laws governing selling medicinal herbs

breezynosacek(7VA)December 24, 2003

I plan on going to the farmers market this year. Trying to make a living from my homestead.

What are the laws pertaining to selling medicinal herbs?

How far can you go with the descriptions?


Used for?


Parts used?

I know there are "schools" that offer certificates and such but I don't plan on opening up an office and hanging out my shingle. I just want to sell the herbs and help some people in a "low income" "High unemployment" rural area get some relief.

When I lived in the holler up in OH, I used to help the neighbors out with herbs but that has been years ago and I know the laws have changed.

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chineseherbs(9a Florida)

you probably need to check with your state if you really want to know. they might also have some agricultural regulations. i know in my state you aren't supposed to sell plants at garage sales, which i think is ridiculous. if i were you i would include all the info. you listed and just go try it.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2003 at 8:52AM
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You could run into problems presenting herbs as curing or successfully treating specific conditions or disease without there being evidence to support such claims.

This site (from a supplements manufacturer) has useful information.
Some of their claims (for instance, the one about it not being feasible to show herbs work because of undue cost) are untrue, and they show how to skirt the law by stating that an herb/product will "support correct function".

It's probably safest not to label your herbs as specifically treating disease, but to refer people to reliable sources of information instead.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2003 at 11:25AM
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okay, thanks a lot.

So how do distinguish betwee medicinal herbs and culinary in a market? Do you state,

Juniperus communis
Evergreen tree
Growing instructions....

Low-dose bontanical
part used: berries

Do you think that is going to far? I mean most people would just assume it is a landscaping plant.

The seed catalogs get by with a pretty good description that requires you to look up information on plants that you aren't familiar with. Do they get by with more descriptions than the grower does?

    Bookmark   December 24, 2003 at 7:42PM
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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

There are two parts to medicine, the first is diagnosis and the second is treatment. Obviously at a farmer's market you are not able to diagnose someone's disease, so the buyer would have to have had diagnosis elsewhere. That leaves treatment and you have two problems there, you cannot prescribe treatment unless you are a qualified naturopath or herbalist and the law does not allow anyone to claim that an herb treats a disease or disorder unless that herb has gone through proper FDA type study.

In a market, you will have to assume the buyers have some knowledge of medicinal herbs and know what they want to buy. You only then need to label the herbs with latin and common name.

You might get away with a description like: "traditionally used for ... but you will have to put on a warning that those claims have not been tested and that the herb is not intended to treat any disease or disorder.

Have you considered just sellng culinary herbs-- no worries about laws and the number of potential buyers is much higher.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2003 at 11:25AM
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You can sell herbs as herbs without making claims for them, even if you are qualified to do so. Even health food stores are not allowed to list the healing properties on herbs on labels any more. The reason is that pharmaceutical companies are taking out patents on herbs from all over the world, and the patent office is actually granting these patents for things which certainly are not inventions. Because of this, many herbs are not even allowed to be grown any more, never mind sold. If you are growing one of those herbs, and the list is longer in Canada than in the US right now, all you can hope for is that no one will report you. If you want to grow them for your own use, fine. Just don't use the right name when people ask you what they are and pray that your local inspector won't recognize anything other than dandelions and marijuana.

If you want to sell herbs at a market, just present them as culinary herbs. We have a very successful hydroponic herb growing operation in Winnipeg which sells herbs fresh to restaurants and grocery stores, but they are all culinary.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 6:08AM
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In the U.S. the reason that supplement companies are able to make certain poorly documented or unproven claims about their products (i.e. "supports prostate health") is that they, with the aid of powerful allies in Congress like Orrin Hatch, succeeded in largely exempting their products from FDA oversight. When commercial claims are too outrageously overt, the FDA will step in...eventually. By the time it does so, an Internet seller can have made big bucks, more than enough to cover whatever fine might be imposed.

This is big business, and largely unregulated.

What herbs have supposedly been patented by pharmaceutical companies? You can patent a process, but I'm unaware of any patents being granted that give a company exclusive rights to distribute a whole herb, or that such a process has anything to do with safety-related bans on sale of certain herbal products.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 10:15AM
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Here's where red tape and bureaucracy meet ignorance and stupidity. We're treating plants like the dangerous chemicals that run around with the guise of being medicine. Plants are harmless. You would never dream of banning alfalfa, but the plant has one of the highest sources of vitamins of any plant known on the planet. Of course something with a natural, more digestable, more usable form of vitamin is going to help whatever ailment you have, along with a sensible diet free from preservatives. So why aren't you allowed to SAY this? Because the drug companies have a big business out there, and they're doing just about everything they can to corner the market on everything health related. If you get sick, they want to be the ones you turn to in order to get better. They've almost wiped common sense in health care off the map.

