Tuesday, 30 June 2009


An interesting aspect of British history is that this island has never succumbed to a revolution, uprising or civil war resulting in the permanent removal of the monarchy and the old establishment. Oliver Cromwell probably came the closest, but even his “best” efforts could not stop the tide of monarchy once more returning to our shores.

In 1381, for example, the so-called “Peasants Revolt” happened. This revolt came about because the poor peasants were being taxed to death, ostensibly to pay for the 100 years war against the French. To make matters worse, the king of the day, Richard II, was just a boy and was being manipulated by family members and advisors. The poor peasants simply had no more money to give, were fed up of the scheming ruling classes….so they kicked off!
The revolt was quite limited and short lived but a fair bit of damage was done, around London and Essex in particular. Even though the revolt was put down effectively it did actually mark the beginning of the end of serfdom. So, something was set in motion, something was achieved!

Interestingly, we British are taxed more now, than at any other time in history. But, are we still fighting the French? Are we under the despotic rule of a tyrant King or Queen? Are we just plain stupid?
The old system of monarchy is gone. In it’s place we have a new system consisting of the Westminster Parliament, the European Union, and, if you live in Scotland or Wales, our own shiny new Assemblies/Parliaments. So no surprise that we are paying more than ever, we have to support all the politicians and the whole machinery of this vast new political monarchy. We have swapped a ruling family for a ruling political class that is running out of control, inflicting more and more expensive government and legislation upon us and inflicting more of themselves upon us. It is amusingly ironic that the politicians have, and are still, limiting and removing powers and rights of the royal family and hereditary ruling classes and replacing the “real” royals and their privileges with themselves!

We have recently experienced all the scandal surrounding the MPs expenses fiasco and the total disregard our MPs have in spending/wasting our hard earned money. Just to rub the insult in deeper and deeper we now have the pathetic situation where the present government has done away effectively with hereditary Peers and instead inflict the titles upon themselves. I can not even repeat Mandelson’s title collection for fear of wanting to call myself Fawkes and smuggle sticks of dynamite into the Houses of Parliament. To make matters even more amusing I heard the news reports yesterday (29 June 2009) about how much the Royal Family costs us. 62p a year each apparently! Is that all? So, basically, no comparison whatsoever with the total financial bondage we are in to every layer of politicians from Cardiff Bay to Brussels then. Here’s another amusing comparison…Gordon (I’m an honest, working class, Presbyterian) Brown up against our present Queen. I know who I would trust. Queen equals honesty, integrity, unfailing sense of duty, straight talking; Gordon equals not even a straight answer as to the state of the weather, forget the economy! Queen equals value for money; Gordon equals bag of swag! I have never considered myself a great royalist, but you know what…I’d pay another 62p a year for Liz. But then that news story was probably yet another clever manipulation of the press by the government…ok boys, says Gordon, we’re right in the poo…I know, blame the old bird in the big house just to take the pressure of us for a while! If only I had access to the press in this way. Elvis would definitely be working in Tesco with Michael Jackson, aliens would have landed and there would be whole nations of fairies living at the end of Mr. Mandelson’s garden!

The King is dead….long live the Westminster gravy train!

The Westminster Parliament and British politicians of all shades and persuasions though are just royal small fry, lap dogs to the supreme royalty that is the European Parliament. I almost hate to use the word Parliament to describe these despots because Europe is really governed by the European Commission a non-elected elite that simply make it up as they go along! They do whatever they want basically, and are effectively in control of all they survey. The European Parliament effectively rubber stamps everything they say and they enjoy wealth and power unparalleled in history, certainly in comparison with the history of the British royal family. Maybe this is why the Westminster MPs, and all the Welsh and Scottish Parliament members cow tow and bow down to every edict issuing from Brussels. They know that if they are good boys and girls they may well get promoted to the lofty heights of Euro-royalty. They are like little bottom feeding bannerettes scuttling around the medieval battlefields, hoping one day to be accepted at the top table.

Come to think of it, how on Earth is that we are adding more and more layers of government such as the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments? Europe is taking over more and more powers and effectively making indigenous politicians redundant. So why do we have more when we actually require less? How can the Welsh and Scottish parliaments demand ever more powers when they are handing them over to HRH Brussels? Politics, and politicians, to coin a modern term, have gone viral, they are springing up everywhere, even though Brussels actually rules all. But, viruses of themselves are not intrinsically damaging, it is the body’s reaction to them that causes the trouble. When a virus gets into us and starts replicating, interfering, entering more and more of our cells the immune system attacks. It’s a bit like stepping into a mine field. Politicians need to take heed of this process as the more they interfere and replicate the more our alarm bells are going to go off, and finally when the critical political mass is reached the mines will go of…the peasants will once again revolt!

