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2011: Another Successful Year for ABC’s Educational Mission
ISSUE:
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12-13

In 2011, the American Botanical Council (ABC) did not allow the slow economy to hold it back from delivering its unique educational mission. ABC spent the past year creating 2 new educational projects and continued to spread accurate herbal medicine information on a global level through its quality publications, information-rich website, domestic and international lectures, and media outreach efforts. Below is a brief summary of many of ABC’s 2011 milestones, which reflect its continued commitment to effectively serve its members and the public by promoting the responsible use of herbs, medicinal plants, teas, essential oils, and other beneficial plant-based ingredients and products around the world.

New ABC Projects

ABC made significant progress in its 2 newest projects related to supply chain integrity. Both are designed to help improve the global herb supply chain with the ultimate goal of helping to ensure that the products consumers receive are clean, safe, and beneficial. More than 50 companies, organizations, and individuals are supporting these projects—the ABC Solvents White Paper (which will also be a book) and the ABC-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia-National Center for Natural Products Research Botanical Adulterants Program. ABC published the first component of the Adulterants Program, an interesting article detailing the history of intentional adulteration, in HerbalGram issue 92 in November of 2011. ABC’s editorial team also released the ABC Solvents White Paper draft for peer review in the fall of 2011 and plans to publish the final version in early 2012. The Solvents White Paper provides a wealth of scientific and regulatory information on more than 20 solvents used in the production of herbal extracts used in foods, food flavors, dietary supplements, medicinal products, and cosmetics.

In addition, in December, ABC filed public comments with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its draft guidance on New Dietary Ingredients, wherein ABC called for official recognition of a list of so-called Old Dietary Ingredients (ODIs) and a special expert committee to review ODIs on such a list.

Increased Global Education

ABC disperses its educational message to more people in an increasing number of countries each year. As of 2011, ABC has members in 81 countries, including Brazil, China, Ghana, Hungary, India, Israel, Kenya, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, and many more.

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal presented 61 lectures educating thousands of people and traveled more than 80,000 miles. This is an increase from 2010’s 57 presentations. These travels included a first for Mark—2 trips to Turkey to speak at several events, including the annual meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant Research.

New ABC Staff

In the fall of 2011, ABC added—for the first time—a fully accredited naturopathic physician (who is also a licensed acupuncturist) to its staff in the role of Education Coordinator. Becky Andrews, ND, LAc, is using her training, unique experiences, and passion for herbal medicine to improve and expand ABC’s Education Department and the services it provides to members, interns, and the general public.

Also in 2011, Toby Bernal joined the ABC staff as gardener and caretaker of the grounds of ABC’s 2.5-acre headquarters in Austin, Texas. He was never more needed than in 2011, when Texas was hit with a record-breaking drought endangering ABC’s 20-plus herbal demonstration gardens and numerous trees. Thanks to Toby’s relentless efforts, the majority of our plants survived.

Additionally, ABC’s editorial department hired a new staff writer and assistant editor. Tyler Smith, who has a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and studied for a master’s degree in science reporting, has been doing journalistic work since he was 10 years old. He writes articles for ABC’s HerbalGram and HerbalEGram, and also manages HerbalGram’s book review department.

Expanded Audiences

In 2011, ABC created 2 new Herbal Insight segments for the popular PBS television series Healing Quest, co-hosted by Olivia Newton-John and shown on PBS channels in the United States and other English-speaking countries. The newest Herbal Insights discuss the history, uses, and benefits of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae), bacopa (Bacopa monnieri, Scrophulariaceae), and açaí (Euterpe oleracea, Arecaceae). These programs reach millions of viewers each year. Program information can be found by checking local PBS listings for Healing Quest or by visiting the “News” tab at www.herbalgram.org.

Reaching out to a younger generation, ABC hosted 66 kindergarteners from a nearby elementary school for several hours of herbal education. The enthusiastic children planted seeds, harvested herbs, and learned how herbs and other plants are used for medicine and selfcare.

