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ABC Presents 2012 Botanical Excellence Awards
The American Botanical Council held the 7th Annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 8, 2012 in Anaheim, CA. As in previous years, ABC’s event was held in conjunction with the Natural Products Expo West trade show and Nutracon scientific conference.

The event, held at the Marriott Anaheim, was attended by approximately 300 ABC Sponsor Members, Corporate Members, and other supporters of ABC’s nonprofit educational mission. The evening was filled with enthusiastic conversations, opportunities to renew old relationships and forge new ones, delicious food and drink and, of course, some of the honored award recipients.

The awards program itself began with a slide show of entertaining cartoons which got the crowd laughing and included gracious comments from Loren Israelsen of United Natural Products Alliance recognizing the unique role ABC plays in the natural products community. ABC Board of Trustees Chairman Steven Foster announced the ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award recipients, including, for the first time, 2 categories—Consumer/Popular category awarded to Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, and the Reference/Technical Category awarded to Roy Upton.

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal presented Bioforce AG with the ABC Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award, which was accepted by Pierce Sioussat of Bioforce USA. Previous ABC Farnsworth Award recipient Joseph M. Betz, PhD, presented the ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award to Djaja Doel Soejarto, PhD. This was a particularly poignant award as Professor Soejarto is the last recipient of this award personally selected by the late Prof. Norman Farnsworth.

ABC’s James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Awards

Herbal Microscopy Book Receives Award for Reference and Technical Book Category 

ABC presented the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Botanical Pharmacognosy: Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines with this year’s ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award in the reference and technical book category. The book was published by CRC Press in 2011.

The award, created in 2006 in honor of noted economic botanist and author James A. Duke, PhD, is given annually to a book that provides a significant contribution to literature in the fields of botany, taxonomy, ethnobotany, phytomedicine, or other disciplines related to the vast field of medicinal plants. Among his long and prestigious career achievements in economic botany and ethnobotany at the United States Department of Agriculture, Dr. Duke has authored more than 30 reference and consumer books. He is also a co-founding member of ABC’s Board of Trustees and currently is Director Emeritus.

The AHP Microscopy book was edited by senior editor Roy Upton, executive director of AHP. Other editors include Alison Graff, PhD, a rare plant conservationist for the state of California; the late Georgina Jolliffe, PhD, formerly a senior lecturer in pharmacognosy at Chelsea College (now King’s College) in the United Kingdom; Reinhard Länger, PhD, an herbal medicinal products expert at the Austrian Medicines Agency; and Elizabeth Williamson, PhD, a professor of pharmacy and director of practice of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.1

AHP’s 773-page Botanical Pharmacognosy: Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines is organized into 2 sections: a 10-chapter introduction to the art of microscopy and a botanical microscopy atlas. The atlas, which comprises roughly three-quarters of the book, contains more than 135 detailed descriptions of the histology (cell structure) of some of the most commonly used medicinal plants in North America and around the world.1

“In developing the AHP monographs, we realized that botanical microscopy was the primary form of crude plant part identification used for [more than] 100 years,” said Upton (email, February 14, 2012). “This gave us the idea that it would be good to have a textbook, as some of the plants sold in the marketplace today as dietary supplements and teas had never been microscopically analyzed or recorded.”

In his preface to the book, Upton describes the unique importance that microscopy has within pharmacognosy (the study of medicines of natural origin) and its status as a “dying art” in North America and Europe.1 “Our work in developing microscopic characterizations for AHP monographs as a fundamental identity test has underscored for us the value and importance of microscopy as a quality assessment tool,” he said. “We embarked upon this project as our way of helping to preserve and reenergize this scientific discipline.”

While previous microscopy texts presented limited tools for plant identification—often relying on single, unconfirmed botanical specimens with pictures of only the powdered substance—AHP’s text contains meticulously authenticated samples with full-color images of plant parts and powders as well as intricate line drawings. Upton said he hopes the textbook will help readers “recognize the utility of microscopy as a low cost, low environmental impact, and effective quality assessment tool for both identification of plants [and] species and for the detection of impurities [e.g., adulterants].”

The late Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, in his foreword to the book, praised Upton’s work, which was 10 years in the making.1 “I have always found that Roy Upton, the major driver for this work, has a long history of producing botanical monographs and his work and passion for botanicals has been clear, thorough, and accurate, which is exemplified in this textbook of botanical microscopy,” wrote Professor Farnsworth. “It will soon become the major authority on the microscopic identification of crude botanical ingredients.” Prof. Farnsworth was one of the world’s most well-known and respected medicinal-plant researchers. In addition to his many academic, organizational, and advisory positions, he was a co-founder of ABC.

