The American Botanical Council (ABC) has an exceptional education department that welcomes students from various disciplines in their last year of schooling. My rotation at ABC well exceeded my expectations of what an herbal rotation is all about. As a pharmacist, I believe I have a very important role in counseling customers on medications, not only prescriptions, but over-the-counter medications, herbal products, and other dietary supplements as well. My background knowledge in herbal products was very limited before I completed ABC’s internship program. (Frankly, it still is. I learned that there is so much information on herbs, and I am just beginning to explore the science documented in the literature.) I chose ABC as my elective herbal rotation, thinking it would be fun to garden and maybe learn a little about herbs. I left ABC with an incredible respect for the rich tradition of herbal medicine, the amount of scientific research that has been conducted to date, as well as the herbal industry. Aside from spending some time in the greenhouse and out in the garden, I learned of many valuable herbal resources that will help me in fulfilling my pharmacist duties.
My main responsibility as a pharmacist intern at ABC was to research various herbs that would later become a part of a new database for ABC members and for licensing to various manufacturers. I learned about the history, traditional uses, and future outlook of many herbs. Most important to my area of interest, I became better informed of the large number of well designed animal and human studies presently available on many herbs as well as studies on their individual chemical constituents. One of my best learning exercises of this rotation was to research questions received from members and reply to them via e-mail in a more formal manner—much the same way I will deal with a customer’s questions in a pharmacy setting. The most important thing I learned on my rotation at ABC was what valuable resources are available to me in my practice. I now know where to find trustworthy information on the safety and effectiveness of herbs.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my herbal rotation was the time I spent in the greenhouse. While I didn’t become a horticulturist or botanist, I was thrilled to see plants emerging from the soil just days after I planted their seeds.
I found my rotation to be dramatically different than the herbal lecture we had during our second year of pharmacy school. The lecture covered about 20 of the more popular herbs in about 2 hours; whereas at ABC, it took my full 6 weeks to study the same amount of herbs in detail. I am thankful for this opportunity, which I found to be my chance to better prepare myself to provide the best counseling I can possibly provide my customers. More importantly, I have become more open minded on the use of herbal products. I hope that my attitude about this rotation will inspire other students to want to learn more about herbal medicine. If more pharmacists learn about the safe and effective use of herbs, the general public will benefit from their knowledge.
The employees of ABC have all demonstrated professionalism, knowledge, and dedication to their purpose in providing the public with accurate, reliable information on the responsible use of herbs. I personally appreciate Mark Blumenthal and Gayle Engels for their hard work in creating and setting up a great education department and all of ABC’s employees for welcoming students into their workplace. Whether you are a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, nutritionist, dietician, or any other health professional, I believe that ABC can definitely be a great place to further your knowledge in herbal studies. Furthermore, because of the growing trend in herbal use, I strongly believe this rotation should one day become a required rather than an elective rotation.