On January 1, 2011, the American Botanical Council (ABC) assumed full ownership and management of the dynamic, interactive database HerbMed® and its enhanced professional version HerbMedPro™. ABC has had intellectual property rights to the herbal database HerbMed since February 2008, when the founder and director of the database, Jacqueline (Jackie) C. Wootton, MEd, decided she wanted to retire from her then current responsibilities and explore new avenues of interest.1
Selected herb records in HerbMed (www.herbmed.org) are available for free to the public and HerbMedPro (http://cms.herbalgram. org/herbmedpro/index.html) is available through licensing to libraries and organizations, and has long been a benefit of membership to all ABC members at the Academic Level and higher.
Jackie Wootton is a former professor of sociology at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom (1985-1992), and staff trainer for 10 years at the pioneer distance-learning institution The Open University, also in the UK. She moved to the United States in 1992 where she worked for 2 years designing and developing information resources for the Office of Alternative Medicine, the predecessor of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She also served as informatics project director at the Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Columbia University and on NIH Clinical Center research projects. In 1998, she co-founded the Alternative Medicine Foundation, a nonprofit organization of which she was president and executive director until September 2010. During this time she initiated work on HerbMed and developed HerbMedPro. More information on the differences between HerbMed and HerbMedPro can be found in an earlier issue of HerbalGram.2
Long recognized as a significant research tool, HerbMedPro has been available as licensed electronic content from ABC and as a benefit of membership in ABC for the past decade. ABC was pleased and honored when Wootton approached its management about taking over the database upon her retirement.
“ABC is pleased and honored that Jackie Wootton has had sufficient trust and confidence in ABC to continue HerbMed and HerbMedPro in the tradition of objectivity and high quality that she created and maintained since her creation of these two unique databases,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal.
“ABC will continue to bring additional resources to these databases to help expand them and increase their availability to the international herbal medicine community and other parties that have an interest in the robust and growing body of scientific and clinical research on herbs and related beneficial plants,” he added.
Longtime ABC employee Gayle Engels and ABC’s IT consultant, Eric Valdez (of Corsair USA, LLC), have worked with Wootton over the past 3 years to learn the intricacies of the database and prepare it for conversion to the ABC content management system. Engels has taken over as director of the HerbMed database and is eagerly working with HerbMed compilers, Jayaraman Mohanasundaram, MD, PhD; Robin Dunn, MS; and Robyn Urbach, MS; to update the existing herb records and add new ones (see sidebar), as well as expanding additional features of the database, such as the sections for Contemporary Mixtures, Traditional Formulas, and Special Collections.
In order to be added to HerbMed, a Contemporary Mixture must have published research on the mixture itself, not just on the components, although the Contemporary Mixture record will link to the components’ records. Currently, there is 1 Contemporary Mixture posted in HerbMed: the top-selling herbal nonprescription medication in Germany known as Sinupret®. Traditional Formulas are those that have a long history of use and published research, such as the traditional Ayurvedic formula Triphala, which consists of 3 traditional fruits: amalaki or amla (Phyllanthus emblica, Euphorbiaceae), bibbitaki or belleric myrobalan (Terminalia bellerica, Combretaceae), and haritaki or chebulic myrobalan (Terminalia chebula, Combretaceae). Special Collections will provide information for specific health issues (such as diabetes and heart disease), modalities (such as Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese, or Native American medicine), and sociodemographic groupings (such as women or children). Thus far in 2011, 1 collection has been added to HerbMed—Women’s Health: Menopause.
One of the fundamental characteristics that makes HerbMedPro and the underlying HerbMed database different from other electronic herbal resources is that it is built incrementally via the compilation of data by experts and automatic compilation of data from multiple resources such as the US National Library of Medicines database, PubMed. This requires the expert compilers to research the literature from multiple online published sources, to categorize the data, and to briefly summarize each item and hyperlink it to the source data.3
As one might imagine, this is a time-consuming and costly procedure. In order to maintain and expand the database, ABC initiated Adopt-an-Herb, a program designed to help fund the improvement and protection of the database. Through this program, companies “adopt” one or more specific herbs which helps prioritize the updating of the 240 existing herb records and the addition of new ones.4 Adopting companies are recognized by ABC on its Adopt-an-Herb page (abc.herbalgram.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Adopt_an_ Herb) and HerbMed records for adopted herbs are made available on both ABC’s and the adopters’ sites.
- Wootton J. ABC acquires the popular herbal database HerbMed. HerbalGram. 2008;78:12.
- Wootton J. The difference between HerbMed® and HerbMedPro™. HerbalGram. 2009;84:10-12.
- Wootton J. Creating HerbMed® – a combination of expert curation and automatic generation. HerbalGram. 2009;83:16.
- Meikel D. ABC announces “Adopt-an-Herb” program. HerbalGram. 2008;80:16-17.