Using herbs from your farm to make tinctures and teas? Make sure you’re not selling an “unapproved drug”!

Using herbs grown on your farm to make value-added products like tinctures and teas is an exciting venture that many farmers are taking on. There’s a growing market for it, especially as people the whole world over look for ways to protect themselves from the dreaded COVID-19 virus. But, tincture and tea makers beware: as evidenced by the latest crackdown on an herb company selling “Corona Destroyer Tea,” the FDA is watching…

The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) is “responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.” So the FDA’s range of regulation is far and wide, and includes dog food, cigarettes, vaccines, prescription drugs, nail polish, microwaves and baby formula. It also includes diet supplements. That’s where the latest case involving the Corona Destroyer Tea comes in.

On January 12th, the FDA issued a warning letter to herb company, AusarHerbs, out of Madera, California, telling them that they were violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by selling an unapproved new drug. The FDA cited the claim on the company’s website that its Corona Destroyer Tea is intended to “mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19” as evidence. The FDA said in its warning letter, “You must immediately cease making all such claims. Violations of the FTC Act may result in legal action seeking a Federal District Court injunction and an order may require that you pay back money to consumers.”

Oof. This is never what any company ever wants to hear.

AusarHerbs is not alone. The FDA has issued 145 such letters to companies selling what the FDA is calling “Fraudulent Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Products. A lot of companies have heard this.

There’s so much fodder here for discussion around the unfairness of holding pharmaceutical companies and mom and pop herb shops to the same standards, and of blocking access to products that may very well help keep people healthy, and without the harmful side effects that pharmaceuticals can have. But that’s a discussion for you to have with your peers. For our purposes, let’s focus on prevention of another kind…If you are wildcrafting or harvesting herbs grown on your own farm, and turning them into teas, tinctures and other value-added goods, be cautious about the claims you are making.

The American Herbalist Guild has helpful information about complying with the legal and regulatory landscape when selling herbal products: If you have legal questions around wildcrafting and herb production and sales we’d love to hear from you! We might not have the answers yet but we are on the hunt for grant money to fund research to find the answers…

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