Vietnam has banned the use of herbal tea in its health care plans, a move that will make Thailand the latest Asian country to do so.
The move follows a directive by Thailand’s health ministry in June, which said that “dried” herbal tea would not be allowed in the national health insurance plan.
It was the latest in a string of Asian countries to restrict or ban herbal tea.
In China, which has the world’s second-highest cancer rate and the world the largest consumer of herbal teas, the ban is a response to a growing body of evidence linking herbal tea to cancer.
“It’s a response for safety and it’s a recognition of what’s already in place in the country,” said Dr. David R. Hsu, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute.
“In China we have a high incidence of cancers caused by carcinogens and the amount of tea in the Chinese tea is also a significant factor.”
Heidi K. Johnson, director of the Center for Research on Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at the University of Texas at Austin, said that the move by Thailand “shows that they are trying to make sure the health care system is safer for patients and the public, and it sends a message that they will not tolerate this kind of use.”
The health ministry also said it would ban the use in public of herbal or “dessicated” herbal teabags, meaning those made from dried leaves or stems.
In Vietnam, the health ministry said it had received complaints from people who had consumed tea made with dried herbs or dried leaves.
It also said people who purchased tea made from “damp” herbs would have to report the ingredients to health authorities.
“In addition, people will be required to notify the health authority if they have any adverse effects from herbal tea,” it said in a statement.
Thailand’s health care officials have said they will review the directive to determine whether further restrictions will be needed.
The health and health care ministry, which is headed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, has been a champion of the health benefits of herbal remedies, such as Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and Japanese medicinal herbs.
In June, the government signed an agreement with Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare that will allow for the use and distribution of herbal medicines and products in Thailand.