Why do we, the serfs, let these people do what they do? Maybe we are stupid? Just look at EC Treaty Article 308 Maastricht…the eerie Self Amendment Clause which basically means the European Commission can do whatever, whenever they like. They can use it to plug any gap, at any time, in any law, edict, directive they like!

Just as if to prove they are the new royalty, the Autocrats send their kids to exclusive schools together. Thus creating the next generation of eurocrats. Is this what EUgenics was really all about? Then again, in a couple of generations we’ll be back to where we started as inbreeding will cause a collapse of the House of Euro von Hapless…if we’re lucky!

The old monarchs ruled by divine right…approved and certified by God. But still watched over by God, and sometimes he obviously got a tad frustrated with them, just ask Charles the First. The Eurocrats, by virtue of the self amendment clause, have done away with such silly endorsements, and become God himself. Why are we, the peasants not revolting…the peasants in charge are truly revolting!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

I Used to be Quite Fond of Wales...Then They Made Me Pay For It!

I had the great fortune to be born and brought up in Wales. In a town called Llanelli, on the south coast of Wales, about 12 miles west of Swansea. Whilst, ultimately, in ancestral terms, “The Land of My Fathers”, I would admit, is a tad closer to Dublin than it is to Cardiff, the land of my mothers though is very definitely more Swansea, and I consider myself to be Welsh, and rather pleased about that fact!

Llanelli, especially in the 1960’s, when I turned up there, was an intensely Welsh place. One of the strongholds of the Welsh language. Even the accent identified you as being of Llanelli, or to the less discerning Welsh ear, somewhere in Carmarthenshire…or Dyfed as it became…or Carmarthenshire as it then became again. Give politicians a job hey!

Even if you were not of a Welsh speaking family in a place like Llanelli you inevitably became at the very least able to get by in the Welsh language simply by being immersed in an awful lot of Welshness. In fact it was quite normal in Llanelli and other parts of the south west of Wales for entire families to never speak English at all in everyday family and social circumstances. On the rare occasion, I have even met people of my grandparents generation who could hardly get by in English at all, and never needed to use English due to the strength of the language in the area they lived. Llanelli people were so proud of their Welshness in fact that we used to joke that if you crossed the Lougher Bridge, which took you out of town and East into Swansea, you were in England!

You would have thought that being brought up in such an environment that a powerful Welsh nationalist movement might have existed. Maybe there would have been a strong movement for self government, independence or some other assertion of a Welsh state as distinct from the rest of the UK. Well, you know what….there was nothing of the kind. Sure, some people may have banged on about a free Wales or raged with anti-English government sentiment occasionally, but there was nothing serious, no commonly held belief that we should be free of the evil clutches of the Westminster Parliament. I admit to having once met a man who claimed to be part of the Free Wales Army…but that was the closest I ever got to the serious disunity of the United Kingdom courtesy of the Welsh!

So, I’m wondering how on Earth we came to have a Welsh Assembly? Well, to cut a long story short it was a cunning plan devised by Labour governments in the 1970’s. The Welsh themselves were not demanding it, raging against Westminster or for freedom from the shackles of the English oppressor…no!

In 1979, on St. David’s Day, a referendum was held, basically asking the Welsh people if they wanted an Assembly or not. It was totally rejected, the No’s won by 4:1. No big surprise really, as I say, I had never heard the Welsh themselves discussing the possibility of self-government or Welsh home rule etc. The pubs, the chapels and the streets were not buzzing with the prospect of another layer of government. Had I been hanging out in the wrong company, was my education pathetically politically lacking….was I just stupid?

The Welsh have never really been separatists. How could we be? This island we live on has arguably been occupied for people with a claim to Welshness longer than all other ethnic groups here. Our flag is the oldest, our language is the oldest. This is our gaff. We are the British aborigines! The word Prydain is a Welsh word…it became Britain of course. We are comfortable in the knowledge that this place belongs to us, we don’t need to be separated or “nationalised“! It is obvious though we are different, and have as a nation within our British nation a distinct part of the overall British story. If not, then why would we need any form of government distinct from those nice English people next door?

