Herbal Safety: Status of Medical Herbalism
"Statutory regulation of Herbalists has had unequivocal backing from the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee as well as two Department of Health Committees. It has been the subject of two public consultations, the last attracting over 6000 responses – by far the majority of which favoured such regulation.
Statutory regulation of this sector will enable regulated herbal practitioners to deliver high quality herbal treatment in conjunction with other health care professionals. The legislation will support safe and professional practice so that the thousands of patients who consult herbalists every year can be assured about the standards of training and practice of the practitioners they see."
Desiree Shelley, President of NIMH precisely said: “The Government is to be congratulated on making the right decision to bring in statutory regulation for all those prescribing herbal medicines. Ministers have clearly recognised that this legislation is for patients’ benefit. The National Institute of Medical Herbalists looks forward to working with the Department of Health and Health Professions Council to implement this as soon as possible.”
Link to Dept of Health extensive Public Consultation Report
The medical establishment sought to overturn this right in the XIX century. The National Association of Herbal Medicines first campaigned to retain the right to practice in 1986 and won the Medical Herbalists Registration Bill in 1923. This legal status was withdrawn in the 1960s, due to new regulations licensing drugs. In 1941, the UK Parliament passed the Pharmacy Act, which banned the practice of Herbalism for almost 30 years.
In 1970, Fred Fletcher Hyde, President of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists negotiated to oversee the Committee on Prescription Only Medicines in defining the “Herbalist”, Clause 56 of the 1968 Medicines Act. The Herbalist was defined as “One who exercises his judgement as to the treatment required and accepts legal responsibility for his actions”.
In 1999, Yvette Cooper, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, proposed that Herbalists be granted Statutory Self-Regulation (SSR). In 2000, the House of Lord Select Committe published a Report, which began the process of negotiating the conditions for SSR, initially approved by the British Medical Association (BMA) and finally approved by the Health Secretary on 12 April 2011.
Unfortunately the government promise of statutory regulation was never upheld and professional organisations of herbalsits are actively working towards voluntary self regulation and methods to control purity and high standards of herbal medicines sold by small traders.