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The practice of herbal medicine is a fringe activity that occupies a culturally unique space in our society. Traditional western herbal medicine (TWHM) in the UK is a vibrant, vital and evolving practise, which is largely beyond state control. State regulation, which is underpinned by a positivist worldview, threatens the essential nature of TWHM by standardising its rich diversity of practice and criminalising independent practitioners. Listed below are just a few of the lies told in order to manufacture consent to the statutory regulation (SR) and licensing agenda.

Lie #1: Herbal Medicine is Risky Medicine

In the recent past western herbalists were happy to say ‘herbal medicine is safe medicine’, but now, in order to serve the SR/licensing agenda, herbalists are required to say ‘herbal medicine is risky medicine’. Why?

It is alleged that the poor practice of western herbalists is putting patients and the public at risk, but data on levels of poor practice among practitioners of TWHM has yet to be produced. The Department of Health (DH) could easily commission research to gather such data so that a rational and informed decision about the need for SR/licensing could be made. This has never been done. There simply is no reliable evidence base demonstrating that the public need safeguarding from practitioners of TWHM. Furthermore, were SR/licensing to be introduced without a supporting evidence base, then future judgements about the success or failure of such schemes to reduce levels of poor practice would be impossible to make.

Bureaucrats can theorise about potential risks all day long, but without a reliable evidence base demonstrating that real harm comes from the activities of western herbalists the imposition of any regulatory scheme would be completely unjustifiable. The precautionary principle applies here: if the potential consequences of an activity are severe, in the absence of full scientific certainty the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking action.

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