You will not see any company explaining to you what I am about to explain. With the pandemic, many people have turned to natural products to increase their chances towards better health. Unfortunately, many of them have been ill advised or bought products on the internet as impulsive purchases. On the other hand, some companies have taken the opportunity to offer useless products by dangling immune system benefits or antiviral effects. The media has therefore reinforced that there is nothing useful among the products marketed in regards to current situation.

Who to believe? It is best not to tell people what to think, but to give them the basics of understanding so that they are able to develop their own opinions based on the facts at hand and not on the opinions of others. It is futile to say that everything is bad or that everything is good; both are wrong.

The argumentative technique

I will therefore use the argumentative technique by documenting the following points (if you have other points to address, leave them in the comments below so we can answer them):

  1. Isn’t there a study?
  2. It is best to use the whole plant.
  3. It is not very effective; you have to take it over a long period of time.
  4. Not very effective, it is better for prevention rather than for treatment.
  5. Products with a NHP are all equivalent.
  6. Yes, but it’s different, it’s orthomolecular nutrition.
  7. We don’t need that!

1- Isn’t there a study?

This is true for many products on the market and above all, all formulations containing ten or more ingredients (all in minute quantities). What about, for example, products that reduce the risk of macular degeneration or cataracts? They are based on two high quality American clinical studies: ARES 1 and 2 with almost 8000 participants (n = 3549 and n = 4203). And, however, it is primarily lutein and zeaxanthin which can be found in many fruits and vegetables.

Two other interesting examples: Vitoli® Joints and Vitoli® Energy. The dosages and the quality of the main ingredients of these two products are based on systematic analyses of scientific literature which have selected 12 and 11 quality clinical studies respectively, by concluding to its effectiveness.

Keep in mind, it is also possible to find negative studies since some products are of low quality or do not contain quantities that allow its effectiveness. The products are not all equivalent and neither are the studies.

2- It is best to use the whole plant.

This is usually said to justify a lower quality. You should know that extracts are made for two reasons: A) to achieve the effective dose of active molecules and B) to characterize the content of molecules according to the clinical studies. For many plants, the amount needed to achieve the intended health benefit is too high if the whole plant is used. For example, a single capsule of Vitoli® Healthy Aging is equivalent to 46 capsules of non-concentrated plants. In addition, the concentration of active elements is often dependent on where the plant was grown, when it was harvested, how/if it was dried and the extraction method used. Thus, all extracts should be standardized to confirm the amount of active molecules and the origin of the ingredients.

3- It is not very effective; you have to take it over a long period of time.

This is a very useful technique for some companies, to sell 6-month health programs (enough products over a long period of time). Beware of these long-term health programs and be aware that many products can be effective quickly if they are of good quality. The best example I use during the training for pharmacists and doctors is Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety. It works within 30-40 minutes upon taking the first capsule; it can therefore be used as needed. Some doctors use it for the withdrawal from anxiety medication. For other products, it may take up to a month or even three to get the full benefit, but beware of long-term health programs.

4- Not very effective, it is better for prevention rather than for treatment.

In general, it is true that NHPs are less effective than medication. However, side effects are usually very rare due to the fact that the beneficial effect comes from the synergy between several mechanisms of action and not from the effect of one molecule on a single mechanism, as is the case for medications.

Several pharmacists have pointed out that we should always be open to trying NHPs, when there are justifiable applications, before medication, and only use medication when NHPs are not enough. For applications such as mild depression, anxiety, insomnia, there are NHPs that can be effective and cause less side effects or risks related to their use (e.g. the use of sleeping pills for the elderly should be completely deprescribed).

Remember that many medications are derived from natural products including aspirin, the majority of antibiotics, some anticancers and even antivirals. The 2015 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, Youyou Tu, received the award for isolating an antiviral molecule from a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine. Thus, many products on the market are substandard, most likely ineffective, not because it is not possible to make effective products, but because they are of poor quality or poorly formulated. There are, of course, also unnecessary uses (make sure you are well advised).

5- Products with a NHP are all equivalent.

This statement is false! The Natural Product Number (NPN) is assigned by Health Canada. Unfortunately, you should know that the Canadian regulations focus much more on the risks than benefits. Unfortunately, the quality of the ingredients used from one product to another is very variable and the risks of adulteration are very high. We explained more on the topic in the article Variable quality of plant extracts from natural products. So even if you have tried a product containing certain plant extracts in the past without significant results, it is possible that a higher quality product may be effective. This statement is also valid for related side effects since the quality influences both the efficacy and the safety of the product.

For example, some turmeric extracts contain lead due to the addition of coloring agents by some manufacturers. A recent study also reported serious liver risks from certain products containing turmeric, because it was not the right species of plant. Although the correct species was listed on the bottle, the product inside contained extracts from the wrong species. It is possible that the manufacturer simply bought a less expensive extract without making sufficiently in-depth analyses to know that it was of poor quality and dangerous to the health. Thus, quality is not only a guarantee of efficiency; it is also a guarantee of security. Watch out for the products on the internet.

6- Yes, but it’s different, it’s orthomolecular nutrition.

Here, I’m using an example that seems scientific and is not well understood by the public. Beware of the so-called very advanced organic nutrition approaches, unique to certain types of products. It is the health benefit based on evidence that should be explained more thoroughly. It is always possible that these principles are true, but is it really useful? If the company in question is the only one to make such claims, tell yourself that this is probably not valid. Many companies have found ways to differentiate themselves by explaining concepts that sound scientific, but are not based on anything meaningful. Some of these concepts are even supported by a Dr. Machin. Who is this person really? Are they credible? Who is the company? Pay attention to these concepts and educate yourself. Look at what the company is doing. In our case, our cutting-edge research with Concordia University has publications in the scientific journal with the highest ranking, in fundamental research on aging.

7- We don’t need that!

If you are not taking any medication and have perfectly healthy lifestyle habits, you may not want to take anything else and that is fine. Unfortunately, many people are taking medications that cause significant side effects like anti-inflammatories, hormones or sleeping pills, for example, and they would like to try more natural approaches. Did you know that a study carried out here in Quebec concluded that, among the elderly considered, nearly 50% received at least one potentially inappropriate medication? Shouldn’t we be trying to replace a few of these?

Of course, there are many completely useless products, but that does not mean that there aren’t any that have justifiable uses. I know a large number of health professionals, nurses, doctors and pharmacists, who use Vitoli® products. They don’t take them for nothing!


The purpose of this article was to emphasize that the truth is simply not that everything is good or that everything is bad. It is, of course, much easier to say that everything is bad than to know enough about the scientific literature in this area, with its strengths and weaknesses, to explain what is actually based on the evidence. Would you like a Quebec company to produce higher quality products in Quebec from which the compositions and uses have been well studied? That’s what we did. Vitoli® products were developed by yours truly ( with the collaboration of two specialized pharmacists. I invite you to write to us if you have any questions.



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