What Are Nutraceuticals?

What Are Nutraceuticals?

Nutraceuticals. In the health and wellness community, it's something of a buzzword, thrown around to describe a wide variety of products that claim various health benefits.

It's also a term that's starting to pop up more and more in the CBD space. But is that warranted? Is CBD a nutraceutical? What about the products derived from CBD? And for that matter, what does "nutraceutical" even really mean?

In this article, we cover the ins-and-outs of nutraceuticals, their relation to the CBD space, and everything you need to know about this emerging trend in CBD.

Nutraceutical Basics

"Nutraceutical" is a term derived from "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical". As that name would imply, nutraceutical refers to foods and beverages that are purported to have some physiological or medical benefit outside of just nutrition.

It's a fairly simple definition, but one that's strangely tied-up with another type of product you'll see all over the wellness space: supplements.

Many nutraceuticals exist, and the definition varies somewhat depending on whom you ask. However, nutraceuticals are gaining increased attention in both the wellness and the scientific communities, as different nutraceuticals have drawn interest for treating a startling variety of ailments.

Nutraceuticals vs. Supplements

Supplements and nutraceuticals serve very similar purposes, and you may find them sold in the same stores and sites. But they aren't identical; in fact, despite their similarities, nutraceuticals and supplements are quite different products — though admittedly, the definitions shift slightly based on your source.

Actually, there's a third category of product worth noting, so we can just say that there's a link between supplements, nutraceuticals, and functional foods.

Looking at the trend behind these shifting definitions, we might generalize by saying that the difference essentially boils down to this:

  • Functional foods are food products that have been infused with some additional nutrients for enhanced nutritive value. Crucially, functional foods look like food.
  • Supplements may or may not be made from food products; isolated nutrients from various foods or food-like substances fit here. Supplements don't look like food, they look instead like drugs: pills, powder, and the like fit into this general definition.
  • Nutraceuticals are a subset of supplements. Specifically, nutraceuticals are made only from whole foods. Moreover, their intended use is for health benefits other than nutrition. You can think of them as food-derived products with recognized benefits similar to those of manufactured drugs.

Of course, that still leaves a little bit of ambiguity between the terms. Ginseng is a nutraceutical (we'll discuss this and other common nutraceuticals below). But what about ginseng powder used as a spice? What about capsules filled with ginseng powder?

The more processed the product becomes, the further away from a traditional food it gets, and the closer it veers towards being classified as a supplement rather than a nutraceutical.

Simply put: there's a lot of similarity between nutraceuticals and supplements, and the line between them isn't always clear.

Is CBD a Nutraceutical?

Is CBD a nutraceutical? As we discussed above, there's a lot of ambiguity in the definition; but the short answer is this:

Well, CBD may or may not be a nutraceutical, depending whom you ask. CBD has many health and wellness benefits; it's taken principally for those benefits and not for general nutritional value; but is CBD derived from a whole food?

It's a good illustration of why the definitions are tricky. Is the hemp from which CBD is derived a food? Well, no one is marketing raw hemp as a food product, but many parts of the hemp plant do have surprising nutritional value!

If we think of hemp as a food, then we can make the argument that CBD is a nutraceutical. If not, then it doesn't fit the definition quite as nicely.

But then there are CBD products, such as CBD gummies and other CBD edibles, that are specifically designed as food products! Are these nutraceuticals?

Simply put, no, CBD edibles are not nutraceuticals. Instead, they fall into a third category: functional foods, meaning a traditional food product that has been modified or enhanced to increase its nutritional or health benefits.

Examples of Common Nutraceuticals

So if CBD and most CBD products aren't nutraceuticals, what are? Here are a few of the most common nutraceuticals that you're likely to already know.

  • Ginseng
  • Echinacea
  • Green Tea
  • Omega-3
  • Food-derived vitamins

Nutraceuticals In Closing

"Nutraceutical" is a somewhat uncommon name, but it refers to products you're almost certainly familiar with. They're a subset of nutritional supplements that are derived from foods, and their purpose is for health benefits other than simple nutrition.

You can think of a nutraceutical as a natural alternative to manufactured pharmaceuticals, as each has a highly specialized role in the treatment of some condition or another.

CBD fits many of the criteria for a nutraceutical, but it probably isn't one. That's because CBD is derived from hemp, which, despite having myriad uses, is not traditionally a food product.

Nonetheless, fans of nutraceuticals and natural wellness may find that CBD fits well into their wellness regimen. By combining powerful anti-inflammatory, stress relief, and other therapeutic benefits, CBD is easily one of the most soothing treatments that nature has to offer.

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