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American Herbal Pharmacopoeia's Botanical Microscopy Text Named Recipient of ABC's Duke Award for Excellence in Botanical Literature

(Austin, Texas. February 28, 2012) The American Botanical Council (ABC) has announced the recipient of its James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award in the reference and technical book category. The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Botanical Pharmacognosy: Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines (CRC Press, 2011), has been chosen as this year’s recipient. 

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 a book or book service that provides a significant contribution to literature in the fields of botany, taxonomy, ethnobotany, phytomedicine, or other disciplines related to the vast field of medicinal plants. Among his long and prestigious career achievements in economic botany and ethnobotany at the United States Department of Agriculture, he has authored more than 30 reference and consumer books. He is also a co-founding member of ABC’s Board of Trustees and currently is Director Emeritus. 

The AHP Microscopy book was edited by senior editor Roy Upton, executive director of AHP. Other editors include Alison Graff, PhD, a rare plant conservationist for the state of California; the late Georgina Jolliffe, PhD, formerly a senior lecturer in pharmacognosy at Chelsea College (now King’s College) in the United Kingdom; Reinhard Länger, PhD, an herbal medicinal products expert at the Austrian Medicines Agency; and Elizabeth Williamson, PhD, a professor of pharmacy and director of practice of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Reading in the UK.1 

AHP’s 773-page Botanical Pharmacognosy: Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines is organized in two sections: (1) a 10-chapter introduction to the art of microscopy, and (2) a botanical microscopy atlas, which comprises roughly three-quarters of the book. The atlas contains more than 135 detailed descriptions of the histology (cell structure) of some of the most commonly used medicinal plants in North America and around the world.1 

“In developing the AHP monographs, we realized that botanical microscopy was the primary form of crude plant part identification used for [more than] 100 years,” said Upton (email communication, February 14, 2012). “This gave us the idea that it would be good to have a textbook, as some of the plants sold in the marketplace today as dietary supplements and teas had never been microscopically analyzed or recorded.” 

In his preface to the book, Upton describes the unique importance of microscopy to pharmacognosy (the study of medicines of natural origin) and its status as a “dying art” in North America and Europe.1 “Our work in developing microscopic characterizations for AHP monographs as a fundamental identity test has underscored for us the value and importance of microscopy as a quality assessment tool,” he said. “[W]e embarked upon this project as our way of helping to preserve and reenergize this scientific discipline.” 

While previous microscopy texts presented limited tools for plant identification—often relying on single, unconfirmed botanical specimens with pictures of only the powdered substance—AHP’s text contains meticulously authenticated samples with full-color images of plant parts and powders as well as intricate line drawings. Upton said he hopes the textbook will help readers “recognize the utility of microscopy as a low cost, low environmental impact, and effective quality assessment tool for both identification of plants [and] species and for the detection of impurities [e.g., adulterants].” 

The late Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, in his foreword to the book, praised Upton’s work, which was 10 years in the making.1 “I have always found that Roy Upton, the major driver for this work, has a long history of producing botanical monographs and his work and passion for botanicals has been clear, thorough, and accurate, which is exemplified in this textbook of botanical microscopy,” he said. “It will soon become the major authority on the microscopic identification of crude botanical ingredients.” Professor Farnsworth was one of the world’s most well-known and respected medicinal-plant researchers. In addition to his many academic, organizational, and advisory positions, he, along with Dr. Duke, was a co-founder of ABC. 

“With the increasing need for accurate, reliable, authoritative information on ensuring proper plant identification as part of the Good Manufacturing Practices requirements for the herb and dietary supplement industry, AHP’s microscopy reference book is a monumental contribution to the herb industry, to the natural products and natural medicine research and healthcare communities who research and/or recommend these products, and, eventually, to consumers who use herbal products for their health,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC. 

Noted author and photographer Steven Foster, chairman of the Board of Trustees of ABC, said, “Roy Upton’s excellent reference manual will become a key part of the herb quality control formula for members of industry, researchers, and regulators for decades to come.” 

Upton, a practicing herbalist since 1981, is the founder, executive director, and editor of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. He is also a co-founder, past president, and vice-president of the American Herbalists Guild and serves on the Committee of Revision for the United States Pharmacopeia. 

The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia: Botanical Pharmacognosy–Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines retails for $169.95 and is available from AHP at

The ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award will be presented at the 7th Annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 8 in Anaheim, CA, as part of Nutracon 2012 conference and Natural Products Expo West trade show. The ABC Botanical Celebration is open to ABC Sponsor and Corporate members and is sponsored by the following ABC members:

Amin Talati, LLCAlkemists PharmaceuticalsChromaDexEuroPharmaHorphag ResearchIndena USA, Inc.Natural Factors Nutritional Products                             

New Chapter, Inc.New Hope Natural MediaPlusPharma IncorporatedRFI Ingredients, LLCTraditional Medicinals, Inc.United Natural Products Alliance


1. Upton R, Graff A, Joliffe G, Länger R, and Williamson E. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia: Botanical Pharmacognosy–Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2011.