However, back to politics. Not to be beaten, another labour government in 1999 launched yet another campaign trying to convince the Welsh of their need for a nice new layer of government and set of bureaucrats. This time, an expensive publicity campaign by the government saw a narrow victory for the Yes vote. Sadly, for me, my home county, Carmarthenshire (or was that Dyfed) gave the last, decisive although very narrow yes vote. Wales now had it’s own political and bureaucratic job creation scheme. Not a real law making, tax raising government, mind you (as they say in Wales); but the Welsh Assembly was born.

Then, to mark the event, they immediately did what every good government does…wasted millions of pounds (not Welsh pounds or Euro pounds I hasten to add, but British tax payers pounds) on digging a hole in Cardiff Bay. A very large hole at that. They said it was to house the new Assembly building, but we were soon to learn that it was a hole to start shovelling more taxpayers money into. The new Assembly building cost some 70 million pounds, well over budget of course, and was 4 years and 10 months, precisely, overdue!

The important consequence of the creation of the Welsh Assembly was that now the Welsh people had not just the European parliament, governing them, but the Westminster Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, and while we are at it, let’s not forget the local authorities either. If my maths is correct that’s 4 layers of Government. Four layers of government, just like the lucky Scots! Four layers complete with the usual assortment of people required to keep such a monster fed, burning up taxpayers money in order to keep it‘s tummy full. The Welsh Assembly running costs are I believe somewhere in the region of 40 million pounds. I don’t even want to add that to the cost of the other layers of government for fear of my first heart attack. Have we any idea what we are doing? Have we any idea what they are doing? Have we all gone stark staring bonkers? This is not democracy, this is not even funny any more.

Even more serious than all this self inflicted government is the fact that they can’t actually do anything useful at all. Why? They have limited powers, but do get, or are supposed to get involved with all things Welsh. Because they are all under the control of the European Parliament, and the European Parliament is telling us all what to do. However, just like the Scottish Parliament, once you bring a monster like this into one it wants more and more powers. What about tax raising powers, law making powers? When can the Assembly become a real government of the Welsh people? The bit, one feels, is being gnawed slowly. In my humble Welsh opinion, the Assembly will become a true government of the Welsh people and show an example to the rest of Britain when it proves its Welsh credentials. When it stands and fights, to the death if needs be, for Welsh culture, history and tradition. Prove you are for the Welsh people, prove you are of the Welsh people…make yourselves truly wanted by the Welsh people.

So I have a challenge for the Welsh Assembly, one they are duty bound to take up with all urgency, if indeed they value Wales and where she came from. Wales after all is the elder sibling in the British family, we should lead by example.

But first, a question for all members of the Welsh Assembly and its supporters. Is there some reason why Wales is different enough from the rest of Britain to have its own government or its own Assembly? There can only be one answer…YES. Exactly the same is true of Scotland of course. The fact we have the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament is an admission that there is something different and distinct about these areas. Something distinct and different about the history, culture and traditions of these places, just start with language. We all still share being British though.

Well, Welsh Assembly members there is a directive called THE TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN HERBAL MEDICINES DIRECTIVE being implemented by Brussels as we speak. Look at the title chaps… DIRECTING/LEGISLATING for TRADITION. ..That is a dreadful legal precedent to set! The tradition in question being herbal medicine. The only written and preserved tradition of herbal medicine in Europe is Welsh…by default British. The oldest tradition we have is the herbal one, it pre-dates language and religion, and we have it written down. Can we expect the TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN LANGUAGE AND RELIGION DIRECTIVES soon?

This herbal system is our history, our cultural heirloom, our birthright. I do not expect modern politicians to be overly familiar with tradition and culture or to be familiar with the accumulation of herbal knowledge over millennia upon which it is built, and the way it has been transmitted from generation to generation. If you are not aware of it, get familiar fast…look up the Physicians of Myddfai. When you have familiarised yourselves I expect to hear the noise of military hardware being readied from the direction of Cardiff Bay!

Herbal medicine is humanities longest tradition, not just Wales longest tradition. If you really work for Wales then you must drop everything else for this. Saying we can not do anything to overturn European law is not going to cut it. This is our culture, this is worth loading the guns for. What Brussels is doing is illegal, it is cultural genocide. This herbal tradition, and all the other precious traditions of Wales, such as our language, is the very substance of our Wales... our Prydain.

If the Welsh Assembly does not attack this Directive with everything it has and stop the European Parliament from legislating for our history then our distinct culture, the very reasons for the Assembly itself, is doomed and you will prove Wales to be no more.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Human Rights, Human Wrongs

This month we saw the ruling by the Law Lords that the right to impose “control orders” on terrorist suspects was against the human rights of the suspects and ran counter to all that the British legal system is based upon and stands for, when those orders are applied on the basis of secret evidence. The “Human Rights” ruling in question is that of the European Community.

