Database.