On August 20th 2012 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) effectively banned the use of Echinacea products for children under the age of 12 years. The decision has been brought to public attention by the action group AVAAZ who describe the herb as having been ‘demonised’, and thousands have contested the grounds upon which it was made.
Echinacea is a herb that has been used safely for hundreds of years. It is one of the best detoxifying herbs in Western Herbalism. A natural herbal antibiotic, it catalyses the action of the white blood cells and stimulates the immune system.
The decision to restrict its use was based on several old pieces of evidence that suggested that in some cases a minor reaction might occur. Richard Woodfield, the MHRA’s Head of Herbal Policy, even stated that: “This is not a serious safety issue, but parents and carers need to be aware that children under 12 could have a low risk of developing allergic reactions, such as rashes from oral Echinacea products.”
If one compares this with the long list of side effects antibiotics can cause in children (some of which are potentially very dangerous), it is hard to see why this decision has been made. In addition, pharmaceutical antibiotics do not target the pathogenic or ‘bad’ bacteria alone but also destroy the body’s natural flora. This not only can cause digestive upsets and reduced ability to absorb essential nutrients but also, as the majority of the immune system is located in the gut, reduce immunity and increase susceptibility to further infections. Echinacea, on the other hand, increases the body’s own defences.
The press release by the MHRA failed to indicate that consultation with a professional herbalist involves a complete and thorough assessment of every patient. By determining which herbs are appropriate for the individual make up, the ‘minimal risk’ becomes insignificant.
As antibiotic resistance becomes a growing concern in our society, restrictions on natural medicines that are key to strengthening immunity are unacceptable. Please consider adding your name to the list on the AVAAZ petition of those who feel they should have the right to choose!
The Herbal Clinic
Meilyr James BSc (Hons) DBTh DAcu AcuC DIr MGNI.
Registered Medical Herbalist, Iridologist and Acupuncturist.
South Wales evening post (published & edited 20th Sept)
The Herbal Clinic in Swansea provides natural healthcare with the use of organic herbs, acupuncture and iridology.