The dictionary definition of a Nutraceutical is a ‘food or parts of food that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention of disease’
But what caused the rapid emergence of Nutraceuticals?
A few months ago I started to notice that I was reading the word on nearly a daily basis. It struck me that their must be a reason for its sudden rise to fame. I ran a quick check on Google and found that there are currently 90,500 global searches a month for this one word alone.
One of the main reasons I could see as to why these natural super foods were making such a big name for them selves was money. Consumers dissatisfied with drug costs, large pharmaceutical companies and conventional health care are now looking to nature to provide the answers to their health issues. More than 40% of Americans now use alternative medical therapies and nutaceuticals account for a significant proportion of this with the industry being worth around 90 billion dollars a year in the US alone.
Unfortunately there are still some major barriers stopping nutraceuticals from being commercially grown as alternative cash crops.
- There is currently very little data on the cultivation methods and adaptability from more traditional crops.
- It’s thought that many nutraceuticals would be less profitable than current cash crops.
- A lot of nutraceutical plants take a lot of processing after harvest to extract the parts of the plant with medicinal properties.
- Government regulations that could further restrict the supply of natural products.
- As natural products are not patentable there is little money to be made by large pharmaceutical companies.
This being said I am a firm believer that nature holds the key to the treatment of most modern diseases and to ignore the health properties of these medical plants would be a crime in its self. With no patent the drug companies can’t make their billions and so through their ignorance they may directly be responsible for the deaths of countless millions of people throughout the world.