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ABC Presents Annual Botanical Excellence Awards

The American Botanical Council held the 8th Annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 7, 2013, in Anaheim, California. As in previous years, ABC’s event was held in conjunction with the Natural Products Expo West trade show and Nutracon scientific conference.

The event, held at the Marriott Anaheim, was attended by approximately 300 ABC Sponsor Members, Corporate Members, members of the ABC Board of Trustees, Advisory Board, and Director’s Circle (a group of supporters who assist ABC’s executive director with fundraising and educational efforts), and other supporters of ABC’s nonprofit educational mission from academia and the natural products community. The evening was filled with dynamic conversations, opportunities to renew old relationships and establish new ones, delectable food and drink, and, of course, the honored award recipients.

The awards program itself began with one of ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal’s signature slide shows of entertaining cartoons, which brought smiles and laughter to the crowd. ABC Board of Trustees Chairman Steven Foster announced the ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award recipients, including Martin A. Lee’s Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana in the Consumer/Popular category, and Rainer Bussmann, PhD, and Bruce Ponman’s Medicinal Plants and the Legacy of Richard. E. Schultes in the Reference/Technical category.

Blumenthal presented Horphag Research, producer of Pycnogenol®, with the ABC Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award. Previous ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award recipient Joseph M. Betz, PhD, presented the ABC Farnsworth award to Professor De-An Guo, PhD, who traveled from Shanghai especially to accept the award in person.

ABC also presented, for the first time, its newly created Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award. The inaugural recipient was celebrated herbalist, educator, and author Rosemary Gladstar, who accepted the award via a delightful pre-recorded video. “I have been hesitant to institute an award named after myself, of course, but the ABC Board of Trustees insisted,” said Blumenthal. “I finally acquiesced because I have long wanted to honor Rosemary, and others like her (if there are any like her!), whose vital contributions fall outside of the previously existing ABC award categories.”

ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature

The ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award was created in 2006 in honor of noted economic botanist and author, James A. Duke, PhD. It is given annually to books that provide a significant contribution to literature in the fields of botany, taxonomy, ethnobotany, pharmacognosy, phytomedicine, herb safety, and other disciplines related to the vast field of medicinal plants. Among his prestigious career achievements in economic botany and ethnobotany at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Dr. Duke has authored more than 30 reference and consumer books. He is also a co-founding member of ABC’s Board of Trustees and currently serves as Director Emeritus.

In 2011, due to the diversity of quality books related to medicinal plants, ABC created two distinct categories for the James A. Duke Award. The recipient of the Consumer/Popular books category award was Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, and Debora Yost (Sterling Publishing, 2011). The same year, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Botanical Pharmacognosy: Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines (CRC Press) received the Reference/Technical books category award.

Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational, and Scientific

Martin A. Lee, who spent three-and-a-half years researching and writing the book, is an award-winning investigative journalist and co-author of Acid Dreams: A Complete Social History of LSD – The CIA, The 60s, and Beyond (Grove Press, 1985). The publication of Smoke Signals by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., coincided with a robust public discussion of medicinal cannabis (Cannabis spp., Cannabaceae) during the 2012 election season. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal cannabis, and, last November, Colorado and Washington became the first states to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for personal use by adults.

“When I began writing about cannabis, I had no idea about the impressive scientific data, mainly based on pre-clinical research, that powerfully validates the experience of many medical marijuana users,” said Lee. “Public attitudes reflect conflicting claims about marijuana’s potential benefits and risks. There has been a deliberate effort to create uncertainty about what the science says about cannabis. I would compare it to corporate-driven efforts to create scientific uncertainty with respect to climate change. The public discussion about marijuana continues to be haunted by the ghosts of Reefer Madness,” he said, referring to the 1936 American propaganda film that heavily distorted the physical, psychological, and social effects of smoking cannabis.

