On November 1, 2017, the American Botanical Council (ABC) began its 30th year of nonprofit service providing reliable, science-based information on the responsible use of herbs, medicinal plants, other beneficial botanicals, essential oils, fungi, and related materials. The independent nonprofit has members in countries around the globe, has received numerous awards, and is recognized as a thought leader and innovator in the field of botanicals and herbal medicine.
In 1988, Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal established ABC with internationally esteemed ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, and the late Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, a renowned pharmacognosist and medicinal plant researcher. A few years later, another eminent pharmacognosist, the late Varro E. Tyler, PhD, also joined the Board of Trustees. They created the organization with the goal of providing accurate information to assist the public in making educated, responsible choices about herbal medicine in self-care and as an accepted part of health care. Thirty years later, their vision still drives the nonprofit’s mission and projects.
ABC Board of Trustees member Peggy Brevoort, a former member of the herb industry, congratulated ABC on its “passionate commitment to serving the ever-expanding herbal community.” She added: “Having known Mark for longer than 30 years, I can truly say that his vision and hard work have been the driving force behind ABC. With a dedicated staff, devoted board members, and an enormous community of supportive members, ABC continues to stand at the forefront of bringing truthful information on the benefits and risks of herbs to the research community, health professionals, industry, the media, and consumers.”
Blumenthal said: “I am profoundly grateful to the many dedicated people who have supported and helped to build ABC to what it is today. Of course, this includes ABC’s amazingly dedicated staff — past and present — who have chosen the path of meaning, purpose, and service to others by working at ABC. I also extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the members of the Board of Trustees, our extensive Advisory Board, and friends and colleagues who support ABC by participating in the ABC Director’s Circle, as well as every member of ABC: All of them endorse ABC’s unique and essential nonprofit educational mission, publications, and programs.”
In the summer of 1983, Blumenthal published the first issue of HerbalGram, then an eight-page, black-and-white newsletter with brief updates on medicinal plant research, community events, and regulatory news. In August 2017, HerbalGram began its 35th year, and the 80-page, full-color, peer-reviewed journal has become a leading publication in its field. In 2013, ABC published the 100th issue of the magazine.
“I look forward to each issue of HerbalGram, filled with beautifully written and engaging articles and summaries of contemporary research on herbs, and learn something from reading each issue,” said ABC Board of Trustees member Michael Balick, PhD, a veteran ethnobotanist at the New York Botanical Garden. “ABC provides essential and unique services to the consumer, academic community, and industry, and I am proud to be a member of the Board of Trustees.”
ABC celebrated a number of other publication milestones in 2017. In February, ABC’s monthly e-newsletter HerbalEGram began its 15th year. Since 2004, ABC has published more than 150 issues of this digital companion to HerbalGram. HerbClip, a twice-monthly publication that provides summaries and critical reviews of medicinal plant-related clinical research, began its 25th year in 2017. ABC has now published more than 6,900 HerbClips. ABC’s newest online publication, Herbal News & Events, entered its sixth year in 2017. Launched in 2012, Herbal News & Events was created to keep ABC members and supporters up to date on relevant events, conferences, and news articles.
New Digital Resources
ABC has recently added numerous resources and member benefits to its website. In October 2017, ABC added a digitalversion of The Identification of Medicinal Plants: A Handbook of the Morphology of Botanicals in Commerce to its website. Originally co-published in 2006 by ABC and the Missouri Botanical Garden, the manual includes macroscopic assessments of 124 medicinal plants used in North America and Europe, and is a useful quality control resource for ABC members around the world.
Also in October 2017, ABC saw the 35th publication of HerbalEGram’s Food as Medicine series, which explores the history, traditional uses, nutritional profile, and modern research of a different conventional food each month. The Food as Medicine series is based on work by interns in ABC’s dietetic internship program, led by ABC Education Coordinator Jenny Perez and ABC Special Projects Director Gayle Engels, and is produced in collaboration with HerbalGram Associate Editor Hannah Bauman and ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD.
Last year, ABC added a complete digital archive of HerbalGram issues dating back to 1983. Previously, only issues 85 and later were available online as PDFs. ABC also added a new Herbal MediaWatch feature to its website in 2016. Updated weekly, Herbal MediaWatch is a news feed that contains articles, press releases, and other online publications on a wide range of subjects of interest to ABC’s members and supporters.
“As a scientist, when I need to have the latest background information on a plant, I go to the ABC website, which is loaded with excellent information,” Balick noted. “ABC has become the source for timely and reliable information on botanicals and their properties — from traditional uses and preparations to commercial products of so many different types.”
In addition to its expanded digital offerings, ABC continues to add value for local visitors to its headquarters at the historic Case Mill Homestead in Austin, Texas. In March 2017, ABC hosted its 12th annual HerbDay celebration, which broke previous records for attendance and giving.
In the past five years, ABC added two new features to its expansive, 2.5-acre grounds. In 2015, ABC completed work on a new garden space, which received official designation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, the largest wildlife conservation and education organization in the United States. Three years before that, in 2012, ABC introduced its Sacred Seeds garden, which is part of an international network of garden sanctuaries intended to protect locally important and traditionally used plants.
Botanical Adulterants Program
As ABC enters its 30th year in 2017, the nonprofit continues to expand the scope and reach of its Botanical Adulterants Program in collaboration with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) and the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi.
The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, analytical laboratories, research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and other parties with interest in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advises industry, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in commerce. More than 200 US and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the program.
To date, the Botanical Adulterants Program has released 34 extensively peer-reviewed publications including detailed articles featured in HerbalGram, Botanical Adulterants Bulletins, Laboratory Guidance Documents, and Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletters, all of which are available for free to registered users on the program’s website.
For more information about ABC, including the benefits of membership, visit www.herbalgram.org or call 512-926-4900.