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ABC Recognizes Adoptions of Birch, Rhodiola, and Helichrysum through the Adopt-an-Herb Program

The American Botanical Council (ABC) recently announced three adoptions through its Adopt-an-Herb Program: birch (Betula spp., Betulaceae) tree by The Actives Factory, a wholesale supplier of natural compounds extracted from birch bark; rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea, Crassulaceae) by Jiaherb Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of natural and botanical ingredients; and helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum, Asteraceae) by Nature’s Gift, Inc., an essential oils and aromatherapy products company.

Through these adoptions, The Actives Factory, Jiaherb, and Nature’s Gift help ABC expand its nonprofit educational mission and keep its unique HerbMedPro database updated with the latest scientific and clinical research on these plants. HerbMedPro is a comprehensive, interactive online database that provides access to important scientific and clinical research data on the uses and health effects of approximately 250 herbs.

The Actives Factory Adopts Birch

Brian Garhofer, founder of The Actives Factory, said he was delighted to adopt birch as part of the Adopt-an-Herb initiative. “Birch is a classic example of ‘everything old is new again,’” he said. “Indigenous cultures have known about its healing properties for hundreds of years, but the insights gained in modern times from biochemical, cellular, and clinical research has really allowed us to understand how the compounds in birch bark work, and apply these insights across a spectrum of applications to improve health and well-being.”

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal  said: “The Actives Factory and its principal Brian Garhofer have compiled an enormous amount of scientific research on the birch tree, particularly its outer bark and useful chemical compounds that have been investigated for their potential health benefits. ABC is deeply grateful for The Actives Factory’s generous and supportive adoption of birch, which allows ABC to continue to develop HerbMedPro into a unique and highly useful medicinal plant database.”

Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer added: “When I started to become interested in herbal medicine in Switzerland, it was mainly the birch leaf that was appreciated for its therapeutic benefits. But more recent research on birch bark extract and its triterpenes, in particular for topical applications, is very compelling. I am pleased that all the scientific research data on this botanical is now available in the HerbMedPro database.”

About Birch

Birch bark is used in many medical traditions where Betula species are endemic. These species are found in temperate and boreal zones of the northern hemisphere. Traditional uses for birch bark and leaf primarily involve the treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, gout, and headaches. Birch leaves are also a popular ingredient in herbal teas and phyto-preparations for promoting diuresis. Native American tribes made poultices of birch bark and leaves to help heal wounds, among many other uses. The essential oil in birch leaves contains significant levels of methyl salicylate, a medicinal compound with analgesic properties that is also found in high levels in the popular oil of wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens, Ericaceae). Current research on birch has investigated the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of betulin, betulinic acid, lupeol, and betulin caffeate for use in cosmetics, potential anticancer activity, and treatment of symptoms associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C viral infections.

About The Actives Factory

Based in Two Harbors, Minnesota, The Actives Factory supplies natural compounds extracted from the outer bark of the North American white birch (B. papyrifera). For nearly two decades, the company has led the manufacture of ethically sourced birch bark extract, highly purified triterpenes, and specialized derivatives. The Actives Factory works with companies and manufacturers interested in developing innovative birch-based formulations for dietary, skin care, and pharmaceutical products.

Jiaherb Adopts Rhodiola

Scott Chen, president of Jiaherb, said: “By supporting the Adopt-an-Herb Program, we will be working together with ABC to ... help to educate the global herb community, including the botanical industry, about rhodiola, rhodiola’s traditional use, current applications, and sustainable development.”

Blumenthal said that “ABC is deeply grateful to Jiaherb for its generous support of ABC’s nonprofit educational mission via its adoption of Rhodiola rosea. There is increasing research and market interest in this adaptogenic root and its extracts, and ABC will be able to stay current with the scientific and clinical research on this important herb due to Jiaherb’s adoption.”

Chen noted that sustainability concerns for Rhodiola rosea have made research and conservation efforts particularly important. “In recent years, the sources of rhodiola have started to slowly diminish,” he said. “It is time for us to shift our attention to the sustainability of this naturally grown herb and its scientific use and benefits. We need to develop a sustainable future for rhodiola that will protect it from overharvesting, and to implement a solution that will protect the species from extinction.”

