Friday, April 13, 2007

The FDA, Herbal Remedies, and Your Legal Right to Help Yourself

I went to one of my favorite flower essence related websites last night and was shocked and dismayed to see a notice posted on their page encouraging members to submit articles. The notice said something to the effect of "Please don't make claims that flower essences can be used to "cure" any physical or mental illness. The FDA frowns on this." Actually, they prohibit it. . . and while this is great news for those of us who cringe when alternative health affectionados go overboard in their praise of some newly discovered "miracle cure," it's absolutely infuriating when it prohibits me from saying to my clients "This stuff does wonders!" and I know from experience that this is the case.

The problem is that the FDA doesn't know how to evaluate a medicine that isn't one size fits all. It has a specific protocol based on the mindset that brings us one size fits most drug therapy and, literally, kills or creates emotional and physical cripples of the rest. Because herbs work differently for different people depending on their physiological and emotional make-up it makes a big difference to have enough knowledge and understanding of your own condition before walking blindly into an herb store and taking something off the shelf. On the other hand, unless you go overboard and overdo it, it's almost impossible to kill yourself using most of the herbs you'd find on a shelf anyway so, with a little reading and/or education, the average person actually can self-diagnose, help themselves quite a bit, and do themselves little or no harm.

But big pharma and the FDA bureaucrats they've bought and paid for want people to believe that herbs are either dangerous or ineffective, a hoax, snake oil. You can't have people taking responsibility for their own health care and well-being-- we're too stoopid--the medical establishment and the drug companies have to be in charge of that! "One pill makes you smaller, one pill makes you tall... and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all." Can't trust those old wives tales, ya know.

Can flower essences be used to cure physical or mental illness? Well, let me put it this way. When you address the underlying cause of any symptom or disease through ANY kind of appropriate therapy -- instead of relying on symptom management which is the major emphasis of western medicine today -- the illness or condition no longer has a reason to persist.

At the risk of sounding like the Hair Club president guy who says "I'm not just the president of this business, I'm a client!" I need to say this: I don't just make and sell Flower Essence Products I use them! And I wouldn't be wasting my time and hard earned dollars to market such an esoteric and little understood product if it didn't work.


Butterfly said...

Hi, I wanted to know if you are licensed to sell herbal products and if so, where did you get your credentials?

I am learning about herbal medicine and my goal in the next 5 years is to start up a home business that sells things like lotion, salves, balms etc but I understand there are fine lines on what you can sell and claim... I also know the value people put on "credentials" so if you could give me some insight on this I would be very grateful!



Sheryl Karas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sheryl Karas said...

Your question actually got me thinking that maybe I should look into this question some more. You DO need a license in the UK. Also, if the pharmaceutical companies continue to have their way licensing is likely to become a much bigger issue really soon so keep your eyes and ears open on this one! They've already pushed through to get the process of extracting and standardizing herbs patented. Huge big deal!!! Some companies could be faced with huge legal headaches especially if they want to compete head to head on the world market.

Sheryl Karas said...

Hi Anjika,
I removed this comment to edit it. This response, I think, will make better sense.

I have a masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology and went through the Flower Essence Society's practitioner training program. I have a business license but as far as I know in the United States at the present time you don't need any additional special license to sell herbal products.

You do need to be careful about making claims for any herbal product that a person will ingest by mouth. For example, Celestial Seasonings tea cannot make a straight forward claim that their Sleepytime tea will help you sleep better at night...although there is nothing to stop them from implying it in the name. But when it comes to aromatherapy products the law isn't so involved. My product crosses Aromatherapy with Flower Essence Therapy. Flower essences are an offshoot of homeopathy usually taken a few drops at a time by mouth. But they also work through the skin so I decided to add them to aromatherapy-inspired perfumes to make them accessible to a wider number of people. It also helped me avoid running afoul of potential FDA regulation requirements. I consulted with an herbalist who knew the law inside out because he co-owned a large herbal store in Santa Cruz. Unless things change I think I'll be alright. I'm also very clear on my packaging to tell people not to drink my perfume -- it could make them sick. I also make sure to disclose what ingredients I use in descending order by content on the packaging. That's a requirement of some kind, too.

I don't really know what kind of credentials you need to sell the kinds of things you intend to do. Have you considered apprenticing or working for a summer with another herbal practitioner with more experience?