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EU crackdown on herbal 'remedies'

From April 30 many herbal products will begin to disappear from the shelves of Ireland's 300 herbal outlets following an EU directive which will regulate medicinal herbs in the same way as pharmaceutical products.

Herbalists claim the regulations will see that many popular herbs disappear entirely. "A license can cost up to €100,000 per herb, which means that manufacturers and retailers will be facing staff losses and even closures," said Jill Bell, president of Irish Association of Health Stores.

"Ironically the safety record of our herbals is impeccable. The well-being of our customers is our primary concern, and in over 40 years there hasn't been a single report of significant side effects," she added.

In a recent statement, the Irish Medicines Board, which will be responsible for the licensing process, said: "The new system will protect the health and interests of consumers in Ireland."

"If the prime concern for this directive is safety, then why are the herbs still on our shelves today?

"When have you ever heard bad stories about echinacea or ginseng, yet it's OK for people to buy paracetamol, which when taken in large amounts can be lethal," said Julie Owens, owner manager of Restore Health Food Shop on Camden Street.

So far, she said only one company has applied for licences for a significant number of herbal products.

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