“With the increasing need for accurate, reliable, authoritative information on ensuring proper plant identification as part of the Good Manufacturing Practices requirements for the herb and dietary supplement industry, AHP’s microscopy reference book is a monumental contribution to the herb industry, to the natural products and natural medicine research and healthcare communities who research and/or recommend these products, and, eventually, to consumers who use herbal products for their health,” said Blumenthal.

Noted author and photographer Steven Foster, chairman of the Board of Trustees of ABC, said, “Roy Upton’s excellent reference manual will become a key part of the herb quality control formula for members of industry, researchers, and regulators for decades to come.” 

Upton, a practicing herbalist since 1981, is the founder, executive director, and editor of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia. He is also a co-founder, past president, and vice-president of the American Herbalists Guild and serves on the Committee of Revision for the United States Pharmacopeia.

The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia: Botanical Pharmacognosy–Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines retails for $169.95 and can be purchased from ABC’s eStore.

Healing Spices Book Receives Award for Consumer and Popular Books Category

ABC gave its Duke Award in the newly designated consumer and popular books category to Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease, written by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, and published by Sterling Publishing in 2011.

Dr. Aggarwal, author of Healing Spices, has been a faculty member at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, since the late 1980s. Before joining M.D. Anderson, Dr. Aggarwal worked for Genentech Inc., where his work led to the discovery of TNF-alpha and TNF-beta, 2 essential components of the human immune system. This discovery has been heralded by many as a highly significant scientific breakthrough. Among numerous publications he is also the lead editor of Inflammation, Lifestyle and Chronic Diseases: The Silent Link (CRC Press, 2011) and Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Spices: Modern Uses for Ancient Medicine (World Scientific Publishing Co., 2009).

Dr. Aggarwal’s current research involve cytokines—signaling molecules secreted by various cells in the human body—and the role of inflammation in cancer and other diseases, and how chemical components from various herbs, e.g., turmeric (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) can modulate these molecules.2

“Virtually all the chronic diseases are caused by disregulated inflammation,” said Dr. Aggarwal (oral communication, February 20, 2012). “We need to find ways to control that inflammation. Spices are one of the best ways to do that. Vasco de Gama and Christopher Columbus, way back in the 15th  century—even they knew spices were good for something. Here, 500 years later, we still have no doubt that they are good for something, but the question is how to use them in everyday life. That’s where I thought I could help.”

Dr. Aggarwal was approached by a publisher 2 years ago to create a book on the health benefits of various spices. At the time, he was assisting McCormick—the largest spice maker in the United States—with a website called Spices for Health.

Healing Spices covers 50 common spices and their beneficial qualities. The book provides detailed historical information, medicinal uses, and some recipes. It is organized as a user-friendly guide to the healing properties of spices and offers descriptions of specific ailments and conditions that can benefit from each spice.3

Dr. Duke, who keeps Healing Spices on his bookshelf of most-frequently used books, said that Dr. Aggarwal’s book “is important to medical botany … [and] will appeal to most health-concerned readers” (e-mail, February 20, 2012).

Healing Spices has been received so well that its publisher has asked for a follow-up book. “Knowing about spices is one thing, but knowing how to use them is something else,” said Dr. Aggarwal. “We are talking about a cookbook now; a healthy spice cookbook to teach people how to use spices.”

Dr. Aggarwal, in addition to his research on spices, has identified more than 50 compounds from dietary sources and traditional medicinal herbs that interrupt cell-signaling inflammatory pathways; some of these have been subjected to animal testing and have started human clinical trials.2 If he were to recommend 1 spice for daily use, he says he would recommend turmeric, which contains important anti-inflammatory compounds known as curcuminoids.

“Over the past 3 to 4 decades, millions of consumers in the United States and worldwide have become aware of the many health benefits of herbs and many common culinary spices,” said ABC’s Blumenthal. “Much of the recent research that supports some of this growing awareness has been conducted by Dr. Aggarwal and his many associates. ABC is pleased to be able to recognize his important contributions by granting him this award.”

Healing Spices can be purchased for $24.95 from the ABC eStore.

Professor Doel Soejarto Receives ABC’s Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award

As noted above, ABC gave this year’s Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award to Professor Djaja Doel Soejarto, PhD, of the University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC).

The award’s namesake is ABC’s co-founding Board of Trustees member, the late Prof. Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD. Dr. Farnsworth was a research professor of pharmacognosy and senior university scholar at the College of Pharmacy at UIC. The medicinal plant community lost a champion when he died last year at the age of 81. ABC will continue to present this award each year to a person or institution that has made significant contributions to botanical and/or pharmacognostic research (i.e., research on drugs of natural origin, usually from plants). 

