The Marriage of Herbal Nutraceuticals and Psychedelics

Just what is a nutraceutical? Here's the answer.

Nutraceuticals have been getting a bad health and wellness rap for years. 

Most of the chatter is about them not being “real”; doctors ignore them in part because they have not gone through any FDA-approved clinical trials—even as their patients rave about the health benefits they get from taking them.

Now there’s a movement to team up nutraceuticals with psychedelics and apply the science developed around psychedelics to advance nutraceuticals as more credible health and wellness products. 

The two have been vectoring toward each other for years.

What is a Neutraceutical?

According to one study, a nutraceutical product may be defined as a substance that has a physiological benefit or provides protection against chronic disease. “Nutraceutic” is a term derived from “nutrition” and “pharmaceutics.” The term is applied to products that are isolated from herbal products, dietary supplements (nutrients), specific diets, and processed foods such as cereals, soups, and beverages that other than nutrition are also used as medicine. 

Nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, delay the aging process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body. More recently, nutraceuticals received considerable interest due to their potential nutritional, safety, and therapeutic effects. 

Emphasis has been made to present herbal nutraceuticals as effective on hard curative disorders related to oxidative stress including allergy, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, eye, immune, inflammatory, and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as obesity.

And there it is—the overlap of nutraceuticals and psychedelics, as both appear to be working in the same direction as complementary solutions to the same human health and wellness issues.

One company that is taking a shot at upping the rigor of clinical science of nutraceuticals while also working with psychedelic substance development is KGK Sciences, a subsidiary of Wellbeing Digital Sciences (NEO: MEDI) (OTC: KONEF) (FRA: SQ2) that opened their new clinical research center in London, Ontario in September. “We knew that the dietary supplement industry needed to have clinical trials behind the products because it was a new industry back in 1997,” Najla Guthrie, president and CEO of Wellbeing Digital Sciences and KGK Sciences, told Psychedealia. “It was a cottage industry back then, starting with people who made all kinds of outrageous claims about products without any science behind them,” she said. “So are nutraceuticals needing the same type of scientific rigor that is required for psychedelics? I’d say no. People have been using them for centuries. What we’re doing now is providing the data to say, yes, this actually works for this. Or this is actually safe in these quantities that you’re proposing.”

She said that psychedelics are different because of the psychotropic effects. “They need to go through the drug route for development, which has very stringent requirements of what needs to happen. You need the preclinical data, you need safety and toxicity data.”

Today, on the dietary supplement side, if it’s a new ingredient, for example, a dietary supplement maker also has to do some level of clinical trial work to verify the safety and efficacy of that product, in a similar fashion to the trials of MDMA, psilocybin, and ibogaine, she said. “I think there’s so much research going on in the psychedelic space, and there’s a lot of amazing new products on the nutraceutical that we are working on,” she said. “There’s a lot of really interesting crossover and connections that we can make between the two, and a lot of innovation is going to get us further along.”

She said that formerly skeptical doctors have become more informed about nutraceuticals today, specifically about which nutraceuticals have better science behind them and which don’t. “Doctors have to be informed because it’s a consumer-driven industry,” Guthrie said. “So the patient comes in and says, ‘Doc, I’m taking this, this and this. Is that going to affect any of the medications that you have me on?’ and ‘I want to take these because I know they make me feel better.’

That reworked skepticism from doctors is the same thing that is happening with psychedelics, she said. “I think what we really need to do for psychedelic drugs, though, is to make sure that we as an industry are responsible about how we bring these products to market, and that we’re responsible to make sure that they’re data-driven, that we’re responsible, that the policy that gets changed from a regulatory perspective is data-driven and scientifically backed.”

The work of KGK Sciences is now about 70 percent on nutraceuticals, with the rest of their development work in cannabis and psychedelics. “Psychedelics are an area that is going to skyrocket for us,” Guthrie said. 

Psilocybin

Researchers at KGK are currently doing a phase II clinical study with Halucenex, a life sciences company in Windsor, Nova Scotia, where they are going to look at the effects of a single dose of oral synthetic psilocybin medical products and the treatment of PTSD. The first patient is planned to be enrolled on October 11.

Another study that KGK is working on will examine the safety and efficacy of a microdose of oral synthetic psilocybin, to treat the cognitive and behavioral autism spectrum disorder symptoms in adults. “This has huge implications,” she said. “The preclinical data that we’ve seen so far in animals shows really positive results.”

The company is also looking at working with companies to combine selected nutraceuticals and psychedelics to address a number of different issues, and to enhance the mechanism of action of both.

KGK has other psychedelics studies for treating addiction, end of life, and chronic pain, she said.

More support for psychedelics and nutraceuticals working together comes from the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), which chartered its own Psychedelic Plants and Fungi Committee in March to address issues related to the safe use and responsible commerce of lawfully marketed products derived from psychedelic plants and fungi. Elan Sudberg, CEO of Alkemist Labs, and the committee’s first chair said that, with the emergence of legal psychedelics being professionally used to address major mental health issues, and research finding significant benefits in that context, “it’s crucial that the category be developed with experience and deliberation. Given that AHPA’s mission is to promote the responsible and sustainable commerce of herbal products to ensure that consumers have informed access to a wide variety of safe herbal goods, it’s entirely appropriate that AHPA’s expertise be utilized to help that sector grow responsibly.”

Dave Hodes

David Hodes is a business journalist based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He has contributed feature articles to several cannabis and psychedelics publications, as well as general business/lifestyle publications, on a variety of topics. Hodes was selected as 2018 Journalist of the Year by Americans for Safe Access. He is a member of the National Press Club, and the deputy booking agent for the National Press Club Headliners Committee.


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