The recent case concerns three unnamed men who have had control orders imposed because of the suspicion that they were involved with terrorism. The basis upon which the men were placed under these control orders was secret evidence, evidence that the British authorities did not want to release into the public domain for fear of compromising its effectiveness in gaining information and its sources. Two of the men, apparently, are not British or European…not that it should make a difference of course.

Control orders can mean that a suspect is tagged, given curfews, held under house arrest, stopped from making telephone calls, using the internet etc. Not a very nice situation to find yourself in, as we would all agree I’m sure.

But…what on Earth are the authorities, the Home Office, MI5, the Police etc. supposed to do if they have any suspicions about an individual and the potential for terrorism? They of course will be bound by all these rulings. Genuine terrorists on the other hand will be bound by nothing…not even control orders, doing all they can to gain advantage from such rulings and situations! This is the whole basis of terrorism…to act outside the rules, to break every rule, to disregard every right, moral and more of civilised society to strike a blow for the cause they support. One side plays by the rules…and is forced by European legislation to do so, the other sides whole purpose is to destroy the rules, and for that matter, the rule makers themselves. The “war on terrorism” is not your usual type of war of course, not the good old fashioned type! Most wars are fought by people taking up two sides, wearing recognisable uniforms and more often than not fighting whilst observing some basic set of rules, the etiquette of warfare if you would!

It’s not just the authorities that are worried by this ruling of course, we citizens should be very worried too. We after all have become default soldiers in the “war on terrorism”, targets for the terrorists, we are the other side, the opposition, the enemy. We thought we were paying the government and the police to protect us from terrorists. But alas, even these guys are neutralised, not just by the enemy but by our own and superimposed European legislative procedures. We want to be protected from the terrorists. We thought we had the people to do it, but now what?

Just look at the poor police force. They have recently had some terrible publicity focussed on them for taking action they believed was important in their role of protecting the public from potential terrorist threats. What are they to do? They are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. I for one say, “thanks chaps”. At least you are trying, and we can see that, and we should be grateful.

It actually seems to be common sense that in this “war on terrorism” you need secret sources and information. What are the alternatives?

Human rights legislation is one of the greatest attainments of a civilised and intelligent society. We all require and support the fact that we can enjoy and operate under such legislation. It has to be accepted by all though, and this is basically where it falls down of course…not everyone does accept it. Another problem with it, especially when it comes down from a European parliament is that we have the charter for Human Rights handed to us along with an endless stream of other laws, rules and regulations. So, in other words we are given our freedom but we are also given more and more laws. More and more laws mean more and more people are criminalised or legislated against. More and more freedoms are taken away. More and more criminals are created. We have basic human rights...as long as we observe an ever growing array of life controlling euro laws.

As I explained in my blog entitled “GIVEN ENOUGH (EU)ROPE…WE CAN ALL HANG”, I and other users of herbal products are being legislated against, and out of existence, by Europe. Our history and tradition are being legislated for and I and all who share in my culture, history and traditions (i.e. the British people) have no recourse to justice. I have no way to stand up and say, “hang on euro chaps I have the fundamental human right to carry on using, making and selling herbal medicines as I do, in a safe way, as we have done since time began.”
Where are the clever human rights lawyers when we need them? Mrs. Blair, I need you, give me a ring, we can have a legal field day! I shall await her call, and in the meantime more laws, rules and regulations will appear, eventually governing every aspect of our lives. Yet still, we will have the Human Rights laws that say I have rights to my tradition, culture and history. Am I alone in my confusion? So we are trapped between the human rights legislation and the plethora of other lunatic laws pouring from Brussels. The net effect is to cause everything to grind to a halt. We will not be able to enjoy one law without breaking another. Human Rights legislation is a way to do nothing, sit on your hands, give no responsibility and take no responsibility. We all end up doing nothing…absolutely nothing. Well not absolutely nothing because we will still have to do what Mama Brussels tells us to do.

This of course is also where the anti-terrorist legislation falls flat on it’s face. We can’t actually do anything about it because we have to many laws countering each other and those laws are being played cleverly by those that want to take advantage of them. The law makers and the lawyers are sitting pretty of course. The law abiding and the law itself, the police as an example, are stuffed! Common sense, along with Common Law has been done away with.

