Michael J. Balick, PhD, and Tieraona Low Dog, MD, are among 7 recipients of the Natural Products Association’s (NPA) 2007 Annual Awards, which recognize major contributors to the natural products industry.1 Other recipients include Sandy Gooch, Keith I. Block, MD, Paul Bennett, Len Monheit, and US Rep. Chris Cannon.
Dr. Low Dog received the Burton Kallman Scientific Award, which recognizes scientific contributions to the natural products industry. She is currently the Director of Education at the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson as well as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine.
Dr. Low Dog was formerly a practicing herbalist in New Mexico for many years (e-mail, May 31, 2007). As a physician she was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the White House Commission for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and she has been chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements Information Expert Committee since 2000. In 2001 she was named Time Magazine’s Innovator of the Year in complementary and alternative medicine. She has authored 7 chapters in medical textbooks on the use of botanicals and spoken at more than 500 conferences. She is also a member of the American Botanical Council’s (ABC) Advisory Board.
“My practical experience with harvesting, growing, preparing, and administering herbal therapies for more than 27 years gives me a different perspective from many of my esteemed colleagues who know a great deal about the science, pharmacology, and toxicology of supplements but have no real clinical experience,” said Dr. Low Dog (e-mail, May 31, 2007). “I hope to serve as a bridge between the world of conventional and herbal medicine.”
Dr. Low Dog is an effective spokesperson for bridging this gap. Her passionate acceptance speech received a standing ovation at the NPA conference and trade show in Las Vegas on July 21, 2007. “I would say today that the natural products industry owes a great deal of its legacy and its success to all the herbalists and all the traditional peoples who have kept this medicine alive,” Dr. Low Dog said during her speech.2 “Many of the plants that are best sellers were used by the indigenous people of this land for a long time.”
Dr. Low Dog further illuminated this statement with an anecdote about a physician named William Withering (1741-1799) who is credited with discovering the herbal properties of foxglove (Digitalis purpurea, Scrophulariaceae) for the treatment of congestive heart failure. Upon hearing about an herbalist in Shropshire, England, whose herbal tea was said to help people with dropsy, Dr. Withering met with the herbalist and analyzed her ingredients. He was able to isolate the foxglove plant as the primary source of the healing properties of the tea and his subsequent research aided the discovery of the famous heart medication digoxin.
“His name went down in history,” Dr. Low Dog said. “However, nobody can recall the name of the woman from Shropshire.”
Dr. Low Dog also discussed the fear associated with the uses of herbal medicine: “[This fear is] indicative and representative of the disconnection we have with nature itself. I think there’s a nature deficit going on. And that part of our mission really, if we want to heal ourselves and heal our planet and heal each other, would be for all of us to just step back and take a deep breath of nature—to come back to the gardens, to come back to the plants, and come back to a simpler way of life.”
Surprisingly, Dr. Low Dog said she does not remember her speech: “I was very nervous and decided not to use any notes,” said Dr. Low Dog (e-mail, August 15, 2007). “I was just honored to share the stage with [Dr. Balick] and felt more than a little humble when I thought of the past recipients.”
Dr. Balick, ABC Board of Trustees member, received the Rachel Carson Environmental Award, which recognizes those actively engaged with environmental preservation.1 At the New York Botanical Garden, Dr. Balick serves as vice president and chair for Botanical Science Research and the philecology curator and director of the Institute of Economic Botany. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia University, Yale University, and City University of New York. He also co-founded a former one-week training course that taught herbal medicine to physicians at Columbia University. He has conducted extensive ethnobotanical research in the Amazon, Northeastern Brazil, Belize, and the Eastern Caroline Islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Along with Paul Alan Cox, Dr. Balick co-authored Plants, People and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany (Scientific American Library, 1996) which, like his numerous other co-authored books, has been influential in the field of ethnobotany.
Like Dr. Low Dog, Dr. Balick spoke at the NPA conference and tradeshow of the knowledge of traditional people as a valuable resource: “We must acknowledge and honor the fact that a great deal of the natural products industry is based on traditional cultures and ancient wisdom—based on the lessons they have taught us… These are the people you are honoring today, people who have no voice in today’s world. So I hope that when possible you will give voice to these peoples, and offer support for their own goals as a people and culture. And one mechanism I would like to propose today is the creation of what could be called ‘cultural credits,’ modeled along the lines of the wellknown system of carbon credits…tangible, material support for those people who wish to preserve through practice their rich cultures in the face of the wave of globalization sweeping like a tsunami across the world and homogenizing all of the peoples on the planet.”3
Dr. Balick accepted the award on behalf of the people of Pohnpei, an island in the South Pacific, where he documents the ethnobotany of its people and contributes to the effort to understand the diversity of its forests and identify the most important conservation priorities. Dr. Balick explained that it is their tradition to share material goods and honors, such as the Rachel Carson Award, with everyone in the community.
Sandy Gooch received the President’s Award for her involvement in the creation of healthy products.1 She began Mrs. Gooch’s natural food markets in Los Angeles, California, in 1977 (now part of Whole Foods Market) with products that contained no harmful chemicals, preservatives, artificial coloring, white flour, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, or chocolate.
Keith I. Block, MD, received the Clinician Award, which honors those who encourage strides outside of conventional pharmaceutical remedies to provide patients with reasonably-priced alternative treatments. Dr. Block is the director of the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Evanston, Illinois. According to the NPA, Dr. Block tries to eradicate disease with the least intrusive methods available, and he considers a patient’s “psychosocial and spiritual needs.”1 Dr. Block has also published over 75 scientific articles and serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies.
Paul Bennett and Len Monheit received the Industry Champion Awards for notable contributions to the natural products industry which are outside of commercial success. Bennett, a past president of NPA, is the owner and founder of Harvest Moon Natural Foods in Olathe, Kansas, a health food store deeply committed to the quality of its products. Monheit is the founder and editor of NPIcenter, NPIWatch, and NPIDaily, and supplies free and low-cost Web site and public relations assistance to nonprofit organizations dealing in natural products.
United States Congressman Chris Cannon (R-UT) received the Statesman Award, which is awarded to those outside of the industry who support natural products in politics. Elected to Congress in 1996, Cannon has been an influential voice for natural food products, dietary supplements, and alternative medicine. He has introduced and supported several bills that further natural food products.
The Natural Products Association, formerly the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), is a national trade association founded in 1936. According to the organization’s Web site, the association’s mission is to “advocate for the rights of consumers to have access to products that will maintain and improve their health, and for the rights of retailers and suppliers to sell these products.”4 For more information on the NPA awards visit the Web site at http://www.naturalproductsassoc.org.
—Kelly E. Saxton
- Natural Products Association Announces Annual Award Winners [press release]. NPICenter. May 15, 2007.
- Low Dog T. Burton Kallman Scientific Award Acceptance [speech]. NPA convention and trade show; July 21, 2007; Las Vegas, NV.
- Balick M. Rachel Carson Environmental Award Acceptance [speech]. NPA convention and trade show; July 21, 2007; Las Vegas, NV.
- Natural Products Association. Available at: www.naturalproductsassoc.org. Accessed June 5, 2007.