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In the news

  • 14 Jun 2023 5:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CMA welcomes the appointment of Mr Blair Comley, PSM, as the Department of Health and Aged Care Secretary. Mr Comley brings a wealth of experience from his distinguished career in the Commonwealth and New South Wales public sectors.

    We welcome the appointment of Mr Blair Comley, PSM, as the Department of Health and Aged Care Secretary.

    Previously serving as the Secretary of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, as well as the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency from 2011 to 2013, Mr Comley has showcased his exemplary leadership skills. Furthermore, his tenure as the Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet from 2014 to 2017 demonstrated his ability to navigate complex issues and drive positive change.

    Currently, a director and partner at Ernst and Young Port Jackson Partners, Mr Comley's strong economic qualifications and proven leadership will undoubtedly contribute to the innovative and rigorous policymaking required to address the challenges and seize the opportunities within our health system and care for older Australians.

    Complementary Medicines Australia would also like to sincerely thank Professor Brendan Murphy AC for his outstanding service to Australia's health sector. As the Chief Medical Officer since 2016 and Secretary of the Department of Health since 2020, Professor Murphy's remarkable contributions, including during the global COVID-19 pandemic, have played a pivotal role in keeping Australians safe. We wish him a much-deserved retirement filled with joy and fulfilment.

    We look forward to working closely with Mr Blair Comley PSM to promote all Australians' health and well-being as together, we strive to achieve greater accessibility, safety, and efficacy in healthcare.

  • 11 May 2023 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On behalf of the team at CMA, we express our sincerest congratulations to Carl Gibson on his upcoming retirement on June 14th, 2023.

    Over the past ten years, Carl Gibson has significantly contributed to the growth and success of Australia’s complementary medicines industry. His leadership, vision, and strategic direction have guided our organisation through challenges and opportunities.

    He has inspired and motivated team CMA and fostered a positive work culture while driving innovation and playing a pivotal role in the industry's accomplishments, from fostering research initiatives to championing innovative regulatory frameworks. His tireless efforts have elevated our industry's standing and strengthened the relationship between complementary medicines and mainstream healthcare in Australia. His strategic vision has fostered collaboration, synergy, and mutual understanding, propelling the industry into uncharted territory and redefining its role in our healthcare landscape.

    Please join us in extending our warmest wishes to Carl on his well-deserved retirement. He will be missed!

  • 19 Apr 2023 1:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Professor John Skerritt, a highly regarded figure in the Australian healthcare sector, recently announced his retirement from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

    Wishing Professor John Skerritt the healthiest retirement!

    During his tenure as Deputy Secretary for Health Products Regulation Group, Professor Skerritt played a pivotal role in implementing regulatory reforms that significantly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency's processes. Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) has closely collaborated with Professor Skerritt and his executives, resulting in significant achievements for the industry and Australian consumers.

    CMA has partnered with the agency in various capacities related to the appropriate regulation of complementary medicines in Australia. This collaboration included reviewing and reforming the regulatory framework for complementary medicines, introducing the TGA's Listed Assessed Medicines pathway, market exclusivity for new ingredients, and providing feedback and input to the TGA during the regulatory reform process. Professor Skerritt and CMA have worked closely to ensure that complementary medicines are safe, effective, and suitably regulated in Australia.

    CMA CEO Carl Gibson says: CMA CEO Carl Gibson says: “We congratulate Prof John Skerritt on implementing an updated regulatory regime for complementary medicines. The Australian regulatory environment is the world's envy and ensures consumers access to safe, effective, quality complementary medicines.

    We now have a system that rewards investment and protects clinical trials. This allows us to secure new world-leading new ingredients and a boost to evidence-based complementary medicines.”


    Professor Skerritt has been widely respected in the healthcare industry for his expertise and leadership. His retirement marks the end of an era for the TGA, and his contributions to the agency will be remembered for years to come. However, he leaves behind a capable and solid team that will continue to build on his legacy. We wish you the best and healthiest of retirement!”

  • 27 Jan 2023 12:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our healthcare system is set for a much-needed shakeup. And as GPs struggle to retain guardianship and funding for referring patients to allied health professionals, these professionals are urging the adoption of mandates to provide more preventive care directly to individuals.

    "There is no doubt that the government can do more to tip the balance from treatment to prevention when it comes to the health of Australians," says CMA Chief Executive Carl Gibson."

    On the one hand, GPs want to retain the power to be health gatekeepers, referring patients to dietitians, physiotherapists and other allied health professionals. At the same time, allied health professionals are committed to providing more in the preventive health arena."We need to put more emphasis on wellness, rather than focus entirely on illness,” said Carl Gibson, adding that; “The vital role of preventive health is too important to be ignored”.

    The human costs of being unwell are clear not just from the personal level but also for families and the community. The financial costs can mount quickly – including treatment costs, time off work, carers and childcare, for example. Feeling healthier can also boost overall wellbeing in work and home life with greater productivity, zest and resilience.Preventing future illnesses and complications from existing conditions is vital to the future sustainability of health systems with far-reaching effects affecting our planet.

    According to the World Bank: "Encouraging early patient diagnosis and management/intervention and supporting patient compliance will promote longer, healthier living and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."It makes sense to prioritise prevention to help reduce risk factors and slow their progression.

