Within the group of botanical products there is a large range of variation with regard to their properties. Some products are identical to foods while others come close to or are medicines. Botanical products are regulated differently within the different member states of the European Union (EU) and globally. They are regulated either as food or as medicinal products, and in the latter case often with simplified registration procedures. These differences are caused by differences in traditional use, in cultural and historical background, in scientific substantiation and in enforcement of current legislation. One may expect that in the future differences will remain, unless EU legislation is enacted with sufficient room for different approaches. The strengths and weaknesses of the different regulatory procedures have been reviewed and evaluated as well as the current methods for quality, efficacy and safety evaluation. Criteria to categorize botanical products have been defined, such that botanical products can be regulated under the current food and medicinal regulations. Furthermore, a decision tree has been developed as a tool to distinguish herbal medicinal products from botanical health products and vice versa, and to provide a stepwise framework for the assessment of safety and efficacy.
Bast, A., Chandler, R. F., Choy, P. C., Delmulle, L. M., Gruenwald, J., Halkes, S. B. A., Keller, K., Koeman, J. H., Peters, P., Przyrembel, H., de Ree, E. M., Renwick, A. G., & Vermeer, I. T. M. (2002). Botanical health products, positioning and requirements for effective and safe use. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, 12, 195-211. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1382-6689(02)00035-2