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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


OCPHM Bulletin: April, 2015

New Government Report on Herbal Medicine a Travesty

After a whole year of consultation and extended meetings with a selected group of herbal practitioners, academics and experts, Professor David Walker’s Report on the Regulation of Herbal Medicines and Practitioners was published on 26th March, 2015. It recommends a weak form of non-legal voluntary regulation, rather than the statutory regulation (SR) that herbalists need and which would protect the public from ill-trained ‘rogue’ practitioners.

The report was commissioned in 2014 by Dr. Dan Poulter, the Under- Secretary of State for Health, against a background of stalling and indecision concerning the legal status of herbalists, even though a commitment to the statutory regulation of herbalists had been announced by Andrew Lansley, when he was Health Secretary, in 2011.

The stated purpose of the report was to move herbal medicine forward towards compatibility with EU law and to find an appropriate legal framework within which herbal medicine can be practised, in order to protect the health and safety of the public.

The author of the report, Professor David Walker, assembled a team of twenty-three expert advisors comprising leading herbal practitioners, doctors, pharmacists, health officials and MPs. Their remit was to examine all aspects of herbal practice and herbal medicinal products.

Regrettably, Professor Walker’s report overrides the majority view of his expert committee, and this has led to their publicly rejecting the report’s conclusions on several counts (see below). It also overturns two previous Department of Health public consultations and the prestigious House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee’s recommendation for the statutory regulation of herbalists published in 2000. Furthermore, it ignores the specific advice of the World Health Organisation’s Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023 report, which recommends regulation for herbalists and integration of traditional medicine within orthodox medical practice.

Because Professor Walker does not accept either the efficacy of herbal medicine or the profound knowledge base lying behind these healing arts, he sees no need for the statutory regulation of herbalists. As a consequence this report, in spite of stating otherwise, completely fails to recommend responsible measures for the safety of the public.

As noted above, Professor Walker’s report goes against the views of the majority of his committee of experts. Their dissenting letter can be read by following the link below. Here, in brief, are some of the shortcomings of the report:

  • The report does not acknowledge the highly rigorous academic training that is now available in universities for herbalists, nor the extensive safeguards that have been put in place to ensure stringent quality control of approved suppliers of herbal products.
  • The report recommends a weak form of voluntary regulation rather than statutory regulation, which means that not only will the public remain unprotected from sub-standard herbal suppliers and practitioners but also that fully trained professional herbalists will continue to be denied the legal status of “authorised healthcare professionals” with authority to use unlicensed herbal medicines.
  • The report also suggests that many herbal medicines could be re-categorised as foods. But this would mean that many other essential herbal medicines not categorised as foods could no longer be legally available.
  • There are certain glaring flaws in some of the randomly selected review papers which were cited to support the report’s conclusions (for example, a paper on relaxation techniques for pain management for women in labour would appear to have little bearing on the efficacy of herbal medicine).
  • Despite its being stated in the Terms of Reference of the Working Group that the draft report would be shown to the committee of experts prior to publication, this did not happen and as a result they were denied the opportunity to comment on it.

Given that the remit of the report was to seek a responsible and legally sound future for the herbal sector, which would safeguard both herbal practitioners and their patients, it is little less than a travesty. It fails to meet what is really required if the already hard-pressed herbal sector is to be able to more significantly contribute to the nation’s health, as envisaged in the recent WHO report. Indeed, as a result of Professor Walker’s report the future of herbalism in the UK now looks more insecure than ever.

The Oxford Campaign to Protect Herbal Medicine is considering how best to respond to the new situation, and would welcome ideas and suggestions. Please contact louannerichards@googlemail.com if you have any.

Meanwhile, as we are now in the midst of an election campaign, the best thing you can do is to contact your local parliamentary candidate, and ask him or her where they stand on this question. Feel free to quote any, or all, of this bulletin. To find the list of parliamentary candidates, go to yournextmp.com.


The full text of the Walker Report

The dissenting letter signed by a majority of the committee

A detailed and highly critical response to the report, by Michael McIntyre, chair of the EHTPA (European Herbal Practitioners Association)



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