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Herbal prohibition

MagazineDecember 1994 (Vol. 5 Issue 9)Herbal prohibition

Right under our noses, the British government is quietly planning a measure that will virtually destroy an entire wing of alternative medicine and severely limit your right to choose your own treatment, even among some of the most benign tried and te

Right under our noses, the British government is quietly planning a measure that will virtually destroy an entire wing of alternative medicine and severely limit your right to choose your own treatment, even among some of the most benign tried and te

On 21 September, UK Department of Health officials met with members of the herbal medicine industry to announce that that Section 12 of the 1968 Medicines Act was out of line with the European Directive (65/65), and that the two needed to be harmonized by the beginning of 1995. The impetus is also the arrival in London of the new European Medicines Evaluation Agency, which will be responsible for overseeing the use of all medicines in Europe as from 1 January.

Consequently, the DoH said that they would be asking Parliament to immediately repeal Section 12 of the Medicines Act, which specifically allows herbal practitioners and companies to supply herbal medicines without a medicines' licence.

If the DoH's wish becomes law, as from January 1, all processed, industrially produced herbal medicines (ie, anything other than what your herbal practitioner grows in his garden or mixes himself) will require a medicines' licence.

"While this means that herbal practitioners can still buy dried or fresh herbs from suppliers, but processed herbs including homeopathic tinctures, pills, concentrates, capsules and ointments would all require a licence if sold by a herbal company to a practitioner," says Michael McIntyre, chairman of The Herbal Practitioner Alliance.

What this means, in practice, of course, is that many of these processed preparations will disappear. A medicine's licence designed for highly lucrative orthodox drugs costs lb84,000 in administration fees alone. This interpretation of the EC Directive also may mean more bootleg operations, as many herbalists attempt to replicate in their kitchens the kind of preparations they used to be able to buy.

As for you and I, it means that tea tree ointment, medicinal camomile, even garlic pills will be forever wiped off our health food shelves.

According to the HPA, in no other European country is the new EC Directive being so stringently interpreted. Germany, for instance, with its thriving herbal business, has given the herb trade a 10 year stay of execution, before applying EC legislation. In other countries, special legislation is being passed to accommodate the peculiar needs of traditional medicines. In early October, the US government voted to allow herbs and vitamins to be sold freely in the US (thus effectively squashing attempts at restrictive legislation).

The UK government will be able to get away with this, unless you act now to stop the legislation from being passed (remember you only have a month to do so). Visit your GP and write your MP today, pointing out that your right to obtain herbal remedies is being threatened, and that you wish to have proper regulation, not prohibition. A well organized group of nutritionists recently prevented the EC from severely restricting vitamin sales through a well organized letter writing campaign. Write your letter today (and tell everyone you know to do the same) and together, we can make a difference.

!ALynne McTaggart


Thuja - for ill effects of anaesthesia

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