Highly qualified herbalists of various traditions including Western, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, their clients and supporters, and students, as well as acupuncture practitioners, took their concerns and demands to Westminster yesterday.
From midday, over one hundred of the angry practitioners and their supporters demonstrated outside the Houses of Parliament with their placards, demanding that the Government act now to secure their profession. With loud and continuous shouts of 'save herbal medicine!', they highlighted the desperate plight of herbalists, and the grave threats to people’s right to choose herbs. They are angry that, after all these years, the Government now appears to be stalling on statutory regulation (SR) of the profession, which many see as their only hope, as they are forced down the 'dead-end' road of EU regulation in 2011.
Many of them went into the Houses of Parliament to mass lobby their MPs, and they were also addressed outside by the Conservative MP David Tredinnick and Lord Colwyn, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, who indicated their support for herbal medicine, and people’s right to access herbs. Medical Herbalist Eleanor Gallia said "It was heartening to hear the Parliamentary support today. Both David Tredinnick MP and Lord Colwyn came out and spoke strongly in favour of statutory regulation and the need to keep herbal medicine accessible".
Herbalists demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament
Those present outside Westminster yesterday had strong opinions and plenty to say, and following is a selection of their comments:
Views on People’s right to choose and use herbs
"I’m here today to stand up for the rights of people to have herbal medicine" Lynn Rawlinson BSc (HONS) MNIMH IIHHT IHBC, Medical Herbalist
"Herbal medicine is the safest form of medicine known to man – it is our birthright… its about the rights of the citizens of this country" Afifah Hamilton, Medical Herbalist, MNIMH
"I feel passionate about my freedom of choice!" Linda Keegan, Client of Medical Herbalist
Herbs belong to the people
Views on EU and other legislative threats to herbs
Demonstrators were clearly and deeply concerned about the influence of EU laws on their ability to practice.
"Its inconceivable… we don’t want herbalism to be driven underground!!" Afifah Hamilton, Medical Herbalist, MNIMH
"You can’t just stop using herbs! They are all over the place- you just go into the countryside, so it’s a bit silly that they think they can impose restrictions!" Student Herbalist
"Its taking choice away from clients!.. I understand that in the UK there have been 6 million herbalist consultations during the past 2 years – where are they all going to go if they can no longer get treatment?!" Desiree Shelley, Medical Herbalist
"Its devastating, because I prefer to use herbal medicine to conventional medicine. It works better, and I’m treated holistically. With herbs you don’t have side effects. My herbalist would be my first port of call!" Linda Keegan, Client of Medical Herbalist
"I value the work I do and feel that it benefits people, and I would like to carry on doing it.. I have been a herbalist for 27 years!" Beatriz Linhares, Herbalist
"The more we restrict the range of herbs, and how we use them today, the less the possibility for the tradition to remain a dynamic, creative and innovative medical tradition for the future…. If we are given a narrowly defined, limited list of medical herbs to use, then herbal medicine ceases to evolve as it currently does with a different prescription for every patient" Steve Taylor, Herbalist
"I’m very worried at the moment. I would be devastated if I couldn’t practice as a medical herbalist!" 3rd year Herbal Medicine student, BSc (HONS) course, University of East London
"Herbal medicine is safe and effective, but damned to obscurity by legislation!" Paul Hambly, Herbalist and Acupuncturist
"There are no problems with herbs compared to drugs … Iatrogenic death caused by orthodox medicines (eg incorrect prescriptions, dosage and polypharmacy) is the 4th largest killer in America, and is likely to be similar in the UK, so why are they worrying about herbs?! Qualified herbalists know what herbs they can and cant use safely to the schedule 3 and self imposed restrictions. The EU concerns about safety are unfounded and unnecessary" 3rd year student, College of Naturopathic Medicine
"If anything has been tested, its herbs! They have been tried and tested with human beings for years!" Supporter
[A view on the threat to UK Medicines Act 1968 Section 12(1)] "If we don’t have the right to make our own medicines it takes the heart out of the practice and out of the profession!" Bernadette Dawling, Medical Herbalist
"It is strange that in this country we seem to be being moved away from our natural pharmacopeia of herbal medicines, when the World Health Organisation clearly states its aim "to support and integrate traditional medicine into national health systems in combination with national policy and regulation for products, practices and providers to ensure safety and quality"…" Eleanor Gallia MA(Hons), Dip. Phyt., MNIMH, Medical Herbalist
Many herbalists believe that statutory regulation is now their best bet
Views on statutory regulation
"We have been pushed into a position where we don’t have a choice… if forced into a position, we will choose statutory regulation over not being regulated" 'Local' Herbalist
"We’ve been working towards statutory regulation for 10 years. Why the sudden U-turn?... do the Government understand the implications of not going ahead with statutory regulation?" Frances Turner, TCM practitioner who runs Chinese herbal medicine training at the London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
"The Department of Health is letting down the British public. Its (SR) withdrawal is obstructing a process which will allow people to continue their choice of healthcare… people who don’t know about herbal medicine today may never know! I can’t believe this is happening in a democracy!" Victoria Conran, Herbalist / Acupuncturist
"We are demonstrating today to persuade the Department of Health to complete the 10 years of negotiations to regulate the sector so that the public is reassured as to the safety of their practitioners" Afifah Hamilton, Medical Herbalist MNIMH (4 years full time in college, and 2 years supervised practice)
"The public is totally unaware of the situation. We are here to raise awareness and to urge the Government to go ahead with the only option we have left which is statutory regulation!" Beatriz Linares, Herbalist (27 years experience)
"Statutory regulation for Chinese Herbal Medicine in the UK, now!" Chinese Medicine practitioner
"Statutory regulation would further protect the public" 3rd year student, College of Naturopathic Medicine
Event: Saturday 7th November 2009. There will be a "Celebration of Traditional Herbal Medicine" event in Bristo Square, Edinburgh between 2 and 4pm. For details please visit the Save Our Herbs Scotland Campaign website.
Event: Tuesday 10th November 2009. There will be a pro-SR mass lobby outside the Scottish Parliament between 2 and 4 pm. For further details please visit the Save Our Herbs Scotland Campaign website.