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Chinese Medicine (or Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM for short) is mostly made up of herbal stuff made-up of:

Wikipedia: TCM Herbal Medicine

  • dried plant(s)
  • dried animal parts
  • herbs
  • plant elements
  • plant extracts

If going through customs bringing a bunch of different (TCM) herbs, separately (i.e.: a bag of ginseng, a bag of licorice, a bag of ginger, a bag of Goji berries), would there be any problems?

What is the proper way to deal with these kind of herbs (or plant/plant extracts) whilst going through customs?

Some things are plant-related, would that be cause for concern?


just for clarification the question is just related to herbs and plants not including thing like: dried curled snakes, dried seahorses, human penises or flying squirrel feces: as per Wikipedia's list of TCMs....

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    What country's customs and immigration would you be attempting to pass? – CGCampbell Jan 1 '15 at 15:53
  • @CGCampbell Switzerland. – user3306356 Jan 1 '15 at 16:01
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Switzerland’s restrictions on the import of plants are outlined here:
Swiss Customs Administration – Plants, cut flowers and protection of species (CITES)

There is some more detailed information regarding the import of medicinal plants on the Web site of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, but only in German, French and Italian.

Some species cannot be imported for reasons of bio-security, while others may be permitted but must be inspected. Otherwise, Switzerland is a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which publishes a long list of species in which trade is restricted and for which import and/or export permits are required.

Of the plants you listed, ginseng root is in CITES Appendix II and requires an import permit (though powders and other derivatives are exempt); the others are not mentioned.

  • Would it be a safe bet to say that: if everything was already made into a powder, there wouldn't be much of a problem? – user3306356 Jan 4 '15 at 4:09
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    No, that wouldn't be a safe assumption. There are many banned substances in powder form. How would customs tell yours apart? Commercial packaging with a description of the ingredients helps, but probably less so if that description is in Chinese. – MSalters Jan 4 '15 at 16:47

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