Austin, Texas (March 20, 2023). Empowered By Evidence (EBE), a global independent nonprofit organization supporting evidence-based product development in the natural health sector, and the American Botanical Council (ABC), a nonprofit research and education organization which promotes responsible, science-based use of herbal medicine, announce the launch of a database for consumers, researchers, and healthcare professionals to assist informed natural product choice based on specific scientific and clinical evidence.
The Spring 2023 issue of ABC’s peer-reviewed quarterly journal HerbalGram (issue #137) features an extensive article outlining the background to why most scientific evidence for natural health products, in particular herbal medicines, is product specific.1
Until now, identifying the exact products that have been clinically researched, and that are made consistently from batch to batch, has often been difficult and time-consuming. This lack of transparency about the scientific evidence linked to a specific dietary supplement or herbal medicine product has held back scientifically informed choice of products. The HerbalGram article explains how recognition of specific evidence-based botanical dietary supplements and other natural health products can address many concerns about ingredient and product quality, regulatory confusion among countries, commoditization of botanical ingredients in the market, interpreting the relevance of scientific publications, adulteration of ingredients and financial viability of scientific innovation in the industry.
ABC’s Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal said, “Since its founding in 1988, ABC has strived to clarify to phytomedicinal research scientists, health professionals, industry members, and consumers that the growing body of clinical trial research studies on herbs and phytomedicines is not generic, but almost always, it is based on specific proprietary formulations. Consequently, as a science organization, ABC has consistently identified the actual commercial botanical ingredient or specific commercial finished consumer health product used in any research study that ABC summarizes and on which it reports.
“For example,” he continued, “in the over 9000 HerbClip research summaries that ABC has published to date, the actual name of the product or proprietary ingredient is given whenever that information is available, along with the company that produces it, and in many cases, again when the information is available, some general description of the strength of the extract and/or the chemistry of the botanical material, e.g., to what compound(s) it may be standardized.”
Scientifically informed choice
Ingredients derived from the same species of plant, due to their natural origin and complex chemical composition, often vary among brands. They can also vary between batches of the same brand. This means that evidence of their activity and health benefit is almost always product—and batch—specific.
“Making science-based natural health product choices is very challenging,” says Nigel Pollard, Chair of the Board of Directors of Empowered By Evidence (EBE). “Independent advice, education, and an authoritative voice, like that provided by ABC, is essential. Mark Blumenthal and the team at ABC have inspired many improvements in the evidence base for natural health products. Up until now, it has been difficult to find the exact products that can deliver results shown in specific clinical trials.”
“There is significant growth in the area of human clinical research on many herbs, teas, phytomedicines, essential oils, plant foods, and beneficial fungi, and many companies in the global botanical community routinely invest in clinical research on their ingredients and products,” said Blumenthal. “One of the projects that ABC has envisioned for decades has been to create an accessible database of clinically tested brands of many of these natural products, but for a variety of reasons, we have never fulfilled this dream. Now EBE has picked up the challenge, and ABC salutes their intention to help health practitioners, researchers, and consumers navigate the science to locate commercial products with clinical trial evidence demonstrating their potential and actual health benefits.”
Independent Product Accreditation
An independent, robust, and transparent accreditation process for products is required to inform choice. Over the last few years, EBE’s global expert team have developed just such a process for products. Products that reach the accreditation standard have been specifically tested in clinical trials published in peer-reviewed journals and have demonstrated that the products currently on the market are equivalent to the earlier products used in the published clinical trials.
“Following the launch of the Accreditation process last year, EBE received 14 applications for product accreditation from companies all over the world,” explained Pollard. “Today, in our article published by ABC, we are announcing the names of five successful products, sold globally in 39 countries under 32 brand names. This is the first global list of independently assessed natural health products.”
“We often get asked by consumers and health care professionals how to find good quality products among the many different brands in the dietary supplement aisle or online,” commented Stefan Gafner, ABC’s chief science officer, “but so far, we didn’t really have a good answer on how to easily determine the quality of a product. Our primary criterion, especially when we are communicating with health professionals, is to suggest that people utilize clinically tested products, when available. The new database will be an excellent resource to help find those products and will hopefully incentivize more companies to invest in clinical research and get their products listed.”
About Empowered By Evidence
Natural Health Science Foundation Inc., doing business as Empowered By Evidence (EBE), is a nonprofit organization incorporated in New York in 2014. EBE is dedicated to integrating specific, scientifically proven natural medicine products into mainstream healthcare. EBE approaches its unique nonprofit mission based on the following principles:
Robust scientific assessment
- The EBE team of international specialists built the EBE accreditation process in consultation with stakeholders. The product accreditation is overseen by the Expert Advisory Board of EBE.
- The Expert Advisory Board appoints independent product assessors with relevant skills and experience. These assessors have not worked with the product or its competitors for at least three years. To avoid influence from applicants, the identity of assessors is confidential.
No Commercial Interests
- EBE does not sell natural health products or ingredients.
- EBE does not provide consulting services.
- EBE receives no direct financial gain related to the brand holders’ sales of accredited products.
More at https://www.EmpoweredByEvidence.org.
About the American Botanical Council
- Pollard N. A Healthy Future for Natural Medicine: Empowered by evidence — Product-specific evidence helps advance transparency, informed choice, and mainstream acceptance for natural medicines with clinical evidence. HerbalGram 2023;137:48-57.