American Botanical Council: 2016 Year in Review
In 2016, the American Botanical Council (ABC) continued to advance its mission to educate and inform the public about a diverse range of topics related to medicinal plants and other beneficial botanicals. ABC is a recognized leader in the field of responsible, science-based herbal medicine education, and the nonprofit’s efforts in 2016 — including the creation of a new series of Botanical Adulterants Bulletins — impacted community members both locally and internationally.
ABC reaches individuals in more than 80 countries using an array of educational services and platforms. These include numerous unique publications, an information-rich website, online databases, social media, lectures, consulting and research services, media education, an online bookstore, herbal demonstration gardens, educational events, and an internship program for students primarily from local universities. ABC’s activities serve consumers, health care practitioners, academic researchers, educators, professionals from all segments of the natural products and health industries and extended communities, government employees, the media, and more.
Awards and Recognitions
In December, as part of the magazine’s annual Best of the Industry awards, Nutritional Outlook recognized the ABC-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Program as an industry leader. Nutritional Outlook Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Grebow referred to the program as a “champion” of botanical adulteration awareness and education, and noted that its “positive effects are being felt not only within the industry but also where it matters most — consumer health and safety.”1
Publication Projects and Milestones
Signifying “a new phase for the Botanical Adulterants Program,”2 a new series of Botanical Adulterants Bulletins was announced in May 2016. The bulletins, which are designed to address ongoing issues related to botanical identity and adulteration, provide timely updates for quality control personnel, lab technicians, and other stakeholders in the herbal medicine, botanical ingredient, and dietary supplement industries. The program published bulletins for six herbs in 2016 — grape (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae) seed extract, bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, Ericaceae) fruit extract, skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Lamiaceae) herb, goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculaceae) root and rhizome, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae), and arnica (Arnica montana, Asteraceae). (At the time of this writing in early 2017, two additional bulletins have been published: St. John’s wort [Hypericum perforatum, Hypericaceae] herb and extract, and saw palmetto [Serenoa repens, Arecaceae] fruit extract.)
In March, ABC launched another resource that provides continual updates for the herbal medicine community: the Herbal MediaWatch news feed. Available to the public for free on ABC’s website, Herbal MediaWatch is a compilation of news articles, blog posts, and press releases on a range of herbal medicine- and functional food-related topics organized by category. Links to Herbal MediaWatch updates are also posted on ABC’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
For the first time, every issue of HerbalGram — dating back to issue 1 from 1983 — was made available online in at least one digital format to all ABC members. Previously, only issues 85 onward were available as PDF files. Now, all issues, including issues 1 through 21, which had never been available online in any format, are available as PDF files.
New ABC Staff Members
Anna Moreno, who served as the temporary executive assistant to Mark Blumenthal beginning in November 2015, was welcomed as part of ABC’s permanent staff in March 2016. Moreno’s previous work experience as an executive assistant, call center recruiter, and marketing promoter has helped her adapt quickly to her new role at ABC.
In April, Caroline Caswell began working as ABC’s education assistant. In this role, Caswell works closely with Education Coordinator Jenny Perez, Special Projects Director Gayle Engels, and Head Gardener Toby Bernal. Caswell has a background as an herbalist, activist, and artist.
Tanya Garduño joined ABC in December 2016 as the new communications and marketing coordinator. Garduño has more than 10 years of nonprofit experience that has focused on communications, web design, and data management and analysis. With this background and expertise, she will play an integral role in helping ABC improve its online presence.
New Adopt-an-Herb Program Participants
In 2016, the 46th herb was adopted on ABC’s HerbMedPro database through the ABC Adopt-an-Herb Program. The support of adopters helps ABC keep the records of adopted herbs up-to-date in its HerbMedPro database. The result is increased public awareness and access to reliable, science-based information on these and other herbs.
Through press releases, ABC recognized the following adoptions in 2016: sceletium (Sceletium tortuosum, Aizoaceae) by HG&H Pharmaceuticals; broccoli (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae) by Brassica Protection Products; cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon, Ericaceae) by Pharmatoka; black cohosh, hawthorn (Crataegus spp., Rosaceae), umckaloabo (Pelargonium sidoides, Geraniaceae), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lamiaceae), and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae) by Nature’s Way; kava (Piper methysticum, Piperaceae) by Applied Food Sciences; devil’s claw (Harpagophytum spp., Pedaliaceae) by EcoSo Dynamics; coffee fruit (Coffea spp., Rubiaceae) by FutureCeuticals; and arnica by Naturopathica.
Other Notable Accomplishments
ABC also accomplished the following in 2016:
- ABC published its annual US Herb Market Report, which showed a 7.5% increase in total herbal supplement retail sales in 2015.
- ABC published its 6,600th HerbClip. HerbClips are insightful summaries and critiques of clinical studies and related botanical science publications.
- ABC submitted public comments on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s proposed scheduling of two alkaloids found in kratom (Mitragyna speciosa, Rubiaceae), and on the US Food and Drug Administration’s new dietary ingredient draft guidance document.
- ABC published four issues of HerbalGram, 12 issues of HerbalEGram, 51 issues of Herbal News & Events, 360 HerbClips, six Botanical Adulterants Bulletins, and four Botanical Adulterants Monitor newsletters.
- ABC issued 29 press releases and fielded approximately 40 media requests. As a reliable third-party educational resource, ABC helps the media develop a more rational understanding and/or interpretation of scientific, regulatory, and market data. This year’s interviews were featured in several major publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and National Geographic, among others.
- ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD, co-authored two peer-reviewed scientific articles in the respected journal Planta Medica, and he was named one of the journal’s top five peer reviewers for 2014 and 2015.
- The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program received endorsements from the National Animal Supplement Council, the Center for Natural Products Technologies at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, and the Biodiversity and Medicines research cluster at the University College London School of Pharmacy. They join more than 180 other organizations and companies that have supported this program, which is designed to help improve the integrity of the global herb supply network.
- ABC trained 13 pharmacy and dietetic interns from sixth-year pharmacy school and graduate dietetic programs. Many of these interns were introduced for the first time to the science behind botanicals, herbal medicine, and various fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs, and spices for potential inclusion in their future practices.
- ABC hosted more than 500 visitors at its historic 2.5-acre headquarters throughout the year. These visitors included children, seniors, college students (including medical and nursing students), garden clubs, herbalists, health care providers, and other interested members of the local community. There was also a strong turnout at ABC’s annual HerbDay celebration in May.
- Grebow J. Nutritional Outlook’s 2016 Best of the Industry, Industry Leader: Botanical Adulterants Program. December 7, 2016. Nutritional Outlook. Available at: www.nutritionaloutlook.com/herbs-botanicals/nutritional-outlooks-2016-best-industry-industry-leader-botanical-adulterants-program. Accessed February 13, 2017.
- Botanical Adulterants Program introduces ‘Botanical Adulterants Bulletins’ series to help raise awareness of current herb adulteration [press release]. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; May 4, 2016. Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/press/2016/Botanical-Adulterants-Program-Introduces-Botanical-Adulterants-Bulletins-Series-to-Help-Raise-Awareness-of-Current-Herb-Adulteration.html. Accessed February 13, 2017.