Like the renowned individual for whom the award was named, Dr. Soejarto is a professor of pharmacognosy in the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at the College of Pharmacy at UIC. He also teaches biology in UIC’s department of biological sciences.

“My immediate reaction on receiving the notification about the ABC Norman Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award was a downcast feeling, ‘Have I done something worthwhile for such an award?’,” said Dr. Soejarto. “After a reflection, that feeling soon turned into elation, and thankfulness to the American Botanical Council. All my significant accomplishments during the past 30 years have been associated with Norman Farnsworth. Specifically, I have accomplished my professional successes because of the mentorship of this great Professor” (e-mail, February 24, 2012). 

“The Farnsworth award’s being granted to Prof. Soejarto is particularly poignant this year,” said Blumenthal. “Prof. Farnsworth himself chose Prof. Soejarto a few months before he died last September. Thus Prof. Soejarto is the last person to receive this award with Prof. Farnsworth’s ‘blessing.’”

A native of Indonesia, Dr. Soejarto earned his master’s and doctorate degrees at Harvard University, where his primary focuses were biology and botany.  He has held various professorial positions at UIC since 1979. Some of the highlights of his scientific career include the completion of the taxonomic revision of the genus Saurauia, the discovery of anti-HIV calanolides from a pair of Calophyllum species, and the founding of the herbarium at the University of Anitoqiua in Colombia. 

As the principal investigator of The Vietnam-Laos International Cooperative Biodiversity Group—“a program for collaborative research in the pharmaceutical studies” housed in UIC’s College of Pharmacy—Dr. Soejarto leads the group in inventorying the medicinal plants of Vietnam’s Cuc Phuong National Park, analyzing plants in Vietnam and Laos for drug development potential, supporting economic development in Vietnam and Laos, and making information on Cuc Phuong’s plants available on the web.4 Fifty-seven new and active compounds have been discovered thus far.

According to Dr. Soejarto, the concept of  “multidisciplinary collaboration” in scientific research was one of the most significant things he learned from Dr. Farnsworth. It ultimately “lured him into the study of medicinal plants” and “enabled [him] to find a niche in the endeavor to discover new bioactive molecules from plants.”

“Doel Soejarto has devoted almost a half century to the multi-disciplinary study of medicinal plants, including taxonomy, ethnobotany, biodiversity inventory and conservation, drug discovery, and intellectual property rights of indigenous people,” said Harry Fong, PhD, professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at UIC. “His pursuit in each of these areas of botanical research is laser-focused. It can be said that if all around him is in a state of chaos, Doel will not be deterred from his task at hand. His sense of duty, his devotion to the pursuit of knowledge generation, his desire and enthusiasm to advance botanical sciences for the good of humanity are the essence of his being” (e-mail, February 28, 2012).

This year, Dr. Soejarto also has been honored by the Society for Economic Botany as its Distinguished Economic Botanist. He sits on the editorial boards of Pharmaceutical Biology, Tropical Ethnobiology, and the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the last of which he previously edited for 14 years. In addition, he is a member of a number of prestigious professional organizations, and his articles have been featured in PhytochemistryPharmaceutical Biology, and the Journal of Genetics and Applications.

Swiss Herbal Products Company Bioforce Noted for Scientific and Clinical Research 

ABC bestowed its annual Varro E. Tyler Award for Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research to Bioforce AG, a Swiss herbal products manufacturer that spends approximately $1 million on pharmacological and clinical research each year, according to company sources.5

“We were surprised and honored to receive this prestigious award and, at the same time, also proud to see that our efforts to invest in research are acknowledged,” said Andreas Suter, head of medicine and product development at Bioforce AG (e-mail, November 28, 2012). “We share [Prof. Tyler’s] views on phytotherapy, that the use [of] herbal medicine must not only be based on fascination but also on sound scientific data.”

“Bioforce is a rare company in the global herbal community,” said Blumenthal. “The company employs the highest quality levels of sustainable farming practices while embracing the rich traditions of European herbal medicine, combining it with modern scientific research. These concepts—sustainability, tradition, and research—are at the core of the company’s ethics and practices. Bioforce’s continued investment in research is consistent with Prof. Varro Tyler’s wish that all herb companies dedicate a portion of their revenues to researching the mechanisms and/or the efficacy of their botanical products.”

The late Prof. Tyler—who has been described as one of the most respected men in late 20th century herbal medicine and pharmacognosy (the study of medicines of natural origin, usually from plants)—was an early trustee of ABC and the dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Purdue University and vice-president of academic affairs at Purdue.6 He was the senior author of 6 editions of the leading textbook in the field, formerly used in every college of pharmacy in the United States.

