The present situation regarding medical herbalists being allowed to practise their profession is not straightforward. At the moment anyone can give themselves this title and set up in practice without needing to pass any exams or have even done any studying or hold any insurance. However, if you have qualified in the study you are subject to a number of rules and regulations (quite sensible ones I hasten to add )by whichever herbal governing body you are a member of. Over the past number of years we have been moving towards a government based statuatory self regulation. This has proved to be a thorny subject. Like most situations in life, there are for's and against's. Whilst it would stop those who were unqualified from practise and therefore afford the public more safety, it would also have the potential to stop the use of a large number of herbs.The whole is wrapped round in a number of complex issues. Some herbalists welcome this change whilst others are absolutly opposed to it. The majority,in which I include myself, are sitting on the fence and see that it could have some benefits but at what cost.In my opinion I think that this law could be ultimately used as a weapon against herbal medicine.
One arguement used by those in favour of these new changes say that if we are not part of the self regulations, then the govt. will impose it on us and so by agreeing to it we will have some input and protection. Others may see it as putting the noose around our own necks.
As you can imagine, feelings are running high. A petition has been set up by a group who do not want to go along this route. For more info on this subject and to sign the petition if you wish, go to
Although in the points raised there, I disagree that "many " hebalists would be forced to practise illegally as they wouldn't agree to become part of this new body. Some wouldn't, but I think the majority will, although reluctantly, from the conversations I have had with colleagues. My decision is that I will not be signing the petition. So far discussion seems to have really only taken place within the herbal groups themselves, but it should be out in the public arena with all facts known. After all, we pratitioners need to know what our patients and potential patients feel about this matter.
Thanks Linda for letting everyone know about the petition, as you say it is important that these issues are discussed as broadly as possible and everyone given the chance to voice their opinions.
I'd just like to add that although in the beginning the process, discussion and proposals were for self statutory regulation (SSR) they no longer are. The proposals now are those for SR - state regulation. Also previously state regulation was going to protect the title of 'herbalist' or such like, now it is proposed in the recent steering group report (June '08) that function will be protected, the act of being a herbalist.
Re: herbal medicine petition
April 14 2009, 8:38 AM
No, I was not aware of these changes. Thank you for letting us know about it. I have found in the past that stories circulate regarding " whats happening next " only for them to turn out to be incorrect. So I have found myself switching off at times as I was constantly getting steamed up about something that wasn't true. It is good to hear from yourself who can point us in the right track. Please let us know about any other changes.
Re: herbal medicine petition
April 14 2009, 11:35 AM
Thank you so much for that info. I've been pestering herbalists for news for the last couple of years and a surprising number aren't even aware that anything is happening.
Although, like you, I can see several benefits to some kind of regulation, there are a few issues that really bother me if I've understood what's happening correctly.
The first is a question of freedom for the patient. I believe it's important that individuals have the opportunity to choose a system of healthcare that suits them and this regulation would be very biased towards clinical herbal medicine, possibly at the expense of a variety of other methods of practise. Whilst I personally support the clinical aspect, I'm aware that many believe it not to be compatible with, say, a more spiritual approach as some prefer. I've spent a good deal of time researching the 7 professional herbal medicine courses I'm aware of in the UK and I've noticed that several are becoming less and less personal as regards the herbs being used. More and more herbalists are being trained to buy in their materials with very little personal experience of growing or processing them.
Which leads me to my second and rather greater concern. If I've understood new legislation correctly, herbal medicines will now require a licence which I don't have a problem with in itself. However, to obtain a licence, a producer would need to perform tests which prove a plant contains adequate quantities of the most important active constituents. Not only will this prevent private practitioners from producing their own remedies (a personal touch many patients consider more beneficial), but presumably, large scale producers would naturally begin selecting out plants which are most likely to pass the required tests.
Any one medicinal plant can contain 100's of constituents of which we understand only a tiny fraction. And even where we might recognise perhaps 80 constituents as being of value in some way, we typically focus on only 4 or 5. Surely selecting plants for these 4 or 5 constituents would begin to see the loss, over a period or time, of many other potentially valuable substances and dramatically reduce the medicinal value of a population of plants
I doubt I'd be alone in saying that I prefer herbal medicine because it leaves the science to the plant itself which produces a holistic effect many humans are simply too reductionist to comprehend. All I can see is that this legislation will eventually lead to the gradual deterioration of plant populations being used to produce herbal medicines in this country. At the same time, more and more focus will be placed upon the value of those 5 constituents considered to be of greatest benefit until we end up with a complimentary therapy system that looks remarkably similar to the aspirin tablets we can already buy at the chemists.
Surely the aim isn't to make herbal medicine as similar to conventional medicine as it's possible to? I'm all for clinical training of herbalists, but I believe it's going too far when some universities no longer teach things like constitutional diagnosis - this is clinical at the expense of holism.
And although I am aware of the safety issues that really do need to be addressed, it has to be agreed that a good number of problems are exclusive to over-the-counter remedies being taken by consumers who assume all plants are safe. There's at least one generation out there now that doesn't even know it shouldn't eat green potatoes. Sometimes a Darwin Award is more appropriate than a new piece of legislation.
