top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon

Herbalists want new French government to lift 80 year ban on practice

Pharmacists in France continue to block the legal recognition of ‘herboristes’ who use plants for healing

Herbalist weighing dried plants

Herbalists use plants for healing and have been banned in France since 1941 Pic: dotshock / Shutterstock

Herbalists (herboristes) hope a longstanding campaign to be legally recognised will be backed by the new government after attempts by the Senate failed to win parliamentary time.

Intense lobbying from pharmacists, who are against having herbalists registered, helped to block progress on a 2018 Senate report which recommended law changes.

France is one of very few European countries where herbalists – people who use plants for healing – are banned.

State-recognised diplomas were ended by the Vichy government in 1941 and were not restored after the war.

It is not clear why the ban was imposed. Most people suspect that pharmacists, struggling to get medical supplies because of wartime restrictions, wanted to eliminate competition from herbalists.

Threat of prison and fines

Thierry Thévenin, a herbalist established in the Creuse for 30 years, said: “It is now a ridiculous situation.

“For example, the beneficial effects of a tisane of bramble leaves against angina pain and sore throats were known by all the grandmothers who lived in the Massif Central

“But if I sell bramble leaves today and advise my customer to drink three bowls of an infusion to ease his angina, I am at risk of two years in prison and €37,500 in fines for illegally practising medicine.

“And if I write out a prescription so he can buy his bramble leaves elsewhere, the prison sentence goes up to five years and the fine to €100,000.”

Pharmacists are officially allowed to sell 572 plants which have been approved for medical use, but only around 20 in France do so.

Still hope ban will be lifted

Like other French herbalists, Mr Thévenin obtained a diploma from a private institution, and has built his practice by skirting the law. Many plants are sold as tisanes, for example.

Such is the interest in herbalism at the moment that one of the institutions offering “non-diploma” courses, the private Ecole Lyonnaise de Plantes Médicinales et des Savoirs Naturels, founded 40 years ago, is swamped.

A 2018/19 petition urging the government to act on the Senate’s report received 132,800 signatures. 

It proposed that a skilled craft of paysan herboriste be established.

Although it was supported by some pharmacists, the main professional body and health ministry opposed any changes, and the situation has not moved on since.

“There is a very long battle ahead, but I am confident that eventually the ban will be lifted,” said Mr Thévenin.

Related articles

Herbal expert teaching ‘essential’ properties of plants and flowers

Versatile and ecologically sound: Hemp production increases in France

Explore the magical gardens of Le Jardin des Plantes Magiques

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now