Yes, they've been able to patent plants. The way they do it is to genetically modify the plant, and if they make a substantial change to the makeup of the plant, they can 'own' it. You really don't have to worry about this unless some seeds from some GMO happen to blow into your garden and you happen to unknowingly sell them and an inspector happens to come by your table and happens to decide to inspect it. It's more of a problem with soy and corn.

There are definitely ways to do it... I'd go by a health food store and ask them to share what they know. We have to stick together and they'd probably be willing to help you out, even if you might be competition. There's more to be gained in standing together than being cutthroat in terms of competition. Asking someone local would be best, since they have firsthand knowledge of the market you're going into. They might even buy some of your product.

May only good things happen for you!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 12:12PM
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"Here's where red tape and bureaucracy meet ignorance and stupidity. We're treating plants like the dangerous chemicals that run around with the guise of being medicine. Plants are harmless."

You must stop by sometime for a heaping helping of my tasty aconite, oleander and castor bean veggie stew.

Here is a link that might be useful: Google

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 10:26PM
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medicinal like Lemon balm, rosemary, cinnamon?

or medicinal like Pennyroyal and foxglove?

I only know from Pennsylvania, where there's a few health food stores that still sell herbs out of big ceramic crocks, and five times as many 'pagan' shops that sell cute little cellophane bags of herbs with both 'magic' and medicinal claims.

I'd maybe talk to shops in your county, and see if they even know (most of the ones around me don't seem to, not even the owners)

I always love to see people who are doing more than fragranced body butters at the farmer's markets - and while I grow my own Stevia and Helichrysum (my Curry and Hot Pepper salve is a favorite with my mom's friends, most of whom continue to knit despite arthritis...) I'd way rather pay someone to grow pot marigolds for me to float in my witch hazel, or roast and grind chicory root for my coffee!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 9:15AM
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Rosemary can be harmful to a pregnant woman so I see some more education is perhaps needed if you think rosemary can not be harmful.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:36PM
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End of the day - anyone can sue anyone for anything.

Never put anything in writing - never make a statement of factual claim. Always say "in my opinion" or "at home i do this".

No one can claim in court that they mistook the herb seller at the farmers market for a proper physician.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 8:05PM
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oakleif(z6 AR)

lilgardenwitchy, Think your comment made the most sense. Make no promises ad let people make up their own minds.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 2:25AM
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I know what you meant when you said "Here's where red tape and bureaucracy meet ignorance and stupidity. We're treating plants like the dangerous chemicals that run around with the guise of being medicine. Plants are harmless." Because IN GENERAL, most herbs used in the industry are harmless. And as you've alluded to, I don't believe herbs should be called medicine, either whereby herbology only gets into a "pissing match" with modern medicine. Herbs should always be presented as "food" where the aim is to give the body the needed herb nutrition (food) and the body will heal itself.

However, I think Eric's concerns have some merit, too. Please, don't think I'm talking down to you. But I like sharing and teaching. (I teach at the local college here in Prescott, AZ) Actually, herbs have 3 classifications as to their strength. 1.Mild remedy herbs with no chronic toxicity. These are herbs that you could take every day of your life (not recommended) and no harm could come of it. 2.Medium strength herbs with moderate chronic toxicity. 3.Strong remedy herbs with acute toxicity such as yellow jessamine and foxglove. I DON'T USE THESE HERBS, BECAUSE THERE ARE BETTER AND SAFER HERBS TO USE.

Point is, we have to know our herbs. It's not so bad when we're using them for ourselves, but in my case, I'm a professional herbalist and I have to know these things.

Thanks for listening. Again, I'm not trying to sound like a know-it-all.

Charlie in Arizona
The Herbalist

Here is a link that might be useful: Herbology Science

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 4:00PM
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There's a common double standard employed by some advocates of herbalism.

On the one hand, they claim herbs are powerful medicine able to relieve or cure a variety of ills. On the other hand, they want us to regard herbs as harmless plants, to be labeled and treated casually as "food" (a label which also fits into their desire to avoid F.D.A. regulation and prescribe/sell whatever they want to whomever they want).

You can't have it both ways.

I agree that a certain number of herbs are relatively innocuous and can be consumed frequently or even daily without ill effects (most devotees of Italian cooking seem to do just fine with frequent infusions of basil and oregano, for instance). Some are of limited toxicity, except in certain medical conditions and/or when combined into mixtures which may be adulterated with more powerful drugs without the consumers' knowledge. Others are highly toxic (i.e. oleander, aristolochia and digitalis) and should not be used except possibly in a research setting or when made into drugs via a precise and carefully controlled process that amateurs cannot duplicate. Some herbs are associated with limited/dose-dependent and/or idiosyncratic reactions that should prevent their use due to little or no evidence of efficacy (which makes even a small risk of severe reactions unacceptable).

Individual herb sellers and corporate supplement dealers could probably sell most herbs without restrictions, if they avoided making claims and promises about what they're supposed to treat. Without those claims, though, their sales and profits will be limited.

It's a fine line to walk.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 10:23PM
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