Get Involved
About Us
Our Members
Dear Reader
Dear Reader One result of the explosive growth of herbal medicine into American's mainstream health care in the last few months is the near front page news surrounding the "discovery" by Americans that St. John's Wort (SJW) has been shown to be safe and effective to treat cases of mild to moderate depression. Since this announcement, supplies of SJW have run understandably tight, if not totally unavailable in some areas. SJW offers an excellent example of how the burgeoning herb market for medicinal plants in the U.S. and worldwide can put strains on usual sources of supply -- at least in the short run. Fortunately, SJW is a renewable resources, is easily harvested from the wild, and lends itself to commercial cultivation. In fact, some enterprising growers have already planted large fields of the herb.

However, some medicinal plants are still harvested primarily from the wild and if it is the root that is the desired part for medicine, then the plant, once dug up, is not sustainable. Such is the case with goldenseal. For years now, environmentalists, botanists, herbalists, and members of the herb industry have become increasingly concerned about the dwindling population of native wild goldenseal, a plant harvested for medical use in the United States for at least 200 years. This summer, the Conventional and Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) officially voted to place goldenseal on Appendix II status, i.e., it is now a threatened species. This is one step closer to being classed as an "endangered" species. In this issue, we present the report by Joy Bannerman regarding this process and the current status of wild goldenseal, a plant indigenous to Eastern North America.

We also present an in-depth report on the Commission for Dietary Supplement Labels, a presidential commission created by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) to review herbs and other dietary supplement and make policy recommendations to the president, Congress, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Rob McCaleb, (President of the Herb Research Foundation and a member of the Commission) and I have presented an overview of the commission's new report which, among other things, recommends that, in addition to their status as dietary supplements, FDA consider and review some herbs for their therapeutic activities under the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drug Review.

Professor Varro Tyler has contributed a critical editorial on some of the "botanical bloopers" FDA has committed over the past 20 years and still, in his opinion, continues to make.

In this issue, we also present a fascinating account by Dr. Bruce Barrett of the rich flora and cultural diversity of Nicaragua's Atlantic coast and the ethnobotanical use of 200 herbal medicines. In Nicaragua attempts were made by the government to integrate "popular medicine" into conventional health care.

Regarding the economic impact of herbs versus conventional pharmaceuticals, Dr. Larry Kincheloe writes of his use of leading phytomedicines within an HMO and the ensuing savings -- a portent of the future of herbs in modern medicine.

Finally, our graphic feature shows some of the beautiful paintings of British botanical artist Margaret Stones, who made frequent trips to Louisiana. Her collected works have been published in the Flora of Louisiana, noting, in some cases, the native uses of these plants.