    “CMA looks forward to discussing these critical factors to ensure the country progresses to making the right choices - for all Australians,” ends Carl.

  • 24 Jan 2023 2:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Recently, research confirmed that people who are overweight appear more likely to have low vitamin D levels than people within a "normal" weight range. It may be that because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin it gets "stuck" in fat layers and is thus not available for use. Thus researchers suggest that losing body fat is one way to enhance vitamin D status. There are also several other factors that can affect vitamin D status.

    The body produces vitamin D in a complex process that starts (UVB) light spectrum and is absorbed by the skin.

    The action of sunlight on dehydrocholesterol in the skin produces most of our vitamin D, followed by metabolism in the liver and the kidneys; this eventually results in a bioavailable form.

    Here are eight more factors that can influence vitamin D levels:

    1. Where you live. Lower levels of UVB light reach the earth's surface in higher latitudes. Short winter days covered clothing also limit UVB exposure.

    2. Pollution. Carbon particulates from burning fossil fuels scatter and absorb UVB rays. But holes in the ozone layer mean increased levels of vitamin D production.

    3. Sunscreen. We are familiar with Australia's Slip Slop Slap sun safe message. Sunscreen protects by blocking UVB light, so sunscreen use lowers vitamin D levels. But only a few people apply enough to completely block all UVB light.

    4. The colour of your skin. Darker skin contains more of the pigment melanin, which blocks UVB light. Dark-skinned people require more UVB exposure than light-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D. However, pale-skinned people may keep out of the sun for fear of sunburn.

    5. Temperature. Warm skin produces vitamin D more effectively than cool skin.

    6. Your age. Older people have thinner skin and lower levels of the substance dehydrocholesterol than younger people.

    7. Gut health. Vitamin D is absorbed in the small intestine, whether it is from food or a supplement. Gastric juices, pancreatic secretions, bile and the integrity of the intestine wall influence how much of the vitamin is absorbed. Conditions that affect the gut and digestion, such as coeliac disease, chronic pancreatitis, Crohn's disease, and cystic fibrosis, can reduce vitamin D absorption.

    8. Liver and kidney health. Some types of liver disease can reduce vitamin D absorption because the liver doesn't produce bile. Levels of the bioactive form of vitamin D indicate kidney health, and the bioactive level of vitamin D decreases as the condition worsens.

  • 12 Dec 2022 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On our 50th Anniversary, we acknowledge and congratulate the unique Marcus Blackmore with the Lady Cilento award.

    Marcus Blackmore accepts the Lady Cilento Award at the 23rd Industry Awards and black and white with Dr Lendon Smith, the keynote speaker at the NNFA convention 1982.

    This award is the complementary medicine industry’s most prestigious award recognising an individual’s lifetime achievement and outstanding contribution to the industry and community. The Lady Cilento award acknowledges an individual’s professionalism, the contribution of exceptional merit, and the reflection of high aspirations benefiting the complementary healthcare ethos.

    Over a hundred years ago, in 1919, Lady Cilento advocated using vitamin D to treat severe rickets. She was called a maverick and a crank by the medical profession, yet, time has shown that she was a great visionary in nutrition and medicine.

    At the 23 Industry Awards on Thursday last week, the 50th Anniversary of CMA in all its iterations, the industry honoured a true legend, the father of the Australian natural medicine industry, on whose shoulders the entire sector stands – Marcus Blackmore.

    Marcus donates millions of dollars to research and the science of complementary medicines. Having served in military service where he was a second lieutenant ice in Vietnam, Marcus also does much for veteran affairs.

    Marcus began working in his father Maurice’s food store in Brisbane before building the Blackmores brand into the incredibly successful business it is today.

    Marcus was the foundation President of the Nutritional Foods Association of Australia. He started the Industry Association. On our 50th Anniversary, we cannot think of anyone more deserving.

    Marcus also planned our Association’s very first convention back in 1977.

    It was Marcus who proposed the industry contribution award, and it was first presented to Lady Phyllis Cilento at the opera House in 1977. Meanwhile, Marcus Blackmore was awarded NNFA Industry Award in 1981 but has yet to win the Lady Cilento Award - until now.

    We offer our heartfelt congratulations to th

  • 18 Nov 2022 11:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Australia joins global cohort to drive gender parity across the $5.5bn complementary medicines industry


    SYDNEY, Australia (7 November 2022) – Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN), the non-profit spearheaded by a cohort of global nutraceutical leaders, today announced its formal launch across the globe in US, Europe and Australasia, with a vision to inspire, empower and motivate women in the global nutraceutical industry to achieve personal and professional success.


    According to the latest audit by peak industry body Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA), industry revenue sits at $5.5 billion with 77 TGA-licensed finished complementary medicine product manufacturing sites, employing 2,515 people in the manufacturing sector alone.  Nearly 70% of the Australian population consumes a nutraceutical supplement.


    “The contribution women make to the industry's success is immeasurable,” said London-based WIN President, Heather Granato, Vice President, Partnerships & Sustainability, Informa. “Yet in the US, the 2021 Women in the Workplace report showed that only 86 women to every 100 men are promoted to first-level manager, and women are under-represented in leadership roles across the nutraceutical industry.” 


    “The lack of female leadership representation is a disservice to the industry as women represent the majority of consumers and consistently add significant value when they hold influential positions. WIN was formed to amplify women’s industry standing and provide them support, resources, and tools to achieve professional and personal success,” Granato said.


