In The News

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Latest Herb News Stories

Welcome to 'In The News' a new feature where we take a look at news stories and articles in the news. Different people will give their views on current news stories and media articles periodically. If you wish to share your views on this article or share any herbal news stories then you can do so via our Forum.
Government Wants Your Views On The 'Regulation of Herbalists' - September 2009

In 1941 the wartime government in the UK passed, almost overnight, the Pharmacy Act which restricted public access to common herbal remedies. The Founder of the Herb Society, Hilda Leyel was an active campaigner against this law, but it took 27 years and a lot of hard work to get the rights restored. The right to access a full range of herbal medicines is once again threatened. If people act now, they can voice their opinion and prevent the same thing happening, before it's too late.

The Government’s Department of Health launched a public consultation document on 3rd August 2009 regarding whether, and if so, how, the regulation of practitioners of acupuncture, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine should be achieved.
Hilda Leyel

At present, there is no statutory regulation of practitioners who offer these therapies in the UK. It is critically important to the future of herbal medicine that you respond to this consultation if you want to have continued access to a wide range of herbs in the UK. Your opinion matters as the decision by the Government to go ahead with regulation will depend on this consultation process. The decision will be based on the likely risk of harm to patients and the public of not going ahead with regulation and whether there are any other means to avoid or reduce this risk. The deadline for individuals to respond to the consultation document is 2nd November 2009.

Ann Walker, Herb Society Council member and Herbal Practitioner is particularly concerned: “This is a very important consultation because, without regulation, herbalists will not have access to most of the herbs they now use on a day-to-day basis. As I find in my clinic, patients benefit greatly from prescribed herbal medicine, and it is particularly helpful for those conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) where modern medicine fails. In the Herb Society’s Herbs Magazine I write regular case-study features, which illustrate how natural medicine can be used to good effect for a wide range of conditions. Already, detractors opposed to any use of herbal medicine are campaigning to stop the regulation of herbalists going through, because they consider that this will legitimise a profession that they consider bogus. This opinion is held strongly by a powerful lobby group, despite a large and growing evidence-base which supports the efficacy of many herbal remedies for a wide range of conditions. The detractors will respond to this Consultation, so anyone who wants to maintain access to the current range of herbs should respond too.”

Ann continues: “Without the regulation of herbalists going forward, and with new EU legislation (Traditional Herbal Registration) on over-the-counter herbal products coming into effect in 2011, we will be lost. From that time consumers will only have access to herbal products which carry the THR logo. Although these products are increasing, they account for less than 20 key herbs - a fraction of the range of herbs used by herbal practitioners.“

With regulation the public will have access to the current wide range of herbs through herbal practitioners. Without regulation, herbalists will have no further rights to use most herbs than any other member of the public. I urge all members of the Herb Society to support the regulation of practitioners in this consultation and to respond to the government’s request for comment.”

Respond on:

Codex Alimentarius - Threat To The UK? - August 2009

There has been a lot of discussion on the Herb Society Forum over the past few months re Codex Alimentarius and the effect it will have in the UK, we approached Peter Conway, current President of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy who clarified the Codex pronouncements for us re herbs in the UK.

" The Codex Alimentarius was set up in 1963 by the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. It develops guidelines, codes of practice, benchmarks, standards, etc with relation to food. It does some really important work (such as setting international standards around infant formulas and it is currently working on acrylamide - a carcinogen - content in foods like crisps and chips).
It offers guidelines but has no powers to make its advice mandatory in any country - individual nations may choose to base their own policy on Codex policies however.

The recent concern expressed regarding the influence of the Codex on herbs in the UK appears to be unfounded. Codex advice is irrelevant where countries have already set standards that meet or exceed Codex advice - in the UK the Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicines obviates any need to follow any policies that might be proposed by the Codex. The UK Government is represented at Codex by the Food Standards Agency. The Code does not appear to pose any current threat to the availability of traditional medicines in the UK.

There is a rumour circulating that Codex will come into force on December 31st 2009. This rumour is incorrect. This date actually represents one of many implementation dates of the European Food Supplements Directive and is nothing directly to do with Codex. There is an excellent article on the Alliance For Natural Health website on the Misinformation about Codex that people may find interesting.

Herb Society Denounces Attack On Duchy Original Products'
March 2009

The Herb Society is astonished by the attack on the Prince of Wales's Duchy range of detox products as 'quackery' by Professor Ernst of the Peninsula Medical School.

Professor Ernst has a history of looking for sound evidence-base in herbal medicine, but must know that it is only pharmaceutical companies who have the multi-million pound budgets to complete double-blind crossover clinical trials. Also that these cannot be performed on multi-ingredient remedies. However, under the Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive of the EU, herbal products will be accepted for sale provided they have evidence of thirty years of safe use within the Community. It is untrue that dandelion and artichoke have 'no evidence' attached to them; they have prolonged evidence of community use as diuretic remedies and must demonstrate this by law by 2011 to be called medicines.

