Who decided to classify herbs as dietary supplements?

The Dietary Supplement Heath and Education Act of 1994 classified herbs as dietary supplements.

The act, in essence, ties the Federal Drug Administration's regulatory hands. Producers of both pharmaceutical and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs cannot market their products until they have proved they are effective and safe.

It typically takes about 8.5 years of testing -- which happens first in labs and then in clinical trials at universities -- before drug producers file an appeal for FDA approval. Then, the FDA reviews the claims and either approves or disapproves the drug. The can be classified as OTC or prescription drug. If the FDA does not approve the drug it cannot be sold in the United States. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all of the compounds that are first tested in labs eventually receives FDA approval.
In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which defined herbs as dietary supplements so long as they meet certain requirements (such as being intended to supplement the diet). The law treats dietary supplements more like foods than drugs. For instance, a manufacturer has to prove that a drug is safe and effective before marketing it, but does not have to provide that kind of evidence for a dietary supplement. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.