    Women In Nutraceuticals is a non-profit global organization that champions the cause of women in the nutraceutical industry to achieve equal opportunity and representation of women in the boardroom and C-suite as well as maximising funding for women-led businesses championing more women in science and research initiatives in female populations.


    WIN’s founding members represent organizations from around the globe, including the United States, Europe, Asia and Australasia.


    “The Australian nutraceutical sector is one of the most highly regarded in the world, for its commitment to quality ingredients and manufacturing processes, for the best outcome for Australians. The industry employs 2515 people in the Complementary Medicine manufacturing sector alone, without considering research, retail and brand holders. Women have played an integral role in the success of the industry for decades, and it is our duty to strive for gender parity through our mission which is to empower women in nutraceuticals to unlock their personal and professional potential,” said WIN’s Australian-based Marketing Committee Co-Chair, Gillian Fish, CEO of The 6AM Agency.


    “The support of the global industry in the space of a matter of weeks has been overwhelming and highlights the sentiment of both men and women across the supply chain that there is a clear need to help increase the percentage of women holding leadership roles, funding for female-led businesses, and women’s participation in research,” she said.


    In 2022, WIN is focused on establishing benchmarking data on women’s roles in the industry across the globe, helping increase the percentage of women holding leadership roles, securing funding for female-led businesses and ensuring female representation in research. The organization will also foster connections through networking events and education.


    WIN founding sponsors include Alkemist Labs, Amin Talati Wasserman, Arizona Nutritional Supplements, Artemis International, Avant Nutrition LLC, Cepham Inc, Council for Responsible Nutrition, Cypress Systems, DCC Health & Beauty Solutions USA, Industry Transparency Center, Informa,, Kemin, Know Agency, Kyowa Hakko, MAYPRO Group, Merical, Nutrasource, Nutrify Today, Nutrition Capital Network, Organic & Natural Health Association, The 6AM Agency. Founding media partners include Nutraceuticals World, NutraIngredients-USA, Nutritional Outlook, SupplySide/New Hope/Vitafoods, and WholeFoods Magazine.


    For information about WIN Events, Membership and Sponsorship opportunities, visit



  • 27 Oct 2022 1:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Can a product be "made in Australia" from imported ingredients?

    The short answer is yes. The Made in Australia logo is widely respected, and more and more Australians want to support local makers knowing that the products they choose are "made in Australia." But when it comes to Australia's complementary medicine industry, this isn't always straightforward.

    Specific growing conditions

    It isn't always possible to grow all the herbs here in Australia. For example, alpine plants are adapted to harsh conditions such as low temperatures, dryness, ultraviolet radiation, wind, drought, and poor nutritional soil. They may also have a short growing season.

    Another example is peonies which also come from cool temperatures in mountain regions in the northern hemisphere, including parts of China; they need cold winters, mild summers and deep, rich, moisture-retentive soils.

    The popular herb Withania, or ashwagandha, grows best in well-drained, sandy or light soils, which the Indian state of Rajasthan provides and is said to produce some of the best quality herbs.  And in some instances, generations of growers have developed in-depth knowledge of the best cultivation practices. Thus, the intricate and individual growing conditions make it impossible to grow every ingredient in natural medicines here in Australia.

    Strictly controlled, tested and regulated

    When ingredients are imported from overseas, they are strictly controlled and tested for authenticity by Australia's complementary medicines industry according to the highest standards in the world. In an industry that is more highly regulated than any other complementary medicines in the world. And it is an Australian success story.

    Growing the economy, securing jobs

    Australian complementary medicine provides around AUD$1.8 billion to the economy yearly. Continued positive growth will grow our advanced manufacturing sector, boost Australian jobs and stimulate scientific evaluation and research.

    Complementary medicines include vitamins, mineral and nutritional supplements, homeopathic, aromatherapy products and herbal medicines, plus traditional medicines, including traditional Chinese medicines, Ayurvedic, Australian Indigenous and Western herbal medicines. These are regulated in Australia as medicines under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.

    Certifying products as being made here in Australia is a robust sales and marketing asset. It is only awarded if the company meets the criteria set out in Australian Consumer Law and the Australian Made Logo code of practice. This powerful emblem sends a clear message to consumers that the product is an authentic Australian alternative product made for Australians and discerning consumers overseas.

    Australian Made, Australian Grown

    The Australian Made, Australian Grown logo certifies a product is totally or mostly manufactured, processed or transformed in Australia. The logo tells your consumers that your product is genuinely made in Australia and positively impacts the Australian economy. A 2019 press release by Roy Morgan Research shows that 90% of Australians over fourteen are more likely to buy locally-made products.

    Several kinds of "made in Australia" certifications are printed with the Australian Made logo. The customer can thus clearly see how or to what extent a product was made in Australia. For example, if a product is made in Australia from imported ingredients, it must meet specific criteria.

    Made-in-Australia symbols explained

    Australian Made

    The product is significantly transformed in Australia, even if its components are from international suppliers. Yes, it can be made in Australia from imported ingredients!

    Transforming the ingredients into the product is still beneficial to the local industry.

    Australian Grown

    Local farmers grow all of the significant ingredients in the product here in Australia. Additionally, all or nearly all of the processing occurs in Australia.

