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ABC Presents Annual Botanical Excellence Awards

(Austin, TX, March 18, 2008). The American Botanical Council (ABC), the nation’s leading nonprofit research and education organization regarding herbal medicine, has recognized four highly deserving scientists and organizations responsible for significant contributions to contemporary herbal knowledge and the botanical medicine movement. The awards were presented at ABC’s 3rd Annual American Botanical Celebration and Awards Dinner on March 13 in Anaheim, California, in conjunction with Natural Products Expo West and the Nutracon Conference on recent research on natural foods and dietary supplements.

The James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award for 2008 was presented to Google Book Search, an online tool that has made hundreds of rare botanical texts and materia medicas available to the general public. Google Book Search is digitizing many of the world’s old books and presenting them to the public in their entirety in searchable format. This project’s contributions have increased the availability and awareness of out-of-print, limited access, and otherwise rare botanical classics going back to the 1700s—the contents of which have previously been available to only a few researchers and collectors. This award is named for ABC Co-founder and Trustee Emeritus James A. Duke, PhD, a botanist who retired after 30 years of employment at the US Department of Agriculture. Dr. Duke has authored or co-authored hundreds of scientific and popular articles and over 30 books on ethnobotany, herbal medicine, and related subjects.

“Google Book Search allows instant online access for thousands of rare and out-of-print books in the botanical field including herbals, works on Eclectic medicine, and medical botany texts, among others,” said ABC Trustee Steven Foster. “They are searchable by keywords online, and you can log in to your own personal Google account and create your own library, accessible from virtually any computer. It’s a tremendous research tool.”

The recipient of the Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award for 2008 is Prof. Hildebert Wagner of the University of Munich, who is internationally recognized for his work in the field of medicinal plant research. Dr. Wagner has authored over 800 original scientific and clinical papers and 30 review articles in peer-reviewed journals, in addition to several books. He has contributed significantly to the field of plant immunomodulators (plants with a beneficial effect on the immune system), particularly through his extensive work with the genus Echinacea. This award is named for Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, research professor of pharmacognosy and senior university scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Professor Farnsworth is also a co-founder of ABC and still serves on its Board of Trustees.

In his acceptance letter, read by ABC Trustee Morris Shriftman, Prof. Wagner recognized his near-50 year relationship with Prof. Farnsworth. He wrote, “I believe this cooperation has positively influenced and in some ways promoted the expansion of global research activity in the field of medicinal plants and phytomedicine [the use of medicinal plant preparations for health purposes].” He continued, “I am convinced that the fields of pharmacognosy [the study of medicines of natural origin] and phytomedicine will make an essential contribution to the global health care system, by maintaining and expanding the use of plant-derived phytopreparations as botanicals or phytopharmaceuticals.”

In addition to the preceding awards, which have been presented annually since 2006, ABC initiated two new awards this year. The Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award was given to Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals, based in Karlsruhe, Germany. Schwabe, established in 1866, is universally regarded as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of phytomedicines and is responsible for developing numerous clinically-tested botanical extracts and preparations, most notably the world’s first and most clinically-tested extract of the leaf of ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Many of the scientific methods and techniques developed and used by Schwabe during the past century have had a significant influence on today’s phytopharmaceutical and biochemical research.

Accepting the award on behalf of Schwabe was Rory Mahony, general manager and chief operating officer of Nature’s Way, a leading herb and dietary supplement company in Springville, Utah, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Schwabe. Mahony told the audience of over 220 academic and industry leaders at the ABC dinner that Schwabe deeply appreciated ABC’s recognition of Schwabe’s long-time commitment to scientific and clinical research on herbs and that in turn, Schwabe recognized ABC’s strong role in accurately reporting the results of herbal research from around the world.

ABC Trustee Steven Foster also presented the first ABC Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Shiu-ying Hu, a 100-year-old Chinese botanist. Dr. Hu, the first Chinese-born woman to receive a doctorate from Harvard University (in 1949), has worked tirelessly throughout her life in studying, compiling monographs on, and revising the taxonomy of plants in China. She has authored over 160 scientific papers and numerous books—the most recent being Food Plants of China in 2005.

“Dr. Hu dedicated her life to improving the life of the Chinese people through her love of plants, inspired by her parents, who saved her life in infancy with a Chinese herbal remedy,” said Foster. “Considered one of China’s leading taxonomists after retiring from Harvard University, she is one of the leading experts on Chinese food and medicinal plants. Dr. Hu has inspired generations of Chinese students and generously supported their education out of her own salary. An energetic centegenarian and a marvel of vitality, ABC is delighted to honor Dr. Shiu-ying Hu.”

“People must recognize that the modern herbal medicine movement is the result of a continuous process of the evolution of culture and technology, going back thousands of years,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC. “It is vital that we stop to acknowledge those key people and organizations who have made and are still making significant contributions to our modern knowledge-base on the scientifically-documented benefits of herbs and phytomedicines.”