This issue includes our annual Herb Market Report, which shows retail sales trends and statistics for the top-selling herbal dietary supplements in the US market in 2021. Retail herbal dietary supplement sales were 9.7% higher in 2021 than in 2020, a year that saw an unprecedented sales increase of 17.3% compared to 2019. The growth in these two years reflects a continued pattern of greater consumer interest in and demand for herbal and other dietary supplements, possibly resulting from increased concerns about personal and public health issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Many consumers are increasingly aware that lifestyle choices, including changes in diet and the responsible use of dietary supplements, can enhance immune health.
Our thanks to HerbalGram Managing Editor Tyler Smith (who has now been senior author of eight of our annual market reports) and co-authors Haleigh Resetar of the data technology firm SPINS and Claire Morton from Nutrition Business Journal for compiling the data in this report, which is often our most-cited article each year. This year’s report is our longest ever, spanning 28 pages of this issue and including many of Steven Foster’s compelling photos, along with 99 references.
We still don’t know how things have fared this year in 2022, but informal feedback from many industry executives suggests that retail sales of some ingredients are down to about the levels of 2019. It remains to be seen how a post-pandemic “normalization” and the increased ingredient and operating prices caused by pandemic-related supply chain shortages and delays will affect the total sales for this year.
Our deep gratitude to our frequent contributor Thomas Brendler, who has produced a comprehensive ethnobotanical and modern scientific literature review of the Hawaiian native plant māmaki. Many islanders use this increasingly popular, but not yet fully commercially developed, plant as a tea and traditional remedy.
Once again, we give thanks and deep appreciation to our good friends Josef Brinckmann (now President of the Board of ABC!) and Marisa Williams at Traditional Medicinals for their contribution of another herb profile — this one on alfalfa. Alfalfa often is overlooked as a nutritional and medicinal plant for humans, and the bulk of the world’s supply is used as high-quality, nutrient-rich fodder for livestock.
As we do in every issue, we honor the lives of herb and natural product experts who have contributed to our knowledge of medicinal plants and plant-based functional foods. Gwen Barclay and her mother, late Texas herbalist and grande dame Madelene Hill, formed a pair who educated thousands of people in Texas and beyond about growing culinary and medicinal plants and cooking with them in unique and memorable dishes. Lest we forget, herbal medicine often starts in the kitchen! And then there’s our old friend and colleague Ray Cooper, a pharmacognosist, researcher, and author/editor of numerous articles and books, who left us too early.
We also salute Professor Lyle Craker, an agronomist by training whose commitment to herbs, spices, and medicinal plants resulted in courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, journal articles, and books during his career of more than 50 years. Lyle also is known for his decades-long effort to obtain a license to grow cannabis and end the US National Institute on Drug Abuse’s monopoly on cannabis that could be used for research purposes. Both Ray and Lyle were longtime members of ABC’s Advisory Board.
We also remember Richard Passwater, a nutritional scientist and popular author whose monthly articles on nutrition and natural product research in WholeFoods Magazine for 36 years may have set a record for a column in almost any publication.
And, although his full tribute will be published in the next issue of HerbalGram, I feel compelled to share a few words about the recent passing of Paul Lee, a philosopher, environmentalist, activist, and seminal figure in the development of the modern herb movement in the United States. Paul died in October at age 91. He was the executive director of the former Herb Trade Association and was responsible for introducing dozens of herbalists and young herbal entrepreneurs in the 1970s, including me, to the leading ethnobotany and pharmacognosy researchers in the United States. Paul was a key catalyst in moving herbs forward, and he coined the term “Herbal Renaissance” for the emerging movement in the 1970s.