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American Botanical Council Publishes 9,000th HerbClip Research Summary

Unique database has summarized herb and phytomedicinal clinical trials for over 30 years

AUSTIN, Texas (February 2, 2023) — The nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) is pleased to announce the publication of its 9,000th HerbClip. An essential research and educational resource for scientists, researchers, health professionals, industry members, and others, HerbClips are two- to three-page summaries and critical reviews of scientific journal articles that cover medicinal plant-related human clinical research, ethnobotanical reviews, analytical methods, regulatory data, market information, conservation and sustainability studies, and more.

“ABC Members often share with me how much they appreciate HerbClip,” said Denise Meikel, ABC director of development. “I’m told this invaluable resource makes research for R&D, claim substantiation, etc. much easier and it makes staying up to date on the latest literature less time consuming.”

HerbClip summaries typically focus on the growing body of human clinical research on herbal products, including systematic reviews and meta-analyses of these trials. In the past 20 years, most HerbClips have been based on articles from a wide variety of peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. In its earlier publications, many HerbClips also included summaries of monographs, government documents, special reports, trade journals, and news articles. In addition to summarizing the original article, HerbClips often include insights, perspectives, and links to other relevant articles or resources.

Whenever available, HerbClip reviews provide the trade name of the specific medicinal product on which a clinical study is based (including the name of the company that produced the product) and a description of the tested material. To help ensure accuracy, most HerbClip summaries and reviews are vetted by editors and peer reviewers before they are published.

ABC members at the Academic level and above can access the entire HerbClip database of 9,000-plus summaries on ABC’s website. ABC Sponsor Members and HerbClip Service Members also receive HerbClips via email and, when available, the PDF versions of the original articles on which they are based.

HerbClip started in 1992, four years after ABC was founded. At the time, ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal would designate relevant news and scientific articles to be photocopied and mailed to numerous friends and colleagues. About a year later, when he learned that this activity had become increasingly costly, Blumenthal called two friends in the herb industry — Jim Beck (1946–2021), founder and then-owner of Solar Herbs (now Solaray, a division of Nutraceutical Corp.), and Ken Murdock, then-president and owner of Nature’s Way — and asked if they would be willing to pay for summaries of the latest herb research and related developments. They agreed, as did many other herb industry colleagues over a short period of time, and HerbClip became a permanent, funded ABC publication.

HerbClip initially involved mailing summaries and reviews of herbal literature to ABC colleagues in the academic and scientific communities, as well as members of industry. As far as is known, no similar service existed in the herbal medicine community and dietary supplement industry at the time. In 2005, ABC added “HerbClip News,” a column of commentary from HerbClip Managing Editor Lori Glenn, with each mailing. Two years later, in 2007, the first electronic HerbClips were sent to ABC members, which dramatically expanded readership. By 2009, all HerbClips were delivered electronically, reflecting ABC’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

“HerbClip has uniquely documented the explosive growth in clinical research on medicinal plant formulations,” said Blumenthal. “These days there are so many clinical research trials being published that we cannot keep up with the pace of publication. We now seldom produce HerbClip summaries and critical reviews on the thousands of studies that cover medicinal plant chemistry, toxicology, and pharmacological research each year — much of which is not always directly relevant to traditional and modern use of medicinal plants. Instead, we focus on human trials, making HerbClip a unique and invaluable resource.

“I remember well the day HerbClip was ‘born,’” Blumenthal continued. “I was meeting with Cecelia Thompson, ABC’s in-house accountant who covered accounts payable, and we were trying to figure out how to prioritize our bills, since we didn’t have enough funds on hand to pay all our bills at once — a typical problem for a small nonprofit organization (and many small businesses). This was before the birth of email and the World Wide Web; all our communications were done on paper. I asked her why we owed so much money for copier toner and she replied that in addition to our need for photocopies for normal business operations, ‘It’s all those articles you send to your friends!’ So, in effect, HerbClip was born in part out of scarcity and ABC’s creative, entrepreneurial response to a cash shortage.”

“In September 2022, I experienced the personal milestone of having been with the American Botanical Council for 20 years,” said Glenn. “As I begin year 21, it is a pleasure to experience a milestone for HerbClip — the publishing of our 9,000th HerbClip. I have been most fortunate to work with wonderful writers, consulting editors, co-workers, and peer reviewers over the years. As the managing editor, the wealth of diverse knowledge HerbClip provides has been very enriching on a personal level, and it is a privilege to provide accessible and concise information to HerbClip readers.”

Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer, said: “My first encounter with HerbClips was in the late 1990s during my time at Tom’s of Maine. We got the printed version and filed them according to the plant that was covered in the HerbClip, eventually filling up a number of file cabinets. Many of the HerbClip summaries were used to establish substantiation files for our dietary supplement ingredients. In addition, these documents were a really great way for me to keep up with the clinical literature on herbal products.”

Cindy Angerhofer, PhD, Executive Fellow of Botanical Research at Aveda, added: “I have always read the ABC HerbClips with interest. Sometimes the articles are from journals that I already track for my daily work, but many times they are taken from sources that I am not routinely monitoring, so the HerbClip brings me new information. This service continues to be a valuable resource for the casual reader as well as the more seasoned professional or practitioner.”

HerbClip summaries and reviews are available online through ABC’s website. The entire database of more than 9,000 HerbClip article summaries is searchable by common and Latin names of herbs, author names, journal and article titles, pharmacological actions, clinical endpoints, conditions, and more. Sixteen new HerbClips and an HerbClip News article are produced twice monthly. At least four HerbClips from each bi-weekly installment are available to the public for free.