/ Health

What’s all the hoo-ha about herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine bottles

If you’re partial to using herbal remedies to keep you in good health, you may soon find it hard to get served, thanks to new regulations. Is this the best way forward or should we make up our own minds?

There’s a storm brewing in the world of herbal medicines.

If you’re among the one in four who’ve used a herbal remedy in the last two years, you may regard products containing St John’s Wort or echinacea as almost part of the mainstream medicine cabinet.

But under EU law such products will have to be licensed by The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) from May 1.

The regulator will be looking for good scientific evidence that they are high quality and safe. Otherwise, they need to be prescribed by a herbal practitioner on a register being planned by the Health Professions Council.

Critics argue that the licensing is necessary and will make sure ineffective, or even dangerous, products won’t be on the market. Whereas advocates say many people gain a lot from these herbal medicines, and expensive license fees will squeeze small suppliers out of the market.

And there’s further furore about registered practitioners being able to supply unlicensed products, a government decision which some believe amounts to an unwarranted legitimacy on unlicensed products.

Do you think it’s about time herbal medicines had to prove their worth or be taken off the shelves, and what do you think about registered practitioners selling unlicensed products?


Herbal remedies that work are called “Medicine”

Other effective herbal remedies are called “Illicit substances” because apparently you are not allowed to enjoy them.

Everything else is just a con that relies on the placebo effect. If you believe something enough, your mind makes it happen.


‘Herbal remedies that work are called “Medicine”’ – Nice little Tim Minchin reference – he’s having his stand up discussion on herbal medicines (and other topics) made into a cartoon movie. Here’s the trailer featuring the reference:

Sophie Gilbert says:
3 March 2011

Do you think it’s about time herbal medicines had to prove their worth? For the most part they already have! See quinine. Herbalism is another word for chemistry.

Should they be taken off the shelves? Those that have been proved not to work, yes! Those sold in the wrong doses, ie too feeble to have any effect or too strong so that they are dangerous, yes! Those made by unlicensed companies, who may put cooking oil in the capsule instead of peppermint oil for all we know, yes!

What do you think about registered practitioners selling unlicensed products? Fine them when caught, and close down recidivists.

Let us be protected not by taking good things away from us, but by keeping an eye on them for us.

JP says:
4 March 2011

Your report isn’t actually correct. To get a traditional herbal registration products only have to show they are of consistent quality, safe and manufactured to high standards. They do NOT have to prove efficacy, ie that they work!


Thank you for your post and your interest – your point is gladly taken, of course, and a change made accordingly. I wonder if I could encourage you to elaborate on your views on the sale of these products?


When is a herb a food and when is it a medicine?

Many of the herbal remedies can be grown in your garden or picked from the wild. I have a www site listing many wild food plants – http://www.torrens.org.uk/FFF/

A herbal remedy is usually useful only because something is missing from the diet.

raimondas says:
21 March 2011

another they to make money.greedy bustards want more and more.i decide what i must to eat and what medicine i must to use.

Diana Price says:
28 April 2011

Herbal medicines, made by the right people and research is vital, do we really want to encourage the drug giants, no, they make too much money as it is!!
Give us all freedom of choice,,please………………………………..

Shell says:
4 May 2011

If ther’re that concerned a government warning if they must
on all unlegislated products to remind people of the possible risks and pitfuls (i’ve yet to come accross). Just like they put on cigarettes and alcohol but in the right context of course will surely less infringement of our rights?