A European Union (EU) directive that aims to offer consumers protection from unlicensed herbal and Chinese medicines is to be sidestepped by the government.
Under the directive, due to take full effect in April, it will become illegal for practitioners to supply unlicensed herbal medicines to their patients.
However, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said in a written ministerial statement: "This government wishes to ensure that the public can continue to have access to these products."
A register of practitioners will be set up by the Health Professions Council (HPC) and those supplying unlicensed herbal medicines will be required by law to register. This will be "underpinned" by a strengthened system for regulating medicinal products, the statement added.
His statement added: "This approach will give practitioners and consumers continuing access to herbal medicines. It will do this by allowing us to use a derogation in the European legislation to set up a UK scheme to permit and regulate the supply, via practitioners, of unlicensed manufactured herbal medicines to meet individual patient needs."