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WHO Herbal Dictionary (WHO HD)

The Uppsala Monitoring Centre

WHO Herbal Dictionary (WHO HD) contains herbal drugs from all over the world, enabling herbal drug names to be translated into information used to code and analyse drug safety data.

Analyse herbal remedies as concomitant medication

The use of medications of natural origin (also known as herbal remedies) is increasing throughout the world and can influence the efficacy of many conventional medicinal products. In Germany, for example, more than 70% of the population use herbal medication, often as first-choice treatment for minor disorders. A US survey revealed that 18.4% of patients on regular prescription medication also use at least one herbal or high-dose vitamin.


"Herbal remedies can influence the efficacy of many conventional medicinal products"

Most significantly, 61.5% of these did not inform their physician. Herbal remedies such as Chinese Traditional Medicines are also very popular in regions where therapeutic traditions differ from conventional western medicine. A growing number of clinical trials are now being conducted in these regions. The potential risks of herbal products as co-medications thus require thorough investigation and documentation.

WHO Herbal Dictionary uses WHO DDE data-handling systems

The increasing appearance of herbal drugs as co-medications in clinical studies and drug safety surveillance presents a challenge for the drug safety community. For example, as well as themselves causing adverse events, herbals may also affect other medical treatments (see the St. John’s Wort cases). Furthermore, regulatory assessments of the quality, effect and safety of herbal medications are often less stringent than for conventional medicines.

The Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) WHO Herbal Dictionary (WHO HD) addresses this challenge. As the first international reference resource of herbal remedies, it helps users identify product names plus active ingredients and therapeutic uses. Closely related to UMC’s WHO Drug Dictionary Enhanced (WHO DDE), WHO HD is based on the same working principles. Existing systems for capture, storage and analysis of data can thus be used for herbal remedies.

Translate herbal drug names into codable data

WHO HD plus the unique Herbal Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (H-ATC) classification help regulators and industry more fully understand herbal concomitant medications used by patients. Herbal drug names can now be translated into information used to code and analyse drug safety data.

This promotes the research and safety monitoring of herbal drug utilization. Our understanding of how herbal products influence the action of traditional medications is improved. Taking appropriate action, when needed, is both faster and based on better information.

How to subscribe to WHO Herbal Dictionary

WHO HD is produced four times per year in combination with updated editions of the WHO DDE (WHO Drug Dictionary Enhanced extended with WHO Herbal Dictionary). For details of how to subscribe to WHO DDE, contact UMC at

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