Natural Foods Merchandiser

EU Herbal Committee Meets; Data Backs Herbs

The Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC), a European Union mandated group, met for the first time in September in London. The HMPC was created as part of a new directive (2004/ 24/EC) published earlier this year. The legislation introduced a simplified registration procedure for traditional herbal medicinal products in EU member states and established the committee, which is part of the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), an EU public and animal health watchdog.

Thomas Lönngren, EMEA executive director, said the committee ?will help to harmonize procedures and provisions concerning herbal medicinal products laid down in the member states and [also help] to further integrate herbal medicinal products in the European regulatory framework.?

The directive requires that any product seeking simplified registration must provide ?bibliographical or expert evidence to the effect that the medicinal product in question, or a corresponding product, has been in medicinal use throughout a period of at least 30 years preceding the date of the application, including at least 15 years within the community.? However, it is possible for a member state to refer a product to the HMPC for consideration if it has been in use for fewer than 15 years.

In June, the World Health Organization released a new set of guidelines for national health authorities to develop context-specific and reliable information for consumer use of alternative medicines after warning that adverse-events reports had more than doubled in the past three years. Meanwhile, at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in September in Manchester, England, researchers presented several studies supporting the use of traditional herbal remedies.

Several teams of researchers from King?s College, London, studied the use of a Ghanaian plant for wound healing, Malaysian and Indian plants for diabetes treatment, traditional Chinese and Thai medicines for cancer treatment, alfalfa extracts for their antifungal activity, and traditional Nigerian medicines for memory loss and mental symptoms associated with aging.

The researchers found positive results in all of the above studies and, in a news release, said the studies confirm ?the benefits of commonly used traditional remedies for a range of illnesses, including cancer, [thereby] offering a scientific justification for their use. ? The findings will help local people identify which plants to recommend and may lead to potential new compounds for pharmaceutical use.?

Also, researchers at the Welsh School of Pharmacy in Cardiff have identified compounds that could offer brand new treatments for prostate cancer. They found that enzymes can slow down the activity of vitamins A and D, which are believed to have an anticancer effect but are metabolized in the body too quickly.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 11/p. 12

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