German Commission E Monographs validate HerbsThe Monographs, primarily published by the German Commission E between 1983 and 1993, are an authoritative description of the uses and side-effects of over 300 herbs and herbal combinations (phytomedicines). The Monographs are based on strict scientific investigation and, to ensure objectivity, the work of the Commission E was entirely financed by the German government. The Monographs are now recognized globally and are used by herbalists, pharmacies, and medical doctors alike. The complete Monographs can be found in the "Bundesanzeiger" (federal registry of Germany).
Three different types of Monographs were published which determined how the herb would be regulated in Germany: Approved, Neutral, and Unapproved. 'Approved' monographs allow for the use of the herb as a non-prescription drug; 'Neutral' monographs do not endorse a therapeutic benefit but still permit the sale of the herb without safety concern; 'Unapproved' monographs prohibit the normal sale of the herb because the risk of using the herb is deemed high.
The Commission E has not issued new monographs since 1995, but they continue making recommendations to the German government regarding the Registration of Phytomedicines and non-prescription Phytomedicines. New monographs are now in the hands of the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) and are published under the name ESCOP Monographs.
CriticismsNumerous criticisms have been directed towards the Monographs - not only from established western medical doctors, but also from knowledgeable herbalists and alternative medicine practitioners. Chiefly, the main criticisms are that the Monographs are difficult to understand, lack good referencing, and fail to include some of the most basic herbs in any herbalist's toolkit (while including other lesser-known and less-effective herbs).
Likely because the work of the Commission E was regulatory in nature, most of the published Monographs are for herbs and herbal products commonly available in Germany during the 1980s. Some of the herbal products studied were even proprietary - specific herbal preparations only manufactured in Germany - which means their associated Monographs are of limited use worldwide.
Many of the herbs missing from the Monographs are highly regarded herbs from Asia, Africa, and even North America. These include, to mention only a few:
• Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis; common remedy for intestinal distress and skin infections);
• Gotu Kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica; commonly used to improve brain function and to delay aging);
• Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus; common remedy for cramps); and
• Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa; a herb of choice for lung problems).
Another large criticism concerns how each herb was scientifically investigated. For a large part, the expert panel's investigation relied heavily on literature reviews of existing studies to determine efficacy and safety risk. This may have resulted in some relatively harmless herbs being classified as 'Unapproved' (determined as having a high safety risk) simply because there was not enough published literature at the time for the Commission E to issue an approval.
Other critisms of the Monographs: They sometimes fail to list well-known uses, side-effects, and contraindications; They sometimes provide seemingly conflicting information about related herbs and even between different parts of the same herb; The herbal dosage information is at times insufficient or confusing; ... and the list unfortunately continues.
Further ResourcesFor anyone interested in reading an in-depth critical review of the German Commission E Monographs, you may want to check out this essay written by herbalist Jonathan Treasure (not associated with Zentrum Publishing):
Review - Making Sense of Commission E
In both Herbs Software and in the herbal section of Wellness Software by Zentrum Publishing we have included references to the German Commission E Monographs as an additional form of authoritative approval, and to back up previously included references, on the healing properties of certain herbs. Neither software includes the full text of the German Commission E Monographs.
Search herbs by their common or botanical names. Also includes 100+ herbal photos, phytochemical information and references to the German Commission E.
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main databases of both Natural Healing and Herbs
(275 Afflictions and 540+ Herbs).
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Herbs Software can also be obtained as part of the Natural Healing Collection
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