Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Licensed herbal medicines

As of the 1st of May 2014, all herbal medicines sold in pharmacies must have a traditional herbal registration (THR) or product licence (PL). So what does this mean for pharmacy customers?

According to Dr Linda Anderson from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the THR scheme gives people access to traditional herbal medicines that are safe, of good quality and sold with information on how to use the product correctly.

What are THR products for?
You can use a THR product for minor self-limiting ailments like colds or hayfever. Beware of any unlicensed product claiming to cure, treat or prevent any illness.

The THR scheme doesn't mean the herbal remedy has been tested and proven to actually work. It just means 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.

What to look for on the label:

  • Look for the THR number on the packaging of herbal products.
  • Most registered herbal products will have the THR logo (see right) too.
  • Licensed medicines have a nine-digit PL (product licence) number on their labels, just like conventional medicines.

Herbal medicine safety
Natural doesn't always mean safe. Some unlicensed herbal medicines can cause side effects or may interact with other medicines. It's always important to tell your GP or pharmacist whether you are taking any herbal remedies or dietary supplements. St John's Wort, for example, which can be taken for mild depression, may interact with a whole host of medicines including the contraceptive pill, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), thyroid hormones and some anti-depressants.

Always read the product information leaflet carefully before taking any herbal remedy. If you experience any possible side effects, stop taking the product and speak to the pharmacist.

If you have an adverse reaction to any medicine, including herbal remedies, your pharmacist (or GP) can report this to the MHRA under a system called the Yellow Card Scheme. Alternatively, you can report it yourself directly at the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme website.

Consulting a medical herbalist
If you wish to consult a herbalist to get tailor-made advice, make sure you choose a reputable practitioner. You can find a herbalist in your local area through the website of The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH). 

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