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Next year will see 100 editions and a quarter of a century of publication of the Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine. This in itself is not exceptional for an association that will be turning 100 years old in the next decade, but it does provide a fascinating history of the changes that have occurred in the profession over the last 25 years. The most significant changes have been in government regulation and education.

In 1988 the Commonwealth Department of Community Health gave notice that it intended to introduce new legislation to nationally regulate all therapeutic goods, including herbal medicines. At the time it was considered this might result in drastic consequences for herbalists with each medicine dispensed being subject to an annual registration fee of $350, herbalists making their own medicines being subject to an annual license fee of $6,250 and practitioner manufacturing principles having to conform to the Australian Code of Good Manufacturing Practice. Submissions were sent to Canberra arguing that herbalists should be exempt from the legislation as they had previously been in the Therapeutic Goods and Cosmetics Act of 1972. In March 1989 the Department succumbed and advised that practitioners had been made exempt and the 1972 Act would stand.

The practitioner was still able to make their own medicine but would they still have access to all the herbs? In 1992 the Commonwealth Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Standing Committee (now National Drugs and Poisons Schedule Committee) scheduled a number of herbs containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids, restricting the use of such herbs as Borago off, Pulmonaria spp, Senecio spp, Tussilago farfara and Symphytum off (which, based on lack of scientific evidence, was later rescheduled to allow its use topically). Many more herbs are listed on the different schedules including Gelsemium, Convallaria, Ammi visnaga, Rauwolfia, Lobelia, Arnica and of course Digitalis and Ephedra.

In 1997, just 15 years ago, the line between practitioner and manufacturer was still blurred. The Traditional Medicines Evaluation Committee (later to become the Complementary Medicines Evaluation Committee) was formed to deal with traditional medicines. This resulted in an outburst from the Australian Medical Association declaring herbs as drugs are potentially dangerous and placing greater restrictions on access to herbs and herbal material by herbalists.

With medicines at least partially now under control, the security of the future of the profession was the big topic, as it remains today. Government registration has been on the agenda since 1925 but in 1989 it was recognised that it would depend on more than just government registration to secure its future; the profession would need to continiually assess and re-assess its standards, aims, goals and policies. This has progressed significantly over the last 25 years and continues to do so.

The educational standards in Australia for qualified herbal and naturopathic practitioners have gone from the weekend workshop to certificate, diploma and degree level, with many sets of competencies in between. The Australian National Training Authority has a Health Training Package (HTP) for an Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine. The NHAA has a comprehensive set of curriculum training guidelines incorporating the HTP and in many areas exceeding those standards laid down in the HTP by including traditional knowledge and concepts such as history and philosophy, which are integral to herbal medicine education.

All this recent work is well documented, while much of the earlier history of herbalists and herbal medicine in Australia has been written and archived for posterity. In 1989 the first female president of the NHAA, Robyn Kirby, was instrumental in setting up a History of Herbalism in Australia exhibition in the historical Rocks area of Sydney. During its 3 weeks of display some 600 people from 18 different countries visited the exhibition. The majority of the material has since been stored in the NSW State Library for safe keeping. Sue Evans continued this work in her 2009 publication Challenge, tension and possibility: an exploration into contemporary western herbal medicine in Australia.

This is my 70th and final edition of the journal as editor, ending a journey of 17 years that has seen much growth in the quality, content and professionalism of the journal. I look forward to watching the progression not only of the journal but of the association and the profession at large. With such significant changes happening globally we are ensured of interesting times ahead!

Anne Cowper BHSc (CompMed) DBM ND LFNHAA

Editor, Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine

PO Box 45 Concord West 2138
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Title Annotation:herbal medicine in Australia
Author:Cowper, Anne
Publication:Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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