On November 1, 2008, the American Botanical Council (ABC) observed its 20th anniversary. The independent nonprofit research and education organization was established in 1988 by Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, along with noted ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, and renowned pharmacognosist Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD.
Dr. Duke is retired from a 30-year career at the United States Department of Agriculture, and Dr. Farnsworth is still research professor of pharmacognosy and senior university scholar at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
According to Dr. Duke, “Respect for herbal medicine has grown geometrically, thanks in large part to ABC and its peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram. Twenty years of ABC have markedly improved public perception of some of the world’s best medicines—herbal medicines.”
Prof. Farnsworth said, “ABC may be the primary force promoting a reasonable and responsible perspective on the emerging science on herbs and medicinal plants. There is no way to adequately measure the significant contribution ABC has made to the health of American consumers.”
“ABC was initially created as a vehicle to take HerbalGram, then a newsletter, to another level of publication—a full-color magazine-journal format,” noted ABC’s Blumenthal.
Since those early days, ABC has been at the forefront of herbal educational publications and projects. Some of these include the publication of four volumes of “Classic Botanical Reprints”; the Botanical Booklet Series on individual herbs by botanist Steven Foster (with contributions from Alicia Goldberg and Roy Upton); routine publication of HerbClips, the twice-monthly summaries and critical reviews of recently published scientific and clinical literature; and hosting of the “Pharmacy from the Rainforest” ethnobotany ecotours to the Peruvian Amazon and Andes (with additional trips to Belize, Costa Rica, Kenya, and South Africa), which are continuing education accredited for pharmacists and other health professionals.
Additional projects have included the Ginseng Evaluation Program, the first-of-its-kind large-scale laboratory testing of commercial herbal products for proper identity; ABC’s Media Education Program; ABC’s Safety Assessment Program, providing safety evaluations of popular herbs for inclusion on commercial herb product labels; ABC’s Herbal Information Course for retailers; and ABC’s recent acquisition of HerbMedPro, one of the most powerful Internet-based databases on herbal research.
ABC has also published seminal reference books for health professionals and researchers that are often cited and considered highly reliable. These are the extensive, award-winning The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines (Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998), Herbal Medicines: Expanded Commission E Monographs (Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000), The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs (ABC, 2003), and ABC’s contribution to enhanced quality control in the herb industry, The Identification of Medicinal Plants: A Handbook of the Morphology of Botanicals in Commerce (ABC, 2006; in cooperation with the Missouri Botanical Garden).
“We believe that ABC has reached many of its goals,” said Blumenthal. “The use of herbs and botanical products for self-care and in alternative and conventional healthcare has increased tremendously in the past 20 years. We are grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to this growing public recognition and acceptance of herbs as part of everyone’s birthright, part of our collective planetary heritage.”
“At the same time,” he added, “there is much more work to be done. There are many scientific and clinical studies that continue to underscore the traditional uses and health benefits of hundreds of herbs. And modern research and technology are finding new, previously unrecognized health benefits for many traditional herbal medicines.”
Blumenthal is optimistic about the future of herbs and the future of ABC. “With the growth of public acceptance and use of herbs and other natural plant-based preparations, ABC will have a busy agenda and many more challenges for many years to come.”