    Product of Australia

    All of the significant ingredients in the product come from around Australia. Additionally, the components are totally or mostly manufactured or processed in Australia; this differs from "Australian Grown" because those "ingredients" might not be crops or produce, for example.

    The benefits of buying Made in Australia

    In a few words, buying products made in Australia benefits consumers and the country. Each dollar can make a change since it directs resources to local businesses, local communities, and local families. You're buying products that are certified as safer, higher quality, and more trustworthy due to Australia's strict regulations. There's no downside to supporting local industry.


  • 08 Aug 2022 10:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    One new study suggests no evidence that taking vitamin D supplements reduces the risk of bone fractures in healthy older adults. However, this contradicts numerous other studies and expert authorities in osteoporosis and bone health.


    This vital fat-soluble vitamin has a myriad of body functions. Technically a prohormone, vitamin D is made when the sun reacts with a. cholesterol-type substance in the skin – which is why it is called the sunshine vitamin. Some foods also contain vitamin D.


    This essential vitamin maintains healthy bones and teeth and plays many vital roles, including regulating inflammation and immune function. It also has neuroprotective effects; it affects the production of proteins required for developing neurons (brain cells). Additionally, vitamin D helps protect nervous tissues from oxidative stress and ensures balanced calcium levels in our blood (and cells, including the nervous system).


    Irrefutable evidence 

    Certain people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, and there is irrefutable evidence

    to support the significant benefits of supplementing vitamin D in these groups.

    Several factors can affect the body's ability to get adequate vitamin D from sunlight alone.

    According to the National Institutes of Health, You may be less likely to absorb enough vitamin D from the sun to meet your needs if you:

    • Live in an area with high pollution (which provides a barrier between the skin and the sun). 
    • Use of sunscreen – safe sun exposure and sunscreen are highly recommended in Australia.  
    • Spend most of your time indoors  
    • Cover your skin for cultural or other reasons  
    • Have darker skin (this is because the higher melanin levels mean that your body creates less vitamin D).
    • Are older – as skin thins, the skin becomes less efficient in making vitamin D. Hence, vitamin D production becomes less efficient.
    • Have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease) 
    • Can't digest fat normally


    The link between obesity and low vitamin D levels

    According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, 67 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese (equivalent to around 12.5 million people). Being overweight may also affect vitamin D status and be related to several chronic health problems.  

    The body needs certain enzymes to convert vitamin D into its active form; the enzyme levels between obese and non-obese individuals differ. So, obese people may need more vitamin D than normal-weight people. Also, vitamin D accumulates in excess fat tissues but is not readily available for use by the body when needed. Those who have had gastric bypass surgery since the upper part of the small intestine is removed, which is where vitamin D is absorbed.


    Thus, a higher dose of vitamin D supplementation may be necessary to achieve a desirable blood level. 


    Getting adequate vitamin D 

    Vitamin D is found in two primary forms – D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol); D2 from plants and D3 from animals. D3 is the type that the body makes via the action of sunlight on the skin.


    Research suggests that D3 is significantly more effective at raising and maintaining overall vitamin D levels than D2.


    Vitamin D levels can be raised by:

    Spending time in sunlight – but it is vital to practice safe sun

    Enjoy fatty fish and seafood 

    Choose mushrooms more often

    Include egg yolks in the diet

    Eat fortified foods

    Take a vitamin D supplement.


    So, for many people, taking a vitamin D supplement may be the best way to ensure adequate intake. Safe supplementation of vitamin D should be based on the needs of the individual. Australians should be guided by a healthcare professional to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. safely. How? Via safe sun, diet and supplementation when required.





  • 13 May 2022 11:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In a recent article, Assistant Director of Pharmacy at Bond University Treasure McGuire wrote in The Conversation, "Taking vitamins and supplements to help recover from COVID-19? An expert advises if it works (10 May 2022)." Treasure McGuire made several statements about complementary medicines. Here we question the validity and present clarity in her arguments.

    1. "There is little evidence supplementation in a healthy person prevents respiratory infections such as COVID."

    CMA says: However, in Australia, the advertising of products to consumers for the treatment of COVID-19 is prohibited without prior TGA authorisation, which is issued only in limited circumstances and where efficacy can be established.


    Complementary medicines on the ARTG are not marketed for Covid, and TGA has no infringements have been issued for these ARTG products advertising.

    2. "Ready access to supplements without a prescription from a myriad of online and shopfront sources and the uncontrolled spread of claims that supplements can prevent or treat COVID symptoms, has created an "infodemic".

    CMA says: This is not the case in Australia. Australian complementary medicines are subject to rigorous guidelines for claims both on the label and on websites.


    The strictly controlled environment in Australia means that legitimate complementary medicines manufacturers in Australia do not recommend any supplement to prevent or treat COVID symptoms.

    It is precisely the regulations that Australian manufacturers are bound by that mean that Australians can be confident about claims on an Australian complementary health product.

    When taken correctly, these products are lower risk substances that can only make lower risk claims which means they are suitable for consumer self-selection and do not require a prescription.

    3. "These claims are fuelled by supplement manufacturers being able to "list" their products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, with limited evidence of safety or effectiveness."

    CMA says: Australian manufacturers would argue that being listed on the ARTG is precisely what holds their exacting standards far above those of products produced overseas.