Human Rights legislation and the way it is panning out seems to mirror the way the individual and society have developed of late. We are in a generation of the ego where selfish interest rules. We want everything except the blame. Are we in the European Community or just the European…? If I want, I should have. If I want bigger breasts I can, if I want more money I’ll get a credit card off some idiot bank willing to give it to me, if I want a baby at 60 I’ll find a doctor who has no morals governing such unnatural procedures. If it all goes wrong I’ll claim damages under the Human Rights laws. Let’s not even mention what we have read in the news about certain individuals with possible connections to terrorist organisations and what they have gained from the courts of Human Rights. Human Rights law is fast becoming the ultimate fashion accessory, it comes in all colours, all sizes, is endlessly recyclable….and gets us nowhere.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Given enough (EU)rope...we can all hang...

I am a herbalist, I have been a herbalist all my working life, I grew up with herbal medicine.

Herbal medicine has never presented a problem or public threat…ever. Now though, the eurocrats in the European parliament have got their teeth into herbal medicine, specifically, over the counter herbal products. The Brussels bureaucrats want a slice of the action, and under the legally and statistically unsupportable excuse of protecting public safety, they have decided that companies producing herbal products for the “over the counter” market must register their products by producing and submitting, production, chemical, safety and historical data for each product. Not a big deal, you may think. Seems like a good idea, ensuring product quality. The problem of course, is the usual one with excessive government, WE HAVE TO PAY.

We have to pay an awful lot in fact. They do, after all have a lot of mouths to feed in Brussels. We also have to do all the work of course! The cost is so high that most herbal companies will be put out of business instantly in March 2011 when the Directive becomes law. Even the largest companies in the business are apparently doing nothing…giving up on the money grabbing European bureaucracy and concentrating on the US and rest of the world. This will mean the end of companies, stores and jobs, not to mention our basic human right to access herbal medicines as and when we need them.

I don’t think there has ever been an event in the history of any industry so terminal, and yet we seem to be sliding inexorably towards the precipice without anyone really appreciating the full potential effect of this directive or how it directly contradicts and removes our fundamental human right of choice in the medicine we use.

Most importantly, this Directive is a first in law making. It directly legislates for a tradition. A tradition that is arguably the oldest we have. Just take a look at the name of the directive…THE TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN HERBAL MEDICINE DIRECTIVE…in other words the European law makers are actually telling us they are legislating for our traditions…our culture…our history. The precedent being set by this directive is truly startling. When this directive reaches full implementation in 2011 it will effectively allow Europe to legislate for all our traditions and cultural/historic traditions and rights. Just wait for the TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN LANGUAGE DIRECTIVE, or maybe…THE TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN RELIGIONS DIRECTIVE. All the traditional British languages and all traditional British religions are of course far younger than the tradition of herbal medicine.

So what exactly am I talking about? Read on…

Initially, I would like to draw to your attention to some interesting lines from the TREATY OF ROME, establishing the European Union; It outlined some important cultural considerations.

The section entitled; Culture, article 128, states…

…The community shall contribute to the flowering of cultures of the Member states, whilst respecting their national and regional diversity…

…Action by the community shall be aimed at…improvement of the knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of the European peoples…conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European significance…

…The community shall take cultural aspects into account in its action under the other provisions of this treaty…

It is informative to follow those lines with a brief look at history:

The oldest surviving written traditional system of herbal medicine in Europe, is the Welsh system of medicine. It can be found translated into English as ‘The Physicians of Myddfai’.

The origins of this unique system of herbal medicine lay so far back in time that they were explained in the legend of ‘The lady of the Lake’. The legend was first written down at about the same time as the system itself began to be recorded in writing, around the early part of the thirteenth century. ‘The Physicians of Myddfai’, were indeed real people; Rhiwallon, physician to Rhys Gryg, a prince of South Wales, and Rhiwallon’s three sons, Cadwgan, Gruffydd and Einion. To this day people claim descent from this family!

The ‘Lady of the Lake’, the originator of the herbal formulas that Rhiwallon and his sons became so skilled in the use of, is said to have been the mother of Rhiwallon. We do not know her name, but we are told that Rhiwallon’s father first met her when she approached him from the surface of the lake called ‘Llyn y fan fach’. This is near the present day village of Myddfai on the western edge of the Black Mountains.

