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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK
Herbalists' customers 'at risk'
Chinese medicine
The reporters claimed they were suffering from tiredness
Some Chinese herbalists are prescribing remedies without proper consultation, a BBC investigation has revealed.

The finding, backed up by experts, came after undercover reporters visited branches of Herbmedic in Southampton, Portsmouth and Basingstoke, Hampshire.

They were given medicine after a five minute appointment and said herbalists did not check their medical history.

But a Herbmedic spokesperson said the consultation and medicines prescribed were all "totally appropriate".

In each case reporters told practitioners, who were referred to as "doctors", that they were suffering from tiredness.

A five minute consultation can't possibly give sufficient information to proceed
Mazin Al-Khafaji, Chinese medicine practitioner

Andrew Folwer, a former president of the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine said: "It makes me very angry.

"It's a disservice to Chinese medicine, because it has a long and noble tradition that is being undermined by what is essentially malpractice."

Michael McIntyre, of the European Herbal Practitioners' Association, said many traditional Chinese outlets in shopping centres across the country are failing customers.

He told BBC Inside Out: "Unfortunately your experience with your three consultations exactly mirrors the information I have had from countless patients who are dissatisfied with what has happened to them in high street stores."

The Southampton branch of Herbmedic was prosecuted in 2002 for selling remedies with 26 times the permitted legal limit of lead.

'Fully qualified'

In 2003 the Advertising Standards Authority banned the company Herbmedic from describing its practitioners as "doctors".

Herbmedic said all practitioners were fully qualified with at least five years clinical experience in state-run Chinese hospitals and they use their skills and experience to determine the proper length of each consultation.

But Mazin Al-Khafaji, a leading practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said: "A five minute consultation can't possibly give sufficient information to proceed, so any medication that is prescribed in that time has to be incorrect."

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