Prince Charles’ Duchy Originals, a company that produces organic food products, launched a line of herbal remedies in January of 2009.1 The company was founded by Prince Charles in 1990 and is owned by the Prince’s Charities Foundation, to which all profits from Duchy are donated.
So far, Duchy Herbals includes an Echina-Relief tincture (containing the root of Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae), a Hyperi-Lift tincture (containing St. John’s wort [Hypericum perforatum, Clusiaceae]), and a Detox tincture (containing artichoke [Cynara scolymus, Asteraceae] leaf and dandelion [Taraxacum officinale, Asteraceae] root).
Involved in the development of Duchy’s traditional herbal medicines is Michael McIntyre, a practicing herbalist in Oxfordshire and consultant for Asanté Academy of Chinese Medicine. McIntyre is the former president of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and founder of the European Journal of Herbal Medicine. According to McIntyre, his role so far has involved supplying expert advice; writing the products’ data sheets on traditional use, safety, and relevant pharmacology; and discussing which products Duchy should attempt to register* under the European Union’s Traditional Herbal Products Directive (THMPD) (e-mail, March 3, 2009). Although he helped in obtaining registration for the Echina-Relief and Hyperi-Lift tinctures, he was not involved in the development of the Duchy Detox tincture, which was the focus of some media attention in the United Kingdom in early 2009.
Professor Edzard Ernst, PhD, MD, director of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter University’s Peninsula Medical School, was quoted in BBC News as stating that detox products do not work, and he further argued that the product was based on “outright quakery.”2 He added that Prince Charles and his advisers were deliberately ignoring science and relying on “make-believe” and “superstition.”2
“Many people—rationally or irrationally, correctly or not—believe strongly that they must detoxify their bodies to give themselves that extra edge to get rid of [undesirable chemicals],” said ABC’s Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, according to an article from ABCNews.com.3 “There is probably a healthy and rational basis for some of this, though some people take it a bit too far.”
Blumenthal also pointed out that the basic notion of expelling unhealthy substances from the body goes back 150 years or more. However, he noted that detox shouldn’t be treated as a free pass to indulge in unhealthy behavior, and some extreme forms of detox could be even more unhealthy than indulgence and should be avoided: “People need to apply these things with common sense,” Blumenthal said.3
Roberta Lee, MD, medical director at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing in New York City, and a member of ABC’s Board of Trustees, was also quoted in the article, agreeing that detoxification as a concept may be getting an undeserved, negative reputation. “Detoxification is a natural process that occurs in the body, though it is not labeled as such in the medical profession,” Dr. Lee said.3 “The idea that detox is a silly notion, I think, is a fallacy.”
The Echina-Relief and Hyperi-Lift tinctures are the first herbal tinctures produced in the United Kingdom to be registered under the THMPD.1 According to McIntyre, the European Union passed the Directive in 2004, and each Member State has to fully implement it by passing national laws by April 2011. The THMPD allows herbal products to be registered under medicines law. To earn a registration, a company must submit a complete file to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), containing extensive evidence of a product’s traditional use, safety, and quality. According to one source, cost estimates for putting together the scientific dossier and other related costs to meet these standards are as high as €100,000 (about US $140,000), if not higher.4
Though McIntyre could not discuss the cost of Duchy’s registrations, he did add, “Perhaps as the process gets bedded in, the costs of licensing[*] may come down. We certainly hope so!”
Products that are registered can provide more information on their labels, including medicinal claims about traditional uses. For instance, in May 2009, an arnica homeopathic product was registered under the THMPD, and it can now include label claims about arnica’s traditional use relieving sprains, muscle aches, and bruises within the homeopathic tradition.5 However, these claims are limited to mild or moderate self-limiting conditions and cannot address more serious conditions that require a physician’s care, such as cancer.
Although Duchy’s Echina-Relief and Hyperi-Lift tinctures are registered with the MHRA, the company’s Detox tincture requires no such registration since it is classified as a food supplement. By 2011, every herbal product that is judged as medicinal by the MHRA will require a registration. (The criteria used to determine whether a product is a medicine or not are set out in the main EU Medicines Directive 2001/83/EC). A product may be deemed medicinal by function or by presentation. Thus an herbal product can be deemed a medicine by the claims it makes or the way it is marketed, i.e., its intended use.)
“The herbal medicines in the Duchy range are manufactured to exact standards and to provide popular herbal remedies over the counter that the public can be certain are quality assured with all necessary safety information,” said McIntyre. “The launch of Duchy Originals herbal tinctures reflects the Prince’s passion for adopting an integrated approach to health.”
That the Prince of Wales is involved with a company getting herbal products registered as medicines stands out in the United Kingdom, where schools like the University of Salford and the University of Central Lancashire have either dropped their homeopathy and complementary medicine degrees or stopped recruiting new students for them.6
In March 2009, the MHRA upheld a complaint about the online advertising of Duchy’s Echina-Relief and Hyperi-Lift tinctures.
Duchy Herbals has since changed the wording of its online advertising and removed previous claims of efficacy about the 2 products.7,8
The modified statement on the Duchy Web site regarding Echina-Relief reads: “traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of the common cold and influenza type infections;” the modified statement on Hyperi-Lift reads: “traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only.”8
More information about Duchy Herbals is available at www. duchyoriginals.com.
—Kelly Saxton Lindner
*This article refers to registration of THMPs. According to McIntyre, the MHRAuses the term“traditional herbal registration”for THMPs to avoid confusion with other more rigorous forms of approval known as licensing. A license requires proof of safety, quality and efficacy, whereas a traditional use registration requires evidence of safety, quality and tradition of use. More information about this can be accessed at the MHRA Web site: http://www.mhra.gov.uk/index.htm.
- Duchy Originals encourages consumers to adopt an integrated approach to healthcare with launch of duchy herbals [press release]. East Twickenham, London, England: Duchy Originals. January 22, 2009.
- BBC News. Prince Charles detox ‘quackery.’ BBC News. March 10, 2009. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7934568.stm. Accessed March 11, 2009.
- Childs D. Prince Charles’ herbal products stir controversy. ABCNews.com. March 13, 2009. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessNews/story?id=7071267&page=1. Accessed March 16, 2009.
- Starling S. Can the EU traditional herbal medicines directive be amended? NutraIngredients.com Europe. November 20, 2008. Available at: http://www.nutraingredients.com/Regulation/Canthe-EU-traditional-herbal-medicines-directive-be-amended. Accessed February 9, 2009.
- Rose D. Medicines regulator grants first ever license to homeopathic remedy. Times Online. May 15, 2009. Available at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6294395.ece. Accessed May 18, 2009.
- Frean A. Universities drop degree courses in alternative medicines. Times Online. January 30, 2009. Available at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article5614896.ece. Accessed January 30, 2009.
- Jones A. Prince’s firm told to amend ads. The Guardian. March 21, 2009. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/mar/21/prince-charles-duchy-originals. Accessed March 21, 2009.
- Devlin K. Prince Charles’ Duchy Originals ordered to remove ‘misleading’ herbal remedy claims. Telegraph.co.uk. March 21, 2009. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/theroyalfamily/5024341/Prince-Charles-Duchy-Originalsordered-to-remove-misleading-herbal-remedy-claims.html. Accessed April 3, 2009.