We are a forum of independent herbalists. We are dissociating ourselves from the proposed UK legislation of herbal practitioners and of our
medicines. We believe both to be unnecessary, ill-conceived and contrary to the public interest. We are also dissociating ourselves from the
hierarchical organisation of herbalists from whence we came. We believe the interests of ourselves as individuals and of indigenous herbal
practitioners at large have not been conveyed by those who have sought to represent us: there has been no free and open debate and dissent has often
been ignored or suppressed.
Below is copied a signed Declaration of Intent. We would welcome your opinions on the proposed regulation of herbalists and herbal medicine and whether you support our Declaration of Intent.
DECLARATION OF INTENT
We the undersigned subscribe to the following declaration of intent, to be
offered openly to our patients, our peers, the UK Medicines and Healthcare
products Regulatory Agency, the Department of Health and all other
interested parties, here and abroad:-
It is the inalienable right of all people to use plants for their
sustenance and healing. In the spirit of the European Charter of Human
Rights, so too is it an essential freedom to seek advice from those who
have devoted themselves to the knowledge and application of the
health-giving properties of plants.
Herbal Medicine is the indigenous natural healing tradition of the British
Peoples. It is a living tradition that has adapted and remained relevant
through all times. We count ourselves amongst the custodians of this
living tradition, for the benefit of all who would choose it and for
generations to come.
We conjoin with indigenous traditional healers throughout the world in
seeking to protect our plant heritage and maintain the practice of all
such natural therapies.
It is a maxim that all who care for the sick shall do no harm: our
inheritance is that British practitioners of Traditional Western Herbal
Medicine have upheld this absolutely and without exception for a century
or more, as we determine to continue.
Given that we are safe in the sourcing, preparation and prescription of
herbal medicines, we challenge the need for legislation over and above the
existing laws of the land that we are subject to and willingly uphold.
Herbal Medicine is a humble vocation with a majority of part time
practitioners. We reject the current call for state regulation of its
practitioners in that it may exclude the many from legal practice and
equally place our work beyond the financial resources of many of our
Likewise we reject the current intention to regulate our medicines in that
it will compromise without justification the essential freedoms of the
public, herbal practitioners and their traditional suppliers in favour of
the few who may profit by it.
Herbal Medicine’s enduring strength is that it remains an effective
therapy employing the most basic of technologies with little call on
external resources or agencies. In anticipation of the effects of climate
change we are determined to keep this aspect of our knowledge alive for
ourselves and future generations as an integral element of a healing
Thank you for posting your declaration to our forum. I presume that you have chosen to post to our forum because you are happy to engage in a discussion with other forum users.
As the person responsible for the Herb Society web site, let me set this discussion off. I stress that I am not an expert on the developing herbal legislation.
The question that I would raise is, when I want to consult a herbalist, how can I be sure that the one I choose is capable. Perhaps, in my position as in running the web site, I am rather more cynical than most. the reason for this is that I get lots of requests from people and organisations for them to be listed on our web site with a link to their web site. I can tell you that I have been approached by many quite unsuitable organisations. For example, there are suppliers of correspondence courses that claim that their courses are "fully accredited" and imply that completion of their short course involving no clinical practice and no formal examination will enable those who complete the course to practice as a herbalist. One of the reasons they give for this is that, at present, there are no rules to prevent just anyone setting up as a "practising herbalist".
No doubt, all the signatories of your declaration are competent but how is someone like me to know this. In the absence of some form of accreditation system there is no way that your potential patients will know whether you are capable, have done some Micky-Mouse course or, worse, have no training whatsoever.
So, let me make the following provocative statement to you that you should be defending methods of trying to establish an accreditation system which gains public confidence rather than simply attacking others that are struggling to bring many different factions together to achieve such a system. Would you also advocate that health is a human right and that this means that just anyone can practice as a GP?
I do ask you to respond to this posting and to defend your position.
