This issue marks HerbalGram’s 20th anniversary. Our first issue was published in the Summer of 1983 as an 8-page newsletter, which grew to 12 pages, then 16, then eventually to 24. Five years later in 1988, Jim Duke, Norman Farnsworth, and I founded ABC initially as a vehicle to take HerbalGram from the newsletter format to the colorful magazine you hold today. During this past 15 years HerbalGram has evolved into a leading voice for science-based herbal medicine in the U.S. and beyond.
The articles in HerbalGram promote the educational goals of ABC: to provide science-based information on the rational use of herbs and phytomedicines in self-care and healthcare, while honoring the rich ethnobotanical traditions of the cultures from which modern herbal medicine derives, and preserving natural habitats of medicinal plants and promoting sustainable sourcing of herbal materials. HerbalGram reflects the blending of traditional ethnobotany and ethnomedicine and modern science.
An excellent example of the juncture of traditional medicine and modern technology can be seen in our cover story, "Classic Herbal Texts Brought to the Digital Age." This feature article was written by our summer 2003 intern, Sarah Jackson, who has contributed numerous short articles for this and two previous issues. This is her first published feature-length article and deals with the interesting project at the Missouri Botanical Garden of electronically scanning rare herbal manuscripts for viewing by a wider audience via the Internet. Sarah’s article also underscores the fact that ABC is not only a center for herbal education; we are blessed with interns who also learn other skills (e.g., journalism).
As usual, there is way more going on the herb world than we can possibly cover in the pages of one issue. Nevertheless, we have some interesting articles covering some botanicals with which most of us here in the U.S. are unfamiliar. Dr. Marian Addy reviews the science supporting the use of cryptolepis root for the treatment of malaria in Ghana. Of interest is the use of teas made from the actual root – not an isolated chemical from the herb, as in the case of antimalarial drugs quinine and artemisinin from cinchona bark and sweet wormwood, respectively. In nearby Cameroon, Charly Facheux and his colleagues discuss the market success of some specific medicinal plants and the efforts to ensure long-term availability of popular local species by developing sustainable cultivation of various herbs, particularly the antimalarial and yellow fever remedy used locally, African whitewood.
This past spring and summer there was additional media interest in the controversial herb ephedra and the issue of its safety, including a congressional hearing this summer. Some of the media accounts referenced an analysis of the American Association of Poison Control Center’s (AAPCC) analysis of adverse event reports (AERs) related to herbs, in which ephedra was incorrectly reported to comprise a disproportionate share of the AERs compared to its market sales. Rick Kingston and I provide an analysis of the AAPCC’s AER reporting system and its limitations, concluding that information from it cannot currently be used as a basis for making safety evaluations or regulatory policy. Speaking of policy, Canadian attorney Joel Taller provides an in-depth review of the new regulations for Natural Health Products in Canada, a new system where herbs and related materials have a separate legal standing on the same level as foods and drugs.