Information on Homeopathic Products
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Homeopathy is a holistic, health philosophy and practice. People who specialize in homeopathy are called homeopaths, though other complementary health care professionals also use homeopathic philosophy and products in the treatment of patients. At this time, Ontario is the only province that regulates homeopaths.
Homeopathy is based on the principle of "The Law of Similars" (also known as "like cures like") meaning that a disease and its symptoms can be cured by a product known to produce similar symptoms. Products are intended to be used in low dosages based on the idea that as a homeopathic product is diluted, its healing effect increases.
Homeopathic products come in many forms such as pellets, oral droplets, syrups, creams and ointments. These products are made up of substances that come from plants, minerals, or animals. These products are generally low-risk.
Health Canada regulates homeopathic products as a type of natural health product (NHP). Health Canada reviews homeopathic products to make sure that they are safe and that the health claims (what the product claims to do) are supported by textbooks and other references used in the practice of homeopathy (e.g., pharmacopoeia, Materia medica).
Other Consumer Health Products Regulated by Health Canada
Health Canada regulates consumer health products which are sold directly to consumers and do not require a prescription or the oversight of a health care professional. Based on the supporting information and instructions available on the label, Canadians can safely select and use these products to maintain and improve their health. Consumer health products cover a broad range of products including cosmetics, disinfectants, non-prescription drugs and NHPs.
In addition to homeopathic products, other types of NHPs (e.g., vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbal remedies, etc.) are reviewed by the Department to make sure that they are safe and that the health claims made (e.g., "promotes bone and dental health") are supported by either scientific evidence or other references depending on the type of product.
Non-prescription drugs such as pain relievers, allergy medications, and cold and flu medications are widely available for consumers to purchase without a prescription from a doctor. Health Canada reviews these products to make sure that they are safe and that the health claims they make (e.g., "relief of headache") are supported by scientific evidence.
How Can You Identify Which Product You Are Buying
In the past, homeopathic products were not widely available in stores. A person would visit a homeopath or other complementary health care professional who would make a homeopathic remedy for the patient based on his or her specific health condition as well as a holistic assessment of the individual. Now many homeopathic products are available in stores and are placed next to non-prescription drugs. This has led to confusion for some consumers, who may be looking for a non-prescription drug but pick up a homeopathic product instead.
The easiest way to identify the type of product is to look for the Health Canada authorization number. A product will have an eight-digit number preceded by one of these:
- "DIN-HM" which means it is a homeopathic product,
- "NPN" meaning it is a natural health product, or
- "DIN" meaning it is a non-prescription drug product
On homeopathic products, you can also look for this statement: "homeopathic medicine/remedy/preparation."
Finally, on the labels for all consumer health products you will also find other information such as:
- cautions or warning statements such as "do not use if you have certain health conditions such as heart disease or when pregnant or breast feeding";
- a list of the product's ingredients;
- how to use the product; and
- how much of the product should be taken.
Did you know?
Health Canada has approved more than 8,500 homeopathic products. There is a database on the Health Canada website that lists these approved products. You can also enter a product's DIN-HM into this database to learn more details of Health Canada's approval of the product.
Nosodes are a type of homeopathic product regulated by Health Canada. Nosodes are not and never have been approved by Health Canada to be vaccine alternatives, but have been promoted and used for such purposes by some complementary health care professionals and anti-vaccination advocates. No homeopathic product should be promoted as an alternative to vaccines because there are no substitutes for vaccines.
Children given nosodes instead of vaccinations are at risk of developing serious and potentially fatal childhood illnesses such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, whooping cough, etc. Vaccination is the best way to prevent such serious diseases by protecting yourself, your family and your community.
Did you know?
The Public Health Agency of Canada is the best source for credible, science-based advice about vaccines to help inform your decision making. Learn more about immunization and vaccines.
2015 Labelling Requirements
In 2015, Health Canada introduced changes for certain homeopathic products to improve their safe use. These measures give parents the clarity they need in choosing safe and effective products for their children.
- Homeopathic nosode products are required to include on their label the following statements to make it clear that they are neither vaccines nor alternatives to vaccines:
- This product is neither a vaccine nor an alternative to vaccination.
- This product has not been proven to prevent infection. Health Canada does not recommend its use in children and advises that your child receive all routine vaccinations.
- Homeopathic products for symptomatic relief of cough, cold, and flu for children 12 and under are required to include on their label the following statement:
- This claim is based on traditional homeopathic references and not modern scientific evidence.
New Labelling and Evidence Requirements
Health Canada has updated the labelling requirements for homeopathic products. These updated requirements can be found in the Labelling of Natural Health Products guidance document. These changes require that all homeopathic products that are sold over the counter not supported by modern scientific evidence as part of their product licence application to include one of the following statements on the front panel of their label:
- For any homeopathic product: “This/These claim(s) is/are based on traditional homeopathic references and not modern scientific evidence.” or
- For homeopathic products with a non-specific claim: “This product is based on traditional homeopathic references and not modern scientific evidence.”
Health Canada also introduced risk-based evidence standards for homeopathic products, which align evidence requirements with those of other NHPs. For more information, visit the Evidence for Homeopathic Medicines guidance document.
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