Traditional herbal remedies
People have been taking herbal remedies for centuries, but since May 2011 herbal remedies come under special regulations.
Herbal products such as St John’s wort, echinacea and black cohosh need to be registered with the medicines regulator MHRA and can only be sold for the conditions for which they are registered.
The MHRA says the scheme is designed to address problems with poor quality herbal remedies, some of which were found to be adulterated or contained the wrong herb. Some products also failed to provide information about side effects and contra-indications with other medicines or give warnings for pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions.
The scheme is being tightened further from the end of April 2014. All manufactured herbal medicines will have to be authorised by the MHRA in order to be sold and supplied lawfully in the UK.
This means that after this date retailers will no longer be able to sell unlicensed herbal medicines that are not registered under the THR scheme.
What Traditional Herbal Registration means
Unlike licensing for mainstream medicines, registration doesn't mean a herbal remedy has been tested and proven to actually work.
It does mean the MHRA is satisfied the product is made to good quality standards with appropriate labelling and a product information leaflet. It also means the herb has been used in traditional remedies for more than 30 years.
Registered products carry a special THR leaf logo.
Research by the MHRA found that many people thought that 'natural' ingredients were safer to take than other medicines. The regulator stresses this is not the case, emphasising that herbal products can have a very potent effect.
Other sources of herbal products
The THR scheme covers products bought in UK shops and from reputable online retailers. As with unregulated internet sites claiming to sell mainstream medicines, the MHRA warns against buying herbal remedies online, unless from a trusted UK retailer.
Registered herbal products
Registration covers individual products and their particular formulations rather than specific herbal ingredients. The following is a list of herbs contained in registered products and the symptoms or conditions covered by their traditional use.
Used to help relieve premenstrual symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, breast tenderness, bloating and menstrual cramps.
Aniseed, elder flower and other ingredients
Used for dry and irritating coughs.
Angelica root, cinnamon bark, nutmeg seed and Melissa leaf
Used for the relief of nausea, stomach ache and stomach upset.
Used for the relief of symptoms of muscular aches, pains and stiffness, bruises and swelling. Used for the relief of minor sports injuries, bruises, muscular pain, stiffness and sprains.
Used for the relief of digestive complaints such as indigestion, upset stomach, nausea, feelings of fullness and flatulence (wind) particularly when caused by over indulgence of food and drink.
Used to increase the amount of urine for the purpose of flushing the urinary tract to assist in minor urinary complaints.
Bladderwrack and seaweed or clivers
Used as an aid to slimming as part of a calorie controlled diet.