Within a few weeks of starting my Pharmacy Doctorate internship rotation at the American Botanical Council in January 2006, I began the task of making signs for the ABC gardens. In all the gardens, some of the plants had appropriate signs, some had signs with outdated information, and some had no signs at all due to breakage and wear from the harsh Texas sun. Starting with the Women’s Reproductive Garden, I investigated the traditional uses and evidence-based clinical uses of plants such as lady’s mantle (Alchemilla xanthochlora Rothm., Rosaceae), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L., Lamiaceae), and red clover (Trifolium pratense L., Fabaceae). I also noted the warnings, contraindications, and drug interactions if there were any. To find this information I used the PubMed database at the National Library of Medicine (www.pubmed.gov) and respected, authoritative books, such as those published by ABC and others offered through the ABC online catalog (http://www.herbalgram.org/bookcatalog/default.asp). Other gardens I worked on included the Men’s Reproductive Garden and several Culinary Gardens, such as the Mediterranean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian. Meanwhile, Natashaa Brown, a pharmacy intern from Texas Southern University, created signs for the Antioxidant, Children’s, and Phytocosmetic gardens.
Researching and producing informational signs for the gardens was a valuable educational experience for me, but they serve a larger purpose as well. Visitors are welcome at ABC, and when a formal tour is not scheduled, visitors can learn about the plants in the various gardens through a self-guided tour. In this way, the gardens support ABC’s mission to promote the responsible use of herbal medicine by providing science-based and traditional information. Each sign includes the plant’s standardized common name, when available, from The American Herbal Products Association’s Herbs of Commerce, 2nd edition.1 The signs also include genus, species, and family; primary uses supported by clinical trials; traditional uses from authoritative herbal and ethnobotanical texts; and any contraindications or other pertinent safety information.
Concurrent with updating the signs for the demonstration gardens, ABC is developing a brochure, the “ABC Garden Guide,” which will be given to visitors who want to take a self-guided tour of the gardens. This brochure will include a map and descriptions of the theme gardens, examples of the plants that are in each garden, a legend that defines the safety concern abbreviations found on some of the signs, an introduction to ABC and its mission and programs, and a history of the Case Mill Homestead (ABC’s 2.5 acre headquarters in Austin).
The knowledge I have gained while interning at ABC will definitely benefit my patients and me as a future pharmacist. After briefly touching on the topic of herbs and phytomedicine in my courses at pharmacy school, my experiences at ABC have allowed me to learn more in-depth information about the potential herbs have in modern medicine, as well as the significant role they already play in many people’s self-care. When a patient inquires about the responsible uses of herbs and supplements, I now feel more confident that I will either know the answer or know where to locate the answer from the reliable sources with which I have become acquainted.
For those who would like to explore the possibilities of herbal plants, I suggest a self-guided tour of the ABC gardens. For tour groups of five or more visitors, please call ABC at (512) 926-4900 to set up a guided tour. For a preview of what you will see, visit ABC’s virtual tour of the gardens (http://www.herbalgram.org/default.asp?c=virtual_tour).
—Stephanie Pohl University of Texas College of Pharmacy PharmD May 2006
1. McGuffin M, Kartesz JT, Leung AY, Tucker AO, eds. The American Herbal Products Association’s Herbs of Commerce. 2nd ed. Silver Spring, MD: American Herbal Products Association; 2000.