The German Commission E is a scientific advisory board of the "Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte" (the German equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)), formed in 1978. The commission gives scientific expertise for the approval of substances and products previously used in traditional, folk and herbal medicine.
The commission became known beyond Germany in the 1990s for compiling and publishing 380 monographs evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbs for licensed medical prescribing in Germany. The monographs were published between 1984 and 1994 in the Bundesanzeiger; they were not updated since then but are still considered valid. A summary of the publications is available on the website of the commission; unofficial copies of the monographs are available at the Heilpflanzen-Welt Bibliothek.
There is an English translation by the American Botanical Council.
Criticism concerning the American version of the monographs
The Commission E monographs were imported into the United States with considerable fanfare in 1998 by The American Botanical Council. They were unequivocally endorsed in a foreword by Varro Eugene Tyler, a professor of pharmacognosy at Purdue University. Tyler states in his foreword that "...safety data were reviewed by the Commissioners according to a "doctrine of absolute proof" and efficacy according to a "doctrine of reasonable certainty."
"Certainly worth studying, the Commission E monographs detail which herbs are approved or disapproved, along with their uses, dosages, contraindications, adverse effects, drug interactions, and pharmacologic actions. The therapeutic, taxonomic, and chemical indexes are helpful, as is the glossary." -- Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999
The 1998 book mentioned 10 but omitted 11 possible fatal reactions to the medicines described.
"All [of the monographs] lack literature references. . .."
Treasure's lengthy review (31 K) offers detailed evidence that the book is not a work of science, medicine, or vitalist herbalism. Rather, it is a book of German legal-medical regulations, since "In Germany, only those herbs with Commission E Approved status are (or will eventually become) legally available."
- The Complete German Commission E Monographs, Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines, 1st ed. 1998, Integrative Medicine Communications, pub; Bk&CD-Rom edition, 1999.
- Journal of the American Medical Association. 1999;281:1852-1853.
- Treasure, Jonathan. "Author's biography". Herbal Educational Services.
- Making Sense of Commission E, review by Jonathan Treasure, 1999-2000.