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Protect Your Rights To Herbal Medicine from the EU

As the date of the implementation of the EU directive that removes your right to choose herbal medicines draws near, we ask you to read our overview, sign the petition, and pass this article along.

The EU Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products that was agreed in April 2004 is finally going to take its toll from the 1st April this year. The Directive will require traditional, over-the-counter herbal remedies to be made to meet EU regulations to be standardised across Europe. This affects all “finished” herbal products, including pills, capsules, tablets, ointments and mixes of raw herbs, tinctures, granules and powders. While the MHRA (UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) have declared that they will allow systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda to continue, the directive will restrict consumer choice and drive prices higher.

At the moment, many of the herbal products sold in the UK are exempt from licensing. The new regulations will mean that manufacturers have to apply for a license for every product, and each product must comply with the official published standards. The cost to a manufacturer of licensing individual herbal products is prohibitively expensive. While some larger manufacturers may be able to continue production of the most popular products (such as garlic), a great deal of products will disappear because it is not worth the expense of getting lower sellers certified.

The Directive also demands that a traditional herbal medicinal product must be shown to have been in use for 30 years in the EU (or at least 15 years in the EU and 15 years elsewhere) for it to be licensed. While we all know that a vast variety of herbs have been used to treat ailments since the dawn of time, the use of certain single herbs can be hard to prove. And while some traditional herbal medicines that were in common use more than 30 years ago have since fallen into disuse, other valid herbs such as Peruvian cat’s claw has only been recently specified. In both of these cases, the product would not be licensed.

Aside from the practical difficulties that this directive causes anybody interested in herbal health treatments, there are two scary precedents being set here. Firstly, the EU seems to be becoming a model for applying more strict rules around the world. This unelected body is interfering the rights of populations across the world. Secondly, the directive is clearly not in the interest of public health. A growing problem in western culture is the lack of willingness to take responsibility for one’s own health. Another problem is the growing dependence on pharmaceuticals. It’s safe to say that the people that this directive will affect are of the minority who do seek better health through natural means. If everybody took an active role in their health, the public health bill would be much smaller. Instead of being encouraged, our freedoms are being restricted.

If you are a natural healthcare practitioner; a member of the public who uses herbal preparations (Echinacea, Garlic, Ginseng, St. John’s Wort and so on); or a member of the public simply interested in protecting your rights, we would like to urge you to sign this petition.

Further Reading

  • You can find the regulations for the implementation of this Directive in the UK by clicking here.
  • Read Dr. Robert Verkerk’s assertion that legal action is needed to stop regulators’ abuse of power over the public’s access to natural medicine in the US and Europe. Click here for a summary which links to a downloadable pdf of his article. Click here to find the campaign against this legislation, and details of legal action.
  • The use of herbal medicines predates written record, but findings at a 60,000 year old Neanderthal burial site have implied use. In written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and thyme. The Wikipedia page for Herbalism gives some detail on the history of the use of herbs to treat.
  • Support the Alliance for Natural Health, a body working to help promote natural and sustainable healthcare through the use of ‘good science and good law’, while protecting the rights of the public from big business and government interference. You’ll find a list of their campaigns here.

© NutriVital Health Limited 2011