Herbs for Health

The tradition of using herbs to treat ailments is under serious threat from new EU legislation.

Natasha Harty sent us this report following a recent conversation she had with East Cork herbalist, Kelli O’Halloran. Don’t forget to take the gaia health petition she recommends at the end! ~

Kelli O’Halloran is a member of the Irish Institute of Medical Herbalists (IIMH). She is highly qualified, having studied herbal medicine in the UK and worked in the Whipps Cross NHS Hospital where western herbal medicine has been integrated into their health care for many years. She has been presenting a regular programme on herbs on TV3’s Ireland AM, but will now be taking a short break from that. Kelli specialises in using local and home organically grown herbs.

herbsMany of us are more familiar with the idea of Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs, but Kelli reminds us that all over the world each community had its own store of herbs and traditional herbal knowledge for treating ailments right back through the centuries. Europe, with its western herb tradition is no exception, even though we had nearly forgotten about it.

In Ireland the monasteries would each have had their own medicinal herb garden and their own physician who would have used them on the monastic community, the local population and their animals. Right across Europe Irish physicians were highly regarded for their knowledge and skill in administering to the sick, and herbal remedies would have been the mainstay of their practices. To see the herbs that would have been used make a summer visit to the fine medieval herbal garden reconstructed by the OPW at Barryscourt Castle in Carrigtwohill.

Unfortunately this fine herbal tradition is under serious threat from new EU legislation, due to come in force next April. Three directives will affect them:

• Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC no. 1924/2006) - This will severely restrict the health claims that can be made about any product. Already the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is making it illegal for manufacturers to claim that gloucosamine is good for joints or probiotics for intestinal health. Ref: WDDTY vol 21 no 5

• Human Medicinal Products Directive (Directive 2001/83/EC, an amendment to Directive 2004/27/EC) - This directive imposes tight regulations on drugs, but its definition of a drug is loose enough to include anything that might make you feel better. Already the EU has listed common peppermint for regulation as a medicinal herb. Once existing stocks are sold after April Fool’s Day 2011, the EU may not allow its use as a beneficial herb. Peppermint is known to be beneficial for some bowel and bile duct problems. An individual who grew and sold peppermint would be breaking the law. Ref: http://www.gaia-health.com

• Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (amending Directive 2004/24/EC) - This allows the sale of traditional and herbal remedies in Europe so long as they have been used safely for 30 years, and 15 years in Europe. Medical claims are only permissible for minor ailments. The directive bars many traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic herbal preparations as well as newer herbal remedies that cannot pass the 30 year test. Ref: WDDTY vol 21 no 5.

For anyone who practices or uses herbal remedies this legislation is a serious assault on their freedom to continue to do so. In these cash-strapped times, it seems ridiculous to bar people from using any alternative treatment to help them stay healthy, particularly when governments are having great difficulty in funding our hospitals and drugs bills. It is well worth lobbying our EU and local politicians to stop this nonsensical legislation. There is a petition against it onhttp://www.gaia-health.com/articles301/000315-stop-the-traditional-herbal-medicinal-products-directive.shtml.

~ Natasha Harty, Cork