The natural, the contaminated and the counterfeit - normalising traditional herbal medicine in Vietnam and the UK

  • Ayo Juhani Wahlberg (Lecturer)

    Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


    Herbal medicine is often promoted as a "gentler, less aggressive and less toxic" alternative to modern pharmaceuticals in both Vietnam and the United Kingdom. Yet the very 'naturalness' of herbal remedies has come under increasing challenge from a number of herbal product recalls by health authorities on the grounds of reported adverse effects due to contamination by heavy metals, microbials or undeclared synthetic medicines. Regulatory authorities are increasingly warning consumers that 'natural does not necessarily mean safe' and that in some cases these medicines are 'not so natural after all'. In this paper I trace the problematisations of herbal medicines that have informed and justified national programmes to reconcile the problem of the gentle yet potentially dangerous herbal medicines over the past few decades in Vietnam and the UK. In doing so, I argue that public health protection strategies no longer aim to marginalise or discredit these medicines, as they did to a large extent in the past, rather they now aim to responsibilise the cultivators, harvesters, producers, sellers and users of herbal medicines.
    Period16 Sept 2005
    Event titleRisk and Regulation - 4th Annual Research Student Conference
    Event typeConference
    OrganiserUniversity of London
    LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map