To cut a long story short, the Lady and Rhiwallon’s father married after a long and arduous courtship. She seems different and belongs to a group of people who are separate from the Celtic peoples, appearing more primitive in their ways, they do not appear to have had iron, for example, and are thought to be some of the earliest native peoples of this part of Britain. The marriage did not last, as it appears the Lady had difficulty dealing with the life and customs of the Celtic peoples. She leaves and returns to the lake. One day, whilst walking in the mountains near Llyn y fan fach, Rhiwallon meets his mother at a place still bearing the name ‘Llidiad y Meddygon’, ‘Physicians Gate’. At this meeting the Lady gives Rhiwallon a bag full of herbal prescriptions and even shows him where to find the herbs. She takes her leave, imploring Rhiwallon to use the information to relieve the suffering of mankind.

Whilst this story may seem quaint and even meaningless at first glance, it, in common with all myths and legends, is merely a culturally colourful way of imparting some deeper truth. It demonstrates that herbal medicine and the use of herbs is so important and so ingrained in our culture and goes back such a long way that its origins have become part of myth and legend, part of not just our shared history, but our shared imagination.

If we go back to 930 AD, then Howel Dda (Howel the Good) was King of Dyfed. He was an inspired Law maker and his laws governed the lives of ordinary Welsh folk until the time of Edward the First. However, Howel also formulates laws regarding the work of herbalists and some of the formulas from the ‘Physicians of Myddfai’ can be traced to his time. Earlier still, in the time of Prydain ab Aedd Mawr (this mans first name is the name of our country of course), around 1000 BC, medicine was included among the ‘nine rural arts’ and the practitioners of medicine were the ‘Gwyddoniaid’ or Men of Knowledge. During this time period the Men of Knowledge are said to have become the Druids, Bards and Ovates, with the Ovates being responsible for medicine. As early as 430 BC (before Hippocrates) there is evidence, from the laws of Dynwal Moelmud, that the art of herbal medicine was protected and encouraged by the state.

It is obvious that when we combine myth and actual history concerning herbal medicine in Britain it appears that the ‘Physicians of Myddfai’ contains information which may indeed originate in pre-Celtic times. In other words, this cultural tradition extends way back into the mists of the past. How old does a tradition have to be to qualify for exemption from meddling and legislation?

Our herbal knowledge did not simply get written down and remain static. It is again clear from the ‘Physicians of Myddfai’ that trade in medicines and the constant search for new herbs via trade and cross cultural contact was an important part of the process. The ‘Physicians of Myddfai’ lends from Hippocrates and the herbs mentioned shows how herbs were traded with not only other Europeans but the Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians.

We British have enjoyed, the basic human right to use, trade and develop herbal medicine over the centuries. Even King Henry the Eighth produced the ‘Herbalists Charter’ to protect the rights of herbalists. Ironically, this charter is still part of the law, not only of Britain but of the USA too! Herbal medicine and the free availability of herbs has been a standard part of the British landscape for millennia. Today, several universities offer degrees in Herbal Medicine along with further qualifications, such as doctorates.

Britain has become almost unique in Europe for its continuous use, development and innovation in the production of herbal medicine. People from all over the world come here to study the subject. In Britain our herbal tradition is unbroken.

Our fundamental historical, traditional, cultural and human right, and freedom to access and use herbal medicine, as well as develop and adapt herbal medicines is unbroken…until 2011! I demand that this tradition, of immense European cultural significance, be conserved and safeguarded.

So, what are the problems with the European Directive?

Firstly, if we look at the statements taken from the Treaty of Rome above, it would appear that traditional, cultural, historic etc would mean ‘untouchable’ in terms of legislation. In fact, we should not need to be told that our historic traditions and cultures are things that should never be tampered with. This Directive though is called the ‘Traditional Directive’…legislating for tradition/directing tradition. What legal right has anyone got to legislate for tradition? Is the very title of the Directive legal? How old does a tradition have to be before it can be immune to legislation?

The European Directive calls for all herbal products on sale over the counter in health food stores, pharmacies etc. to undergo a registration process by April 2011 in order for them to be allowed for sale.

The MHRA is in charge of implementing the directive in the UK.

Registration is a long, drawn out process of submitting paperwork regarding the quality of the product, the production methods, the chemistry of the herbs, the historical uses etc. The process can take up to 2 years and cost anything over ten thousand pounds per product. Some take a lot longer and cost a lot more of course. Needless to say, it is the producer, we, that have to do all the work and pay all the money. This is particularly interesting at a time of recession when the government is bailing out companies that have failed. Here we are, in the herbal industry, in the same recession and effectively having to pay to go out of business. Where is the compensation…the redundancy plan….the rescue package…the financial assistance? In short, there is no help, no route to the market for small companies without enough money. In 2011 we just pack up our lives work, forget that herbal medicine is one of our basic freedoms and rights and just walk away!

