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Regulation of herbal remedies is aimed to increase your safety; ASKTHEEXPERTS.

IF YOU, like many others across Wales, regularly use herbal remedies, you may be aware that May will see changes in how herbal products are registered.

It is hoped that these changes in the regulation of herbal products -the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme - will increase patient safety.

The licensing body's aim is to wipe out bad practice and prevent harmful products going on sale.

However, it's important people recognise if a herbal product is listed under this scheme, it's only its quality and safety that must be demonstrated not its effectiveness.

There is concern therefore, that with this licensing comes some confusion - no herbal remedy (or indeed any medicine) is ever completely safe and it's important to note these herbal remedies are not being licensed on the basis of their effectiveness in the same way as conventional medicines would be.

Instead, they are being licensed on the basis of their traditional use.

This can make it difficult for people to make an informed decision on whether a herbal remedy will help with their particular problem, as some of the claims made for them could be untested.

Additionally, there is a temptation to think that because a herbal remedy is natural, there are no risks involved.

This is not the case.

If you do take, or are considering taking, herbal products, it is important you speak to your pharmacist to check what the evidence of its effectiveness is, and whether it will interact with any other medicines you may be taking.

For example, St John's wort can reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill.

As with conventional medicines there can be other adverse effects and you may need to be particularly careful what you take during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, or if you suffer from other conditions.

There is also the potential to confuse herbal and homeopathic products - many homeopathic products are also licensed (under a different scheme) but are made in a completely different way.

A homeopathic product is one in which the active ingredient is diluted again and again until there is no active ingredient left.

Some believe the process of dilution imparts the energy of the active ingredient onto the water molecules that are left.

There is no scientific evidence to prove that this happens, or if in fact it is even possible.

A recent review by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society showed there is no clinical evidence to show that homeopathy has any effect on patients above what would be seen when taking a placebo (a dummy pill).

It is important, therefore, not to confuse herbal products with homeopathic.

The important thing to remember is, if in doubt, go and see your pharmacist. Remember to tell them what you are taking, and make sure you make an informed choice before taking anything. Paul Gimson is a pharmacist and director for Wales of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which is the dedicated professional body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 28, 2011
Words:491
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