Government Regulates Herbal Practioners

Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, c. 1334 copy in A...

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New Regulations for Herbal Practioners

Herbal medicine has long been a thorn in the flesh of pharmaceutical companies, watching potential clients turn away from drugs, with their many adverse side effects, and choosing to be treated in traditional ways.

However, there was not doubt that many very dubious herbal remedies were to be found on the Internet, and in back-street shops.  Some were even dangerous, and with no regulation customers had no way of ensuring what they were buying was safe.

Recently the EU – aided and encouraged by pharmaceutical companies – has been looking into banning these products.

But what the pharma companies proposed would have seen many reputable herbal remedies banned under a blanket ban, together with remedies with no proven record, but which did no-one any harm, and made some customers happy.

In a bid to outlaw some of the dubious herbal remedies floating around on the internet, the Government announced the introduction of statutory regulation of herbal practitioners in the UK.   Without this new regulation their practices would be outlawed from 1st May.

Statutory Regulations

The new College of Medicine welcomed the announcement that practitioners of herbal medicine are to be statutorily regulated.  It believes that statutory regulation is vital, if UK herbal practitioners are to continue to practise and prescribe in compliance with new EU regulations.

This decision will ensure good practice, and the provision of safe products for the thousands of patients who visit herbal practitioners every year.

The register will be administered by the Health Professions Council, the independent statutory body that ensures practitioners meet proper standards of qualifications, training, professional skills and conduct.

The move to statutory regulation of this sector is in line with the College of Medicine’s aim to develop safe and evidence-based patient choice.  Without statutory regulation, the use of traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda or other types of herbal medicine could have been effectively outlawed once the new EU Traditional Herbal Directive comes into force.

“The Government has put the safety and interests of patients first. This is essential if the UK is to provide safe and evidence-based healthcare choices.” said College of Medicine Chairman, Dr Michael Dixon.

Professor George Lewith, College of Medicine Vice Chair and Professor of Health Research at Southampton University, said: “Evidence for the efficacy of herbal medicines is growing; they may offer cheap, safe and effective approaches for many common complaints. The College of Medicine values this pluralistic approach to care”.

Kaye McIntosh, College of Medicine Vice Chair and Acting Chair of its Patients’ Council, said: “Without statutory regulation many herbal practitioners in the UK would have been unable to continue practising and thousands of patients would be unable to make the choice to use herbal treatments. Statutory regulation of this sector is clearly the best way to ensure the safe provision of herbal practice.”

Today’s announcement is a result of Government research and public consultation over the last decade.

“This announcement has been a long time coming, so it is now essential that the HPC moves forward as fast as possible with statutory regulation. The College would like to see swift, thoughtful and robust regulation that protects the public from adulterated products, encourages the safe practice of herbal medicine and enables the development of the profession.” said Professor Lewith.


The College of Medicine is an alliance of doctors, nurses, health professionals and scientists. Eventually patients will also be involved, as it is committed to patient centred medicine; and to improving the health, wellbeing and care of individual patients and local populations.

Statutory regulation of herbal practitioners has had the backing of a report from the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee and two independently chaired Department of Health working parties under Professor Michael Portillo. Following the publication of the last report in 2008, the Government ran a public consultation that elicited over 6,000 responses, the majority of which favoured this Government initiative.

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