In Britain today there are a lot of herbal companies, just like the one I work for (Swiss Herbal Remedies, based in Cardiff). Most of these companies, just like us, are small to medium sized. It does not take a financial genius therefore to see immediately that the cost of these registrations, apart from the ongoing work involved, means certain bankruptcy! We provide over 40 herbal products to the health trade, imagine having to spend say fifteen thousand pounds on each one just to keep it on the shelf (remember, that this is not a fixed cost and can vary greatly). For us, it already means a few years turn over, forget any profit that may be available to spend on it!

The other major effect of the cost of course is that it is only a few large companies will survive. All herbal products will be given over to the hands of major, large companies, effectively killing competition dead and creating outright monopolies. Europe, once again succeeds in putting everything into the hands of mega corporations and cutting out the individuals and the small businesses.

There is actually nothing wrong with backing up products with ’quality control’ and production methodology data of course! It is the cost that kills…kills cleverly, leaving the rotting corpses of the individuals for the faceless, giant, corporate vultures

The irony of the legislation is that our herbal products are now made to UK GMP, which is the highest standard possible, it is the MHRA’s own standard. So our products already have officially recognised status as being of the highest possible quality, but because we can not afford the newly imposed paperwork to go with it some of the highest quality herbal products ever made will be taken from the shelves because we could not afford to join the club!

We will also find the incredible situation where a strong and potentially dangerous (in the wrong hands) herb such as Lobelia (that already has been registered/licensed) will remain quite happily on the shelves whilst an unregistered bilberry or artichoke tincture made to UK GMP will be removed from the shelves. Consider this situation for a moment…two perfectly safe foods effectively, removed from sale simply because they also happen to have medicinal properties! Startling, especially when, in terms of safety, cabbage is far more dangerous than bilberry or artichoke…yes, cabbage, it contains elements that kill thyroid cells. Just one example of the abject stupidity of the Directive! How far will this stupidity go? Will we see headlines in the paper such as…man arrested in possession of elderberry to be charged with intent to supply unregistered anit-virals…

When will fruit and vegetable sellers be prosecuted for making perfectly normal claims about the health giving properties of their produce? What about herbs and spices in everyday food products? Sage for example contains the chemical thujone which causes contraction of the womb and could lead to an abortion. Paxo, the makers of that world famous brand of sage and onion stuffing had better watch out. They could get really stuffed by the MHRA for causing a rapid unstuffing of the heavily pregnant thanks to the unregistered herbals in their festive fare.

Bizarrely, the herbs to be registered are those that are sold or marketed by companies as medicines. Just to state the obvious before continuing...medicinal herbs are medicinal, i.e. good for your health or able to adjust elements of your physiology for the better, simply because that's what they do. Herbs are medicinal, simply because they are, not because they are packaged or processed in some specific way. Remember also that the basic way in which a herb is used medicinally is either in its fresh state or as the dried herb made into a tea. It is still the same medicinal herb as the one made into a tincture, tablet or capsule. Oddly though, dried herbs (for culinary purposes for example) are exempt from the need to be registered, even though they are the same medicinal herbs...consider turmeric, ginger, chilli,garlic,coriander, dill, fennel,fenugreek horseradish, thyme, sage, peppermint etc etc...the list is endless. All medicinal regardless of the way they are processed...or cooked. The reason a lot of these herbs are in foods, Indian and Chinese food being perfect examples, is because they are medicinal. The cost of registration is really going to take the price of a good curry beyond the reach of us mere financial mortals! It is obvious then, that this registration fee is merely a tax on a particular sector of the herb industry, not a move to protect public safety...is it not? Food with ginger in is just as "dangerous" to public health using this warped logic as a ginger tablet is. Maybe it's just me...

I feel like an idiot having to say these things, but this is exactly where we are. Legislation improving and ensuring the quality of herbal medicines (such as the GMP standard) is to be applauded of course, but this Directive is difficult to classify in any way…it’s not good…it’s not bad….it’s just crazy, like the ideas of lunatics who just make life up as they go along!

