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market for herbal medicines in 1996 was estimated at $14 billion, with Europe taking up
half of this market (Yuan and Grunwald, 1997). As a whole, European countries are largely
in the position that “If the product has been traditionally used without demonstrated
harm, no specific restrictive regulatory action should be undertaken unless new evidence
demands a revised risk-benefit assessment.” (NIH, 1994). Use and sales data
specifically on Chinese herbal products in European or other countries are not readily
accessible. However, these Chinese herbal products are not expected to be treated any
differently than any other herbal medicines.
In some ways, European governments are more proactive in regulating the use of herbal medicines. Even back in 1978, Germany already established an expert committee, called the Commission E, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of all herbal combinations sold in that country (Karch, 1999). In France, licensing and approval are required for the use of some 200 traditional herbal medicines. In England, a database of adverse effects of nonconventional medicines has been established at the National Poisons Unit to monitor the safe use of herbal remedies.
At present, about 600 to 800 raw medicinal substances are imported for use in Australia, principally from China. In light of such a rapid growing use, the Victorian Parliament in Australia recently passed the Chinese Medicine Registration Act of 2000 (effective January, 2002) in an effort to regulate the advertising of Chinese medicines and the dispensing of Chinese herbs.