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ABC Acquires the Popular Herbal Database HerbMed

In February 2008, the American Botanical Council (ABC) obtained the rights to the popular herbal database HerbMed® and its enhanced professional version HerbMedPro™ in an exclusive arrangement with the Alternative Medicine Foundation. This arrangement is intended to enhance the maintenance and further development of the database, a frequently used research tool by academic researchers, healthcare professionals, institutions, government agencies, industry, consumers, and others.

HerbMedPro has been a benefit of membership to all ABC members at the Academic level and higher for several years, and the database has long been praised by such members as a useful and important research tool. ABC will now assume control of the administration, financing, and marketing of the database. Through its acquisition of HerbMedPro, ABC intends to help optimize and expand the database’s features, incorpo-rate some of ABC’s unique educational content into the database, and market the database to a wider audience.

What is HerbMed?

HerbMed is an interactive, structured herbal database providing hyperlinked access to the scientific and folk data underlying the use of herbs for health. An expert team categorizes and briefly summarizes available research information on each herb and provides links to correspond-ing abstracts in PubMed, the US National Library of Medicine's freely available interface for MEDLINE, or to other reputable online research resources such as BioMed Central, Cochrane Collaboration Reviews, and World Health Organization monographs. However, this is not all about contemporary research. Honoring and recording the varied herbal traditions and helping protect intellectual property rights have always been essential to the HerbMed mission and the database has been used to research prior use claims.

When HerbMed was first developed in 1998, widespread skepticism still surrounded the efficacy and validation of information on botanical medicine. There was a clear need for impartial and commercial-free presentation of the underpinning sources of primary data on herbs, which can be browsed in depth and on which medical and policy decisions can be based. HerbMed continues to fill this important niche.

Essentially there is one underlying HerbMed database with, currently, 215 herbs presented by both Latin binomial and common name. There are two main ways to view the data: HerbMed and HerbMedPro.

HerbMed ( is a subset of the database made freely available as html pages, providing full data on 30 top-selling herbs. The Live Updates feature enables users to access the latest published research directly from PubMed. This highly popular public service project will be retained on the original Web site. Gayle Engels, ABC education coordinator, and her team of interns and volunteers will be primarily responsible for updates to the 30 top-selling herbs. The public site will also feature an additional 3-5 herbs that have become popular in the news, which will rotate on and off monthly.

What is HerbMedPro?

HerbMedPro is the professional version of the database that provides access to all herbs in the database and is continuously updated. As well as the same Live Updates feature, HerbMedPro has an advanced search engine with the additional facility to search on herb actions and health indications. When in HerbMedPro the user directly links to the actual data, and pages are generated afresh from the underlying database in response to user queries. Paid access to HerbMedPro is through individual or organizational subscription; ABC membership at Academic level or higher; participating libraries; and through license or data streaming. Information on obtaining access can be obtained through ABC or from the Web site.

Future Developments

As well as increasing the rate of building the database- both adding new herbs and updating the existing herbs "information'there will now be an opportunity to develop two new features that had been incorporated into the design of the database but never realized. Special Collections of information will group together information on herbs for specific health issues (such as arthritis or diabetes), modalities (such as Ayurvedic or Native American medicine), or socio-demographic groupings (such as women or children). The second new feature involves creating records for specific herbal mixtures, such as the traditional Ayurvedic formulas Triphala or Amrit Kalash.

HerbMedPro will also be available on a pay-per-day basis from the ABC Web site; this new feature is designed for journalists, lawyers, research-ers, educators, and others seeking information on specific herbs for academic papers, legal issues, and news stories.

Jackie Wootton, MEd, is president and executive director of the Alternative Medicine Foundation and founder of HerbMed. She will retain her posi-tion as director of HerbMed and HerbMedPro. Ms. Wootton has been a member of the ABC Advisory Board since 2005.