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St. John's wort
St. John's wort blossom.
©2011 Michael H. Lemmer

Last week, the American Botanical Council filed comments with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its draft guidance on New Dietary Ingredients. Additional organizations' comments to FDA can be found in the Community & Industry News section below. ABC also announced its recent publication of writer Steven Foster's "The History of Adulteration."

This issue of HerbalEGram also covers what herb-drug interaction experts are saying about the recent petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to have FDA require black box warnings on all St. John's wort dietary supplements. Additional articles discuss recent attempts to use a plant-derived poison against the US government, efforts to reduce dietary supplement data gaps, and ABC's and other groups' information on establishing identity of star anise.

We wish all of our members a happy and healthy holiday season!


The American Botanical Council


HerbalGram 92, now available online, includes a detailed, compellingly narrative feature on the history of adulteration of herbs, spices and botanical drugs. The issue also features a remembrance of renowned plant researcher and ABC board of trustees member Norman Farnsworth, who recently died at the age of 81. Additional articles include coverage of Health Canada's relaxed p-synephrine guidelines, as well as an update on sequencing the cannabis genome.

Featured Book

Power of PoppyDecember’s featured book excerpt comes from The Power of the Poppy: Harnessing Nature’s Most Dangerous Plant Ally by Kenaz Filan. Published by Park Street Press in 2011, this book explores the history of the poppy flower and discusses its many derivatives and methods of preparation. Well-known users of these drugs are discussed in the last half of the book, and the author concludes with information about addiction, treatment, and staying clean. The excerpt selected for readers of HerbalEGram includes the book’s title page, table of contents, and Chapter 8, “Morphine.”

©2011 Park Street Press

Media Watch

We have tested the links of the following articles prior to publication; however, some news organizations remove stories and disable links at various times.

Prison for Sellers of Contaminated Dietary Supplements. Forbes. 12-1-11. A New Jersey court sends 3 former manufacturers of dietary supplements to prison for 3 years after they continued selling their products despite an order to shut down operations.

Chimpanzees Self-Medicate with Food. Discovery News. 11-29-11. A recent journal article reveals that chimpanzees self-medicate more than gorillas, eating a variety of medicinal plants like Natal fig.

Egyptian Scientists to Make Diabetes Drug from Bitter Fruit. SciDev Net. 11-18-11. A bitter melon extract has been found to control blood sugar levels of study participants, though experts caution against abandoning prescription treatment.

Chinese Medicine Could Double the Chances of Conceiving. The Daily Mail. 11-25-11. A recent review of 8 clinical trials and 13 other studies by Australian researchers found that TCM increased chances of pregnancy more than Western medicine interventions. 

DNA System Developed to Identify Plant Species. ScienceDaily. 11-23-11. This new method developed by UK researchers is said to be able to authenticate plant species and prevent adulteration.

Bringing Biodiversity Data Online, One Leaf at a Time. Popular Science. 11-3-11. Archivists and botanists at the Missouri Botanical Garden are publishing online photographs of every plant in their herbarium containing 6.3 million samples.

Plant Researchers Locate Transporter Used for Nicotine Metabolism. Virginia Tech News. 11-4-11. In trying to determine how plants transport medicinal components throughout all cells, researchers discovered the important nicotine uptake permease transporter.

Ontario Medical College Votes for Tougher Alternative Medicine Scrutiny. National Post. 11-29-11. A previously sympathetic policy could be changed so that physicians are permitted to use and recommend only remedies supported by "sound evidence."


December 15: UNPA Webinar "NDI Guidance: What Now?"

January 19-22: 9th Annual Scripps Conference on Natural Supplements. San Diego, CA.

February 17-19: 12th Congress of the International Society of Ethnopharmacology. Kolkata, India.

More event listings are available on ABC's website.

Recent News

ABC Files Comments with FDA on Draft NDI Guidance. ABC called on FDA to establish an expert committee to clarify old dietary ingredients, as well as to adopt and recognize the existing List of Old Dietary Ingredients.

Herbal Experts Say CSPI Petition for St. John's Wort Warning Inaccurate. Experts on St. John's wort herb-drug interactions have noted that the Center for Science in the Public Interest omitted important scientific information from its petition to have FDA require black box warnings on all dietary supplements containing the herb.

Castor Beans
Castor beans.
©2011 H. Zell

American Men Accused of Anti-Government Plot Involving Deadly Plant-Derived Poison. A protein isolated from castor beans has been implicated in a planned attack by 4 American men in the state of Georgia, as well as suspected terrorist plots by Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen.

Nutrition Industry and Market Research Organizations Fill Data Gaps on Supplement Use. Though national survey data on dietary supplement use is almost 6 years old, various organizations have conducted their own surveys to provide more accurate information on Americans' current dietary supplement usage.

ABC, AHP, and AHPA Provide Identity Information on Star Anise Confusion. Aiming to prevent confusion and adulteration, these 3 herbal organizations currently offer their members information on how to differentiate between the toxic Japanese star anise and the safe Chinese star anise.