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  • Writer's picturePhilip Niño Tan-Gatue

Repost: “No Approved Therapeutic Claims” – Food “Supplements” vs Medic

Originally posted on my first blog “Qi-Spot” on 20 June 2010. Article has been edited to reflect the time.

A buzz topic now is the translation of the government label “No Approved Therapeutic Claims” into Filipino.  The term “No Approved Therapeutic Claims” was used for “food supplements” – a blanket term for nonpharmacutical company produced products, usually “natural” or “herbal” medicine.

“No Approved Therapeutic Claims” thus means – “the claims of these products are not validated by the BFAD/FDA (Bureau of Food and Drugs, now renamed Food and Drug Administration).  What happens then is I can market a “natural” product as a “food supplement” and not as a medicine and it doesn’t have to go through same research as big pharma products.

The problem on this end is that there is a myriad of lousy products out there.  I am an advocate of Chinese herbal medicine but I am also the first to caution against lousy products that only end up harming the patient and the reputation of Chinese medicine.  in China, you see news about companies being penalized for putting out lousy products.  What about us?

(Then) Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has good intentions.  We should be protected from bogus products.  I however, do not agree with the new translation for food supplement “warnings”.  I shan’t print the Filipino version here, but I can tell you it means “this product is not medicine and cannot cure any disease.”

This is obviously where I have a beef.

As a Chinese medicine doctor, I cannot agree that just because something is not produced by a western medicine pharmaceutical company, it cannot be considered, “medicine.”  The American Heritage Dictionary defines medicine as “An agent, such as a drug, used to treat disease or injury.”  Note, it says an agent, SUCH AS a drug.  This means that there are other agents, while NOT drugs, that can be used to treat disease or injury.

To the Chinese, one of the most important agents are not just food “supplements”, but food itself.


Sun Simiao is known as the “Yao Wang” or “King of Medicinals”.  He is famous for a book entitled “Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold”.  Yet here is this important quote from him:

“Doctors should first understand the cause of disease, then treat it with diet. (Herbal) Medicine should only be used if diet fails” – Sun Simiao

Wow, the “King of Medicinals”, famous for life saving herbal prescriptions… recommends DIETARY therapy?!!

Anyway my final thoughts are these:

1) We should not put down the idea of “food as medicine” as it is actually more effective for a lot of common, everyday problems.

2) The Chinese have this down to a science and I’ll be darned  – the stuff works.  Click for more info.

3) At the same time, a lot of food supplement products out there are just bunk.  Better not to rely on products made by people who just want your money.  Do your homework.  Pick a tradition of diet therapy (western, Chinese, whatever) and stick to it.

4) Don’t think that one herb or one fruit or one vegetable will solve all your ills.  Make lifestyle adjustments as well.

Now I’m off to get a nice porridge breakfast.  Be well!

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