Herbal medicines frequently contain unlisted ingredients that could pose health risks, scientists have warned.
Some 44 popular remedies, including St John’s wort, Asian ginseng, echinacea and ginkgo, were studied and nearly 60 per cent contained plant species that were not on the label.
Only two of the 12 companies tested provided authentic products without substitutions, contaminants or fillers.
The brands were not named for legal reasons but were all purchased in North American shops, although some are sold internationally.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it was aware of the issue of adulterated herbal products coming into the UK from abroad and said that it was planning to impose a deadline of December for companies to meet new EU quality standards, which will require companies to submit products for testing.
A spokeswoman for the MHRA said that it had repeatedly issued consumer warnings about herbal ingredients found in products originating from outside the EU, such as for herbal slimming products containing Sibutramine, a banned non-herbal drug. The official advised consumers to look for the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo, which means that remedies have been approved. Holland and Barrett said that all its products were now licensed by the MHRA.
More than 1,000 companies worldwide make medicinal plant products worth more than $60 billion a year.
The Schwabe range of herbal medicines has been registered under the Traditional Herbal Registration Scheme (THRS), a regulatory approval process for herbal treatments in the EU. Registration under this scheme primarily means that:
– Herbal products are regulated and meet specific standards of safety and quality based on traditional usage
– Products must be of pharmaceutical quality and also be manufactured to European Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Guidelines
– All herbal medicines registered under this scheme have a nine digit registration number on their packaging starting with the letters THR and/or the THR kite mark.