Homeopathic and herbal products

Introduction

The Traditional Herbal Medicine Registration Scheme comes into effect on 1 May 2011. This means the quality and safety of herbal medicines bearing a Product Licence (PL) or Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) number will have been assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Existing stock of manufactured herbal medicines, which do not have a PL or THR number, will continue to be available for retail sale after 30 April 2011, up until their expiry date or until the stock has been sold.

View our quick reference guide on the requirements and implications of the Traditional Herbal Medicine Registration Scheme.

Many people confuse homeopathic with herbal products, most probably because homeopathic products are often derived from herbs and are called by their botanical name, e.g. both herbal and homeopathic products prepared using aloe will be called aloe. Further confusion may result from the fact that a single manufacturer may produce both homeopathic and herbal products.

Homeopaths believe that homeopathy is based on three main principles, namely that like cures like, the minimal dose, and the use of a single medicine. Within the minimum dose principle is embodied the idea that the more dilute a medicine, the more potent it becomes, and that this potentisation requires a series of dilution and succussion (shaking) stages. Click here to view a table detailing the main difference between herbal and homeopathic products.

Herbal medicine is the use of plant remedies in the treatment of disease, and many currently used conventional medicines have their origins in herbal products and plant materials. Herbal products subscribe to dose-response pharmacology where the biological response varies in direct proportion to the dose or concentration of the product. Herbal products are known to cause adverse effects and to interact with conventional medicines.

The main difference between herbal and homeopathic products is that with herbal products, increasing the dose would be expected to increase the therapeutic effect, while homeopathic practitioners believe that the more a homeopathic product is diluted, the greater effect the product is expected to have. In addition, the dilution and succussion steps involved in the production of a homeopathic product are believed by homeopaths to be critical to the efficacy of the product. Furthermore, due to the different philosophies used in selecting a treatment for a condition, it would be reasonably expected that herbal and homeopathic products could not be used to treat the same condition, although this is not always the case in practice.

View our quick reference guide to Homeopathic and herbal products.