Foster explained the importance of public education and debate in a time when cannabis is still viewed by many as taboo. “We don’t get to the next stage of understanding the phytochemistry, pharmacology, and medical potential, unless we go through a period of social revolt against the way things are and have been for far too long,” he said. “And we don’t get there as a society unless we do understand the social history. That is the only way that we as a society are going to move the science forward in a rational way.”

“My exciting, sometimes dangerous, and always interesting career has seen me in the coca fields of Latin America, poppy fields in Laos, and ganja fields in Jamaica,” said Dr. Duke, who worked for several years on a USDA collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s anti-narcotic program, referring to frequently controversial and often-abused medicinal plants coca (Erythroxylum coca, Erythroxylaceae), poppy (Papaver somniferum, Papaveraceae), and cannabis. “Their programs targeted cannabis, the coca bush, and the opium poppy, each with long histories of major medicinal activities. [Smoke Signals] is historically important, but my greater interest is in the medicinal bullets that Lee presents.”

The meticulously researched book aims to help educate readers to understand the long, often-contentious history of cannabis, including its use as medicine. According to the publisher’s website, Smoke Signals “draws attention to underreported scientific breakthroughs that are reshaping the therapeutic landscape.” Medicinal cannabis has been studied as a potential treatment for a wide variety of health conditions including chronic pain, cancer and chemotherapy side effects, and heart disease, among many others.

“I’m very pleased that the American Botanical Council recognizes the importance of clear, incisive reporting about cannabis,” said Lee. “The plant deserves it.”

Medicinal Plants and the Legacy of Richard E. Schultes

This book, a collection of essays published by the Missouri Botanical Garden, is based on the proceedings of the 2011 symposium held in honor of the great ethnobotanist and Harvard University Professor Richard E. Schultes, PhD (1915-2001), on the 10th anniversary of his death.

“If anybody could be named as the father of ethnobotany, it would be Richard E. Schultes,” said co-editor Dr. Bussmann. “No researcher has ever done more field research, more to promote the discipline, and has encouraged more students to become ethnobotanists, with almost every senior scientist in the field acknowledging some connection to Schultes.”

The book chronicles the influence of Dr. Schultes on former students and colleagues and sheds light on his illustrious career and the lasting effects of the pioneering ethnobotanist. “I am increasingly of the belief that Richard Evans Schultes’ impact has yet to be fully realized in terms of his historical importance,” said ABC Board of Trustees President Steven Foster. “Roughly half of the chapter authors of the book were his students. Schultes’ careful, conservative, high-quality scholarship quietly affected the social and political history of the last half of the twentieth century.”

According to Dr. Bussmann, Dr. Schultes published roughly two dozen books and 500 papers, collected over 30,000 plant samples, and conducted continuous fieldwork in the Amazon for more than 14 years. “[He] created what can only be called the golden age of Economic Botany,” he said.

“The symposium volume, like Schultes himself, is an ethnobotanical treasure,” said Dr. Duke. “My thanks and congratulations to the editors and contributors for a notable symposium we can treasure forever.”

“There is no doubt among those in the fascinating field of ethnobotany that Professor Schultes was the greatest ethnobotanist of our time, or possibly of any era,” said ABC’s Blumenthal. “His students were profoundly inspired by his teachings, and many have embraced ethnobotany and related fields as their primary passion and inspiration for their careers.”

Many of Schultes’ former students are part of ABC, either as members of the ABC Advisory Board or friends of the herbal community. These include, but are not limited to, the following scholars, authors, educators, and conservation botanists, among numerous others: Michael J. Balick, PhD, of the New York Botanical Garden; Wade Davis, PhD, explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society and best-selling author; Djaja D. Soejarto, PhD, at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois - Chicago; Steven King, PhD, of Napo Pharmaceuticals; Mark Plotkin, PhD, director of the Amazon Conservation Team; Paul Alan Cox, PhD, executive director of the Institute for Ethnomedicine; Robert Bye, PhD, director emeritus of the Botanical Garden of the Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico; and the iconic integrative medicine pioneer and best-selling author Andrew Weil, MD.

