Asian herbs need stricter control

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Herbalism, Herb

Research, quality control and regulations are needed in the
commercialisation of Asian herbal and traditional medicines before
the industry goes mainstream,...

Research, quality control and regulations are needed in the commercialisation of Asian herbal and traditional medicines before the industry goes mainstream, experts say. Herbal remedies such as feverfew, ginkgo and ginseng have become increasinglypopular around the world. Sales in the United States alone amounted to $15 billion in1999, compared with $3 billion in Asia, ReutersHealth reports. But Asian sales, dominated by China, are lower by comparison because the remedies are considerably cheaper in the region, Kuo-Hsiung Lee, professor of medicinalchemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Reuters. "We are in an advantageous situation because we are the area where we produce theherbs,"​ Lee said. Japan is at the forefront in the region despite an ongoing debate on whether to cover traditional medicines under the national health insurance plan. "Japan already has a sound foundation in natural product chemistry and pharmaceuticalmanufacture,"​ Lee said. The great number of herbs in use - combined with the potentially poisonous effects of similar-looking substitutes - means that the management of supply and quality control are vital, Reuters reports. "Many people feel that herbal medicines are non-toxic. That is not correct. Many aretoxic,"​ Lee said. "To control it from the original site where the herb is produced is most important."​ Chan Soo Sen, the Singapore health ministry's senior parliamentary secretary, drew ananalogy between herb harvesting and wine producing, where geography and weather make a significant difference to the final product. With the increasing commercialisation of traditional medicine, dispensers of the remedies need formal training to raise professional standards, he added. The US Food and Drug Administration's​ exploration of new regulatory approaches for botanical drug products may also help the industry. "The new classification will raise the legal status of traditional Chinese medicine, or atleast some TCM products, from food supplement to...a form of drug,"​ Chan said. "This will provide greater market opportunities and also encourage more research anddevelopment."​ Source: ReutersHealth

Related topics: Science

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