WHO Issues Guidelines for Herbal Medicines

Discussion in 'Health and medical' started by Mark Probertfeb, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. WHO Issues Guidelines for Herbal Medicines
    Tue Feb 10,10:40 AM ET Add Health - Reuters to My Yahoo!

    GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (news - web sites) on Tuesday issued guidelines for
    ensuring the safety and efficacy of the multi-billion dollar herbal medicines market amid reports
    that some products are tainted with toxic substances.

    The guidelines, intended for national regulatory bodies, lay out the best techniques for growing and
    harvesting medicinal plants used for various ailments or weight loss, as well as the clear labeling
    of the contents of any product.

    Herbal medicines represent an estimated $60 billion a year global market, some 20 percent of the
    overall drug market, according to the U.N. agency. Yet only China, Japan and the European Union
    (news - web sites) have regulations for medicinal plants.

    "It is not a binding guideline for any country, but it is a model or sort of checklist which they
    can use to make their own national regulations," Hans Hogerzeil, acting director of WHO's essential
    drugs and medicines department, told a news briefing.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) last December issued a consumer alert on
    the safety of dietary supplements containing ephedra, also called Ma huang, a natural substance.

    The adrenaline-like stimulant, used for weight loss or to boost sports performance, can have
    dangerous effects on the heart.

    In Africa, up to 80 percent of the population depends on traditional medicine for primary health
    care. In China, herbal preparations account for up to 50 percent of total consumption.

    In Europe, North America and other industrialized areas, more than 50 percent report using
    complementary or alternative medicine at least once, according to WHO.

    "There is also an enormous industry now where huge amounts of leaves and traditional medicines are
    being shipped from various exporting countries -- China, India, Pakistan -- to many other countries.
    Somebody has to regulate that, at least their safety," Hogerzeil said.