The sale of atoumo, broken thyme or large thyme as medicine is authorized only in pharmacies. Outside this circuit, the repression of fraud can intervene. If the use is strictly food however, other regulations apply.
The traditional Martinican pharmacopoeia includes around 1,200 plants. In 2009, as part of the assembly of the agro-medicinal micro-sector, 15 Martinican plants were selected to be registered in the French pharmacopoeia. Each overseas department (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Reunion) had thus proposed fifteen.
the Agroresources and Research Center of Martinique (PARM) was the technical operator of this operation, the objective being to be able to sell this local pharmacopoeia on the European market.
Emmanuel Nossin, pharmacist and ethno-pharmacologist, explains how the sale of medicinal plants navigates between tradition and regulation:
You can’t stop tradition. Atumo syrup, I knew that when I was a kid, it’s not a problem. But medical usage requires you to give an indication. As long as you mark it, or even say it orally, it’s illegal practice of medicine.
It is nevertheless difficult not to admit that this regulation of the medical use of a traditional pharmacopoeia causes a culture shock.
The problem will always arise for us, because we are a new country. 300 years of history, our pharmacopoeia has just been born. Opposite, we have a system that governs us and comes from older traditions. We are already in chemicals in France, we almost no longer use the plant which is industrialized, presented in capsules, powder, tablets… We have another tradition of the use of the plant, and it is almost a political problem. We should therefore perhaps see whether overseas, we should not find a way to adjust the law.
The registration of plants in the French pharmacopoeia is a lever for promoting them and recognizing their use. The objective was to offer plants with a high potential for valuation on several markets, with the aim in particular of being able to sell this local pharmacopoeia on the European market.
The pharmaceutical monopoly applies to herbal medicines. Just like for food supplements or food.
This can cause concern, as explained. Katia Rochefort, director of PARM:
We are in a different market. The pharmaceutical monopoly is a concern since these plants cannot be valued on the food market. The pharmaceutical monopoly is backed by registration in the pharmacopoeia.
However, there is a possibility to get rid of this constraint. That of initiating a process of recognition of the plant as food. This is what the direction of the repression of fraud recommends in the document disclosed by an Internet user.
To promote these plants, registered or not, it is a question of having these plants recognized by Europe. The challenge is to prove that these plants in their food use do not endanger the health of the population that consumes them. There are full toxicity studies to be conducted and studies related to the historical uses of these plants. This is why the PARM has set up an ERDF project to undertake studies to have the extracts of Breeze and Atoumo recognized as a new food within the meaning of European regulations.
To consult the list of medicinal plants of the overseas departments registered in the French pharmacopoeia: http://www.ethnopharmacologia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Plantes-DOM-2020.pdf