The Chinese government has announced it will allow herbal products to be sold in the country as long as they are labelled as medicinal, but the latest batch of products has been labelled as ‘daffode’ by some herbalists.
The government’s move is an important step towards allowing the country’s herbal medicine market to thrive, but it is not yet clear whether it will result in a significant increase in sales.
China has been one of the world’s largest markets for herbal medicines, with millions of people buying and using products from homeopathic, herbal and botanical medicines.
While the country does not have a comprehensive ban on herbal medicines (a la the European Union, where herbal medicines are banned), it has been cracking down on illegal imports.
In February this year, Chinese authorities arrested over 400 people who were suspected of selling herbal medicines that were adulterated with fake ingredients, including daffodils, and other plants, as well as illegally using the ingredients in their own medicines.
The crackdown has seen the number of herbal products sold in stores increase by a third, to 3.2 million, according to a report by the UK-based watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority.
China is now allowing herbal products such as silymarins, an herbal tea used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, to be bought in stores.
According to the BBC, the government has also announced that herbal products will be allowed to be used on its roads, so long as the labels are not misleading.
But it is unclear whether these regulations will result the government in increasing sales.
The BBC says the ban on silymars has led to a sharp fall in sales, with Chinese traders now buying them in bulk, rather than selling them individually.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Health Ministry, who wished to remain anonymous, told the BBC that “we are very careful in making the rules to ensure that the rules are not applied in a discriminatory manner, as there is a need to protect the interests of health care workers and public health”.
It is unclear what the impact of the ban will be on the Chinese herbal market.
Some herbalists are also concerned that the ban could mean a reduction in their customers.
“We are concerned that this could lead to an even larger decline in our business,” a herbalist told the New York Times.