Things Western Herbalist should be aware of when recommending herbs during the COVID-19 Crisis


These times are requiring new and different ways of working with family, friends, and clients. We all just want to help! There are no current conventional treatments available for coronavirus. Herbalists know- we have many tools in our toolkit to support health during these crazy times!!


Treating Disease & Symptoms and Practicing Medicine without a License

Herbalists cannot claim to treat the disease or symptoms of  COVID-19 and this has resulted in cease and desist letters for claims made by herbalists and herbal companies. The FDA has sent cease and desist letters to herbal companies making claims, and Facebook is shutting down sites claiming that herbs can treat this virus. If you are recommending an herb for a disease, you are treating the herb as a “drug” and practicing medicine without a license. The first amendment may not protect you here either! If you are treating a disease without a medical license you can be arrested, jailed or fined.

The more Western Herbalists use diagnostic and prescriptive language to describe herbs, the higher chance they will be regulated as drugs in the future. 


Structure and Function Language

Structure and Function is the regulatory language that herbal companies are required to use when describing their herbal products. This means that they (we) can only use terms that refer to the structure and function of the body when describing what an herb does.

Instead of saying:
“Mullein treats pneumonia and symptoms of COVID-19”, you would say “Mullein supports lung health.”
“Goldenseal is an anti-biotic and kills viruses” you would say “Goldenseal promotes healthy bacteria growth”.


Regulations Regarding Producing Herbal Medicine:

Additional things to remember when producing herbal medicine to share:
“If you did not document it, it did not happen.” FDA

Standard Operating Procedures in producing herbal products must include:

~lot number
~best used by date
~your contact info
~common name and scientific name of all plants in the formula
~samples kept of each batch


From the American Society of Acupuncturists:

“This is absolutely an opportunity to learn about how herbal medicine can be of help in this crisis, but please be very cautious to not overstate the evidence base.

The data we have on herbal efficacy is preliminary, and not up to the standards of evidence-based medicine.  Herbs may certainly be helpful, but exactly which ones and how much and for what presentations/pattern permutations are not well defined.  Based on the available data, as noted above, making health claims for herbal treatments at this time would violate FDA rules, and would be viewed negatively by health authorities.”


Take it from me. I just spent the last 5 years of my life advocating to protect herbal language.It is expensive, arduous and we must do everything we can to protect our traditions. EVEN if it means using structure and function language. Let’s support each other in keeping our herbs out of the hands of the drug companies, by NOT speaking about them as drugs!!!

Structure and function is a Western Herbalists friend.

Herbal yours, 

Mary Blue

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