I have a terrible cold at the moment and at 1am, unable to sleep, I had a drink of hot water with some honey and read for a while before going back to bed. It was warm, and quite soothing, but I don’t consider it to be medicine.
In March of this year the EU will apparently be banning several hundred “herbal medicines” because they have not been licensed. There is a link to the article I read in the Independent opposite.
First – a few salient points.
- The products will be banned under an EU directive passed in 2004. The herbalists have had 6 years to license their products, but they have seemed more inclined to lobby against the legislation.
- Unlicensed products can still be dispensed if prescribed by a “registered herbal practitioner”.
- To get license a product only has to prove it is not harmful. It does not have to demonstrate any beneficial effects at all (i.e. It doesn’t have to work – just not kill you)
- We are not talking about health-food here this stuff is sold as MEDICINE
Well, I for one I say more power to the EU’s elbow.
Herbal, and all so-called alternative, medicine is either self-delusion or deliberate fakery. That’s why the practitioners never want their snake-oil scientifically tested. There is a technical term for an alternative medicine which has passed double-blind clinical trials – it’s called medicine.
This regulation does not go far enough for me though. What on earth is a registered herbal practitioner, and what gives him the right to prescribe potentially unsafe products to people.
I buy, and eat, sausages. I don’t get them from a meat-therapist, I get them from the butcher and he doesn’t claim that they have curative powers.
So if the herbalists want to avoid testing and regulation, then I have a suggestion for them.
Put labels on your products that say:
THIS IS NOT A MEDICINE
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE THAT THIS STUFF WILL DO YOU ANY GOOD – BUT IT PROBABLY WON’T HURT YOU EITHER
Or, better still, just admit that you are just a rather specialised branch of the tea-shop or grocery trade.
If you are a herbalist and I have offended you – tough.
Spare a thought for the poor homeopaths and the utter bullshit they have to trot out – just to sell bottled water.