In a speech on May 23, 2006 Prince Charles told the World Health Organisation in Geneva that alternative medicine should have a more prominent place in health care. The Prince urged every country to come up with a plan to integrate conventional and alternative medicine into the mainstream. Prince Charles heads his own Foundation for Integrated Health.

A report published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine held that use of herbal medicines in the UK is amongst the lowest in Europe, and few GPs prescribe them. However other European countries have significant alternative medicine users.

At the other end of the scale German health insurance providers reimbursed US$283 million for prescriptions of ginko, St John’s wort, mistletoe, saw palmetto, ivy, hawthorn, stinging nettle root, myrtol, phytosterols and curcurbita in 2003. French insurers paid out $91 million in partial reimbursements for ginko, saw palmetto and pygeum, with a total value of $196 million. Indeed, almost $5 billion (at manufacturers’ prices to wholesalers) was spent on over-the-counter herbal medicines in all European countries in 2003.

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