ANH-Intl Alert: Sorting fact from fiction re the 1st April 2011 EU herb ban

11th October 2010

The might of the regulatory assault on our freedoms creates fertile ground for a wide array of views about conspiracy. Conspiracy goes on, about that there can be no doubt, given the word at its simplest level describes the acts of a small number of individuals working against the interests of the majority. At the ANH, we often say, why bother with ‘conspiracy theory’ when, in so many important areas, there is no need to be theoretical given the sheer abundance of available facts!

With the huge challenges that are bombarding the natural health sector on a daily basis, and our ability to take responsibility for our own health being consistently eroded, finding sources of reliable information is vital. There was much confusion last year with a key date allied to the Food Supplements Directive was mistaken for an international Codex Alimentarius initiative. Although an amazing portal for the gathering of information, the Internet unfortunately also creates the opportunity for dissemination of misinformation and disinformation. We understand just how difficult it sometimes is to discriminate between fact and fiction – especially when the messages are often emotive or fear-based. With this ANH-Intl alert we hope to dispel some of the current myths seemingly doing the rounds regarding the relevance of the 1st April 2011 date when it comes to bans on natural health in Europe.

So where does the date come from? The date—ironically April Fool’s Day 2011—represents one day after the end of the transition phase of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD). The THMPD exists as a sub-Directive of the Human Medicinal Products Directive, and was originally intended to be a fast-track licensing system for a wide variety of traditional herbal products, including those of non-European origin. These include the super-traditions of Ayurveda, associated with the Indian subcontinent and that of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Both are of more than 4,000 years standing. The directive was originally implemented in 2004, but the lengthy 7-year transition period has lulled many into thinking that the April 2011 date marks the implementation of a new directive. This is not the case.

Many herbalists, practitioner associations and consumers initially welcomed the THMPD thinking that it would provide a safe harbour for traditional herbal products, used safely for decades. Unfortunately the ANH has always seen the writing on the wall with this directive and only now at the eleventh hour are others beginning to wake up to the harsh reality. With less than 6 months before the full implementation of THMPD there are currently no registrations granted for products from non-European traditions such as Ayurveda, Unani, Tibetan, South-East Asian, and Chinese medicine—all being traditions that are thousands of years old and are relied upon by many as part of their everyday healthcare. 

What are the facts about THMPD?

  • 31st March 2011 marks the end of the 7-year transition phase of the THMPD
  • The directive requires that the same type of pharmaceutical standards applied to conventional, synthetic drugs are applied to complex, polyherbal products
  • A range of eligibility and technical problems, along with prohibitive costs, have, so far, prevented any products from either the Chinese or Indian traditions from successfully being registered under the scheme

For further detail about THMPD 

And some of the fiction currently doing the rounds with respect to the 1 April 2011 date

  • Europeans will witness the greatest infringement and most restrictive regulatory system ever on that date (the reality is that the restrictions started on 1 August 2005 and will continue for a number of years)?
  • All herbal and mineral supplements are going to be banned
  • All the teaching of alternative healing methods is going to be banned
  • All the homeopathic colleges are going to be dissolved
  • It will be forbidden to sell books about using plants and minerals for therapies

ANH-Intl actions regarding THMPD

On the 22nd March 2010 the ANH-Intl announced their intent to challenge the THMPD through the courts. Since then we have joined forces with the European group, the European Benefyt Foundation in order to challenge the THMPD and help re-shape the legal framework set to decimate the availability of traditional herbal medicinal products, particularly from Chinese and Indian origin.

The joint strategy involves three primary initiatives;

  1. Improvement of the food supplements regime under which most Chinese and Indian herbal products have been sold up until now
  2. The initiation of judicial review proceedings with the aim of gaining a reference to the European Court of Justice
  3. The development of an altogether new framework for such products

Read the joint ANH/Benefyt position paper (10 page) 

Read the joint ANH/Benefyt abbreviated position paper (4 page) 

Read the ANH summary of the key challenges to natural methods of healthcare in Europe 


ANH Nurture Traditional Medicinal Cultures campaign page

ANH Homepage

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