Declaration of Intent
March 20 2007, 10:55 AM
Thankyou for responding to my email. We have sent the Declaration of Intent
to the Herb Society website as part of our aim to be completely open about
who and what we are and because there are many people who are concerned
about the current proposals.
We are all ex-members of NIMH, who have participated in debate and kept
up-to-date with the route towards regulation of herbalists and herbal
medicines. Our replies to the MHRA discussion papers expand on our concerns
for the future of our Tradition, access to herbal medicines and choice in
healthcare. I will happily forward these documents to anyone who requests them, feel free to distribute them, copy or use them to form a response to the MHRA.
We have not stated that we are against Voluntary regulation or
accreditation. Proposals towards Government Regulation of both our herbal
medicines and herbalists could have dire consequences to peoples access,
choice and the future of our Tradition.
Re: Declaration of Intent
March 20 2007, 1:31 PM
Knowing the wealth of experience and knowledge imbued within the signatories of this declaration and in some small awareness of the agonies they have gone through in reaching the position they have taken, I welcome and applaud the Declaration of Intent.
Parliamentary Question on this very topic
March 20 2007, 4:50 PM
Herbal Medicine: Regulation
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on her plans for the future regulation of herbal practitioners; and what principles will underlie the proposed new regulatory regime. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: A working group has been established to prepare for statutory regulation of herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture practitioners. The working group, chaired by Professor Mike Pittilo, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, has met three times so far and is currently working towards preparing a report to Ministers.
The purpose of statutory regulation is to improve public protection by setting clear standards of training and competence for herbal medicine and acupuncture practitioners. It would also reassure patients that a practitioner they consult is not only suitably qualified, but also competent and up-to-date with developments in practice.
Another Parliamentary Question!
March 22 2007, 1:27 PM
Hansard 21 March 2006
Herbal Medicine: Regulation
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what (a)discussions she has had with and (b)representations she has received from (i) the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and (ii) other relevant public bodies on her plans for the future regulation of herbal practitioners.
Caroline Flint: The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency(MHRA) is an executive agency of the Department. Ministers have had ongoing discussions with them, as with any other part of the Department.
We have received advice from the independent Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee recommending that statutory regulation of the herbal medicine profession be progressed in order to permit effective reform of the arrangements under s12(l) of the Medicines Act 1968 whereby practitioners prepare unlicensed herbal remedies for use in meeting the needs of individual patients.
We have established a working group chaired by Professor Mike Pittilo to look at the practicalities of regulation of acupuncturists, herbal medicine practitioners and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.
We are awaiting the working group's report and in the light of that we will consider next steps for the way forward.
Re: Declaration of Intent
March 22 2007, 8:39 PM
There are two issues raised in this declaration and in the developing legislation. The first concerns the regulation of herbal practitioners and the second concerns the regulation of herbal medicines.
On the first issue, I will repeat the question I touched on in my last posting which is, how does someone like me, a general member of the public, know whether a given herbalist is qualified to the level that I would wish to entrust my health to them? We all know that GPs and medical doctors in general are not perfect but they have had to go through a rigorous training and their performance is subject to external monitoring.
I may be wrong in my next statement and will be happy to be shot down, but, as far as I know, at the present time, anyone can call themselves a herbalist and set up a practice in which they give out herbal medicines and recommend the use of certain herbs.
I find this unsatisfactory. I, as a professional engineer, had to go through years of training and to demonstrate my experience to a professional institution with a royal charter before I could call myself a chartered engineer. And I don't deal directly with the public but with large organisations that make their own checks on me and insist that I work within their own quality systems. I see nothing wrong with that and do not see why something similar should not apply herbalists.
Your declaration, tells what you don't like about current developments but does not say what you would like to see to deal with the issue I raise. I think you need to tell us.
The second issue is on herbal remedies. Again, there are many horror stories about herbal products which contain little or none of the active ingredient and, worse, are seriously contaminated with noxious substances. Yes, I know that the pharmaceutical industry is not perfect but it is regulated.
Your declaration does not tell us how you would propose to control herbal medicines. Again, I think you should tell us.