    Australia's risk-based approach has a two-tiered system for the regulation of all medicines, with three avenues for entry on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) for complementary medicines being:

    Lower risk medicines can be listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG),  which ensures they are manufactured in tightly quality controlled facilities subject to TGA inspections. Quantities of substances or health claims known to be unsafe are not permitted to be included in these medicines. The inclusion of the ARTG under these strict conditions protects consumers.

    Listed assessed medicines can be listed on the ARTG when the TGA has conducted a pre-market assessment for evidence of higher therapeutic claims.

    Higher risk medicines must be registered on the ARTG.

    This tight regulation means that consumers can be confident about Australian complementary medicines; this cannot be said for products bought overseas. Thus, it may be that the author is quoting overseas products?

    4. "Supplements can cause harm in adverse effects, drug interactions and expense. They also add to a patient's medication burden, may delay more effective therapy, or give false hope to the vulnerable."

    CMA says: Generally speaking, vitamins and minerals are much safer than conventional drugs.

    However, complementary medicines are medicines, and they should be taken according to the instructions on the label or after guidance from a health practitioner such as a suitably trained pharmacist. Complementary medicines can be used as an adjunct to conventional medicine and, in some cases, as a standalone medicine. Again, sound advice from a suitably trained health professional is advised. And as far as giving false hope to the vulnerable, to repeat, the label and surrounding guidance around dosage and stated indications provide an accurate overview of therapeutic and safe use.

    5. "Despite the large variety of complementary medicines marketed, most clinical trials to date have studied the impact of vitamin D, vitamin C or zinc to reduce the risk of contracting COVID, improve rates of hospitalisation or death."

    CMA says: Complementary medicines on the ARTG are not marketed for Covid, and TGA has issued no infringements for these ARTG products advertising. Clinical trials exist to educate regarding therapeutic potential. 

    Some research has found that people with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop a severe or critical COVID-19 response than those with sufficient blood levels. Research regarding nutrients and Covid severity is in its early stages. However, the link between low vitamin C and zinc levels and viral infections such as colds is very well documented.

    Australia's complementary medicines industry is committed to high-quality research to underpin ingredients some people have used for thousands of years. Our industry supports high-level research to support the growing evidence base for complementary medicines and their benefits to Australians. However, any therapeutic claim referring to Covid must be pre-approved by the TGA before marketing; therefore, no inappropriate marketing can legally occur without TGA approval, even if any trials are successful.

    6. "However, supplements may be beneficial when individuals cannot achieve a balanced and varied diet."

    The vast majority of Australians – around 97 per cent – don't achieve a balanced and varied diet.

    The complementary medicines industry in Australia has always strongly advocated for people to consume a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly and avoid high-risk behaviours. Numerous studies have shown – and continue to show – that most people do not. For example, over 90 per cent of Australians do not consume enough vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables and fruits.

    7. "High doses or chronic use of COVID supplements have also been linked with adverse effects: vitamin D with muscle pain and loss of bone mass; vitamin A with elevated liver function tests and blurred vision; vitamin E with bleeding risk; plant extracts, magnesium with gastrointestinal effects; and selenium with hair loss and brittle nails."

    CMA says: Adhering to the advice on the label prevents overdosing on every medicine – including natural medicines.


    Australia regulates complementary health products to the highest standards – standards considered to be a global benchmark. The Department of Health's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) stringently enforces these strict safety and quality regulations. Labels clearly state indications and dosage. Consumers are urged to read and adhere to labels created with both safety and quality in mind.

    The TGA, like other regulatory agencies around the world, monitors the safety of medicines marketed in Australia to contribute to a better understanding of their possible adverse effects; this is known as pharmacovigilance and is routine for all medicines, including prescription, OTC and complementary medicines.


    The TGA monitors the safety of medicines marketed in Australia using:

    • reports of adverse events;
    • sharing of information with other regulatory agencies;
    • sharing of information with Australian state and territory health authorities;
    • Risk Management Plans (RMPs) and Periodic Safety Update Reports
    • (PSURs); and
    • reviews of literature.

    Generally speaking, vitamins and minerals are lower risk than conventional medicines. However, they are natural medicines and should be taken according to the instructions on the label or guidance from a health practitioner.

    Despite increasing consumption, side effects remain rare. Thanks to a small but vocal group of anti-complementary medicines detractors, negative headlines make the news intermittently as they take the opportunity to place their views on the agenda; this can be very confusing, and their inaccuracies do a disservice to the community. Australian complementary medicines are manufactured to the highest standards globally, increasingly chosen by Australians and discerning customers overseas. Over 70% of Australians choose one or more complementary medicines to complement their health, and this figure is increasing.


Six herbs and nutrients that support immunity

Herbs and nutrition have been harnessed for their health benefits by people around the world since time began. With the Australian winter nearly upon us, and given the current pandemic, here are some herbs and nutrients that have been widely used to support the immune system, reduce risk of infection and minimise symptoms should an infection occur.

A healthy, varied diet, enough sleep, managing stress, adequate physical activity and not smoking support immunity.


The basics

The cornerstone to good health and to supporting your immune system is enjoying a healthy, varied diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, getting enough physical activity and not smoking. In addition, several herbs and supplements may also be used to support immunity. Check with your healthcare practitioner before taking supplements and if any symptoms persist.

