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Herbal medicine licence storm

Products will disappear from shelves from 1 May

Herbal Medicine

If you use herbal remedies, new regulations mean that many of your favourites may soon be disappearing from shop shelves.

If you’re among the one in four who’ve used a herbal remedy in the last two years, you may regard products containing St John’s Wort or Echinacea as almost part of the mainstream medicine cabinet. But under EU law, from 1 May such products will have to be licensed by The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The regulator will be looking for good scientific evidence that herbal remedies are high quality, safe and work. Otherwise they can only be prescribed by a herbal practitioner on a register being planned by the Health Professions Council.

Differing views

Critics argue that the licensing is necessary and will make sure ineffective, or even dangerous, products won’t be readily available. Whereas advocates say many people gain a lot from these herbal medicines, and expensive licence fees will squeeze small suppliers out of the market.

And there’s further furore about registered practitioners being able to supply unlicensed products, a government decision which some believe amounts to an unwarranted legitimacy on unlicensed products.

Join the debate

Do you think it’s about time herbal medicines had to prove their worth or be taken off the shelves, and what do you think about registered practitioners selling unlicensed products? If you want to comment on this story go to our Which? Conversation post, What’s all the hoo-ha about herbal medicine?

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