About Rhodiola

Rhodiola, also known as golden root, arctic root, and roseroot, grows naturally at high altitudes and in arctic regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. Although it has long been used in traditional medicine for several disorders, it is mostly known as an adaptogenic herb used to help prevent and treat stress, mental and physical fatigue, depression, and to boost energy.

In Russia and Scandinavia, rhodiola has been used for centuries to cope with the cold climate and stress. It is also used to increase physical endurance and resistance to altitude sickness. The plant has been used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is called hong jing tian. Scientists have identified about 140 compounds in the roots of rhodiola, including phenols, rosavin, rosin, rosarin, organic acids, terpenoids, phenolcarbonic acids and derivatives thereof, and flavonoids.

About Jiaherb

Based in Pine Brook, New Jersey, Jiaherb is an NSF International-certified manufacturer of natural ingredients, including herbal extracts, powders, spices, and natural sweeteners. The company states that it has been committed to providing its customers with reliable and sustainable high-quality ingredients for more than 17 years. Jiaherb also says that its comprehensive and diverse sourcing program consists of a team of botanists and product specialists who travel the world looking for the best raw materials. The company has established programs that are designed to improve consumer confidence, including an identification verification program and a program with tracking procedures that control and verify product characteristics at every stage of the manufacturing process, from arrival of raw materials through to storage, production, warehousing, and sales.

Nature’s Gift Adopts Helichrysum

According to Marge Clark, founder of Nature’s Gift, “The Adopt-an-Herb Program is an invaluable educational opportunity from a highly trusted source. We appreciate the opportunity to help make more information available about Helichrysum italicum. There is not nearly enough research done about this remarkable plant and [its] amazing healing essential oil. Perhaps by our adopting it, more researchers will be inspired to study what we already know to be true: that the essential oil of H. italicum is an invaluable addition to a practitioner’s repertoire.”

Blumenthal said: “ABC deeply appreciates this adoption of helichrysum by Nature’s Gift. Helichrysum is an important medicinal and aromatic plant of the Mediterranean region, and it is becoming more popular in the marketplace, particularly in the area of essential oils and aromatherapy. Nature’s Gift’s adoption of helichrysum will greatly assist ABC in maintaining up-to-date records on the growing scientific research on this traditional medicinal and aromatic plant.”

About Helichrysum

Helichrysum italicum, also known as immortelle, is a member of the daisy family. The small shrub, which is sometimes called curry plant due to its aroma, has yellow flowers and grows to 30-70 centimeters (11.8-27.6 inches) in height. Helichrysum italicum contains essential oil and a variety of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, triterpenes, acetophenone derivatives, and phloroglucinols. Both the flowers and leaves of H. italicum have been used traditionally in the Mediterranean and surrounding regions for respiratory, digestive, and skin conditions. Various preparations of the plant have also been used historically for their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which are supported by data from in vitro studies.

About Nature’s Gift

Providing pure authentic essential oils for therapeutic purposes and offering information on their safe and effective use is at the heart of the Nature’s Gift mission. Based in Madison, Tennessee, Nature’s Gift has had an online presence for well over two decades, and the company works with hospitals, hospices, pharmacies, clinical nursing programs, and educational institutions as a supplier of essential oils and aromatherapy products and accessories. The company offers retail, bulk, and wholesale options to meet nearly any aromatherapy need. Professional discounts are also available for health care practitioners.

About Adopt-an-Herb and HerbMedPro

The Actives Factory, Jiaherb, and Nature’s Gift are among the 45 companies that have supported ABC’s educational efforts to collect, organize, and disseminate reliable, traditional, science-based, and clinical information 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, 50 herbs have been adopted.

Each adopted herb is continuously researched for new articles and studies, ensuring that its HerbMedPro record stays current and robust. 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.

HerbMedPro is available to ABC members at the Academic level and higher. Its “sister” site, HerbMed, is free and available to the public. In keeping with the 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.

—ABC Staff