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Hippocrates, the father of medicine, set down succinctly in a nutshell, the philosophy behind Nutraceuticals, when he apparently said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
The word Nutraceutical, is formed by combining nutrient (food components) & pharmaceutical (medicine or drugs). This was coined by Dr. Stephen DeFelice of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine. Nutraceuticals include food extract supplements that have medicinal properties, with proven health benefits - besides their basic nutritional value, to promote wellness, prevent disease and in some cases even contribute to the treatment! Those who equate Nutraceuticals with nutrition, need to know they are poles apart; since, nutrition is what we eat and what happens to our body!
When in pain, nature provided man with the healing he needed. And so was born herbal or Ayurvedic medicine from plant (or animal) sources. They had turmeric, ginger, milk, etc. providing healing, via pastes and mixtures. All these are called phytonutrients (Phyto means plants). This was handed down over the ages, without any science or data regulating it. Allopathy earlier did not subscribe to this alternate stream of medicine. But then science began seeing it for what it was worth. For example science analysed turmeric and found its basic active ingredient as curcumin. This process of microanalysis resulted in the extraction of chemicals that were safer, yet the source of the beneficial effects. We call them Nutraceuticals, because they are from food sources. In today’s world of evidence, more sophisticated technology driven analysis and meticulous clinical trials are conducted with many Nutraceutical compounds to understand their mode of actions and health benefits. Such studies are published in many reputed journals, which is now-a days drawing attention of clinicians to explore such compounds as supportive therapies to their mainstay protocols. Thus, inclusion of many Nutraceuticals are being thought as part of the holistic treatment systems!