The American Botanical Council (ABC) is pleased to announce the adoptions of kava (Piper methysticum, Piperaceae) by Applied Food Sciences, Inc. (AFS), and devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens and H. zeyheri, Pedaliaceae) by EcoSo Dynamics.
The Adopt-an-Herb Program supports ABC’s robust HerbMedPro database, an invaluable resource for consumers, students, and all members of the herb and dietary supplement community. The generosity of AFS and EcoSo Dynamics in adopting their respective herbs allows this vital resource to remain up to date with the latest research and pharmacological information.
HerbMedPro is a comprehensive, interactive online database that provides access to important scientific and clinical research data on the uses and health effects of more than 250 herbs.
Applied Food Sciences Adopts Kava
“Kava is an herb with a long ethnobotanical history in Polynesia, and it produces clinically documented anti-anxiety benefits,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director. “ABC is deeply grateful to Applied Food Sciences for its adoption of kava on the HerbMedPro database, which will allow ABC to stay current with emerging research on kava’s benefits and new information that helps to clarify prior concerns about its relative safety.”
Chris Fields, vice president of scientific affairs at AFS, noted that “Kava’s long history of use in the South Pacific islands demonstrates that it is a safe, effective, and useful tool with many important health benefits when used in the right form and when the correctly identified cultivars are used.
“Applied Food Sciences is fully invested in working together with farmers, agronomists, and the research community to provide the entire supply chain with the appropriate tools to bring sustainable, safe, and high-quality kava ingredients to the market,” Fields continued. “We are doing this by leading collaborative changes in implementing the six-point plan that has been defined by the kava industry working groups, developing and executing effective growing and harvesting practices, acquiring and improving methods for cultivar identification and kavalactone content, and investigating and educating on optimum standards and best practices in the industry. Awareness of these efforts is essential. Therefore, it is so important for us to partner with ABC to help our industry make educated, responsible choices about sourcing kava.”
Kava, also known as kava kava, is both the common name for Piper methysticum and the name of a ceremonial beverage made from the root of the plant, which is a member of the pepper family. It is native to Southeast Asia and the islands of the South Pacific, where the drink, made from the ground root macerated in water, has been consumed as part of rituals for hundreds of years. Currently, kava is being investigated by researchers for its anxiolytic, sedative, anticonvulsive, and antispasmodic properties for conditions including anxiety, insomnia, and related stress and nervous disorders.
The formerly official German Commission E Monographs approved kava for use in conditions of nervous anxiety, stress, and restlessness. Another monograph compiled by the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), a group of medicinal plant research experts in Europe, noted the use of kava preparations for anxiety, tension, and restlessness arising from various causes of non-psychotic origin.
About Applied Food Sciences, Inc.
AFS specializes in the research and development of functional botanical ingredients for use in foods, beverages, and nutritional supplements. The six-point plan the company has helped implement involves educating people at the farm level to cultivate only Noble Kava cultivars and about best practices for harvesting and processing them. The plan outlines the importance of standardizing the concentrations of specific kavalactones to achieve optimum safety and efficacy at the recommended intake. Finally, AFS stresses the importance of developing a validated laboratory method for the accurate quantification of kavalactones (i.e., a class of lactone compounds found in kava) in extracts, root powder, and finished product formulations.
The company’s recent kava white paper is available on its website at www.appliedfoods.com.
EcoSo Dynamics Adopts Devil’s Claw
“ABC is deeply grateful to EcoSo Dynamics for adopting devil’s claw on ABC’s robust HerbMedPro database,” said Blumenthal. “ABC also appreciates EcoSo Dynamics’ strong commitment to environmentally sustainable and culturally supportive harvesting of devil’s claw roots. Devil’s claw is a traditionally used herbal remedy with a growing body of scientific and clinical research that supports its safe and effective use to reduce lower back pain and benefit other conditions,” he added.
About Devil’s Claw
Devil’s claw is a perennial herb that grows horizontally and can reach up to one meter (3.3 feet) in length. It produces several prostrate annual stems from a succulent taproot, with additional tubers on lateral roots. Other common names for devil’s claw are grapple plant and wood spider, referring to the fearsome-looking, hook-like fruits of the plant, which can cripple large animals.
The plant’s anti-inflammatory benefits are derived mostly from its secondary root tubers, which are cut and dried and contain iridoid glycosides (primarily harpagoside), among other constituents.
Clinical studies have demonstrated that preparations of the secondary tubers can reduce pain sensation and improve mobility in humans. In addition, they appear to be safe and effective when used for conditions such as degenerative painful rheumatism, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, headaches, allergies, and more. Traditionally, they have also been used to address digestive ailments.
Devil’s claw is native to Kalahari savannas in Namibia and parts of South Africa, Botswana, Angola, and Zimbabwe. The tubers are obtained by sustainable wild-collection and also, on a small scale, by harvesting cultivated plant material on farms. On average, between 400 and 450 tons of dried devil’s claw is exported annually from Namibia.
About EcoSo Dynamics
Namibia-based EcoSo Dynamics, established in 2004, emphasizes ecological and social sustainability in its sourcing and processing of devil’s claw, and has an annual turnover of about 250 metric tons of devil’s claw. “EcoSo’s mission is to establish a sustainable supply chain for devil’s claw that takes into consideration the ecology, economy, and social needs of thousands of [impoverished] villagers throughout southern Africa,” said Gero Diekmann, managing director and owner of EcoSo Dynamics. “EcoSo is the frontrunner in establishing contracts with harvester groups to support sustainable harvesting and processing in order to achieve either organic certification and/or processing according to good agricultural and [collection] practices (GACP). At our facility we maintain good manufacturing practice (GMP) certification. Through this, EcoSo has full traceability in place and can 100% assure its clients of the purity of the material, be it H. procumbens or H. zeyheri. We see ourselves as leaders in the industry [and our] adoption of devil’s claw shows our commitment to our values, and to make these known in the US.”
Diekmann also said he hopes the adoption helps assure stakeholders in the United States of the purity and quality of the raw material, and that it helps establish direct trade links between Namibia and the United States. “Unfortunately, we assume that 90% of devil’s claw used in the US comes to the US via Europe,” Diekmann said.
ABC’s Adopt-an-Herb Program & HerbMedPro
Applied Food Sciences and EcoSo Dynamics are two of the 40 companies that have supported ABC’s educational efforts to collect, organize, and disseminate reliable, traditional, and science-based information, including clinical studies, on herbs, medicinal plants, and other botanical- and fungal-based ingredients through the Adopt-an-Herb program. This program encourages companies, organizations, and individuals to “adopt” one or more specific herbs for inclusion and ongoing maintenance in the HerbMedPro database. To date, 45 herbs have been adopted.
Each adopted herb is continuously researched for new scientific articles and pharmacological, toxicological, and clinical studies, ensuring that the HerbMedPro record stays current and relevant. The result is an unparalleled resource not only for researchers, health professionals, industry, and consumers, but for all members of the herbal and dietary supplements community.
This database is available to ABC members at the Academic level and higher. Its “sister” site, HerbMed, is available to the general public at no cost. In keeping with ABC’s position as an independent research and education organization, herb adopters do not influence the scientific information that is compiled for their respective adopted herbs.