31/12/2010 10:12 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Will Your Favourite Herbal Remedy Be Banned?

Skullcap is one of the herbs under threat Skullcap remedies are under threat. Photo: MorgueFile, OldGreySeaWolf

If you're a fan of herbal remedies, next year could see your favourite products banned from health store shelves thanks to new EU regulations. Many herbs including ashwagandha (taken for boosting the immune system), meadowsweet (headaches) and skullcap (headaches and pain relief) are all under threat, as the May 1, 2011 deadline approaches.

In 2004 the EU passed a directive that meant all traditional herbal medicines had to be licensed before they could be sold to the public. Makers of herbal medicines have had to meet stringent safety and quality requirements to get their medicines licensed - but many have failed to even apply, claiming that it's just too expensive for small businesses.

As a result, the only way you'll be able to get many herbal medicines from next May is to consult a herbal practitioner. Only practitioners who are properly registered, however, will be able to prescribe herbal remedies, with an estimated 2,500 unregistered herbalists set to lose access to the remedies they currently use.

A small number of popular herbal remedies, such as echinacea (taken for colds), have been licensed successfully. But it's bad news if you take any Chinese or ayurvedic remedies, as according to the Alliance for Natural Health - which has been campaigning against the new regulations - not a single Chinese or ayurvedic herb has been licensed yet.

The directive was launched six years ago because of growing concerns for the safety of many herbal remedies. But there are also fears that the ban could make many people buy remedies that aren't available through the normal outlets - particularly herbs from China and Indian - via the internet or from unlicensed suppliers. Or perhaps it's time to start growing your own.

So is the ban a good or bad idea? What do you think?

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