Dr. Bussmann and Mr. Ponman were grateful to be chosen for the Excellence in Botanical Literature award, praising its namesake. “James Duke is one of the most respected colleagues in our field, and has for decades been the leader of the systematization and publication of ethnobotanical information and the phytochemical data associated with it,” said Dr. Bussmann. “He is also one of the most prolific and widely read authors in the field. To receive the James Duke Award is an exceptional honor to us both as editors and the Missouri Botanical Garden.”

Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award

The recipient of ABC’s 2012 Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award, Switzerland-based Horphag Research, is the producer of Pycnogenol® French maritime pine bark (Pinus pinaster, Pinaceae) extract, which is used in hundreds of brands and formulas of dietary supplements, as well as in cosmetics, functional foods, and beverages. 

“Horphag Research and its entire team are, of course, very honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Victor Ferrari, CEO of Horphag Research. “It is an important recognition for the scientific work that has been established over so many years on one single and unique product — Pycnogenol.” 

Horphag Research was founded in Berlin in 1925 as HormopharmaAG by Charles Haimoff. In the 1960s, Haimoff’s vision of “healthy aging” led to the development of the antioxidant French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol. Research on the product began in 1965, and, just two years later, the first preparations were being sold in Europe. By 1987, Horphag was awarded its first US patent, and in 2003 Pycnogenol was self-affirmed to be GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) for use in food products. Sales of Pycnogenol products to consumers now exceed $500 million annually and are sold in more than 80 countries around the world.

“For 40 years, Horphag has invested in extensive research to ensure the safety and efficacy of Pycnogenol as a premium ingredient,” said Frank Schönlau, PhD, scientific director for Horphag Research. “For more than a decade, I have personally overseen much of the research as we have built upon that commitment. I am extremely proud to see the team recognized for its dedication to making Pycnogenol one of the most well-researched natural health supplements available today.”

“ABC congratulates Horphag Research for this most well-deserved and probably overdue honor,” said Blumenthal. “Horphag Research is the epitome of a research-based natural products company, investing millions of dollars in scores of clinical research trials on its key product, Pycnogenol.

“Professor Varro Tyler was one of my key mentors for about 20 years. He repeatedly emphasized his desire to see herb companies invest in scientific and clinical research on their herb and phytomedicinal products. I have no doubt that if he were alive today, he would fully endorse ABC’s choosing Horphag this year to receive his eponymous award,” continued Blumenthal.

The late Professor Tyler — who has been described as one of the most respected men in late 20th century herbal medicine and pharmacognosy (the study of medicines of natural origin, usually from plants) — was an early trustee of ABC, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Purdue University, and vice-president of academic affairs at Purdue. He was the senior author of six editions of the leading textbook in the field, formerly used in every college of pharmacy in the United States. 

Professor Tyler urged his students and colleagues “not only to seek the truth but, after finding it, to discard any preconceived ideas which it may reveal as untrue.” He encouraged scientific and product integrity and envisioned a rational herbal healthcare sector that valued the proper evaluation of products’ quality, safety, and efficacy. 

“Receiving the American Botanical Council’s Tyler Award provides not only credibility to our scientific work, but also a tremendous motivation to our team to continue providing scientific evidence on a multitude of health benefits of Pycnogenol,” said Ferrari. “We are not only blessed with one of the most versatile and well-documented products in this industry, but also with the most professional and dedicated team.”

According to Horphag, the extensive study of Pycnogenol has resulted in more than 100 published clinical studies and 300 scientific publications in total (chemistry, in vitro laboratory studies, animal pharmacology and toxicology studies, review articles, etc). Horphag Research’s bibliography includes studies on a diverse group of topics, including antioxidant properties, cardiovascular health, skin care, joint health, sports nutrition, and more. Recently published clinical studies show the abilities of Pycnogenol to reduce perimenopausal symptoms, improve skin hydration and elasticity, reduce asthma symptoms, and improve endothelial function.

