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Over a decade ago, I was invited to write an editorial for a medical journal on the topic of herbs and phytomedicines with adequate clinical evidence of safety and efficacy to warrant consideration for use in modern conventional medical practice. Due to the inclusion of Asian ginseng, because of its observed “adaptogenic” properties, I received a comment from one of the journal’s “expert” peer reviewers that the terms “adaptogen” and “adaptogenic” were not recognized by Western pharmacology and medicine. Alas, that may be true—not because they don’t exist, but because of the previously narrow scope of vision of many conventionally trained physicians (and medical journal editors).

This issue includes a review article on adaptogenic herbs and their pharmacology, a topic we have wanted to address in these pages for a decade or more. Dr. Alexander Panossian of the Swedish Herbal Institute (a forprofit company that manufactures various clinically tested phytomedicines) and Prof. Bert Wagner, one of Europe’s most famous experts in phytomedicinal research, have co-authored this review, which is based on numerous previous articles they have authored on this compelling subject. And, as their article shows, there is an expanding body of pharmacological data supporting the adaptogenic effects of various herbs and herbal extracts, so much so that it is probable that they will be increasingly used in clinical medicine, and not merely as self-selected dietary supplements by a growing body of health-conscious consumers. Which herbs? Please see the article beginning on page 52.

There’s another subject about which we have wanted to publish for over a decade—the herbs of the fabled Silk Road. In this issue, we highlight pu-erh tea from the Yunnan province of China, and the route it traveled into the Tibetan Plateau on the Tea Horse Road. Selena Ahmed and Michael Freeman have contributed an engaging article on the history of the this ancient trade route, with stunning photographs (by Freeman) and information from their new book. Pu-erh tea is considered the most sought-after and valuable tea in all of China, with considerably high economic value.

The quality of herbal ingredients and products remains of paramount concern to us and many, many others. In this area, access to reliable analytical methods to ensure botanical identity is imperative. As part of our continued series of articles on quality control and Good Manufacturing Practices-related issues, Kathy Sharpless of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and colleagues, including our good friend and ABC Advisory Board member Dr. Joe Betz at the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, provide an update on the various Standard Reference Materials (SRMs) that NIST has produced to calibrate laboratory analytical equipment and help validate analytical methods—all of which is designed to improve the quality of analyses of botanical dietary ingredients. The federal government’s funding of a program to help improve the reliability of analytical testing of botanical ingredients in dietary supplements is an example of how far the herbal movement has come in the past 30-plus years.

Also, this issue contains our annual Herb Market Report, which we produce in association with our colleagues at the Nutrition Business Journal and the market research firm SPINS. Once again, in 2010, sales of herbal dietary supplements rose in the United States, this time by an estimated 3.3 percent—a fairly good indicator of how consumers continue to vote with their dollars for natural medicine, even in a down-cycle economy. This is further evidence of the increasingly significant role that herbal products continue to play in selfcare and, eventually, will play in integrated healthcare. And finally, we carry a guest editorial from two of Europe’s leading herbal experts, Michael McIntyre and our Advisory Board member Simon Mills, on the recent decision by the British government to license herbalists. Our sincere congratulations to our friends and colleagues in the United Kingdom for finally receiving such official recognition! Herbs and herbal medicine are fast becoming an important part of contemporary and future selfcare and healthcare, the world over!