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Evaluation of the health risks associated with so-called banned herbs

Beoordeling van de gezondheidsrisico's van 'verboden kruiden'


The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has advised maintaining the ban on almost all herbs that are currently prohibited in herbal preparations in the Netherlands. This advice results from a literature study on the health effects of the 46 banned herbs in part II of the appendix of the Herbal Preparations Decree in the Dutch Commodities Act. This research was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). Consumers use herbal preparations for the supposed health benefits that are often attributed to natural products. The 'banned herbs' can, however, cause detrimental health effects, for instance by affecting the heart or the nervous system. In evaluating the health risks of the banned herbs, the RIVM used information on possible harmful effects of substances in these herbs. In addition, side effects and toxic reactions resulting from the use of these herbs (either in their natural form or for instance in a herbal extract or tea) were assessed. Only one of the herbs (Convolvulus scammonia) showed no indication of harmful effects that would justify a ban. In addition to the current list of banned herbs, the RIVM has suggested considering a separate ban or maximum concentration levels for a number of very toxic substances found in some of the banned herbs. This applies to cardiac glycosides, a number of tropane alkaloids and other alkaloids, thujone, and carcinogenic substances. The reasoning behind this is that these substances may also be present in herbs that are not yet on the banned herbs list. Additional research is, however, required to justify such maximum concentration levels or bans.

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