Frank Stephen D’Amelio Sr., co-founder of Bio-Botanica and Nature’s Answer, died on June 11, 2021, from complications due to COVID-19. Through his Hauppauge, New York-based supplement manufacturing and supply businesses, D’Amelio, with his co-founder and wife Josephine, pioneered new extraction techniques and helped the fledgling US botanical and supplement market grow to its current size. He was 81 years old.
D’Amelio was born on June 8, 1940, and showed an interest in plants and chemistry at an early age. He was encouraged by his grandmother, a midwife who used herbal remedies at home. However, he did not pursue this passion until later in life and managed a construction business before he and Josephine pivoted to herbs and founded Bio-Botanica in 1972. Initially, the family business manufactured a line of concentrated herbal extracts that contained 1,000 mg of herb per milliliter of extract. D’Amelio, Josephine, and their sons filled and labeled the bottles by hand.
The next year, D’Amelio developed the company’s proprietary Bio-Chelation® process, which produces extracts with low to no alcohol and avoids the use of other potentially toxic solvents. In 1976, he began to supply bulk materials and manufacture other finished products. In 1980, he broke ground on Bio-Botanica’s manufacturing facility in Hauppauge, where it continues to operate today. The original building was 18,000 square feet; it has since expanded to its current 140,000 square feet and houses manufacturing operations, research and development, a quality control department, warehouse, and laboratory. In 1992, D’Amelio split the company into its extract manufacturing arm, Bio-Botanica, and finished product arm, Nature’s Answer.
D’Amelio also developed an in-house advanced botanical fingerprint technology and received several patents for extraction methods and processes under the Bio-Botanica name. He also founded Bio-Botanica’s own private herbarium. Through the herbarium and fingerprinting technology, the company could ensure the authenticity of the herbs it provided and used. The herbarium currently contains about 800 authenticated botanical specimens from around the world.
D’Amelio served as a consultant on botanical drugs for AOAC International (which establishes standard analytical methods that ensure the safety and integrity of foods and other products) and was a member of numerous industry and scientific organizations, including the Institute of Food Technologists; AOAC International; the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association of South Africa; and the American Herbal Products Association. He authored several articles on botanicals and books, including The Botanical Practitioner (Holistic Publishing Inc., 1982) and Botanicals: A Phytocosmetic Desk Reference (CRC Press, 1998). He received numerous recognitions from the broader supplement community for his accomplishments, including being named an industry leader by New Hope Network in 2014.
Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, worked with D’Amelio for decades as the official herbalist and, later, professional herbal consultant for Nature’s Answer. “Frank had a deep compassion and depth of understanding about the interconnectedness of all things, including the bond between humans and plants,” she wrote (email, June 24, 2021). “He treated all members of his large family, including his employees, with the same down-to-earth compassion, whether they are a top PhD scientist in botanical pharmacology or a maintenance worker in his factory…. It has been an honor to be his friend and employee for close to 50 years.”
American Botanical Council Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal and D’Amelio were friends and colleagues for about 45 years, starting with a business relationship in the 1970s. “Frank was an ardent student of herbs and botanical formulations, especially the Eclectic medical movement, as epitomized by the writings and extraction techniques of the famous John Uri Lloyd in the early 20th century,” Blumenthal wrote (email, July 15, 2021). “He spent countless hours in his own laboratory in his home in Florida. I met him in the mid-1970s, when he and his wife Jo introduced what was probably the very first line of botanical extracts to the incipient herb market in the United States. He was a true pioneer in the modern herbal industry. He loved herbs and laboratory equipment and methodology and would talk about them almost endlessly.”
D’Amelio was respected by many of his herb industry colleagues in the New York City area who were already in business wholesaling herbs and spices when he and his wife started their business in 1972. Jim Adelson owned Aphrodisia, a retail store in Greenwich Village that he started in 1969 and which became a large wholesaler from a warehouse in Brooklyn. He sold bulk herbs to D’Amelio for his extracts. “My relationship with Frank went back to the early 1970s,” Adelson wrote (email to M. Blumenthal, July 15, 2021). “I sold his extracts, and he bought some of his botanicals from me. It was truly the herb trade, as we frequently didn’t have the money to pay each other, so we traded products. Almost 50 years later, I could count on him as a great friend, and I would always look forward to the next time that I would see him, share a smile, and rehash our old adventures. I wish comfort and condolences to his wonderful family.”
Peter Landes of KHL Flavors in Maspeth, New York, a supplier of bulk herbs and spices, was a supplier of Bio-Botanica. “Frank will be remembered as one of the pioneers of American herbal extract production and even more for his unending curiosity and encyclopedic knowledge [about] herbal medicine,” Landes wrote (email to M. Blumenthal, July 15, 2021). “I will also remember him for his unfailing good humor and enthusiastic bad golf. Frank was always up for the next interesting development in botanical science, business, and life in general. He will be missed by his many friends in the herb industry. My profound sympathies to Josephine and the whole D’Amelio family.”
Frank D’Amelio Sr. is survived by his wife of 60 years, Josephine; their three sons, Frank Jr., Dean, and Michael; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Bio-Botanica/Nature’s Answer, which currently has more than 200 employees, will remain a family business, with Frank Jr. and Dean maintaining leadership positions in the company.