Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Quality checks for herbal remedies
The new authentication centre is in London's Kew Gardens
Chinese and British doctors have set up a centre to test the safety of herbal medicines.
It follows calls earlier this year by European Union and government ministers for proper regulation of the burgeoning herbal medicine market.
There are thought to be more than 600 herbal medicine centres in the UK.
The herbal business is believed to have a turnover of £54m a year in the UK.
Dr Vincent Yu, a herbal practitioner, is worried about lack of regulation in the business.
Christine Leon of the Kew Garden authentication centre said its aim was to introduce some quality control into the industry.
Dr Virginia Murray of Guy's Poisons Unit said: "Long-term health effects have arisen as a result of using these remedies.
It is hoped that the centre will become an international reference point for the herbal remedy business.
Professor Vincent Marks, a former chemical pathologist, told the BBC's One O' Clock News that he gave his full support to attempts to introduce some quality control into herbal medicine.
"Just because something is natural does not mean that it is safe. In fact, most of our deadly poisons are natural."
He added that, because they contained an active ingredient, some herbal medicines could be dangerous if not used properly.
But it was found to be fatal if prescribed incorrectly.
Ann Gillanders of the British School of Reflexology said most herbal doctors studied for four years and to degree level.
"Most people consult herbalists and other alternative practitioners when they have tried other approaches and they have failed.
"They are looking for another way to help their health," she said.
She advised people to take care when choosing a herbal practitioner.