New rules that will regulate herbal medicine in the same way as drugs could put scores of small shops out of business, it has been claimed.

Malcolm Simmonds owns Specialist Herbal Supplies, in Portslade, which sells directly to people online as well as wholesaling to businesses across the county.

Among the herbs he sells are hawthorn berry to help the heart and circulation, milk thistle to aid the liver and dandelion to help the kidneys and liver.

But a new EU directive coming into force in April means that he will have to licence his products at an estimated cost of £50,000 each.

He estimates 80% of his 100 products will become illegal overnight following the legislation.

Mr Simmonds said: “These herbs are not foods but neither are they drugs. There needs to be a third category established for natural remedies.

“I have been selling these for 30 years and there have never been any complications and certainly no one has died.

“If something doesn’t happen then a lot of small businesses are going to go bust. I already know a few people who have decided to retire early because they can’t see any point in fighting.”

Mr Simmonds has taken the issue up with Hove MP Mike Weatherley, who raised the matter in Parliament with a written question to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Mr Weatherley said: “It’s not all doom and gloom but it is heading that way unless we do something.

“We would like to put some pressure on to see if some of these products can be reclassified.”

Jim Manson, the editor of Brighton-based Natural Products, the leading trade magazine for the industry in the UK, said: “At this time it looks as if the bulk of products sold by specialist health shops could well be lost.

“That will potentially have a very serious impact on the trade.”

A spokesman for Infinity Foods, which supplies scores of health food shops around the country, said: “It is not much of a concern for us but it is for the people we sell to as they also sell these products.”