ONE of Scotland's oldest herbal remedy firms has gone into provisional liquidation less than a year after fears were raised that new EU regulations would force many practitioners out of business.

Napiers the Herbalists, which has been trading for 150 years since its first shop opened in Edinburgh, struggled after battling a fall in sales and increased costs to license products in line with EU law.

With outlets in the capital and Glasgow, it is one of the largest herbal stores in the UK offering traditional herbal remedies as well as scented oils, candles and beauty products. Specialist practitioners offer alternative therapies including acupuncture and hypnotherapy in Napiers clinics.

In April last year, new rules required traders to pay thousands of pounds for a licence to make each product, while many will be prescription-only.

Napiers owner Dee Atkinson sold her home to support the firm after its store in the capital's Stockbridge area shut in a bid to keep the business afloat.

Napiers applied for provisional liquidation on April 2 and the firm, known as Napiers the Herbalists Ltd, has ceased trading.

However, practitioners have clubbed together to continue to provide a service while insolvency specialists work to restructure the business.

This is likely to involve the sell-off of several outlets, possibly returning to a single branch.

Spokesman Kenris MacLeod said: "We really need people to buy local and to support this local business. We're determined to see another 150 years of herbal medicine in Edinburgh and our priority is to our patients."

Napiers was founded by Duncan Napier in 1860. An apprentice baker, he developed a persistent cough triggered by the flour dust and began developing various herbal remedies, eventually creating the Lobelia Cough Syrup which launched his career as a herbalist and botanist.

He opened a shop in Edinburgh and the firm was passed down for more than 100 years until the death of John Napier in the 1970s, when it was bought by healthfood chain Jan de Vries.

In 1990, Dee Atkinson took over and revived its original herbal clinics and remedies.

However, the EU crackdown forced practitioners to pay to have their products checked and licensed which meant only established and quality-controlled medicines could be sold.

The move followed concerns about the powerful effects of some remedies and the reaction they can have when taken with conventional drugs.

Provisional liquidator, David Menzies, of insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor, said he expected Napiers to continue to run as a slimmed down operation.

He said: "There have been issues with a downturn in trade and a number of long-term leases on some of the other clinic locations. We are using the liquidation procedure as part of a larger restructure to allow a business to continue.

"The legal entity of Napiers the Herbalist Ltd, which is the one in provisional liquidation, has ceased trading. A number of the individual practitioners have got together and set up a new company and they are going to continue to provide the service to their clients. The business will continue, but just in a slightly different format."

A Napiers spokesman said: "Dee's main concern has been to look after patients who rely on Napiers and as a result has had to restructure the business.

"This is a planned restructure and the liquidation is a tidy up as part of that. Dee took the difficult decision to close the Stockbridge branch of Napiers, as well as selling her own house, to ensure Napiers has a future.

"Dee will continue trading from the original shop at Bristo Place, which Duncan Napier began back in 1860, as well as the Glasgow shop. She will continue to see patients and run the clinics and dispensaries. She will continue to make up special mixtures and provide unique and personal health care options."