22 Jul Herbal medicines: staying safe when you buy online
You can’t be too careful when buying herbal medicines online.
We recently reported an online retailer selling tablets which they claim contain St John’s Wort extract on their website and other online marketplaces. We have reported the illegal product to the regulator, the MHRA, Amazon and Trading Standards and hope by the time you read this, that this particular vendor will have been taken off Amazon and shut down.
St John’s Wort is a powerful herbal remedy used by many people in the UK to combat the symptoms of mild depression, low mood and anxiety.
But anyone who takes it needs to fully understand what it is, how it works, and critically, when and how to take it and the right dose for them.
Don’t put yourself at risk from unregulated herbal medicines
By selling St John’s Wort as a food supplement, the illegal vendor offered no reassurance that the product is safe, effective or in fact contains the active ingredients claimed on the pack.
This particular vendor also sells their St John’s Wort to children, which would never be permitted by the regulator, the MHRA, for a licensed herbal medicine and could be dangerous to those under 12 years of age.
St John’s Wort tablets can play a significant role in relieving low mood or anxiety, but it’s vital to understand what you are taking and how to take it to stay safe. For example, St John’s Wort shouldn’t be taken by those on certain types of prescription medication, breastfeeding or using hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill.
Detailed warnings about these contra-indications should always be clearly set out in the product’s literature and on the pack.
Sadly, there will always be other unscrupulous people trying to sell unlicensed and potentially dangerous herbal medicines without complying with the regulations, so it’s important to always buy from a trusted brand or supplier.
Working with the MHRA to make herbal medicines safer
We’ve been working within the UK regulatory system for over 40 years and know that the regulator does act to stop illegal and dangerous products being sold. However, it can take time to take unregulated products off the internet, and anyone who buys them will have been put at risk in the meantime.
The MHRA says that unlicensed herbal medicines carry the risk of: https://www.gov.uk/drug-safety-update/herbal-products-safety-update
- Being of poor and variable quality
- Being deliberately adulterated with potentially toxic ingredients such as heavy metals, arsenic, and prescription-only medicines (including products that have been banned because of safety concerns)
- Having a lack of detailed product information.
Where to go for licensed herbal medicines
There are plenty of ways to buy fully-licensed, tested and regulated herbal medicines online from a range of reputable retailers including our HRI Shop on Amazon and websites belonging to high-street names such as Holland & Barrett, Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda, as well as some independent health food retailers.
But how can you be 100% sure that the product you are buying is safe, of the highest quality and contains an appropriate dose of the herbal medicine you want?
Here are our top tips of things to look for to keep yourself and your family safe:
1. Always choose a herbal medicine that carries the THR logo
This shows you that the product has been licensed under the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme, meaning it has undergone rigorous testing for quality, safety and stability by the national medicines regulator, the MHRA. The pack will also have a THR License number.
Find out more about what a THR is and why it matters in our article.
2. Read the patient information leaflet
Herbal medicines from HRI Herbal Medicine and other reputable, licensed providers will be available online so you can check whether the medicine is suitable for you before you buy it.
You can read the Patient Information Leaflets for our products via the links on our product pages:
3. Get informed
Check out the reviews of the product. Do they appear genuine? Are there a good number of reviews over an extended period of time? Is there a realistic mix of positive and less positive reviews? Like any other consumer product, every testimonial is a personal account and results may vary from person to person.
There are reviews of HRI Herbal Medicines on our Amazon shop, as well as the online shops of independent retailers – here are just a couple of examples:
“I just love this herb. Miracle! Works within hours to lift your mood.”
Review of HRI Good Mood St John’s Wort by Sarah on the Holland & Barrett website, April 2022
“These tablets have saved my confidence! I’m in my mid 30’s and my skin has decided that I now need spots – loads of them! They are not a miracle overnight treatment, but within 2 weeks my spots became less red and obvious and no new ones came up.”
Review of HRI Clear Complexion by a verified purchaser on Amazon, March 2019
It’s also well worth spending a bit of time learning more about how to manage your health, wellness or beauty issues naturally and understanding what you can do alongside taking herbal remedies to get the best results.
We have over 100 articles on our website with useful information about natural remedies to help with everyday issues including:
- Spots and acne
- Low mood and anxiety
- Water retention
- Digestive problems
- Hangovers (yes, hangovers!)
Colds, flu and immunity.
4. Trust your instincts
If the claims of what a product can achieve seem too good to be true, they probably are. Used in isolation, no herbal medicine or natural remedy will make you lose weight, overcome depression or gain energy. However, the right licensed herbal medicine tablets can certainly help, particularly when used in conjunction with changes in your diet, exercise programme or lifestyle.
5. Report unlicensed or illegal products
If you come across products claiming to be herbal medicines that don’t carry the THR logo, which make wild or unbelievable claims or which don’t have detailed Patient Information leaflets, you should report them to the platform where they are being sold, and to your local Trading Standards office.
We are strong believers in using alternatives to chemicals whenever possible, as we know that the nutrients and biochemicals provided by plants have the power to heal us and are kinder to our bodies than pharmaceutical drugs. But only when medicinal herbal extracts have been manufactured using the highest quality ingredients, in a GMP-approved facility (Good Manufacturing Practice), and the final product and ingredients have been tested for safety and stability for the course of the tablet’s shelf life.
Your safety is always our primary concern, which is why all our herbal medicines are fully licensed by the MHRA under the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme and have been since it was first set up in 2014.
Head over to our Amazon shop to find out more about our products and read reviews from real-life customers.
Photo by danilo.alvesd on Unsplash