This proliferation of research and the popularity of Pycnogenol products are likely what caught the eye of celebrated surgeon and TV host Mehmet Oz, MD, who spent a segment of his “Dr. Oz” show in December 2012 discussing the benefits of Pycnogenol for younger-looking skin. The effects extolled by Oz are perfectly in line with the company’s motto of helping people “look, feel, and live better.”

Previous recipients of ABC’s Tyler Award include Schwabe Pharmaceuticals (2008), Indena SpA (2009), Bionorica AG (2010), New Chapter Inc. (2011), and Bioforce (2012).

Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award

Over the course of his career, ABC Farnsworth Award recipient Professor De-An Guo’s research has centered on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) quality control, biochemistry, and metabolism; his phytochemical investigations of traditional Chinese herbal medicines have resulted in the identification of 100 new chemical entities. In addition to his professorship, Dr. Guo serves as director of the State Engineering Laboratory for TCM Standardization Technology and as director of the Shanghai Research Center for TCM Modernization at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He earned his doctorate in pharmacognosy from Beijing Medical University’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1990, and conducted his postdoctoral studies in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Among his many accomplishments, including more than 430 published scientific papers to date, Dr. Guo acted as the vice-editor-in-chief of the 2005 edition of the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China and editor-in-chief of the 2010 edition. At present, he sits on the editorial boards of several highly respected international scientific journals, including Planta Medica and Phytomedicine. Dr. Guo is an expert committee member of the United States Pharmacopeia and a member of the ABC Advisory Board.

“Professor Guo is not only an established scientist, he has provided leadership in the modernization of TCM,” said past recipient of ABC’s Farnsworth Award, Professor Ikhlas Khan, PhD, a research professor of pharmacognosy and associate director of the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi. “He is a deserving recipient and I am proud to call him my friend.”

The Excellence in Botanical Research Award’s namesake is ABC’s co-founding Board of Trustees member, the late Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, a research professor of pharmacognosy and senior university scholar in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois – Chicago. When Professor Farnsworth died in 2011 at the age of 81, the medicinal plant community lost one of its greatest champions. ABC will continue to present this award each year to a person or institution that has made significant contributions to ethnobotanical and/or pharmacognostic research.

“We are most pleased to be able to recognize and honor Professor Guo for his outstanding achievements in the chemistry and pharmacology of many traditional Chinese medicinal plants,” said Blumenthal. “He is clearly one of the leading figures in scientific medicinal plant research in China, a country with a vast spectrum of traditionally used medicinal plants that are undergoing modern scientific research and validation.”

“I am very pleased and honored to receive the high distinction of ABC’s Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award. I would like to thank ABC and the nominating committee who selected me for this award,” said Dr. Guo. “This reflects the world-wide coverage of ABC’s Farnsworth Award,” he continued.

Previous recipients of ABC’s Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award include Dr. Betz, of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the US National Institutes of Health (2006); Professor Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, formerly of the Peninsula Medical School at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom (2007); Professor Hildebert Wagner, PhD, of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Biology in Munich, Germany (2008); Dr. Khan (2009); Professor Rudolf Bauer, PhD, head of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz in Austria (2010); Professor A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD, chair of the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy in the College of Pharmacy at Ohio State University (2011); and Professor Djaja D. Soejarto, PhD, of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois – Chicago (2012).

Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award

The first Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award recipient, Rosemary Gladstar, is a renowned herbalist, teacher, and author known to many as the Godmother of American Herbalism. Among her many accomplishments and efforts that have helped grow a rich herbal community in the United States, Gladstar founded several schools of herbal education, founded and organizes annual herbal conferences, leads international herb-focused journeys, and has authored or co-authored about a dozen books on topics ranging from herbal medicine recipes to medicinal plant conservation.

“I know of no other herbalist who has done more to create a sense of relationship, community, and identity among herbalists and others with a strong interest in herbs and herbal healing than Rosemary,” said Blumenthal. “Her energy, enthusiasm, passion, creativity, love, and generous spirit are bountiful and contagious. There is no one like her.”

