Herbal remedies get caught up in the MHPRA scandal

The Good Life Letter

Sunday, 29th May 2011 

  • Discover why the Vikings are scared of yeast
  • Why you can and should always trust herbal remedies
  • Is the latest MHPRA directive all wrong?

So the story about the fearless Vikings in Denmark banning Marmite has spread like wildfire over the internet and mainstream media.

In fact it has spread like Marmite on hot toast!

I had to laugh at some of the coverage which showed bewildered members of the Copenhagen public challenged to say why they wanted this yeast extract taken off the shelves.

Many of them hadn't got a clue what they were being asked about!

The prize for this week's 'making a mountain out of a molehill' was the front page of the Guardian in the week making the link between the banning of this 'foreign import' and the enforcement of Denmark's border controls - well they would wouldn't they!

Funny as the story might be it does highlight a growing trend for governments across the globe.  We are seeing more and more legislation being brought in which is dramatically affecting our right to choose, especially in natural health care.

I know many of you highlighted the recent actions of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPRA) who began to enforce the EU traditional medicines directive which was passed in 2004.

For those of you who haven't heard of this, basically from May 1 this year many of the 'traditional' herbal remedies have been outlawed, unless the producer can obtain a license to make it.

The claim is made that with one in four of us taking over the counter herbal medicines (MHPRA survey 2009) there is a need to ensure that they are safe and that the practitioners who prescribe them are trained and registered.

On the other hand there is a very vocal lobby that cites the action as being nothing more than a move to protect the big pharmaceutical companies from a growing threat to their income.

Hmm ... who to believe?

You know me well enough to realise that I am no fan of blue chip greed.

BUT I do see the logic in this legislation. I may be out on a limb here but let me explain my reasoning.

You and I both know that just because something grows in our garden it doesn't mean it's safe to eat. Anyone fancy a little Ragwort salad or even a few juicy ergot spores in your bread?

We also know that not everything is good for everyone, all of the time; for instance, if we have a heart condition we shouldn't overdo the grapefruit, pregnant mums need to go easy on the caffeine and a diet consisting solely of fruit will have the same effect as Pickford's removals on our stomachs!

All that glitters isn't necessarily...

For hundreds of thousands of years people have been digging stuff up, drying herbs, picking fruit, making teas and tinctures and creams and even grinding up rocks to produce health promoting substances, and I for one am a real fan.  There is a huge amount of knowledge out there about natural remedies

But our modern world has become obsessed with and dominated by the miracle of modern science and the drugs which they yield. This has led to the formation of large global companies who are in the business of making money for their shareholders, rather than make medicine to cure us purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

The big boys want to protect their revenue streams and will do all they can to rubbish their competition, which now includes a growing natural health movement.

I don't doubt for an instance that the pharmaceutical lobbyists working in the European Parliament placed a few choice words in democratic ears... maybe they even went further than that, who can say?

But there is another consideration...

If you found out that the nice man telling you to take this powdered herb was selling insurance to old people the previous week would you trust him?  It's easily done in our modern world; people can radically change their careers at the drop of a hat.

Just because some born again Bob Dylan fan feels like celebrating his 70th year by opening a health store and flogging a range of nice herbs doesn't make it a safe practise.

If we accept that these products DO have a powerful impact on our bodies shouldn't we expect the bloke advising us on them to at least have some form of training?

Likewise, the stuff he is selling us needs to have an element of purity to it, it has to be from a verified source and should be safely packaged - that makes sense doesn't it?

The problem is that this kind of common sense is just taken to a level of bureaucracy that can only be achieved by a bunch of duffers in Brussels.

What does it mean though?

Michael McIntyre (no not THAT Michael McIntyre), chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicines Practitioners Association, said: "We are absolutely delighted the Government has now at long last gone for statutory regulation of practitioners, without which patients would lose access to a very wide range of herbal medicines."

So regulation doesn't seem to be too much of a burden to the practitioners (although I can imagine that some of the smaller operators may be concerned)

The consumer should benefit from some controls being applied.  Those who put their products through testing and approval will be able to promote the purity and safety of their produce. 

There will undoubtedly be natural remedies which have been caught up in this law that are inherently safe, and shouldn't have any level of control applied to them. However, I will be happier knowing that some testing is being carried out.

Rest assured that all herbal remedies I stock in my shop conform to the new law. 

Click here to see Herbal Remedies in the Good Life Shop

Yours, as always







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