Because COVID-19 is a novel virus, there are no proven treatments or preventative therapies including supplements, medicines or foods that are known to protect us. Until the virus is better understood, limiting community exposure through social distancing or isolation where appropriate, and practicing good hygiene are vital to limit the spread.

Your immune system

Like other body systems, your immune system is complex. Many cells and tissues make up your defence system from your skin to your gut and even eyelashes and white blood cells. Every area of the body is supported – so you could consider your body as your castle and your immune system as the soldiers that patrol and defend every part of your body. 

Keeping your immune system in balance is important at every age and every stage of life. And, traditionally, a number of herbs and nutrients have been used to support the immune system – feeding and supporting your internal soldiers.

1.        Astragalus

Native to China, Korea, Mongolia and Russia, the herb Astragalus has been used since the second century AD to support the immune system, and recent study has shown it supports immunity at the cellular level. This herb is an adaptogen which means that it helps to support the body's reaction to stress. Astragalus root extract is traditionally used to promote a healthy immune system, increase resistance to infection and relieve fatigue.

2.        Andrographis

Used widely in Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, Andrographis contains andrographolide, a terpenoid compound shown to have antiviral effects, including against those that cause respiratory infections. When taken at the first sign of cold symptoms, Andrographis may help to prevent a cold from developing with full force. Andrographis may help to ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. It might also prevent influenza viruses from binding to cells in the body, although more research is needed to understand its effectiveness in treating the flu. It can be used to relieve symptoms of treat mild fever, the common cold and sore throat.

This herb is not recommended for use in pregnancy and breast feeding.  There is a small possibility of developing taste disturbances when using Andrographis products so follow the label instructions. 

3.        Echinacea

Echinacea is a daisy-like plant and has been used by Native Americans for centuries.  There are 2 main species used - Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. Various parts of these different Echinacea species are active in different ways; which is why they are frequently used together.

Echinacea supports a healthy immune response when taken at the onset of symptoms. Studies have suggested that certain species improve immune health and may have antiviral effects against several respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus and rhinoviruses. The antiviral action may be due to the presence of certain polysaccharides that increase the production of infection-fighting white blood cells.

When taken at the first sign of symptoms, Echinacea can relieve symptoms of colds and mild upper respiratory infections and may reduce the duration of cold-related symptoms such as fatigue, body aches and headache.


4. Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, is unusual because the major source is sunshine rather than food sources (it is made when the sunlight interacts with a cholesterol-like substance in your skin). Certain groups, particularly those with restricted access to sunlight may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can be medically diagnosed with a simple blood test. Vitamin D is essential to support the health and functioning of your immune system. 

This vitamin works by enhancing the pathogen (disease) fighting effects of white blood cells that are part of your immune defence and decreases inflammation, helping to support the immune response.

Being deficient in vitamin D may be associated with an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

Food sources of vitamin D include some mushrooms, oily fish, fortified foods and egg yolks.

5. Zinc 

Zinc deficiency affects around 2 billion people worldwide and is very common in older adults. About 30% of older adults may be deficient in zinc. Low levels can increase the risk of infection because this mineral helps support healthy immune system function.

It's important not to overdo it though – too much zinc can interfere with copper absorption. Find zinc in whole grains, oysters, baked beans, chickpeas, and nuts.

6. Vitamin C 

The best know nutrient when it comes to your immune system is perhaps Vitamin C. Vitamin C is vital for immune health and may reduce the severity and duration of colds. It encourages the production of white blood cells (lymphocytes and phagocytes), which help protect against infection. It also helps these white blood cells function more effectively while protecting them from damage by potentially harmful molecules, such as free radicals. Free radical damage can negatively affect immune health and is linked to numerous diseases.

Because it is water-soluble, you can't store large amounts so it's important to consume some every day. Good food sources include vegetables and fruits; however if you cook veggies, cook them until just tender in a small amount of water as vitamin C is destroyed by heat and can leach out into the cooking water.

Last word

Remember that although supplements can make a difference to your immune health, they can't replace a healthy lifestyle. If you are unwell, stay at home and following Department guidelines about COVID-19 – see


Soluble Fibre, Insoluble Fibre, Functions And Where to Find It

June 2020

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month which claims the lives of 103 Australians every week (5,375 people a year) - but it's one of the most treatable types of cancer if found early[i]. As well as regular testing, diet is an important factor where it comes to prevention.

Many studies have shown a diet high in fibre can help reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. This features focuses on fibre – which four out of five Australians don’t consume enough of – and the many benefits of fibre for all-round good health.

Dietary fibre refers to the parts of plant foods that aren’t digested. Although you can’t absorb it – it never leaves your gastrointestinal tract – fibre is vital for good health. Experts recommend around 30g of fibre recommended daily for adults.

Here are six reasons your body needs fibre and easy ways to add more fibre into your diet.

1.      It gives your large intestine a workout

Insoluble fibre (the outer shells of seeds, grains, fruits, and vegetables) can be stringy or coarse. The large intestine is a long muscular tube and, like all muscles, it needs exercise. Insoluble fibre draws water to it and softens the stool making waste more comfortable to pass. Keeping things moving helps to prevent conditions such as constipation, haemorrhoids and diverticular disease.


