COVID-19 and herbal practice: A United Kingdom practitioner survey – Original Research

Advances in Integrative Medicine

Rachael Frosta, Sukvinder Kaur Bhamrab, Barbara Pendryc, Michael Heinrichd

Objectives: To identify the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK herbal medicine practice and how herbal medicine practitioners are supporting people with COVID-19.

Design: Mixed-methods e-survey.

Methods: The survey link was distributed through professional associations and social media. Quantitative data were descriptively summarised and qualitative data were analysed using content analysis.

Results: Results from 59 responses indicated a profound effect of the pandemic on herbal medicine practice, with a move to remote working and a reduction in client numbers. Practitioners reported prescribing a wide range of medicinal plants, chiefly Glycyrrhiza glabra L. and Echinacea spp. alongside providing information and advice. Few reported inter-professional collaboration.

Conclusions: Herbal practitioners need to build on current collaborations, research and experience to de- velop consistent approaches to support people with mild-moderate COVID-19 symptoms. More systematic exploration of herbal medicine practice during and as a consequence of the pandemic is needed.

1. Introduction
Herbal medicine is consistently the most popular form of com- plementary medicine [1], mostly using over-the-counter products without the consultation of a healthcare professional [2]. A 2018 representative national survey suggested only 26/4862 (0.005%) of the public in England visited a herbal practitioner in the previous 12 months [3]. Herbal medicine in the United Kingdom (UK) typically includes Western herbal medicine (WHM), Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Practitioners usually practice face-to-face in a clinic or from home [4]. UK herbal medicine is provided outside the UK National Health Service, in essence mostly privately via herbal practitioners or via informal networks. Since professional regulation is voluntary and members may be registered with more than one body, or may not be registered at all, no estimate of total number of UK herbal practitioners is feasible. However data from 2004 estimated that there were 1300 herbal practitioners registered with voluntary bodies in the UK