Increased Media Education

ABC staff gave 96 interviews to media outlets both in and outside the United States, including a live appearance on Turkey’s CNN television network during which Blumenthal spoke on the emerging popularity of herbal products worldwide and the growth in scientific research on their safety and efficacy. ABC dedicates a significant amount of resources to educating the media before, during, and after herbal-related stories are published in order to prevent or correct the dispersal of inaccurate information. Each stage of media education is important as many reporters and editors often lack accurate and sufficient information and knowledge on the science behind herbs and other beneficial botanicals. PR Newswire reported that ABC’s media releases were picked up and re-published in 1,111 publications, websites, and blogs in 2011. A recent search came up with over 581,000 citations to ABC in Google.

Internships for Pharmacy and Dietetic Students

ABC continued its mission to promote the responsible use of herbal medicine as an accepted part of healthcare by providing internships for 21 pharmacy doctoral students and dietetic students in their final year of study. The program provided the interns with well-rounded exposure to herbs through hands-on training making herbal preparations, working with herbs in ABC’s gardens, and participating in research projects to learn about the vast number of publications on the scientific and clinical research supporting the safety and benefits of many herbs.

ABC Publications in 2011

ABC continued to educate its members and the public on herbal medicine topics through writing, editing, and publishing high-quality articles in the printed journal HerbalGram, monthly e-newsletter HerbalEGram, and bi-monthly HerbClip.

  • 4 issues of HerbalGram covered a wide range of topics of interest to many facets of the herbal community. These include the following features: A safety review of bitter orange (Citrus aurantium, Rutaceae), an ethnobotanical review of Ligusticum (Apiaceae) with emphasis on the species sold as “Osha,” the history of adulterants in herbs, an extensive review of adaptogenic herbs, an article on herb quality as it relates to herb safety and efficacy, a beautifully illustrated medieval Arabic herbal manuscript, and a compelling pictorial feature on Pu-erh tea’s ancient journey along the Southwest Silk Road in Tibet.In addition, ABC published HerbalGram’s frequently cited Annual Herb Market Report, plus profiles on bacopa, gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae), dragon’s blood (Croton lechleri, Euphorbiaceae), and frankincense (Boswellia sacra, Burseraceae). Additionally, HerbalGram featured numerous Research Reviews on a wide variety of topics, including, but not limited to the following:  blood pressure reduction with soy (Glycine max, Fabaceae), herbs for women’s health, ginseng (Panax ginseng, Araliaceae) for memory, cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp., Lauraceae) and blood sugar, and many more.
  • 12 issues of HerbalEGram featured community and industry news, links to each month’s most important herbal news stories, book excerpts, an events calendar, and original news articles pertaining to the herbal community.
  • 360 HerbClips, published twice each month, contained extensive summaries and/or critical reviews of recent clinical trials, articles, and/or other publications related to medicinal plants.

ABC’s Annual Awards

In 2011, ABC recognized outstanding service to the herbal community with its annual awards. The James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award was granted to Aviva Romm, MD, for her book Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health; the Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award was presented to Professor A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD, of Ohio State University; and the Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award was presented to New Chapter, Inc.

“After completing 23 years of operations since its founding in 1988, ABC continues to provide its members and the general public a wide array of publications and educational services that report on the rich history of herbs and other beneficial plants in traditional systems of medicine, as well as demonstrating the robust level of modern scientific and clinical research that continues to support the general safety and health benefits of many of these herbs,” said Blumenthal. “ABC’s entire staff and Board of Trustees are grateful for the excellent level of support ABC receives from its many members in over 80 countries, empowering us to continue and expand these critically needed educational programs.”

ABC’s publications are a benefit of ABC membership. To learn more about how to become an ABC member and support ABC’s unique nonprofit educational efforts, please contact ABC at 512-926-4900 or development@herbalgram.org.