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My Internship at the American Botanical Council: A Pharmacy Student's Reflections
My Internship at the American Botanical Council: A Pharmacy Students Reflections

[Editors note: Each year ABC is fortunate to have numerous candidates for doctorates in pharmacy (PharmD) complete a six-week rotation or internship at ABC. One of our most recent interns, Amy Floerke, has written a reminiscence of her experience at ABC.]

When I showed up at the American Botanical Council on the first day of my Herbs and Phytomedicines Pharmacy Rotation, I did not know what to expect. I had chosen this rotation (internship) in hopes of learning more about herbal uses, safety, efficacy, and interactions with prescription medications. Working in a retail pharmacy setting as a pharmacist intern for the prior two years had brought to my attention that there seemed to be a hole in my knowledge concerning herbs. I was approached many times while working at the retail pharmacy by patients in search of advice and information about herbal products. I felt frustrated by not being able to completely answer their questions or refer them to an appropriate reference in order to find the information they needed to safely and effectively make a decision about an herbal product.

During my six weeks at ABC, I learned exactly what I was in search of and more. I was allowed to utilize ABCs vast variety of herbal references that I did not know even existed, references that include documented clinical studies in humans, herbs with approved uses from the German Commission E, The American Herbal Products Associations Herbs of Commerce, 2nd edition, regulations on New Dietary Ingredients (NDIs), and The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. I also learned about the use of herbs as medications in other countries and about the publics desire for more research and information pertaining to herbal products (for example, information about herbs and their interactions with prescription medications, foods, and other herbs). It was also brought to my attention that the general public does not view herbs as medications, and therefore they often do not report their use to doctors or pharmacists, who might be able to warn their patients of potentially harmful interactions.

Garden work (one day per week) is another aspect of the experience at ABC. Working in ABCs medicinal and culinary gardens not only provided a hands-on approach to herbal medicine but also put me in touch with the versatility of herbs, including their culinary and medicinal uses. I was able to harvest herbal seeds for the gardens and plant seeds in trays to be grown in the greenhouse. During my six weeks at ABC, the rotation also included researching herbs for medicinal, cosmetic, and food purposes as well as their safety and effectiveness. My role also included replying to ABC members inquiries and entering useful articles into ABCs literature database.

I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about herbs as well as refreshing my green thumb. My rotation at ABC allowed me to open my eyes to the large amount of references available that touch on all aspects of herbs and to realize the ambiguity of the public and professional knowledge of herbs. From a future pharmacists perspective, I will be able to apply the knowledge I received from ABC to inform my patients of the available, valid information about herbs. I will be able to refer them to reliable sources and provide them with helpful information so that they will be better able to make their own well-educated and informed decisions about herbs. I will also be able to educate them on the need to inform their doctors/hospitals and pharmacists of the herbs they are taking to further prevent potentially adverse drug interactions.

I really enjoyed my short six weeks at ABC. Members of the staff are knowledgeable and work effectively as a team to serve the public as a reputable source of herbal information. During my rotation, I not only learned a wealth of useful information, but also was provided with a supportive work environment due to the respectful people who work at ABC.

Amy Floerke

PharmD intern

College of Pharmacy,

University of Texas at Austin