Gladstar, the daughter of Armenian immigrants, first learned plant medicine during informal garden walks with her grandmother, Mary Abelian Egitkanoff. She was instantly interested in the plant world, which was apparent in the middle school projects she chose to do on medicinal herbs. In the early 1970s, Gladstar opened her own herb shop, Rosemary’s Garden, in Sonoma County, California. Then, in 1974, she co-founded the tea company Traditional Medicinals with Drake Sadler and created many of the teas’ original formulations, including the popular Smooth Move®, Throat Coat®, and Mother’s Milk®. In 1978, she founded the California School of Herbal Studies (CSHS), which is still in operation today as the country’s oldest herbal school. In the following years, she founded the Breitenbush Herbal Conference, the International Herb Symposium, and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference — the latter two of which she still directs.

“In those early days,” said Gladstar, “when herbalism and herbalists were first peeking up from ‘underground’ — where they had rested quite contentedly, it seems to me, for a number of decades — there really wasn’t very much going on herbally at all. We were rather isolated; there weren’t newsletters, gatherings, or schools that I know of in the US that served to bring us together. [So,] these early gatherings were revolutionary, really, and had a lot to do, I think, with nourishing and creating an herbal community. When I look at plant communities, they thrive together. The greater the diversity in the garden (or meadow or woodland), the better the health of the community. And it’s certainly true of herbalists, as well.”

In the 1980s, Gladstar created Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center, a 500-acre botanical sanctuary in Vermont where she currently lives and hosts educational events and programs. Additionally, she runs her commended herbal home-study course, “The Science & Art of Herbology,” and has been leading the internationally focused Plant Lovers Journeys since 1986. Gladstar’s several books on herbs — including Herbal Healing for Women, Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, and the 2012 Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide — regularly sell well and receive glowing reviews from her herbal peers and loyal readers. The United Plant Savers, which Gladstar founded in 1994, remains the project that she is most passionate about due to its focus on preserving and conserving native North American medicinal plants and their habitats from unsustainable wild-collection. She continues to serve on the group’s Board of Directors as founding president.

“For Rosemary, the linking of herbs to humans is only a mechanism for people to bring awareness to Mother Earth from whom we all originate,” said Steven Foster. “Rosemary laid the foundation for the rise of traditional herbalism, which has blossomed into touching the hearts of and teaching tens of thousands of people. Small gatherings of a couple dozen folks of like mind grew into international conferences, symposia, classes, and retreats that were key to the rise of two generations of practicing herbalists in the modern herbal renaissance.”

“Rosemary Gladstar introduced herbalists to each other, and to the world,” said fellow herbalist, the late Cascade Anderson Geller. “She gave herbalism a face, approachable and lovable. She gave a big leg up to herbalists of current renown, helping them to achieve success and grow their reputations. [She also] is a brilliant business woman. All of her businesses, even when she has moved on, continue to flourish in some form. To achieve such success, and to be so well loved by colleagues and students alike, is remarkable. Her trustworthiness shines because it is legitimate emanating from an open heart and mind with roots entwined deep in Mother Earth. By walking her talk, Rosemary’s achieved incredible energy that she has generously shared.”

Ever humble and modest, Gladstar gives much credit to her herbal peers. “We help each other grow,” she said, “either by pushing, pulling, encouraging, tugging, or just pure nourishing love. At this point in time, the herbal community is really comprised of many communities, all interlinking through our love of plants. But as extraordinary as the plants that bring us together and unite us as an herbal community, are the people who love plants. They are an amazing group of diverse, bright, eccentric, talented, and amazing individuals. I count my lucky stars to be amongst them…. Again, I am humbled and honored by this award.”

ABC members are welcome to nominate persons, books, and companies for the respective awards for consideration by the ABC Board of Trustees. Nominations can be made by emailing