Hand holding plant protectively

Oxford Campaign to Protect Herbal Medicine




The Threat to Herbal Products

What You Can Do


WHO Report: Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

The Register of Chinese Herbal Medecine

The European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association

Consumers for Health Choice

Joining Hands in Health

The Alliance for Natural Health


The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database

The Natural Standard



A Drastic Change In The Law

The European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products (THMPD) came into force in the UK on May 1st, 2011. This affected what herbal products you are able to buy over the counter in your local health store. Up until 2011, a wide range of herbal medicine products had been available in the UK under Section 12 (2) of the UK Medicines Act (1968), which permitted the sale of unlicensed herbal remedies so long as they made no medical claims. In other EU countries unlicensed herbal remedies have survived mainly by being classed in law as foods. In the UK the THMPD effectively replaced Section 12 (2) because it required that all manufactured or ready-made herbal medicinal products are to be registered under the Directive, or else have a 'marketing authorisation' (i.e. a medicines license) on a par with pharmaceuticals. In other member states many herbal products that have been sold as foods are likely to lose their status as foods and be required to register under the Directive. The Directive covers all herbal medicines including Ayurvedic, Chinese, Western and Tibetan.

Thousands of Herbal Products Are No Longer Available!

Under the THMPD all ready-made herbal products sold in shops or over the Internet have to be registered, otherwise they are illegal. Those eligible to be registered must (1) be only for mild and self-limiting ailments, for use without the supervision of a medical practitioner, (2) have been in use for thirty years (of which at least fifteen will have been in the EU) and (3) meet pharmaceutical standards of quality, purity and stability. These standards considerably exceed the standards for food manufacture and are technically not feasible for many poly-herbal products of non-European healthcare traditions. They are also prohibitively expensive to implement (roughly between £80,000 and £120,000 per product). The THMPD thus effectively forced thousands of products from the European market, and they are simply no longer available.

What Herbal Products Are Available?

Over three hundred herbal products have been registered in the UK under the Traditional Herbal Medicines Scheme, and more than one hundred different herbs are included in all granted products. While this may sound like a wide range, in fact many of these products are simply different manufacturers’ brands of the same herbal tincture or formula, and all are intended and designed for use without the supervision of a qualified herbal practitioner, i.e. they are meant only to treat minor ailments. Furthermore, extremely few of them relate to Ayurvedic or traditional Chinese medicine. The scheme is operated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), whose task it is to police the THMPD. A list of registered (i.e. legal) herbal products is available here.

The Legal Challenge to the THMPD

The Alliance for Natural Health and the European Benefyt Foundation have launched a legal challenge to the THMPD, on the grounds that it fails to meet principles of proportionality and transparency, and that it is both culturally discriminatory and violates human rights. They are proposing a new regulatory framework, known as the Benefyt model, which would replace the THMPD. Briefly, the Benefyt model would create a new category of products that would fall between the regulatory regimes for foods and medicines, ensuring quality and safety of products while at the same time being technically and financially feasible for herbal manufacturers. To find out more, visit www.anh-europe.org .

The New Campaign

Because the Government has failed to honour its promise to deliver statutory regulation of herbalists, herbal practice is now in great peril. To find out what you can do, click here.



Nov 2017: Urgent need for progress on Statutory Regulation

March 2016: Continuing Prevarication over SR for Herbalists

April 2015: New Government Report on Herbal Medicine a Travesty

31st March 2015: Anglo-Saxon remedy kills superbug MRSA
(external link)

1st Feb 2014: The Government backslides again...

19th Jan 2014: Prince Charles makes plea on alternative medicine
(external link)

OCPHM Conference - articles to appear in Caduceus

9th November 2013: OCPHM Conference 'The Vital Contribution of Herbal Medicine' took place

9th July 2013: Minister makes statement on the Future of Herbal Medicine

10th July 2013: Michael McIntyre addresses OCPHM

24th April 2013: Demonstration and Parliamentary Lobby at Westminster