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As I write this column in the record July heat here in Texas, I recall this time in 1983 when we published the first issue of HerbalGram, then titled “Herb News” with “Herbalgram” as a subtitle. Over the past 35 years, that eight-page newsletter has evolved into the peer-reviewed journal/magazine that you are reading now. On page 16 of this issue, we present a brief history of this publication, which, after its first five years, became the basis for ABC’s founding. Even though ABC produces other serial publications (e.g., the monthly HerbalEGram, twice-monthly HerbClips, weekly Herbal News & Events, and quarterly Botanical Adulterants Monitor), HerbalGram remains ABC’s flagship publication, and, to many people in the medicinal plant community in the United States and internationally, the publication for which ABC is best known.

This issue’s cover story reflects ABC’s ongoing interest in and advocacy for the sustainability of medicinal, aromatic, and other beneficial plants. We present an in-depth exploration of the conservation status of goldenseal, a popular native North American medicinal plant, the root of which has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes by Native Americans, European settlers, Eclectic physicians, and the modern herbal community in the United States and beyond.

This is the second time that one of Steven Foster’s compelling photographs of goldenseal has graced the cover of HerbalGram. Issue 41, published in the fall of 1997, featured a cover story by Joy Bannerman on goldenseal’s inclusion earlier that year in Appendix II (“species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled”) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty that currently has 183 signatories (or Parties). In her article, Bannerman identified the need for reliable population biology studies of goldenseal in its native habitat in eastern North America. In this issue, botanists and conservation experts Leah Oliver and Danna Leaman, PhD, present an extensive review of the current status of wild goldenseal populations. Over the past 20-plus years, increased availability of cultivated goldenseal root and rhizome has helped reduce the demand for wild-harvested material. However, the relatively long time it takes for goldenseal roots and rhizomes to grow adds to the value of the material and its scarcity as a wild crop. Other threats also remain.

Sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States increased 8.5% in 2017, reflecting consumers’ continued interest in and commitment to natural remedies. As described in our annual Herb Market Report, total retail sales of herbal supplements exceeded $8 billion for the first time last year. HerbalGram Managing Editor Tyler Smith and co-authors have compiled and interpreted retail sales data provided by the market research firms SPINS and IRI, and Nutrition Business Journal. Our tip of the HerbalGram hat to co-authors Kim Kawa, Veronica Eckl, Claire Morton, and Ryan Stredney for their collaboration on this report, which is often one of the most-cited articles we publish.

As part of our occasional series of articles on “herbal legacy companies” (companies that are 100 years old or older), we present Karen Raterman’s story on Thayers Natural Remedies, which was founded in 1847 by Henry Thayer, MD. The company still produces a variety of herbal products with ingredients used in its original formulations, including slippery elm lozenges. Slippery elm is one of the few botanical ingredients that is approved as a safe and effective nonprescription (i.e., over-the-counter) drug ingredient by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The mucilage in slippery elm bark has a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes and is approved for symptomatic relief of sore throat.

There’s been more activity in the kratom domain. HerbalGram Assistant Editor Connor Yearsley provides an update on some of the developments on kratom since his extensive cover article on this Southeast Asian tree was published in HerbalGram issue 112 in 2016. According to his update, the FDA has pointed to limited, inconclusive data to intensify its warnings about leaf preparations of the plant and also disregarded relevant scientific studies that demonstrate important differences between the kratom alkaloids and common opioids. While we are concerned about reports that some kratom products have been determined to be contaminated with a type of Salmonella, we hope that regulatory agencies will consult and interpret the most recent scientific and clinical findings in a rational manner for the best interests of the general public.

–Mark Blumenthal