Herbal Remedies Need More Regulation -- UK Scientists
September 6, 2004
EXETER, England, (Reuters) -- All that is natural is not necessarily beneficial, and herbal medicines in particular need far closer regulation, scientists said on Monday.
Professor Peter Houghton of Kings' College in London said people taking herbal remedies needed to be aware of what exactly they were consuming and to be sure it had not been adulterated either intentionally or by mistake.
"Nothing in life is completely safe. Life is spelled RISK," he told the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. "There is a myth that because something is natural it must be safe."
People also had to be sure any herbal cure they were taking did not react with conventional medicines they were also on, he added, noting that the anti-depressant St. John's Wort reduced the efficacy of oral contraceptives for example.
Houghton said up to one quarter of the UK population took herbal medicines at least once a year.
"We haven't got good models to be able to predict what the herbal/conventional interaction will be," he said.
Doctor Elizabeth Williamson of the University of London, who specialises in the study of Chinese herbal medicines, said many of them worked very well but because of the rather haphazard way they were gathered in the wild, there was little quality control.
"The problems with ethnic medicines are that they are not regulated," she said. "If we know they are good quality, they tend to be reasonably safe. I would be pleased to see them regulated. But any future legislation needs to be pragmatic."