In mid-January, the American Botanical Council (ABC) published its 7,000th HerbClip. An essential research and educational resource for scientists, researchers, health professionals, industry members, and others, HerbClips are two- to three-page summaries and critical reviews of scientific journal articles that cover medicinal plant-related human clinical research, analytical methods, regulatory data, market information, ethnobotanical reviews, conservation and sustainability studies, and more.
ABC members at the Academic level and above can access the entire HerbClip database containing the 7,000-plus summaries. ABC Sponsor Members and HerbClip Service Members also receive HerbClips and, when available, the PDF versions of the original articles on which they are based.
HerbClip summaries typically focus on the growing body of human clinical trials on herbs and phytomedicinal products, including systematic reviews and meta-analyses. HerbClips are based on articles from a wide variety of peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals, as well as monographs, government documents, special reports, trade journals, and news articles. In addition to summarizing the original article, HerbClips often include insights, perspectives, criticism, and links to other relevant articles or resources.
When applicable, HerbClip reviews provide the trade name of the medicinal product on which a clinical study is based (including the name of the company that produced the product), as well as a description of the tested material. To help ensure accuracy, HerbClip summaries and reviews are vetted by editors and peer reviewers before they are published.
HerbClip started in 1992, four years after ABC was founded. At the time, ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal would photocopy relevant news and scientific articles and mail them to friends and colleagues. About a year later, when he learned that this activity had become increasingly costly, Blumenthal called two friends in the herb industry — Jim Beck, founder and then-owner of Solaray, and Ken Murdock, then-president and owner of Nature’s Way — and asked if they would be willing to pay for summaries of the latest herb research and related developments. They agreed, as did many others over a short period of time, and HerbClip became a permanent, funded ABC publication.
HerbClip initially involved mailing summaries and reviews of herbal literature to ABC colleagues in the academic and scientific communities, as well as members of industry. As far as is known, no similar service existed in the herb and natural medicine community and herbal supplement industry at the time. In 2005, ABC added “HerbClip News” (a column of commentary from HerbClip Managing Editor Lori Glenn) with each mailing. Two years later, in 2007, the first electronic HerbClips were sent to ABC members, which dramatically expanded readership. By 2009, all HerbClips were delivered electronically, reflecting ABC’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
“ABC is profoundly grateful to Lori Glenn, the HerbClip managing editor for these past 15 years, as well as Heather Oliff, PhD, Mariann Garner-Wizard, and Shari Henson — all of whom have been writing HerbClips for more than a decade — and all of the other HerbClip writers, editors, and peer reviewers who have contributed to creating this unique and useful research and educational resource,” said Blumenthal. “Along with ABC’s quarterly, peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram, HerbClip stands out as one of ABC’s most unique and valuable educational publications. In all the world’s phytomedicinal literature, there is nothing like HerbClip.”
Stefan Gafner, PhD, chief science officer of ABC and technical director of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program wrote: “In my work, performing a literature search on a botanical ingredient or reading a clinical study in its full length is often done only when needed for a specific project. Therefore, to continue being informed on important new studies is a challenging task. With its short and easily understandable summaries, HerbClip gives me the opportunity to stay on top of pertinent data on the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines without an extensive investment of time and energy.”
Glenn wrote: “As an educational tool, HerbClip provides concise, easy-to-use information to busy professionals and the general public.” She added that the database of more than 7,000 HerbClips exposes professionals to topics that may not be a part of their normal research or study areas. In addition, HerbClip is a resource that educators can share with students and that herb ingredient and product suppliers and natural food stores can share with customers.
“As the HerbClip managing editor, I have been blessed to work with many amazing writers, consulting editors, peer reviewers, and ABC staff members, who have been a part of the HerbClip process,” Glenn added. “I am deeply grateful for the time and energy they have dedicated to making HerbClip a beneficial educational program.”
Oliff, of California-based Science Consulting Group, LLC, wrote: “This is a momentous milestone, and I am honored to think that I have been an important part of reaching this milestone. I have been writing HerbClips monthly for 18 years (and counting), and have written nearly 20% of the 7,000 HerbClips! One of the best things about the HerbClip service is that it includes summaries of many articles that would be difficult or costly to obtain otherwise. Also, I appreciate that the HerbClips are peer reviewed, which ensures accuracy and that the HerbClip product exceeds standards of excellence.”
In a 1992 letter to Blumenthal, renowned ethnobotanist and ABC co-founder James A. Duke, PhD, who passed away on December 10, 2017, praised the then-new HerbClips he received while still working at the Agricultural Research Service at the United States Department of Agriculture. “It’s time I thanked you for your new HerbClip service you’ve been sending lately,” Duke wrote. “I’m always happy to see them…. Truly, I look forward to the clippings almost as much as I do the drafts of a new HerbalGram. I share your eagerness to know what’s new! Your clippings help us very much in that regard.”
HerbClip summaries and reviews are available online through the ABC website at www.herbalgram.org. The entire database of more than 7,000 articles is searchable by common and Latin names of herbs, author names, journal and article titles, pharmacological actions, clinical endpoints, conditions, and more. Fifteen new HerbClips and an HerbClip News article are produced twice monthly. At least four HerbClips from each installment are available to the public for free.