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HerbClip Author Profile: Heather S. Oliff, PhD

Prolific HerbClip author Heather Oliff, PhD, celebrates 15 years with the American Botanical Council (ABC). HerbClips are peer-reviewed research summaries and clinical trial reviews published twice a month as an ABC member benefit. ABC recently announced the publication of the 500th issue. Dr. Oliff has been writing HerbClips since 1999.

At an average of about six per month, Dr. Oliff has written more than 1,120 HerbClips since 1999 — a considerable percentage of the overall total of over 5,800. Primarily, Dr. Oliff writes about neurological disorders and topics related to aging, ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae), and black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae). The HerbClips she authors frequently are used as the basis for HerbalGram Research Reviews, expanding her extensive publication history with ABC.

During Dr. Oliff’s first few years writing for ABC, HerbClips still were printed and mailed to members instead of their current electronic form. “I would receive a large envelope in the mail every month with around 20 HerbClips,” she recalls. “I was happy when HerbClip went electronic because the ABC website has a great search engine and I don’t need to store all of those hardcopies.” (Currently, 15 HerbClips are released electronically every two weeks to ABC members at the Academic level and above.)

“All of us here at ABC, including thousands of our members in the United States and around the world, really owe Heather a major debt of gratitude,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, who also serves as HerbalGram and HerbClip editor-in-chief. “Heather has produced a significant part of ABC’s educational content. Not only does she produce excellent work, but she is also highly consistent and reliable. She’s a real pleasure to work with,” he added, “and is an editor’s dream!”

Dr. Oliff earned her doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology from the University of California at Irvine. After four years of post-doctoral research at the same institution, she decided to pursue medical writing full time and formed her own company, Science Consulting Group, LLC.

“My first client was a nutritional supplement manufacturer,” she said. “They encouraged me to go to the Natural Products Expo and that’s where I met ABC and got them as my second client.” She has worked on other projects for ABC over the years, including collaborating with Blumenthal on several monographs, such as the ABC Product-Specific Monograph on Sinupret® (Bionorica; Neumarkt, Germany) and the forthcoming revision of the extensive ABC Product-Specific Monograph on Pycnogenol® (Horphag Research; Geneva, Switzerland).

Writing for HerbClip, she says, helps keep her up to date on the latest advances in the field. She also enjoys the opportunity to expand her knowledge of herbal medicine by learning about an herb that is unfamiliar to her or that is in the beginning stages of clinical development.

“My specialty because of my education background is neuroscience,” she said, “but I don’t solely write neuroscience anymore. I find that in [the herbal] industry, they just care that you’re not biased against the industry. … By being able to write for this industry, I’ve been able to increase my knowledge about all clinical indications. This gives me an opportunity to really learn about multiple diseases and body systems and therapeutic methods.”

Dr. Oliff lives in California with her husband and two daughters and enjoys spending time with her family. “I live not too far from Disneyland, so for fun, we go quite frequently,” she said. She also enjoys traveling and cooking, though she does not claim any signature dish but rather favors trying out different recipes and new cuisines.

Her daughters currently are not impressed with her expansive publication credits, but she thinks that could change soon, especially with her very own magazine profile. “I think my younger daughter finally gets it,” she said, “because my older daughter was flipping through HerbalGram #102 to see what boring thing I had written, and my younger daughter said, ‘You wrote in that magazine!?’” This family audience, however, is tough to please. She went on to ask, “‘Well, how many subscribers are there, like, ten?’”

“Heather’s consistency, dedication, and willingness to hone her writing craft have helped make HerbClip the educational and informative program that it is today,” said Lori Glenn, HerbClip managing editor. “I am delighted to have her as one of the HerbClip writers and am thrilled to be celebrating her longevity!”

—Hannah Bauman