We all have sympathy for your position. You appear to be very competent people. But, not everyone who claims to be a herbalist is like you.
I am sure that you, like me, would like to see the incompetent herbalists prevented form dealing with the public and the rogue herbal suppliers prevented form selling their products. I cannot see any alternative to achieving this end than regulation, whether it is external regulation of self regulation.
Alternative medicine degrees 'anti-scientific'
March 23 2007, 4:00 PM
There was an article in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph headed “Alternative Medicine degrees ‘anti-scientific’.”
This is opening up another worry as to whether BSc degrees are being devalued. A leading pharmacologist, Prof David Colquhoun of University College London has condemned some of the courses. There are 45 BSc honours degrees in “complementary pseudo-science that are now awarded by 16 universities.” Five of these are offered in homeopathy, which as we all know contains no medicine.
I will just quote one of the degree level exam questions on homeopathy:
“Psorium and Sulphur are Psoric remedies. Discuss the ways in which the symptoms of these remedies reflect their miasmatic nature.”
Incidentally my masseuse, who is a very accomplished masseuse, has a BSC Hon in Human “something or other” from Salford University. She specialises in "angel massage".
When I did my Herbal Medicine course it did have a very rigorous basis in pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, pathology, clinical and differential diagnosis as well as in material medica. I hope that the Herbal Medicine courses can be differentiated from these Mickey Mouse courses.
April 2 2007, 6:20 AM
I have read with great interest the forum responses following the Declaration by the exNIMH members.But is this not the ongoing history of the NIMH since Victorian times?British Herbalists just donot seem to fit well into one organisation.
The biggest upheaval was in the 1930's when the NIMH addressed the point "Are we primarily practitioners of herbal medicine or shopkeepers?" The split led to the formation of the British Herbalists Union[forerunner of the International Register of Medical Herbalists],to which the bulk of the shopkeepers migrated,generally the practitioners stayed with the NIMH,although quite a few of them were also shopkeepers.So here we go again.
Audrey is so right it is really good when consulting a herbal practitioner to know they are well trained,indeed to the NIMH level.Perhaps practitioners of this level should be legally designated as herbal practitioners or consulting medical herbalst to differentiate them from the charming gentleman with a stall in a Lancashire market place,who received training in herbalism by his father and grandfather who is also a herbalist.He may not have the modern medical training of a NIMH member,but he really knows about the medicinal qualties of his products.Barbara Griggs in her book "Green Medicine"dealt with this conundrum.
Turning to regulation of traditional over the counter herbal medicines,surely there is no need for new legislation,unless,of course,the pharmaceutical industry is pushing for it to create a monopoly situation to further inflate their obscene profits.
My concern is not traditional Western herbal medicine,but the so called traditional Chinese medicine with which many British herbalists have formed an unholy alliance.Only last week I watched on BBC News Asian Service[I am in Thailand]the case of a Chinese "doctor" practising in Glasgow who was caught selling plasters containing tiger DNA as a cure for arthritis.It is really important to remember that Chinese remedies touted as herbal often contain raw minerals and dried animal parts.This is where control and legislation is urgently required to prevent these disgusting potions from being sold in Britain.Whenever I pass a Chinese "pharmacy" it makes me sad to see the dried animal parts on sale,especially the harmless little seahorses.
is the forum of the Herb Society (UK), the place to discuss
all aspects of herbs including their uses, cultivation, history, legislation
and much more. Run by and for the Herb Society (UK) and open to anyone to read, but posts will only appear once approved by a moderator.
Please note that the Forum Host and Moderators reserve the right to delete
any entry which is considered to be inappropriate for this forum, its members and the
Herb Society as a whole. IP's of spammers will be blocked.
The Herb Society is not qualified to provide medicinal advice. Useful contacts for such advice can be found on our contacts page. Officers and Council Members of the Herb Society (UK) accept no liability for any harm, damage, or illness arising from the use of plants mentioned or described on this forum.