2.      It feeds your probiotic bacteria

Resistant starch, although not traditionally thought of as fibre, acts in a similar way. It resists digestion in the small intestine (where most food is digested) and when it enters the large intestine, provides food for gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria play a key role in controlling inflammation; too much chronic (long-term) inflammation may predispose people to type 2 diabetes.


Find resistant starch in legumes (peas, beans and lentils), seeds, grains, green bananas and certain cooked-and-cooled starchy foods including potatoes and rice.


3.      It helps you feel fuller for longer

Soluble fibre is usually soft and moist and is found in fruit (but not the skins), vegetables and pulses, oats and ground flax seeds. This type of fibre mixes with water in the gut forming a gel-like substance, helping to slow down digestion which, in turn, helps you feel fuller for longer. It also feeds your beneficial gut bacteria. Plus, the physical bulk helps you feel fuller so you may be less likely to consume excess calories.  


4.      It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Research suggests that if every Australian adult added just 4–5g of fibre to their diet each day, it could help prevent 126,000 cases of type 2 diabetes and 64,000 cases of heart disease saving our economy $3.3 billion[ii].

Eating a diet that is rich in fibre can help to flatten the rise in blood glucose (sugar) after eating. And, because it can help to delay the absorption of glucose from the gut and into the bloodstream, your body does not have to release as much insulin to return blood glucose levels to normal.


Again, fibre provides food for your probiotic bacteria, and good gut bacteria can play a part in weight regulation since obesity is a significant risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.


Soluble fibre is especially important if you have insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Find it in psyllium husk, legumes, oats and ground flax seeds. Ripe fruit and vegetables naturally contain more soluble fibre.


5.      It protects your heart

A high-fibre diet may help protect your heart by reducing cholesterol levels in the blood – the gel-like substance may reduce glucose and cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream. Again, it can also help to control weight. High cholesterol levels, high blood glucose levels and being overweight are all risk factors for heart disease.


Fibre also increases the production of short-chain fatty acids by probiotic bacteria which have also been shown to help to reduce inflammation and cholesterol production.


6.      It’s linked with gut health

Higher intakes of fibre are associated with lower rates of bowel cancer. Probiotic bacteria the short-chain fatty acids produced help to keep the lining of the intestine healthy. They also help the body absorb minerals, enhance fat and glucose metabolism in the liver, and have anti-diarrhoeal and anti-inflammatory properties. Butyrate, one of the short-chain fatty acids that is produced by the fermentation of fibre in the large intestine, may reduce the risk of tumour growth.


What about supplements?

Fibre supplements may help people to enjoy the many health benefits of fibre, relieve constipation and maintain regularity. Plus, by choosing a diet that is low in saturated fat and by adding soluble fibre, such as psyllium husk, may help to lower blood cholesterol levels; this may help to reduce the of heart disease. It is important to obtain the advice of a healthcare practitioner especially if you have certain health conditions.


Be cautious

In some medical conditions, it may be important to restrict insoluble fibre. These include acute or subacute diverticulitis, acute phases of certain inflammatory bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, and after some types of intestinal surgery.


Some types of fibre can exacerbate underlying irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you have IBS and you’re following a low-FODMAP diet, you may find some high-fibre foods make your symptoms worse. Talk to your healthcare practitioner for individual advice.


Go slow and drink plenty of fluids

If you’d like to consume more fibre, go slowly over a few weeks. Too much too soon can trigger discomfort and leave you feeling bloated and constipated. And make sure you drink plenty of fluids as fibre draws water into the bowel and needs fluid to work properly.


How to do it

Boost your fibre intake by choosing wholegrain foods most of the time, add legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils) to salads, soups and stews at least two-to-three times a week, and try to choose high fibre cereals instead of fibre-stripped refined foods.


Aim for around 30g of fibre a day. Here are some good food sources of fibre.


Cereals and breads

Wholegrain barley wrap 1 wrap = 10g

Wholemeal pasta (cooked) 1 cup = 10g  

Soy-linseed bread 2 slices = 6g

Rolled oats 1/4 cup = 4g

Weet-Bix 2 biscuits = 3.5g                          

Brown rice (cooked) 1 cup = 3g   

Quinoa (cooked) 1/2 cup = 2.5g


Beans and pulses            

Baked beans 130g can = 6g

Four-bean mix 125g can = 6g

Chickpeas (cooked) 1/2 cup = 5g

Lentils (cooked) 1/2 cup = 3.5g

Hummus 2 tbs = 2.5g     


Veggies and fruits

Vegetables (cooked) 1 cup = 8g  

Carrot/celery sticks 1 cup = 4g

Banana 1 medium = 3g

Apple 1 medium = 3g     

Sweet potato 1/2 small = 3g

Avocado 1/4 medium = 2g

Potatoes 2 small = 1.5g

Dried fruit 2 tbs = 1.5g


Nuts and seeds

Chia seeds 1 tbs = 5.5g

Plain popcorn 2 cup = 4g              

Almonds 20 nuts = 3g

Peanut butter 1 tbs = 3g               

Seed mix 2tbs = 2.5g










Gerald Quigley talks pharmacy and immune support

Community pharmacist, master herbalist, media health commentator and author, Gerald Quigley, has been passionate about integrative medicine since his early career, which spans nearly 50 years.

Gerald is passionate about empowering people to take control of their own health via greater understanding.

