In Memory of a Canadian Natural Health Products Pioneer

We are sad to announce the passing of Canadian Pharmacist and Natural Health Products pioneer Sam Ibrahim



We are sad to announce the passing of Canadian Pharmacist and Natural Health Products pioneer Sam Ibrahim. Sam was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1937 and went to Germany as a young man to study pharmacy. As part of his pharmacists training in Germany he studied herbal medicine and homeopathy for 5 years. 

In 1968, Sam immigrated to Canada with his young family and settled in Edmonton. Shortly after arriving Sam opened his own pharmacy and unlike any other drugstore at the time, he carried herbal medicines from Germany. Since these products were not widely available in Canada, he contacted his colleagues in Germany to receive “care” packages of various natural medicines he was familiar with and could sell in his pharmacy. 

People who came to the pharmacy were very curious and had many questions regarding the formulas. He explained to them that the herbs were used for coughs, kidney and bladder infections, upset stomachs and other various ailments and he slowly persuaded his customers to try natural remedies. Eventually, he was able to source some of these products from Sigfried Gursche, another pioneer in the Canadian health food movement.

Fast forward to 1995 and Sam had become a celebrated pharmacist, known for his outstanding customer service and expertise in herbal medicine. Customers would drive hours to receive their prescription from him while being invited to share a cup of tea in his office. That year his son Farid joined him in the business to found Nutravite Pharmaceuticals Inc. Nutravite launched with 9 herbal formulas developed by Sam with the goal of distributing these products to other independent pharmacies. The initial 9 products were sold to retailers as an assortment which became known as “Tray Number 1”. Nutravite “Tray number 2” with another 9 products followed shortly after that.

Since no other natural health products companies were supplying pharmacies at the time, Nutravite had success from the start. Son Farid moved to Toronto and called on independent pharmacies in Ontario with the 18-product assortment. The company also established a network of brokers in the western provinces and had a strong relationship with Northwest Drugs, a wholesaler that pre-dated McKesson.

Sam continued to operate his integrative medicine pharmacy and was receiving a lot of media attention for it’s pioneering approach, including feature articles in IHR magazine and McLean’s. Having this store was an advantage for the distribution business also, since the trends were obvious to Sam and his son before they became known nationally. As a result, Nutravite was the only company to have Glucosamine Sulfate available for sale to other pharmacies in 1996 when it received a lot of media attention for helping arthritis. 

The same can be said for Glucosamine Chondroitin and St. John’s Wort.  Nutravite was first to sell these emerging products to pharmacies and often had no competition for up to six months. As a result, the company experienced rapid growth and soon found a home at Shoppers Drug Mart. From there, the brand expanded to almost every national and regional pharmacy and grocery chain. Today, Nutravite continues to exist internationally and on-line, with Nutravite Joint Cream being one of the top-selling topical analgesics on In 1999 Sam also developed Kardovite – a product for heart health and circulation that today is widely distributed in the US.

Sam sold his pharmacy in 2002 and he and his wife Ursula retired to Peachland, BC. They became “snowbirds” and bought a home in Panama.  They spent much of their time on lengthy cruises and visiting their grandkids. Sam was 82 and is survived by his wife Ursula, daughter Sandy (Laurence), son Farid (Selena) and grandchildren; Jasper, Lucas, and Jordan.


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