Health Canada Approves…for November 3rd

Welcome to Health Canada Approves… where we ask you to determine which products have been licensed by Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate.

I took a brief hiatus last week to finish up my series on magical thinking, but am back in the saddle and ready to discuss the results from our latest poll:

  • Horny Goat Weed: TCM used to tonify the kidney and fortify the yang, for symptoms such as frequent urination, forgetfulness, withdrawal, and painful cold lower back and knees. (59%, 19 Votes)
  • Dr. Yang's Qi Tonic: Envigorates the blood Qi to remove Damp-Heat from the bladder and splenic systems; tames the fire dragon. (41%, 13 Votes)
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A not-quite-filibuster-proof majority of you correctly guessed that Horny Goat Weed is indeed the real Health Canada approved product, bearing Natural Health Product Number 80015409 as proof of its safety and efficacy.

Scott discussed this product in his Skepticamp Toronto talk, which he summarized in a post earlier this week.  He captures all of the points I would have made:

oh dear lord...

  • The recommended use — “tonify the kidney and fortify the yang” — is clinically meaningless
  • There’s no evidence on PubMed or the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database that it’s effective for any of the numerous and disparate symptoms it’s recommended for — “frequent urination, forgetfulness, withdrawal, and painful cold lower back and knees”
  • The contraindications — “in patients with fire from yin deficiency” — are a travesty of consumer protection

So after a qualified success in our last installment, this week represents a triumphant return to form for Health Canada — that form being unmitigated failure.   Where will next week take us?  Vote below to find out.  And remember, the real product “has been assessed by Health Canada and has been found to be safe, effective and of high quality under its recommended conditions of use.”

  • Neuro-Heel: Homeopathic preparation used for the treatment of bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbances, nervousness and emotional exhaustion. (56%, 19 Votes)
  • Xiaobo: In Chinese herbalism, works to trap and expell free radicals (44%, 15 Votes)
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Answers next week…naturally!

8 Responses to “Health Canada Approves…for November 3rd”

  1. John Greg says:

    I have a lot of fun with your Health Canda Approves series, especially with the voting bit. However, shouldn’t the voting bit have one item that is a legitimate item; something that does actually provide some kind of clinical benefit? That would make the guessing game a bit more fun I think. Adds some entertaining tension to the game.

  2. Peter says:

    I hope Health Canada approves Dr. Yang’s Qi Tonic soon, my fire dragon is out of control.

  3. Janice in Toronto says:

    Hey, this is great. My kidneys are just about due for a toning. Nothing like freshly toned kidneys to make your day, eh?


    How much are we spending to “approve” this bunk?

  4. Thomas Doubts says:

    Janice, your totally on the money…literally. if taxpayer money is going to used to determine if these products are harmful (another term for which might be “useless”), I would prefer my cash be spent determining efficacy, not simply safety. That Health Canada approves the use of a particular product lends that product undeserved legitimacy in the eyes of the many consumers who believe ludicrous things like their kidneys need toning and their dragon needs dousing. Puh-lease!

  5. Epinephrine says:

    Janice –
    That’s a very good question. One that should probably be asked, and fortunately, there are ways of doing so. If you are interested, you could place a request for the information through the Access to Information and Privacy division at Health Canada.
    They must provide the information, under the Access to Information Act. I believe it costs five dollars to make the request.

    Thomas Doubts: I disagree about determining “efficacy” – I would rather that government simply ensure that the products are safe, and make no comment at all regarding efficacy. And that they ensure that no company makes medical claims without having proven efficacy in the same manner as a drug. A strict enforcement of that policy (with substantial penalties for those who make claims without a drug approval) could help pay for the system , and would allow people to use treatments if they wished to while keeping them safe. Since we aren’t evaluating effectiveness it doesn’t appear that the government is endorsing products as being effective (the current situation).

    If a company actually wants to make claims of effectiveness, we have a perfectly good system for that – we call those products “drugs.”

  6. Dianne Sousa says:


    Will we see another installment of this great recurring post? I look forward to these and Wednesday’s have not been as interesting these past few weeks without my weekly dose of Health Canada’s blunders.




  • Erik Davis

    Erik is a technology professional based in Toronto, focused on the intersection of the internet and the traditional media and telecommunications sectors. A reluctant blogger, he was inspired by the great work Skeptic North has done to combat misinformation and shoddy science reporting in the Canadian media, and in the public at large. Erik has a particular interest in critical reasoning, and in understanding why there’s so little of it in the public discourse. You can follow Erik's occasional 140 character musings @erikjdavis