Dietary Supplements

Revised: 7 August 2013

Guidance for Natural Health Practitioners

This section of the website provides guidance for individuals and businesses operating as natural health practitioners in New Zealand.

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This guidance is for individuals and businesses that are operating as natural health practitioners. This guidance outlines the specific exemptions granted under the Medicines Act 1981 only. Businesses must also comply with other applicable legislation such as the Fair Trading Act 1986 and Consumer's Guarantee Act 1993.

The Medicines Act 1981 sets out controls on the manufacture, supply and advertising (promotion) of medicines and also defines the term 'medicine'. Apart from a few limited circumstances that are set out in the Medicines Act 1981, medicines cannot be advertised, sold or distributed unless they have first been approved by the Minister of Health.

The approval process for medicines involves an application comprising information about the safety, efficacy and quality of the product, accompanied by an appropriate fee. This is followed by an evaluation of the information after which the Minister of Health may approve the product by notifying consent in the New Zealand Gazette.

The legislation described above is available from New Zealand Legislation.

Special provisions relating to Natural Therapists (section 32 of the Medicines Act 1981)

Natural Therapists (and others) have specific exemptions from some of the requirements of the Medicines Act 1981 in recognition of their role. The effect of the exemption is to allow Natural Therapists to manufacture, pack, label, sell by retail, or supply certain medicines, even when they have not been approved by the Minister of Health, providing they are supplied to an individual following a consultation with the practitioner.

Unapproved medicines that can be supplied to an individual following a consultation with the practitioner are known as general sale medicines. A general sale medicine is one that does not contain an ingredient that is scheduled in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 or one that has not been classified under the Medicines Act 1981 as a prescription, restricted (pharmacist-only), or pharmacy-only (pharmacy) medicine.

What is a 'consultation'?

A consultation is not defined in the Medicines Act 1981. Interaction between any practitioner and a patient is covered by the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers Rights 1996 made under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994.

For the purposes of this guidance, a consultation should be a genuine dialogue between the Natural Therapist and the patient whereby the Natural Therapist attempts to establish the patient's ailment and any additional circumstances that mean particular treatments should not be administered. This should include consideration of interaction with other treatments or pre-existing medical conditions.

Care must be given to treat the patient with respect and therefore the Natural Therapist must ensure consideration is given to patient privacy and confidentiality. It is advisable that consultations are conducted in private.

What Natural Therapists can do when operating under the section 32 exemption

People wishing to practise natural medicine may do the following within the context of providing care to a patient:

What Natural Therapists can't do

The exemptions for Natural Therapists under section 32 of the Medicines Act 1981 do not extend to being able to advertise unapproved general sale medicines. This means Natural Therapists cannot do the following:

Examples of the exemptions in practice

Example 1

A Natural Therapist may have a retail store selling dietary supplements and cosmetics. A consumer may approach the therapist and seek treatment for any disease or ailment. During the consultation the therapist may recommend any product, group of products to work synergistically, or individual ingredients.

Following the consultation the therapist may select products from the retail shelves and attach a label indicating the therapeutic use of the product. Labels must comply with the requirements of the Medicines Regulations 1984.

Example 2

A Natural Therapist may have a consultation room and display products in the waiting room. The products on display may, for example, be herbal remedies or homoeopathic preparations but cannot be labelled with the therapeutic use of the product. Also on display may be educational material on ingredients or therapeutic practises but this material cannot indicate or imply that any products or any products on display are for a therapeutic purpose.

Following the consultation, remedies may be selected and labelled for use. Additional, product-specific information may also be provided to assist the patient with their recovery.

Example 3

A Natural Therapist may advertise his / her services to the public. For example, a herbalist could advertise that he / she is a herbalist and could offer treatment services and then list the kinds of conditions the services might cover.

However, a Natural Therapist cannot advertise that they specialise in treating a specific condition using a named product.