Patients are set to lose access to hundreds of herbal medicines next year, as European regulations come into force.
Sales of all herbal remedies, except for a small number of popular products for ‘mild’ illness such as echinacea for colds, will be banned to the public from May 1.
Under the new law traditional products must be licensed or prescribed by a registered herbal practitioner.
Almost 2,500 UK qualified herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners will lose the right to supply a wide range of herbal medicines, because they are not signed up to the statutory regulation scheme.
And practitioners have complained that the cost of obtaining licenses are beyond their means. Many traditional medicines are made up of a number of herbs and the Alliance for Natural Health estimates a license for each herb costs in the region of £100,000.
The ANH added that so far no Chinese or ayurvedic medicines had been licensed.
Jane Gray President National Institute of Medical Herbalists, said: ‘The fact is that a very large number of our members will lose access to at least some of their medicines.
‘I estimate that the impact on my own practice is that I will lose somewhere between 15-20 per cent of my business.
‘A good proportion of our members who carry no dispensary at all will lose access to everything except what is available over-the-counter- which is an extremely limited range of herbal medicines and certainly not enough to address the needs of the full range of medical conditions that we see.’
The directive was introduced due to growing safety concerns about the side effects of many alternative medicines.
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has issued over 10 safety alerts in the past two years.
But herbal practitioners warn consumers may end up buying potentially dangerous supplies from the black market.
At least six million Britons have consulted a herbal practitioner in the past two years, according to research.
Leading medical herbalist Dr Ann Walker said: ‘At present patients have access to top quality herbal products that are manufactured only for professional use, but we won’t be allowed to supply them.