Is sales of herbs about to become the next medical black-market?
As Marijuana moves from being a banned and illegal drug that is widely consumed throughout the world to a medical prescription medicine, we see the start of a similar move to outlaw herbs.
This has already happened in the UK and EU where they have removed herbal supplements (St. Johns Wort) from store shelves as not complying with the THR (Therapeutic Herbal Registration) regulations. The fact that it costs between €60,000 and €200,000 to get a THR certificate, depending on how much data a company already possesses means that most small herbal businesses will disappear.
The excessive costs make it impossible for small businesses to get this THR certificate. At the same time, this certificate does not guarantee that the product being offered to the public is actually effective and contains the advertised ingredients. There are many cases of deception and fraud known, and most were actually large companies, not the small ones.
These certificates are abused as a marketing instrument by those that can afford the fees. This is not the intention, of course, but it happens. The large organisations who have immense lobbying power are able to use the law they helped draft drive their smaller competitors out of the market. The fate of traditional herbalists appears to be predetermined by the effort being put into destroying the millennia old use of natural herbs by a collusion between Governments and MultiNational Pharmaceutical companies.
The supplement facts label should provide sufficient information for all consumers, with an instructional leaflet on top of that. If the label is incorrect then other laws such as False advertising, and fraud should cover the problem, without having to resort to drafting new, expensive laws that only benefit a few who can afford to comply with that law.
In the USA over the last few years, several companies have tried taking standardization to the next level by running herbs through the same laboratory tests that prescription medicines must pass, called bioassays.
One company, PharmaPrint, tried this in the late 1990s and proposed taking it even one step beyond that: seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to sell their cost effective herbs as prescription drugs. The idea was that this would allow doctors to sell (for a higher price, of course) a ‘fully tested medicine version’ of the same herbs you currently buy in the health food store.
Although PharmaPrint succumbed to stockholder lawsuits, the FDA decided that turning standard food grade products into patented, prescription only drugs was a good idea (who for?).
In February 2000, they approved a concentrated fish oil capsule as a prescription drug. Is it more concentrated than regular fish oil? Absolutely, but you can get the same result by just using more non-prescription fish oil at a fraction of the cost.
The fact that more and more studies are showing that natural foods and herbs are beneficial to the human body for all sorts of ailments and these products cannot be patented (at least not yet), means that the FDA must find other backdoor methods to remove these herbs and foods from the grocery shelves, and move them onto the Doctors prescription pads.
Claiming that herbs are drugs and therefore need to be controlled for our own good, flies in the face of common sense. These herbs and foods have been consumed by multimillions of people for centuries or more with no known side effects (unlike laboratory creations) implies they are not drugs, but are an important means of keeping the human body in good condition in the manner that nature intended. That though means that no one makes any money in large quantities unless the goal posts are moved and a legal reclassification turns herbs into drugs.
I foresee that in the next 20 years or so that the biggest black-market will be for natural herbs and foods that have been reclassified as drugs by the various Governments as they try to control the citizens of their country.