Regulation of practitioners and natural health products in Canada

Only some types of complementary therapy practitioners are regulated by legislation. Healthcare, including complementary therapies, is regulated at the provincial or territorial level in Canada.

Health Canada oversees the regulatory framework for natural health products. The Natural Health Products Regulations require adequate labelling, good manufacturing practices, product and site licensing, and evidence to support health claims. Products covered by the regulations include herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, vitamins, minerals, traditional medicines, probiotics, amino acids and essential fatty acids.

Obtaining a product licence requires that detailed information be submitted to Health Canada, including the product’s medicinal ingredients, source, potency, non-medicinal ingredients and recommended use. Once a product has been assessed by Health Canada to be safe, effective and available in sufficient quantity, it is assigned an eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or, in the case of homeopathic medicines, a homeopathic medicine number (DIN-HM). The product licence number on the label informs consumers that the product has been reviewed and approved for good manufacturing practices and safety and efficacy. Look for these numbers. If you do not see one of them on the label, it means that Health Canada cannot assure you of the product's safety.

With standardized labelling, consumers are able to make more informed decisions about the natural health products they buy. Labels specify directions for use, the condition for which the product is recommended or its purpose (health claim), medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients, and any cautions, contraindications or known adverse reactions associated with the product.

For further information on the regulation of natural health products in Canada, contact Health Canada’s Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate.