In this week’s Al Jazeera World article:The herb is the name given to a collection of herbs that are used to treat a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, arthritis, migraines, chronic pain and more.
The herb has been used for centuries in Japan, but the Japanese government banned the sale of it in 2016 because it is believed to be poisonous.
The drug is commonly used to alleviate pain, but its popularity has exploded in recent years, with some patients complaining of a range of health problems, including headaches, insomnia, nausea and insomnia.
In the United States, where it is commonly prescribed for asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, the herb is sold over the counter in many pharmacies and over-the-counter medication stores.
But a 2016 study from the University of California-Davis found that a handful of people have died from using the herb and more than 20 deaths were linked to the misuse of it.
In Europe, there is a growing concern over the possible health risks from the drug.
In January, the European Union’s chief medical officer warned that the use of herbal products containing the herb could increase the risk of the herb being abused.
The Japanese government said last year that it would ban the sale and use of the herbal medicine in Japan.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, a small number of people may be able to take the herb safely and recreationally.
The DEA said that it was investigating the safety of the product.
“We are monitoring the product carefully, and if there are any concerns we will take appropriate action,” DEA spokeswoman Heather Fritz said in a statement.
“The DEA is concerned that there may be serious health effects associated with the use or misuse of this medicine, and is working closely with our international counterparts to determine the best course of action.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Dr. Robert P. Miller, the director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, said that the herb’s high price and limited availability in Japan have prompted the growing number of patients seeking help from herbalists.
“There’s been an influx of people who want to get treatment for anxiety or depression or some other anxiety disorder, and there’s been a huge increase in prescriptions,” he said.
Miller, who has also studied the use and misuse of the drug in China, said the Japanese authorities should be more forthcoming with information about the safety and effectiveness of the medicine.
“I think they should just tell people that this is not a prescription medicine, it’s a natural remedy,” he told Al Jazeera.
“If they can give out the information to the Japanese, then I think they could start to put pressure on the Japanese to come up with some sort of regulatory framework that would allow them to provide this treatment to people who are in need.”
In Japan, the sale or purchase of herbal medicine can be a crime, with the punishment being up to six months in prison and a fine of ¥30,000 ($44).
In the US, the most common reason for the use, according to the DEA, is that the medicine can increase appetite.
“A lot of people say that they’re not hungry because of it, so they want to take it,” Miller said.
“I think it’s because it’s so cheap.”
According to Miller, some Japanese herbalists also use the drug to treat other ailments, such as psoriasis.
“They use it to treat cancer, they use it for acne, they may even use it as a weight loss supplement,” he explained.
“It’s not like there are many other treatments for depression and anxiety that have been studied, and so it’s really difficult to make a case that it’s helpful.”
Miller said that he had seen an increase in the number of Japanese patients seeking the herb after Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the government had not properly regulated the sale.
“This ruling has been a disaster for the Japanese herbal industry,” he added.
“So a lot of the people who were using it are now trying to make their own herbal products to treat their symptoms.”
In the meantime, Miller said that if someone is suffering from anxiety or insomnia, they should consult a physician.
“That’s the best medicine you can get to help your insomnia,” he advised.
“People who are taking it are going to get better.”
Al Jazeera’s David Gaffney contributed to this report.