Prof. Tyler urged his students and colleagues “not only to seek the truth but, after finding it, to discard any preconceived ideas which it may reveal as untrue;” encouraged scientific and product integrity; and envisioned a rational herbal healthcare sector that valued the proper evaluation of products’ quality, safety, and efficacy.

According to Suter, Bioforce spends 4 to 5% of annual sales income on clinical research each year. The company’s main focus is researching the effect that echinacea (Echinacea spp., Asteraceae) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae) have on common colds, infectious diseases of the upper respiratory tract, and benign prostatic hyperplasia, as well as herbal treatments for rheumatologic conditions and digestive disorders.

Bioforce has conducted at least 36 scientific studies on its products,7 the majority of which were published in scientific, peer-reviewed journals (E. Sheets, e-mail, February 28, 2012). Fourteen of these studies were carried out on its flagship product, Echinaforce®, an organic tincture of E. purpurea herb and root that is used to treat colds and flu.8 In 2006, an echinacea meta-analysis by Suter and fellow Bioforce AG scientist Roland Schoop was chosen as one of the top 25 research papers by the Annual Bibliography of Significant Advances in Dietary Supplement Research, published by the US National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.9

Additionally, according to Bioforce USA’s Managing Director Eileen Sheets, Bioforce’s arnica (Arnica spp., Asteraceae) gel was the first product to obtain a traditional herbal registration from the United Kingdom’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and of the approximately 120 registrations that MHRA has granted, about a quarter of them have been given to Bioforce products.

“We are fascinated by medical plants and have an innate curiosity to find out how they act physiologically in a human being,” said Suter. “Without [scientific] data, we could only rely on tradition, hearsay, or personal experiences; with these data we are credible and gain the trust of practitioners, pharmacists, and patients. Further, carrying out research allows us to find new indications for known plants and is one of the key drivers to stay innovative and successful. And last but not least, research carried out in phytotherapy helps the whole ‘phytomedical’ community, as we are living in times of evidence based medicine.”

According to Bioforce USA President and CEO Pierce S. Sioussat, the acceptance of herbal medicine in the United States “can only be accomplished through continued investment in clinical research using commercially available products that are manufactured in a manner that ensures batch-after-batch and year-after-year consistency. It is also important that such research have a credible forum for public disclosure, and, in this regard, the American Botanical Council plays a critical role” (e-mail, February 28, 2012). Bioforce USA is a partner company that will accept the ABC award on Bioforce AG’s behalf. 

Bioforce AG’s product integrity begins by honoring one of the most important philosophies of Swiss clinical herbalist Alfred Vogel, who founded the company in 1963: insisting that the plants used in its products are grown organically on its own farms or contract farms assessed for sustainability and approved by the company itself.10 According to Bioforce, the company also harvests at “ideal” times, uses high-quality seed varieties, allows the plants to sufficiently mature “until they reach optimum potential,” and mixes harvest batches in order to ensure consistent efficacy. Suter said that the company always uses the whole plant in its products—another of Vogel’s most important founding philosophies—and processes the plants within 24 hours after harvest to guarantee a “full spectrum of all active ingredients.” In addition, the World Health Organization recognizes Bioforce for producing its products according to pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).5

“Alfred Vogel viewed nature as his guide and practiced a holistic approach to the use of plants,” said Sioussat of Bioforce USA. “[Vogel said,] ‘Every substance contained in a plant has purpose and significance. They complement each other and act as a whole.’ What makes Bioforce unique is that these are not hollow words, but rather a philosophy that we are not afraid to put to rigorous examination in the most demanding environments.”


1. Upton R, Graff A, Joliffe G, Länger R, and Williamson E. American Herbal Pharamcopoeia: Botanical Pharmacognosy–Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2011.

2. Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center website. Available at Accessed February 20, 2012. 

3. Aggarwal B. Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. New York, New York: Sterling Publishing; 2011.

4.  The Vietnam-Laos International Cooperative Biodiversity Group: goals. The University of Illinois College of Pharmacy website. Available at: Accessed February 22, 2012

5.     Schofield L. Bioforce: a brand built on science, ethics, sustainability and fresh plants. Available at: Accessed February 20, 2012. 

6.     Blumenthal M. Varro E. Tyler: 1926 - 2001. HerbalGram. 2001;53:70. 

7.     Clinical studies. Bioforce Canada website. Available at: Accessed February 28, 2012.

8.     How Echinaforce is made. A. Vogel website. Available at: Accessed February 28, 2012.

9.     NIH recognizes Bioforce echinacea research. Bioforce USA website. Available at: Accessed February 28, 2012. 

10. The Bioforce Group: our products. A. Vogel website. Available at: Accessed February 27, 2012.