There are currently, hundreds of herbal products in what is a vibrant, innovative market, but at the time of writing there are only 61 applications in with the MHRA for product registrations and only 28 have been granted so far. Remember, there is less than 2 years to go before full implementation, and it will take over 2 years to register a product. We could be looking at store shelves being cleared of the majority of herbal products in one swoop. Anything new after this point would have to go into the grindingly slow, expensive registration process and the innovation, competitiveness and vibrancy of the herbal market is also erased in one swoop, leaving what is left in the hands of a few companies that could afford the costly registration process. It is informative to learn that one company already holding a few registrations has never had anything to do with herbal medicine before. It’s simply turned gaining herbal registrations into a money spinning commodity to be sold on to monopoly enterprises.

The cost of registration also implies of course that the price of the remaining products will inevitably increase, further depressing the herbal market. In fact, it looks certain, that the herbal market as we now know it will vanish completely. Maybe that’s the plan anyway.

Why is this registration process required?

What the MHRA is doing is forcing the herbal world into the pharmaceutical world. These worlds do not fit together…herbs and pharmaceutical drugs are entirely different entities. I am a herbalist, not a pharmacist. Drugs are new, purified chemicals, some of which never existed before man made them. Herbs, as we know, have been with us since time began, and are complex mixtures of the plants own chemicals.

Interestingly, registered herbal products are being given new names! In fact the MHRA encourages the use of brand names. Why? Is this safe? Is this legal? Think about it...the herb using public know the names of the herbs they want. Herbs have had names, the same names, for time immemorial. Imagine turning up at your health store for some Valerian only to find it's now called Somnoease or some other stupid pseudo pharmaceutical name. A recipe for absolute disaster and a recipe in which safety has been thrown out the window completely. If you want to be safe, you call something by it's name! How stupid is that? This aspect of the Directive simply demonstrates how far removed from the reality of herbal medicine the Legislators are.

The MHRA claims that the public has to be safeguarded against the herbal medicine we have used, and have the right to use, since time began. Don’t forget either, that some of the herbs we are talking about are herbs such as Dandelion, Hawthorn, Bilberry, Fennel, Sage, Thyme, Oats, Artichoke, Ginger, Bladderwrack, Nettle, Turmeric etc, everyday, familiar food items otherwise. To suggest the public has to be safeguarded against these herbs or indeed others that have what amounts to the longest ever human clinical trials and use as everyday food items is utter nonsense.

Most importantly, there is no public safety issue involved with herbal medicine. Where are the statistics to show how dangerous herbal medicine is? How does it compare to pharmaceutical drug safety? Every now and again the MHRA will send out a warning about a herbal product that is dangerous because it contains the wrong thing or a dangerous herb or substance. More often than not the herb will be Chinese. All main stream European and US companies producing herbal remedies for the British market manufacture to extremely high standards, as I have said, the herbals I use and sell are made to the MHRA’s own GMP standard. If the MHRA really want to do something then they should close down the High Street Chinese herbalists that are appearing everywhere. The products being sold through them are not even labelled in English! In other words, they are even breaking normal trading standards rules…are they not? These people do not represent the normal British/European or US herbal trade. They simply bring products in directly from their own sources in China. On the other hand, British/European or US companies that make products from Chinese herbs make them to the usual high standards expected of the western herbal tradition.

Another major evil of the Directive is that it has the effect of distancing us even further from the natural world. It creates a kind of “us in here, them out there kind of situation”, where the natural world is somehow dangerous and out to get us unless we are protected from it. After millions of years of evolving together , or if you prefer, after millennia of having been given by God the medicines that we need in the natural world around us, the European Parliament and the MHRA comes along and suddenly decides that after all this time we have learned nothing, or if you prefer, that God is an idiot, and we suddenly need protecting from Hawthorn berries and the like. Since we first appeared on this planet the knowledge we have gained in the use of herbs is immense. Incredible civilisations over millennia have given us so much knowledge in the use of herbs that we do not have enough lifetimes to learn it all. Most importantly, we have learned how to use herbs safely, and which herbs are safe. It is that simple really, but we have forgotten this in the technologically advanced Western world because of our dependence on chemical medicine and drugs, and the fact that they are sold so effectively to us!

Here we are living in a time when we in the Western world need to get back to nature but our law makers are distancing us even further from it. The World Health Organisation itself says that, even in this day and age, over 70% of the Earth’s population still use herbal medicine as its only or main form of medicine. Well, surprise, surprise , we would wouldn’t we….this stuff grows on trees….duh!

So there we have it.
Europe is achieving something incredible, and setting one of the most dangerous precedents in history. Not only is our right to remain attached to the natural world for our medicine being severed, but the right to legislate for tradition, culture and history is being claimed. Be warned and be very scared European people…today your oldest tradition is being taken away from you, tomorrow it will be your tongues and your Gods.