Founded in 1920, we are Australia’s oldest professional association of complementary therapists. Representing Western herbalists and naturopaths, we are the only national professional association specifically concerned with the practice and education of Western herbal medicine (WHM) in Australia. Our Vision is to:
We have a range of membership options for professionals, interested parties and students and our members have access to great resources, our online discussion forum, professional guidance and more!
We also work to connect the public with our highly trained practitioners through our Find A Practitioner service.
A recent article in ABC News online described six cases of liver and renal failure ascribed to herbal supplements. While these extremely sad instances of illness are said to be due to a specific class of therapeutic product, there are several aspects to the ABC report that require clarification.
The article describes a lack of direct cause between any herbal medicine and organ failure, as ‘the data does not indicate … whether it was a definitive cause’. In such cases it is difficult to precisely pinpoint absolute cause because variables such as genetics, liver enzyme function, renal status, medication use, and lifestyle factors need to be considered. In such instances where the causative agent is unknown it is not possible to generalise herbal medicine as the specific problem. Rigorous research is lacking in this important area and until this takes place and definitive cause is identified, the article headline cannot be stated with certainty.
Until this research occurs there are ways to prevent the possibility of such injury. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) discourages purchase of products that are not on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), either as Listed Medicines (AUST L) or Registered Medicines (AUST R). In particular the TGA discourages purchase of products from the Internet because, for example, protein powders and weight-loss products are a known risk as they may be adulterated with the plant Ephedra sinica or with pharmaceutical products. This is not an issue of poor Australian regulation of herbal medicines but rather a documented risk related to the purchase of any type of medicine or supplement not within the ARTG. Because of this it is advised to seek expert advice in the use of herbal medicines and other complementary medicines.
Suitably qualified practitioners with expertise in the use of herbal medicines are professionally trained to an established set of standards in Australia. The NHAA is the peak body for practising Western herbal medicine and naturopathic practitioners and holds a listing of qualified members trained in the use of herbal medicines for healthcare (http://www.nhaa.org.au/public/find-a-practitioner). Any questions about the safe and effective use of herbal medicine products can be directed to appropriately qualified professionals, including these members of the NHAA.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) issued a statement via the Australian Doctor on 23 Feb recommending their members refuse patient test requests from naturopathic practitioners. The rationale underlying this position is based on protection of members from medico-legal and financial risk that may arise from liability, litigation, or test rebate fees, as well as perceptions of patient safety. A template letter has been developed by the RACGP to send to practitioners outlining reasons for the rejection of such requests for patient testing.
Because concepts of disease causation and clinical care can differ between biomedical and complementary medicine practitioners, it is not unusual for testing procedures to have a different focus between the disciplines. All practitioners work for the best patient outcome and each may identify a particular test as warranted within a patient care plan. This situation is non-problematic if those involved in care agree about the reasons for testing using methods that are suitably sensitive and specific with good predictive value.
Such testing takes place within the confines of the private and public healthcare systems, which differ in their range of legalities and procedural requirements. Naturopathic practitioners in Australia are not able to utilise Medicare-funded testing services for their patients and at present their only options are to request these through those that do have access or use non-rebatable services. This is the reason for the testing requests the RACGP refer to in their statement, and it must be noted their concerns have a sound basis.
It is recommended NHAA members carefully consider testing requests that may be made, and proceed with communication in this area in a courteous, reasoned, and professional manner. Requested tests should have relevance to collaborative care and be based in a sound rationale. Patient shared care is very effective, and interdisciplinary relations are important to this success. Therefore any testing should be undertaken in a cooperative manner where practitioners and patients agree on the aim of these within a shared decision-making model.
Speaking to all members, Natalie Cook says "We have a great board with representation from regional and city areas across 3 states of Australia that brings a real diversity of skills and experience. I am honoured to have been given this opportunity and look forward to working with you to ensure the NHAA is the best it can be.”
Vice President Tobey-Ann says "I am excited, motivated and honoured to be the Vice President of the NHAA Board of Directors so I may continue to make a positive impact to the association and the profession".
Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) has announced that 10 new ingredients have been assessed by the TGA as suitable for use in listed medicines. This includes 4 herbs: Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna); Berberis aristata (Indian Barberry or Tree Turmeric); Lepidium meyenii (Maca); Trachyspermum ammi (Bishops weed or Ajwain).