Do tell me if I've misunderstood what's going on though.
Re: herbal medicine petition
April 14 2009, 5:02 PM
As far as I understand it, the Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive will affect over-the-counter sales rather than practitioners. Practitioners can still make their own medicine and buy in tinctures or dried herbs if they wish, as long as they provide them directly to patients. The small companies which make herbal medicines shouldn't be affected either because they are not making any medicinal claims for their product - and they don't need to if they are selling to practitioners who know how to use them. In fact, it may well be good for practitioners because people will have come to Herbalists for herbal medicines rather than Chemists.
Regulation is a whole nother ball game. I understand the reaction against regulation and I do have concerns about it myself. To me, Herbal Medicine has always been the medicine of the people but I now find myself in a position where I am about to go into private practice. Not something which sits well with my socialist upbringing. It has been said that regulation will take herbal medicine away from the people and that, at the moment, it freely accessible to those who wish to use it. Its not. Its freely accessable to those who have put the effort into learning how to use it. For everyone else it is accessable only to those that can afford it. Earlier this year there was a discussion on this forum involving a woman who was unemployed and found she couldnt access herbal medicine because it is not available on the NHS. For Herbal Medicine to be accessed via the NHS, some form of regulation which meets their criteria is neccesary. I think there is a middle ground which does not outlaw the lay Herbalist but provides professional registration for those who want it. Whether that will be achieved or not...?
April 21 2009, 10:45 AM
Is there any chance someone could point me to where I can read the most recent legislation proposals for myself? I'm finding lots of contradicting perceptions on what this legislation will do and I think I may be grossly out of date by now.
herbal medicine petition
May 21 2009, 3:58 PM
The most recent proposals for legislation regarding herbalists and changes to the Medicines Act can be found in the Statutory Regulatory Workin Groups Report, June 2008 on the EHTPA website.
Other sources of information include, MHRA, Tha Alliance for Natural Health and Dr Rath Foundation.
Hope this helps.
May 22 2009, 8:22 AM
What an interesting thread -I know quite a few herbalists that will be practising illegally if SR comes through some simply will not be able to afford it! I have signed the petition but I practise without insurance and am not a fully qualified medical herbalist -this was a choice after completing all but 20 clinical hrs of my degree at middlesex. I now practise as a Green Witch Herbalist and see patients on a sliding scale some come for free or bartering others pay and all are aware of my lack of insurance. I grow and make my own remedies and sell theses to the public on a stall often writting exactely what they are for on the bottle because I believe people need to know.
I have been contacting lawyers and have had many disscussions with other herbalists about the way to proceed and informing the public fully is the way we have choosen to go on. We often tell people that are products are illegal but theyt are still happy to buy them....
I respect all other herbalist and their choices -Herbal medicine is the peoples medicine and it will not be restricted. Some herbalists I know in the States now have set up as a Religion because in their constitution there is total freedom of expression in Religion hence they get around the laws so that is some thing we are also looking at.
Whilst I like the idea of intergration I wouldn't like to work in the NHS framework personally but we are involved in a long term project of creating a funded Herbal Hospital and Birthing Centre where orthodox disciplines would be welcome to get invovled -this is in its fetal stage so all collaboration of ideas but many health care professionals are excited and agree there is a real need.
Herbal medicine is a broad church with diverse practitioners some very clinical using lab diagnostic techniques others dowse. Some using herbs from across the globe others using whats in their gardens, in my opinion its too broad to put under one small umbrella.
love Karen x
Re: herbal medicine petition
May 22 2009, 5:37 PM
I like the way you look at it from a different angle i.e. "heres our hospital, you're welcome to get involved" rather than "can we please come along and be involved in your hospital"...
I had thought a while back that maybe setting up a charity or something would be a way to fund free herbal medicine but I never got round to thinking it fully through (exams and what not). How are you going to go about funding your hospital? It sounds like a very interesting project.
Funding the project
May 23 2009, 8:43 PM
We are having an open meeting at my place in Herts on the 1st of November -This project is an idea at the moment that we have began drawing plans for but this meeting shall be the beginning of the formal organised project -so firstly we have to form a team and then look at funding pockets to apply for.....
But a birthing unit - Yoga/Tai chi rehab centre -research centre for herbal treatments, library and training space are all individual aspects that different people want to head....
Everyone is welcome to the meeting.
Re: herbal medicine petition
May 26 2009, 7:48 PM
As a reflexologist of nearly 15 years I thoroughly sympathise as I have watched the arguments and debate within my own modality. Regulation does not protect the public. The more rules and laws that exist, the less personal responsibility we have to take. On both these counts, dare I mention MP's and expenses as an example!! Those who want to break the law will always break the law regardless.
With regard to the point on training - I have deferred training professionally as a herbalist as most of the courses I have looked at have moved towards a much more 'medical' or clinical herbalism, whch I do not want. I have seen the effect of this on reflexology and the reams of extra A&P and rules re WHAT we can and cannot treat and HOW we can and cannot treat.
Personally I have dropped out of the 'system' and practise quietly of my own accord - but I am lucky to have lots of wonderful clients.
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