The Herb Society welcomes the fact that dandelion, as a profuse weed, and artichoke, as a herb which can be cultivated, do not pose a conservation threat to wild flora. In the Society's opinion, the threat to biodiversity and livelihoods engendered by over-collecting threatened species abroad is a much more serious threat and one which is more worthy of the professor's attention.

Sue Minter, Chair, The Herb Society

- ENDS -

Notes to editors: The Herb Society is the educational charity devoted to the promotion of herbs for the preservation of the health of the community in the UK.

The Herb Society
Contact: Sue Minter 01752 331244

‘Cancer fear over herb used to help relieve hot flushes' Daily Mail Monday November 10th 2008

Jenny Jones FNIMH gives her response...

A report in today's Daily Mail casts doubt on the safety of Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) used by women to reduce menopausal symptoms.

The report suggested that the herb should be avoided completely because of its links to the development of breast cancer. Researchers writing in the journal ‘Cancer Research’ reported that trials on transgenic mice showed that Black cohosh increases the risk of breast cancer metastasising and spreading to the lungs.

This lead to the statement, ‘These results suggest caution for Black cohosh use in women with or without breast cancer’.
Black Cohosh

Leaving aside the ongoing discussion about the relevance of the animal model being used in medical research, a look at the research tells a different story.

In the trial, mice without induced breast cancer where found not to be effected by Black cohosh as the statement below, taken from the abstract, shows;

‘Using an adjusted dose for the mice to correlate to the recommended dose in women (40 mg/d), no differences were detected in the incidence or onset of mammary tumours in Black cohosh–treated versus control females. The lack of effect on mammary tumour development suggests that Black cohosh would not influence breast cancer risk if given to women before tumour formation’.

So, if you don’t have breast cancer there is no reason to suspect that the herb will induce it, and you can try it with confidence.

If you are recovering or suffering from breast cancer there is more reason to be careful, particularly if you have the HER2 type cancer. Self medication by people suffering from serious conditions of any kind is a risk, and a consultation with an experienced therapist is always the way forward in these circumstances. Practitioners keep up to date with research such as this and for some time have been cautious with Black Cohosh for women who have had or have breast cancer. There is no firm research to suggest a problem, but Black cohosh has a reputation for aiding eostrogen formation in the body, a useful action in the menopause but perhaps a contra-indication if you suffer from an eostrogen dependent tumour.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to suffer the symptoms of the menopause - practitioners have other herbs that they can use safely to help you cope.

Jenny Jones FNIMH

‘Are health remedies too good to be true?' Daily Mail Tuesday January 22nd 2008

Jenny Jones FNIMH gives her response....

Tuesday’s Daily Mail published extracts from Rose Shapiro’s book ‘ Suckers: How Alternative Medicine makes Fools of us All'. Although it takes a predictable and mainly unsubstantiated stance on the perils of all alternative therapies, I thought I would comment on her section on herbal medicines.

The usual suspects are paraded before the reader as examples of unsafe herbs. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), Gingko (Gingko biloba) and St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) all appear in the article as herbs that have little effect on health whilst having dangerous side-effects.
St Johns Wort

Comfrey was investigated a decade ago for its possible liver cancer effects. To do the investigation, alkaloids were extracted from the comfrey then fed to rats in amounts that would not have been consumed under normal circumstances. As you can see, this research in no way mimicked the traditional use of comfrey in humans, where the whole herb is taken and in small amounts. Since the research was released medical herbalists have had an informal agreement that comfrey root will only be used externally, and the leaf, that contains hardly any alkaloid, to be used as a tea. To this day research has never shown that comfrey is dangerous to humans if taken as a traditional preparation and in traditional doses.

Lobelia and Gingko both have definite and positive effects on their target systems (lobelia on respiration and gingko on the circulation) and in doing so it is extrapolated that they may interfere with orthodox medicines being taken alongside the herbs. In clinical practice no problems have been observed and nothing is recorded in the literature of historical use to suggest serious side-effects occur. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) list both herbs on their website without any listed side-effects. However, Lobelia is an herb that needs to be taken under professional guidance as the dosage is important for its safe use.

St Johns wort has been shown to be as effective as orthodox anti-depressants for treating mild to moderate depression, and the research states that this is without causing any of the side-effects associated with orthodox medication for this disorder. However, it is metabolised by the liver using the same pathways as a lot of orthodox drugs. For most drugs this isn’t significant, but for some powerful orthodox drugs it can have the effect of potentiating or reducing the therapeutic effect. St John wort over-the-counter products carry the advice to seek professional guidance if you are taking orthodox medicines and want to combine them with medicines from your general practitioner.

This is sound advice for anyone with a pre-existing serious medical condition or for those who are taking orthodox drugs. Medical Herbalists are well aware of the precautions that need to be taken in such circumstances and are able to prescribe a medication suitable for a person’s individual needs. They can work with your orthodox treatment so that you can benefit from both, whilst liaise with your general practitioner as your treatment progresses.

Herb Society members may be interested in an article by Adrian McDermott a medical herbalist, that appeared in Herbs Vol 25 No 2 2000 entitled 'St John's Wort - A Herbalists Perspective'.

Jenny Jones FNIMH


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