We are writing this at the end of April 2020, after many of us around the world have been under some form of stay-at-home order for at least the past five to seven weeks due to COVID-19, the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Since the virus has started to impact the lives of billions of people during the past few months, we have received inquiries about what herbs we would recommend for prevention and/or treatment of this novel coronavirus. As a science-based organization, we cannot and will not make such recommendations: There simply is no scientific or clinical trial-based evidence to do so. Results from research on botanical or conventional pharmaceutical medicines are preliminary; making any suggestions for prevention or treatment based on such data can be misleading.
Nevertheless, consumers in what appear to be record numbers in the United States (and possibly elsewhere) are purchasing a wide range of dietary supplements, both nutritional (e.g., vitamin C) and botanical (e.g., echinacea and elderberry), to enhance their immune systems in the hope of preventing or lessening the severity and duration of COVID-19. Of course, we believe that maintaining optimal wellness, including a properly functioning immune system, as part of normal dietary and health practices, is desirable. However, the mere mention of traditional use of or modern research on herbs to modulate immunity, whether directly tied to COVID-19 or not, may be inferred as making a COVID-19-related claim, something we do not wish to do.
The increased consumer demand for herbal dietary supplements and recent supply chain disruptions have led to shortages of some botanicals. In response, we present Karen Raterman’s article in which she delves into some of these supply chain impacts. Her article was completed in April, and, although the situation is evolving rapidly, experts predict supply disruptions for the foreseeable future. Along these lines, ABC issued a Member Advisory in early April noting that supply shortages can cause some sellers to offer lower-cost, adulterated, or fraudulent ingredients. The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program urges responsible herb industry members to continue, even enhance, their diligence in their quality control testing for identity and authenticity of botanical raw materials, extracts, and essential oils. We include the advisory in this issue.
Also of interest is the brief article on the Sustainable Herbs Program’s (SHP’s) new 14-section, 52-page “SHP Sustainable & Regenerative Practices Toolkit.” Released on the eve of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, the toolkit is available for free on SHP and ABC’s websites. The toolkit provides extensive resources for small and large companies, and even private households, that wish to become more committed to sustainable social and environmental best practices. The coronavirus outbreak reminds us that, as denizens of planet Earth, we are all connected.
This issue also includes an extensive cover article about the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), which publishes the United States Pharmacopeia and is observing its 200th anniversary this year. In 1820, 11 physicians founded USP and, later that year, published the first edition of the pharmacopeia, which was intended to bring nationwide uniformity to the quality of drugs, many of which, at that time, were botanical. Two hundred years later, USP is still compiling and publishing methods for determining the quality of medicines, as well as many popular botanical dietary ingredients. A tip of the hat to our good friend Josef Brinckmann and his colleagues at USP for their article.