So when we talk about “synthetic” substances versus “natural” substances, we’re referring the difference between how they are made—how they come into being—not any difference between their molecules. The molecules are identical. [Or so the FDA would have us believe.]
One important difference between substances found in nature and those synthesized in the lab, however, can be the difference in cost. Generally, substances like physostigmine occur in nature in small quantities that are hard to extract from the plant or animal in which they occur. So one great advantage of being able to unravel nature’s secrets and reproduce them in the lab is that, once the process is discovered, it becomes much cheaper to synthesize substances in the lab than it is to get them from nature. This is what Percy Julian did.
One of the chief differences in “health food store” vs “drug store” brands is what is not in the tablet. For example, the natural brands leave out artificial chemical colors, which is a good thing to do. Just about all brands contain tablet fillers and excipients, needed to physically hold the pill together. Since these will vary, the only way to find out exactly who uses what is to write to the company and find out.
Some tableting ingredients are pretty standard, such as magnesium stearate or stearic acid, sodium citrate, dicalcium phosphate, cellulose and silica. I consider these harmless fillers to be “natural enough” for me.
Vitamins can legally be called “Natural” even if made in a laboratory. You would not think so, but it is true. Vitamin C, for example, is factory-made from starch. Starch is certainly natural, so the product can be termed “Natural.” Is this starch-based vitamin C identical to orange-juice vitamin C? Most biochemists say yes, because:
What is the difference between natural and synthetic material?
Natural versus Synthetic Chemicals Is a Gray Matter
Butterbur are plants that contain an anti-inflammatory compound called petasin, which is a natural remedy for migraine treatment and prevention. Unfortunately, butterbur plants also contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) that can cause severe liver damage, and thus it’s important that butterbur extract is purified to remove PAs…
Opiate vs. Opioid – What is the difference between Opiate and Opioid?
opiate – narcotic analgesic derived from a opium poppy (natural)
opioid – narcotic analgesic that is at least part synthetic, not found in nature