So you thought beautiful issues of HerbalGram were all you got with membership in ABC. But wait! There’s more!
ABC has incorporated an extensive collection of educational resources into its website, <www.herbalgram.org>, for all levels of users. Recent visitors have expressed surprise at the depth, flexibility, uniqueness, and usefulness of these electronic resources. Among them are five unique databases, a variety of e-versions of booklets and pamphlets, news and press releases, and much more. Many questions at any level in herbal medicine may be answered on the ABC website.
Nonmembers have access to some of ABC’s general resources as well as samples from the databases. ABC has learned that many of its members are not taking advantage of these valuable resources. If you have misplaced your membership information and need your private username and password, call ABC at 800/373-7105, or email ABC <the Membership Department>.
Many ABC members regularly use these Internet-based research and education tools, and report to ABC that our resources are all they need to answer their questions and help with their research. Consumers, patients, members of the media, and healthcare practitioners have reported success in finding answers to most of their questions about safety, dosage, clinical studies, and interactions. Researchers, academics, and government employees have reported success in directing them to the research reviews and clinical studies they need in their work. Members of industry are finding that ABC’s resources are useful in building their files to assist in substantiating product claims, providing sales staff and customers with therapeutic and health information, and generally helping them access key information quickly and economically.
There are five password-protected databases. All ABC members have access to the first three of the five databases described in this article and the other two databases are available to those who join at the Academic level and higher.
• HerbalGram Online – HerbalGram, ABC’s journal, has been published since 1983. The searchable database, available to all ABC members, contains HerbalGram archives back to 1990. The table of contents of the most current issue, with links to article text, is always posted on the HerbalGram Online homepage. Visitors may use the flexible search engine or search for articles based on departments, authors, or issue-by-issue. For example, to see what HerbalGram has written on Legal and Regulatory issues, select "Departments" and then "Legal and Regulatory" and the screen will display the titles of all of the articles published in this general department, arranged from newest to oldest, which may then be opened. Searching for words or phrases is very flexible using the "all words," "any words," or "exact phrase" criteria. Search results are displayed in the order of the frequency of the occurrence of the search word or phrase.
• Commission E Online —— In 1998, ABC published the now-famous Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Commission E, the governmental body in Germany that evaluated the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines, produced 380 monographs in German to be used as product inserts. The book, which translated these monographs into English, was named by Doody’s Publishing, a medical book-ranking service, as the second leading medical book of 1998. This online version of the entire book, available to all members, provides all of the English monographs, and permits easy navigation through the many cross-references and indices. For example, to see what herbs were approved for use in Germany by Commission E for "sore throat," select "Approved Herbs Uses and Indications" index, then "Respiratory," and then "sore throat." Sixteen herb monographs are listed for this indication; and the viewer may read them all.
• Expanded Commission E Online – In 2000, ABC published Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs, which focuses on 107 of the most popular herbs from the 380 monographs in the previous book and provides "expanded" information on each herb. This new information includes detailed overviews, clinical research, references, and expanded sections in dosage, administration, pharmacology, and chemistry. The online version permits ABC members to select any herb and quickly jump to the section of their choice.
• HerbClip™ Online – HerbClip has been a paper-based service of ABC for more than 10 years. ABC searches for seminal articles on herbal medicine in the popular and scientific literature from around the world (English language only with some occasional translations from some foreign language journals). ABC selects those that are most important, creates a one- to two-page critical review of the article which provides a summary of the original article, links to other topics, and, at times, criticism of the original article. Sponsor members receive a packet in the mail twice a month consisting of 12 critical reviews and the original article when possible. The Online version displays the 12 critical reviews from the most current "mailing" and has a powerful and flexible search engine built in. For example, to search for information on "diabetes," search results would point to HerbClip reviews of articles where this was the main topic, or all HerbClips that mention the word.
• HerbMedPro™ – This database is an herbal link to PubMed™, the online medical database at the National Library of Medicine, and other public domain databases. This database was developed and is updated by the Alternative Medicine Foundation (AMF) . ABC is grateful for the cooperative relationship with AMF. HerbMedPro is an interactive, electronic herbal database that provides hyperlinked access to the clinical and scientific data underlying the use of herbs for health. It is an evidence-based information resource for healthcare professionals, researchers, industry, and general public. Once an herb is selected, the user sees the studies displayed in six categories and sub-categories. When a sub-category is selected, HerbMedPro displays a short description of each study. These descriptions are usually one or two sentences long and are much easier to use to obtain a quick understanding of the scope and results of an article than reading the published abstract. By selecting a specific study, users are linked to the full citation and abstract from the specific database on which the abstract resides (e.g., PubMed). This program is for users who need deeper and higher levels of evidence in their work.
All visitors to ABC’s website have access to the following electronic resources:
• Botanical Booklet Series – A collection of 15 "e-booklets" each covering a single herb with a thumbnail photo. The reading level is moderate and the sections include history, safety, use, cautions, and other topics. In their printed versions, these booklets are eight pages each and are available in sets, in large quantity for "third party literature," or for resale or giveaways in retail stores or other educational uses.
• Herb Reference Guide – A therapeutic illustrated summary of 26 common herbs. The five "bullet" points covered are: dosage, uses, contraindications, side effects, and interactions.
• Common Herbs – A brief summary of 29 common herbs with illustrations, written in consumer-friendly language, includes the use of each herb and what scientific studies have revealed. This is also available as a full-color pamphlet in large quantity for free distribution. More than 5 million of these brochures have been distributed by ABC and its members.
• News Archive – All press releases from ABC and letters written by ABC to the editors of various newspapers, magazines, and journals are archived here.
• HerbalGram Online Samples – This section of HerbalGram contains sample articles from almost every department. In addition, viewers may select the "Department" index on the HerbalGram page to access the entire archive of the following departments: ABC News, Market Reports, Book Reviews, Dear Reader, and In Memoriam. Overall, hundreds of articles are open to all visitors, who may use the search engine to garner all of the resulting citations.
• Educational Links – Hundreds of links to other commercial and non-commercial websites are available and are indexed in sections.
• HerbClip™ Online Samples – Dozens of samples are available to all viewers in the HerbClip section of the website and new samples are added every two weeks. All visitors are able to use the search engine and receive all of the citations of the search result.
Many herbal questions may be answered at , whether the visitor is a member or not. ABC encourages members to fully acquaint themselves with their benefits and the existing resources. ABC staff members are available by email or phone to answer questions about using the system. This may be the resource you have been looking for but did not realize was already at your fingertips!
–Wayne Silverman, PhD