Europe, UK Wrap Herbs in Red Tape

In 2004, the European Union enacted Directive 2004/24/EC*, relating to the regulation of traditional herbal medicinal products.  The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, (or ‘THMPD’, which I always seem to read as ‘Thumped’ in my brain…) will take full effect on 30 April this year.  This change in law will subtly affect those of us who purchase herbal remedies.  Herbalists will now have to be registered, together with the medicines that they dispense, and this means it will no longer be possible to pop into a Chinese Herbalists and buy a bottle of strange-named something to get you through; instead certain remedies will only be available on prescription from registered practitioners.

The Medicinal Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is a Government department which is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are safe.  Products are registered with them in an expensive and time consuming process.  Modern herbs which cannot show the required 30 years of traditional use (15 of which must be in the EU) will now not be sold on the basis of this new legislation.

All herbal medicines sold over the counter will need to be approved and registered by the MHRA, which should mean an end to unlicenced and potentially dangerous substances being marketed and sold as medicines.  As more herbal medicines undergo clinical trials (or registration under the simplified ‘traditional use’ registration process) to ensure their effectiveness, GP’s will be able to prescribe them to patients as alternatives to pharmaceutical popular choices.  Medicines registered under the THMPD will be marked with a ‘THR’ logo and brand marking.  As the ‘Your Right to Choose Your Medicine‘ campaign site points out, this will provide assurance that the remedy is safe, but does not guarantee effectiveness.

The down side is that the clinical trials and registration will cost money.  To date, not a single Chinese or Ayurvedic blend has made it to the registered lists.  The Alliance for Natural Health International is mounting a legal challenge to the EU directive, saying that Chinese and Ayurvedic blends do not fit into the new system (the legislation appears to specifically exclude blended remedies from registration).

So, discussion time: do you already purchase herbal remedies from a herbailst practitioner?  Will you continue to do so after the registration comes into full effect, or will you simply purchase your supplies over the internet?  Do you think that the registration requirement is too draconian, and if so, would you propose a different system of regulation?  Or do you think that the new rules are a welcome safeguard for patients?

[* Click HERE for the full text of the Directive – and good luck to you.]


4 thoughts on “Europe, UK Wrap Herbs in Red Tape

  1. I don’t get anything from a herbalist…however I do on occasion use herbs myself. I won’t cease doing this….the pharmaceutical companies get enough profit from us, they shouldn’t fear those who go natrual. Next they will be telling us that we can’t grow our own food….ffs….grrr

  2. I’m probably being thick here, but I’m still not etirely clear:

    So a jar of snake oil might be made illegal to sell in the EU because the multinationals want to stitch-up the remedies market for themselves. But will this mean that I’m unable to continue to purchase basic herbs for my own use (i.e. sold ‘as is’ without any promise of medicinal value).

    For example: Can I still place a UK-based mail order for dried vervain, eyebright, wormwood, etc? Yes, I might use them for my own medicianal purposes, but also for making incense…

    Can someone clarify or I might be putting in an extremely large order with Star Child before midnight tonight…

    Herbfully yours,

    • Hi Ian,
      I think that your mail order is safe for now 🙂 From what I can understand (I work in law and it’s not very clear to me…) it’s the herbalists on the high street who are being asked to register for now. The medicines and remedies they sell are being regulated, so you should be safe enough purchasing the ones you mention. I think that the shops which do sell remedies over the counter can use up their existing stocks, but you can still mail order for stuff.
      Lestways that’s how I read it….


  3. Thanks Amalasuntha,

    So they’ll be able to sell the raw materials, but not with any promise of medical benefits…so if you have your own copy of Mrs Greives’ Herbal all’s hopefully good?

    I’ve written to my MEP asking for further clarification – keep you posted.

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