More than 30 potent or toxic herbs must not be used without a prescription, but rules governing their use are still being drawn up, the Preparatory Committee on Chinese Medicine said yesterday. In future, the herbs might be withheld from sale for self-medication purposes, or could become the subject of a code of practice issued to herbalists, the committee said as it released a herb list. Chinese medicine working group chairman Tam Ling-kwan said they would not be banned because they were useful for treatment, like aspirin in Western medicine. Chief pharmacist Anthony Chan Wing-kin said: 'We have enlisted the support of the practitioners to help distribute the leaflets. We want to remind the general public not to self-medicate with these herbs.' Top of the list is gwai kuo, a toxic herb which landed nine people in hospital in March when it was mixed with the similar-looking wai ling sin. The list of 31 medicines had been trimmed from an original list of 54 because the others were not available in Hong Kong, Mr Tam said. The rundown, which includes rarely used toxins, was drawn up with reference to a similar list produced by China's State Council and in light of recent poisoning cases.