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Creating an Herbal Legacy: Protecting and Preserving Healthy Herb Solutions

The American Botanical Council (ABC) has launched a new initiative designed to help ensure that herbal medicine plays an expanded role in self-care and healthcare. More than $60,000 in pledges and contributions were received at the launch of the new campaign, with more being received afterwards.

The campaign was formally launched during the American Botanical Celebration on March 8, 2007, at the close of the Nutracon conference and the beginning of the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. Attendees received an overview of the initiative from key leaders in the natural products community.

The “Creating an Herbal Legacy” campaign will provide long-term financial support for ABC in three key areas. Individuals, companies, foundations, and organizations can select the area that is of interest to them by designating support to one or more of the following funds:

  • ABC Endowment Fund

  • ABC Scholarship Fund

  • ABC Green Development and Beautification Fund

At the Celebration, ABC Board of Trustee Morris (“Mo”) Shriftman set the stage for the rationale on which Trustees decided to create this campaign of designated giving. According to Shriftman, Senior Vice-President of Marketing for Avalon Natural Products, “ABC has been at the center of the campaign for the recognition and acceptance of the efficacy of plant-based medicine and now seeks to put into place the initiatives to help ensure its future.”

Neil Blomquist, an ABC Trustee and formerly the President and CEO of Spectrum Organic Products, outlined a description of the three funds and reasons that each was established. “The Legacy campaign has the unique quality of giving donors the opportunity to choose and control how they want to allocate their contribution,” said Blomquist.

Finally, Loren Israelsen, president of the LDI Group and the Executive Director of United Natural Products Alliance, challenged participants at the event to join together to ensure a solid future for herbs and herbal medicine. Israelsen, a pioneer in working for the creation of a rational legal and regulatory environment for herbs in the United States, explained to the group that ABC was a highly respected and unique organization whose persistent nonprofit educational activities and publications have been the primary driving force in helping to create a rational, science-based herbal movement in the United States.

Participants in this initiative select one or more funds and then decide whether to make a one-time tax-deductible gift, a multi-year pledge, or to make this giving a part of their own estate or planned giving efforts.

“Creating an Herbal Legacy is ABC’s effort to ensure a solid future for herbs and herbal medicine,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC Founder and Executive Director. “We are grateful for the magnitude of the support provided at the launch of this initiative and are grateful to our many friends and supporters in academia, the health professions, and industry who helped us initiate this campaign.”

Although ABC receives much of its annual support for operating funds from its members as well as other revenue-generating educational programs, the Legacy funds represent a new way of supporting the herbal medicine movement into the future. The Legacy funds provide a means to make financial support to ABC count in very specific and tangible ways that will have an impact well into the future. In addition, some ABC supporters can use the Legacy fund as an opportunity to provide long-term support using instruments that are a part of their estate planning. What follows are detailed explanations of each Legacy fund.

The Endowment Fund

This fund was established by the Board of Trustees in 2003 to provide a safety net for ABC’s long-term future. This “quasi-endowment fund” will build over time and the Trustees will determine the potential use of income from the fund. Trustees will have the discretion to use the principle if they determine that financial exigencies warrant such action. Once the fund begins to grow, the Trustees may form an Investment Advisory Committee to manage the assets of the fund.

The ABC Scholarship Fund

This fund was established to provide support for the extensive internship program that ABC has conducted since 1999 and to provide support for healthcare practitioners or students whose financial needs prevent them from participating in ABC’s annual ethnobotanical tours.

ABC hosts both pharmacy doctoral candidates who participate in 6-week internships and dietitian interns who participate in 1-week rotations. These rotations involve teaching students many aspects of herbal research, including how to locate clinical research, create educational materials (e.g., new overviews for the Healthy Ingredients database), assist in research for ABC members, work in ABC’s medicinal gardens, create herbal preparations from freshly picked plants, and participate in other educational experiences. The interns are trained and supervised by ABC Education Coordinator Gayle Engels.

ABC has trained more than 100 interns and currently averages more than 20 per year. Three regional universities participate regularly, and students have also come to ABC from other states and countries. Short visits are also conducted by medical residents from the University of Texas Medical Center at Galveston. Students in all programs have consistently communicated to ABC and their program coordinators that the rotation at ABC is one of the most meaningful of their rotations. Many have stayed in contact with ABC and have become professional members as they moved into their pharmacy and nutrition careers. Some students told ABC that they selected the university program based on the ABC internships.

As former ABC interns move into the workplace, they are better able to answer patient and customer questions, they incorporate their knowledge into their work, and they are better able to advise their colleagues and other professionals regarding the responsible and appropriate use of herbal preparations. In a steady but quiet way, ABC has had an impact on the educational background of an ever-increasing number of conventional health practitioners.

ABC has never had adequate funding to provide stipends for housing and related expenses. For the 3 regional universities, this has not presented a challenge, but ABC receives inquiries from many other locations and students are often unable to cover the costs on their own.

ABC also cosponsors annual ethnobotanical tours in Peru, and occasionally, other parts of the world. These tours provide accredited continuing education for physicians and pharmacists. ABC would like to offer small amounts of financial support for those not able to fully fund their way and to offer funding for students who will be entering healthcare professions. The healthcare practitioners and students who have attended ABC’s ethnobotanical tours over the past 13 years have consistently commented on the positive impact these tours have had on their own healthcare practice.

ABC Green Development and Beautification Fund

ABC headquarters is located on an historic site—the Case Mill Homestead, established in the 1850s as a result of a 450-acre land grant from the Republic of Texas to build the first grist mill in the region. The original 150-year-old house is where most of the ABC staff work. The 2.5 acre campus consists of the following facilities: the Main Building where most staff have their offices; the Carriage House, which serves as the warehouse for ABC educational materials along with the shipping/receiving functions and garden office; the Annex, which houses a meeting room and library; the Greenhouse where plants for the gardens are propagated and where tropical plants spend the winter; and 25 herbal demonstration gardens including medicinal and cultural themes as well as medicinal trees.

From the beginning, ABC has employed green building and restoration practices. All materials used to construct the Annex were made of either recycled or recyclable materials that were approved as either not producing out-gassing of potentially toxic compounds or not creating harmful future disposal problems. ABC received a partial grant from the City of Austin to install a rainwater harvesting system, which has been functional through the years but was limited to one-third of the designed capacity since funding was initially limited. Two more 10,000 gallon tanks would expand water-holding capacity significantly, especially during the summer. The 150-yearold main building is in need of maintenance and the paving around the facility needs upgrading. In addition, Austin is one of the most advanced cities in the country in providing funding for 80% of the installation of solar energy projects. ABC would like to take advantage of this benefit.

How to Participate

ABC is requesting financial contributions to these funds in the form of one-time gifts, grants, and multi-year pledges. In addition to direct financial contributions, simple estate planning or planned-giving instruments that could be applied to this fund are being requested. These include bequests in wills, assignment or purchase of life insurance, donation of appreciated assets, and other methods.

By giving supporters choices of where their funds can best be used, ABC is providing more control to those who wish to support ABC’s work and to those who want to be very specific about the use of their donations. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the ABC Development Office (e-mail: to make a contribution or to inquire about the choices available for Creating an Herbal Legacy.

—Wayne Silverman