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Probably the most famous and respected botanical garden in the world is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, just outside of London, England. Kew, as it is known among botanists, is celebrating its 250th birthday this year, and as an acknowledgement of its innumerable contributions to botanical research and conservation, we are including a feature article on its glorious history. We have previously published a profile on the world’s oldest medicinal plant garden in Padua, Italy, and we hope to profile other leading botanical garden institutions in future issues.

On an admittedly much lesser scale, we also highlight our own modest attempts here at ABC to grow numerous medicinal plants for display and educational purposes. One of the key elements of ABC’s pharmacy and dietetic internship program is that each intern is encouraged to spend one day per week in our gardens, learning how to make compost, cultivate medicinal plants, collect seeds, or perform various other gardening techniques, as well as create simple herbal remedies. Some interns state that the opportunity to work and learn in the gardens is one of the most unique and rewarding aspects of the ABC rotation.

Elsewhere in this issue of HerbalGram, we explore the history of Graeco-Arabic medicine and a project that has been initiated to revitalize this medicinal tradition in the Middle East. The origins of Western medicine are based, in large part, on the development of Graeco-Roman medicine, much of which is still practiced today as part of the Graeco-Arabic traditional medicine system in the Near East (and in India, where it is called Unani Tibb). We welcome our old friend Steven Fulder and his colleague Omar Said to the pages of HerbalGram with their article about Graeco-Arabic medicine and the project that they helped to initiate, which involves growing and conducting scientific research on traditional medicinal plants in the Galilee area with the ultimate goal of commercializing herbal preparations.

Past HerbalGram contributors Alessandro Boesi and Francesca Cardi, meanwhile, provide a review of the highly-prized fungus cordyceps in Tibet, where the ingredient is primarily harvested to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) market. Cordyceps is a key adaptogenic ingredient in TCM. Drs. Boesi and Cardi wrote the cover story on Tibetan herbal medicine in HerbalGram issue 71 in 2006.

In the Research Review section, we present a few summaries of recent clinical trials and studies of herbs demonstrating relatively novel uses. For example, we cover a recent clinical trial on a special Swiss butterbur root extract showing potential uses for anxiety. This is a relatively new use for most American herbalists and industry members, as butterbur is not widely used for such conditions in the United States. As we note in our review, extracts of butterbur are demonstrating considerable versatility. A different butter root extract from Germany has shown efficacy in treating migraine headaches, and an extract of butterbur leaf effectively treats seasonal allergic rhinitis.

We present another review of a clinical trial on the popular herb hibiscus, showing its hypotensive benefits, this time as a tea. Previous clinical research has documented the hypotensive effect of a standardized hibiscus extract.

These and other Research Review articles are based on summaries from ABC’s extensive HerbClip database. More information on recent herbal research is available in the HerbClip database on the ABC Web site.

–Mark Blumenthal