Legalizing Clinical Herbal Practice
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a column by Trilby Sedlacek, AHG, appearing regularly in The Stone Path

Legalizing Clinical Herbal Practice

Herbal medicine as a profession has been a part of human history for well over 2000 years; its long-term safety and effectiveness in improving health has been well-documented. In this discussion, as in any examination of safety issues and herbal medicine, a distinction needs to be drawn between herbal product regulation and the regulation of herbal practitioners. To lump these two together would be like outlawing auto mechanics because someone built a dangerous car and put it on the market.  The FDA, USDA and other governmental programs watch over product safety issues, and this area of concern is not meant to be the primary focus of this article. Be that as it may, the natural health products industry has grown at an incredible rate, producing many "natural products" that may or may not be a part of traditional herbal practice, and, in fact, may be the subject of disapproval by many educated herbalists in America, and may never used as part of their regular protocol. Some products out there, developed strictly for profit, like ephedra, for example, which contains diet stimulants, may never have had an herbalist involved or consulted in the manufacturing process. In fact, traditional herbal medicine has not used ephedra for these purposes. A more in-depth response to the ephedra concern can be found on the web site of the American Herbalist Guild, http://www.Americanherbalistsguild.com

The following statement was taken from their site in response to the passage of California’s Health Freedom bill:

      The American Herbalists Guild supports these Health Freedom Bills which permit the legal practice of clinical herbal medicine in these states based on the practitioner presenting the patient with a full informed consent paper conforming to the stated provisions.

Obviously, the safe practice of herbal medicine can only be enhanced by consulting an expert in the area. This is a wise move on the part of a consumer in any situation. Even the most minimally-educated herbalist is better insurance against the misuse of herbs than leaving the consumer to guess it all alone, especially when one takes into account current labeling laws prohibiting "use" claims on products as well as generic dosing recommendations. Access to an herbalist can be central to the consumer wanting to explore herbal medicine.

Historically, the therapeutic use of herbs under a practitioner’s counsel presents a minuscule number of negative reports. Modern allopathic medicine, on the other hand, is an extremely high risk for reactions and other ioagenic responses. The safety factor of herbs as medicine in comparison to pharmaceuticals and surgery is vastly superior. Here are some statistics; you be the judge:

COMPARATIVE CAUSES OF DEATHS - ANNUAL AVERAGE*

  • Adverse Drug Reaction: 60,000 - 140,000
  • Automobile Accidents: 23,856
  • Food Contamination: 9,000
  • Agricultural Machines: 562
  • Carbon Monoxide: 34
  • Household Cleaners: 24
  • Commercial Herbal Products: 0

Given that the number of individuals currently self-prescribing herbal medicine is approximately 50% of the women and 39% of the men in the U.S.A., this is an amazingly low incidence of negative reaction to herbal and natural health products. The bottom line is there is not enough negative information to justify governmental regulation of herbalists in any state. I am not aware of any incidence of death related to herbal consumption as directed by an herbalist.

Sadly, more recently there have been some incidents of inappropriate herbal use and negative reactions, even death. The majority of these were related to ephedra misuse and to individuals self-prescribing. This only further supports the case for the need for qualified herbal experts to be available for consultation by the general public.

      * Source Information: Sources of statistics/calculations based on data from the American Association of Poison Centers, National Center for Health Statistics, Journal of the American Medical Association, Center for Disease Control, US Consumer Products Safety Commission and National Highway Traffic Safety Commission. This comparison is based on the average number of deaths per annum in the USA from 1983-1992.

Even with our vast medical system, way too many people are still in pain and chronically ill. Herbal medicine is a safe and viable option; its methods are preventative, functional and restorative. Open access to knowledgeable herbal medicine practitioners only makes the therapeutic use of herbs even safer and more effective. We cannot afford to restrict the public access to proper herbal medicine education and consultations. Herbal clinicians are quickly responding to the "quest of proof by scientific methods." Many modern herbalists engage in research and documentation of their methodology. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has a budget of 50 million annually to support and pursue this research. Additionally, appropriate protocol is being suggested and taught at the national level by colleges and national organizations such as the American Herbalist Guild. Protocols include, but are not limited to, such things as code of ethics, full disclosure, competency and education guidelines. I feel strongly that licensure is currently inappropriate due to the diversity of herbalism as a traditional healing art in many varied cultures and the different avenues of study available to become a competent herbalist. Requiring licensure would be a costly, ineffective, inappropriate and excessive governmental regulation that would ultimately only hurt the consumer and raise costs for everyone.

Herbs grow in people’s back yards; they are available everywhere and no one can put a patent on them. There is no viable danger here that warrants prohibiting by law the practice of herbal medicine.

Green Blessings,

Trilby

"Legalizing Clinical Herbal Practice,"  Trilby Sedlacek, AHG, from The Stone Path and the Green Health Archives

 

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