But other companies are still selling laxative teas in teabags. What is the story?

There are many companies selling herbal teas, and some seem to be unaware of the regulatory system and requirements. Some herbal ingredients are permitted only in food, some only in medicines, and others in both. Indications and marketing claims which appear on the label and on other marketing material such as a website, also affect whether a product falls into the regulatory classification of a food or a medicine.

Companies may be unknowingly selling non-compliant laxative teas in good faith due to a lack of knowledge of the regulations.

For example, laxative teas are classified as food type products in the USA and in New Zealand. It is a common error to think the same rules in those countries would apply here. However, our regulations are different.

Senna is one of many laxative herbs. Most, like senna, are permitted only as medicines – that is, entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and issued with an AUST L or AUST R number (required to appear on the label).

It appears that some companies do not realise that their tea contains senna. Herbal ingredients may have synonyms, that is, they may be known by different names. Senna is the common name for the herb with the botanical name Cassia Alexandrina.  Some teas have the ingredients listed on the label only in their Chinese names – although using the Chinese name alone for ingredients is not permitted by the regulations for either foods or medicines.

Check the labels and websites of other detoxifying or slimming teas for any of these alternative names for senna:

  • Cassia / senna angustifolia
  • Cassia / senna tora
  • Cassia / senna tinevelly
  • Cassia / senna alexandrina
  • Cassia / senna acutifolia
  • Cassia / senna obtusifolia
  • Fan xie ye
  • Xie ye
  • Jue ming zi
  • Cao jue ming zi
  • Cao jue ming
  • Ma ti jue ming

Check the labels and websites of the products you are considering purchasing, to confirm that an AUST L number is present on the label. There should also be the amount of senna that is in the product on the label. If there is no AUST L, it is possible that the tea is not listed on the ARTG – and if it contains senna or other medicinal herbs or carries medicinal claims for use such as for weight loss, improved elimination or for laxative effects, then it is possible that the product may not be compliant with Australian regulations.

More importantly, if you purchase a product with senna that is not on the ARTG, you can’t be certain it has the stated ingredients, or whether the doses are accurate. In the case of laxative herbs, using too much can cause painful cramping and griping. Using too little, of course, then it won’t work. In other words, taking a herbal product, especially a laxative, that has no AUST L number may be something that is not worthwhile doing in the end. The regulations have been written for a reason, so to ensure you are looking after your health, so protect yourself by choosing such a product with an AUST L number on the pack.

The Australian Regulatory Authorities are looking closely at companies selling herbal detoxifying, slimming and laxative teas. However, there are a large number of these, and it will take a great deal of time for these authorities to address their concerns.

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