There is confusion over the terms nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, food supplements and pharmaceuticals. ‘Nutraceutical’ products may range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and specific diets to genetically engineered designer foods and herbal products. A dietary supplement is a product consumed through mouth that contains ingredients intended to provide health ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. They can also be herbal extracts or concentrates and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, liquids or powders. Functional foods are also foods that have components or ingredients added to give it a specific medical or physiological benefit in addition to a purely nutritional effect.
In India, the practice of ‘Ayurveda’ lays emphasis on food and the Ayurvedic preparations are herbal products
with health benefits and they are classified as pharmaceuticals. Thus there exists a very thin margin between
‘Nutraceuticals and Pharmaceuticals; Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine highlighted, around 2000 year ago ‘Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food’. The Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, and Sumerians are just a few civilizations that have used food as medicine.
In contrast to the natural herbs, spices and folk medicines are been used for centuries throughout Asia and the nutraceutical industry has grown alongside the expansion and exploration of modern technology. In fact many of the drugs have been derived after being isolated from the plant like digoxin, aspirin, metformin, etc. Thus the growth of ‘Nutraceuticals’ appears to be like presenting old wine in new bottle.