Natural health products under the spotlight

By Editor

The use of natural products for the treatment of health issues has come a long way over the past few decades. Providers of natural remedies were few and far between 25 years ago – and it was seen as a ‘fringe’ sector with only a limited following among members of the public. Today, however, the industry has grown, and products are far more readily accessible from many pharmacies and even supermarkets. 

Liora Henen, a Capetonian who has run her long-established Sea Point store, Health Matters, for the past 26 years, is encouraged by this trend. As she says, “It seems that ‘health’ supplements have gone commercial – trendy even – and this is a good thing because it shows how much this industry and people’s need to be healthy has grown.”

What many would call ‘alternative medicine’ is more correctly termed ‘complementary medicine’ or ‘holistic’ or ‘natural’ healthcare. In essence, it is an ‘alternative’ to modern or allopathic (conventional) medicine. The products are available both as preventative measures and for the treatment of a number of conditions – gut-related issues, difficulty sleeping, a lack of energy, joint problems, menopause, the common cold, flu, and moderate anxiety – but this form of treatment does not purport to heal more serious or life-threatening illnesses. 

According to Liora, “If you have an ailment of the type mentioned, you may want to consider a natural treatment rather than turning immediately to modern medicine. One benefit is that there is less chance of suffering any of the side effects that allopathic medicines may cause. While natural remedies use the whole plant or mineral for the development of a product, conventional medicines are generally synthesised in a laboratory environment where the active ingredients of the source are extracted and removed from the whole, and combined with other substances. While this type of medication is generally safe, side effects are possible as a result of the manufacturing process.

Complementary medicines are also useful for general health. Liora comments that, “Vitamin C, co-enzyme Q10 or B vitamins, essential omegas and a good probiotic are probably the most important for daily overall health.” 

Where someone has a particular condition, a practitioner should consult thoroughly with the person to determine the correct diagnosis before recommending suitable options. A holistic approach is crucial. “We look at the person’s whole body, and take into consideration the person’s particular needs at the time, and their present emotional, physical and mental state,” Liora explains, mentioning that this approach is particularly important. Customers come with complaints such as lack of Vitamin D or iron, cholesterol, menopause, joint complaints, macular degeneration, and so on. Complaints such as these may be treated using Western Herbal Medicine, Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine or Homeopathic Remedies, among others.

It has taken some time for the conventional world of medicine to understand the role that natural remedies can play in health and treatment. Most doctors do not recommend alternative medicines, largely because they were not exposed to the concept during their studies. “But this is changing,” Liora says. “Today I see younger and newly registered GPs recommending vitamins and some natural remedies to support their conventional medical approach and recommendations. And some GPs who have been practising for a long time and keep up with new information and research are also beginning to understand the role that this sort of medication can play.” 

Unfortunately, complementary medicines are not yet fully covered by medical aids but, if a medical practitioner has prescribed this type of medication, one can submit the invoice to one’s medical aid. Some medical aids will reimburse one for certain of the products prescribed.

There are various reasons why holistic healthcare has gained in popularity. This trend is clear from research which shows that at least half of the total population of the world uses some kind of complementary and alternative medicine.

Another Capetonian working in the field of natural medicine is Doryce Sher. A trained pharmacist, Doryce became disillusioned with allopathic medicines being widely used and abused, and felt the need to offer something other than a drug to help a patient feel better. 

“I had come across aromatherapy and saw the potential in using essential oils as active ingredients,” she explains.

Over the past 30 years, Doryce has developed a manufacturing business, Aromatic Apothecary, making various aromatherapy products to treat and assist with everyday ailments. Her products are used topically, not taken orally. “The products are easy and ready to use in the form of massage oils, bath oils, burner oils, mini rollons, inhalers, and muscle relief products available as rollons, spray-ons and rub-on creams.” 

The most popular products among Aromatic Apothecary’s products are the Silent Moments range, mini rollons for headache and sinus, amongst other common ailments, and the muscle pain relief products.

Doryce formulates the products herself, and manufactures them in a facility approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, which falls under the National Department of Health, and which is responsible for ensuring the safety of health products available to the South African public.

Aromatic Apothecary’s products are sold at various stores – including Health Matters in Sea Point – and via her website. For more information about Health Matters go to the Health Matters website and instagram profile: @health_matters_za.

• Published in the March 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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