Right from their beginning in their shopping strip pharmacy, Gerald and his now-retired pharmacist wife, Philippa, noticed that the same people with the same health issues returned to the pharmacy over and over again. The couple made a conscious decision to become better involved with their customers and their chronic diseases, determined to help people understand their illness better and, most of all, to ensure that their illness did not define them.

“Philippa became the dispensary manager, and my role was to spend as little dispensing time as possible. I focused on mixing with customers and those whose health we felt we could make a difference to,” says Gerald.  

The couple’s aim was to empower people to take control of their own health via greater understanding.

“This is important because, of course, pharmacists are health professionals. But if you ask anyone the name of their GP or their dentist, they will know. But what about their pharmacist, the person in charge of their health,” asks Gerald?

So, the team made a point of getting to know customers by their name and be a part of their wellness. Every staff member carried a business card, and all sought feedback on nutritional medicines and how patients were progressing.

Empowering with information

The couple often saw the same people with the same conditions, including diabetes, asthma, hypertension, raised cholesterol and psoriasis. Soon, people would line up and talk about their issues, and Gerald and the team would discuss medicines and the role that complementary medicines could play.

“We aimed to help people understand that they didn’t need to be dominated by their condition. Our message might be to consume more omega-3s, exercise regularly and not smoke – we were people-centric, and people responded to that,” Gerald says.

Better understanding, greater responsibilities

Gerald strongly believes that helping people understand more about their own health comes with responsibilities. Any food a person consumes has a physiological action, and every medicine has a pharmacological action.

“Pharmacists have a responsibility to ensure the patient understands their medicines and their health plus that they provide feedback to the pharmacist so that individual and mutual understanding can grow.”

For example, when a patient is prescribed a statin, it is important to explain how Ubiquinol and CoEnzymeQ10 production is affected. And, for people taking Metformin, explaining how vitamin B12 levels can be affected. I feel that it is professionally reprehensible not to do this, and it is a fundamental nutritional requirement.”

Supporting immunity

Gerald notes that immune support is as important as ever given the current pandemic. “Many factors contribute to immune support. And there is evidence-based research to back the use of certain nutrients. Given that so many people consume takeaway foods so often, and 94% of people don’t consume enough vegetables and fruits, clearly, there is a need for better nutrition. I recently read about the role of music in immune function – anything you can do to support healthy immune function is worthwhile,” he says.

Speaking about one of the most widely used analgesics, paracetamol, Gerald notes that according to the Australian Medicines Handbook, the mode of action is not known. “Plus a study published two years ago found that paracetamol was no better than placebo for arthritic pain,” Gerald says.

Reinventing the business of pharmacy

Now amid the current coronavirus pandemic, it may be the perfect time to reinvent the business of pharmacy suggests Gerald. “Listen to the information people can share and take the opportunities to upskill everybody who works in a pharmacy.” From a complementary medicines perspective, Gerald believes that now it is more important than ever.

“The best advice I could give pharmacy staff is to research and be confident about a topic – be it pharmaceutical or herbal. You don’t have to be an expert on everything. Choose an area and specialise in it. Currently, perhaps consider immune-supporting herbs or vitamins, to offset insomnia or anxiety? For example, understanding the role of vitamin D3, Echinacea and Astragalus to name just a few and how their antiviral actions apply.”

Pharmacists’ professionalism needs to develop faster than their commercialism,” he adds, “pharmacy graduates need to shift their thinking from illness to wellness. Teaching needs a fundamental overhaul because it can make a real and positive difference to people,” he says.

Herbal and complementary medicine training 

If asked to choose between a pharmaceutical topic or herbal topic, Gerald says he would probably choose to learn about a herbal topic or one with a base in complementary medicines.

“A lot of pharmaceutical education is company-sponsored while complementary medicine presentations tend to be headed by practitioners who can also supply a patient history. And this is practical knowledge that can be used in practical situations,” he says.

Petty controversies

“CMA does great work with the TGA and responds to the petty controversies touted by FSM, e.g. focussing on imported supplements with their sometimes outrageous claims. They should be thinking more about the many ways we could reduce the risk to patients, from overseas products. Australia’s complementary medicines industry is more responsible now than ever and needs pharmacies and medicines to support them.”

The sniping in news media about complementary medicine disturbs Gerald. “There is little publicity about the dangers of prescription medicines – take Lyrica, for example. Lyrica is now the most prescribed pain medication on PBS, but there are calls for nationwide monitoring after reports that it may cause depression and anxiety. Other side effects can include coma, but you won’t read about them in tabloids. Yet if a milk thistle supplement imported from overseas causes a side effect in one person in the outback, that would make front-page news,” Gerald says.

Ethical, not monetary 

Gerald underlines the needs for a multidisciplinary approach to healthcare for patients. Developing strong relationships with dietitians and nutritionists, naturopaths and more will forge stronger professional relationships.  The basis should be ethical, not monetary.

Finding a trusted practitioner who puts your welfare before his requires trial and error stresses Gerald. “Like finding a good GP or plumber, the professional needs to understand and respect the individual and request and respond to feedback – and that includes the pharmacist. What an opportunity for pharmacists to be involved! If patients don’t have the confidence to ask their pharmacist, then it’s a sad indictment on our profession.”

We should all aspire to unite our industry to become more ethical urges Gerald. “And pharmacists and their teams understand that we can make a difference and help to make the world a healthier place,” ends Gerald.  

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