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Rose Oil, Herbs in Sports, Large Echinacea Trial, and Bilberry Adulteration

When I was in Antalya, Turkey, in September 2011 for the annual scientific congress of the GA (the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research), one of the exhibitors was Gülbirlik, the Turkish Rose Cooperative, a government-owned co-op of Turkish rose growers, distillers, and producers of roses, rose oil, rose water, and other products from this highly revered flower. For several years I have wanted to publish an article on rose, to include its rich history and varied ethnobotany, and I had earlier been in communication with someone from a Bulgarian rose-producing group (Bulgaria lies just north of Turkey and both countries are known for the ultra-high quality of their rose oils).  When I expressed my interest in such an article for these pages, our good friend, Professor Hüsnü Can Başer, PhD, professor of pharmacognosy at Anadolu University in Turkey, and the principle host and organizer of the GA congress (and a recent addition to the ABC Advisory Board), volunteered to author it. Prof. Başer, who recently co-edited a relatively massive book on essential oils, has written an extensive article documenting the high regard that roses and their products, particularly the rare and expensive rose oil, have had in Middle Eastern culture, and its history in Turkey and surrounding countries in particular. If only we could print HerbalGram in a scratch-and-sniff technique using real rose oil!

Moving on to other subjects, our associate editor and HerbalEGram managing editor Lindsay Stafford Mader was inspired this summer during the pre-Olympics media blitz to research the ways that athletes have used botanical preparations to help improve athletic performance. This research led to the highly controversial practice called “doping,” and the complex situation of increasing frequency in which athletes blame dietary supplements for failed drug tests. Mader investigates the reality of these accusations and also provides details on potentially efficacious and legal botanicals for sports performance.

Some big news lies in our Research Review section: We present a summary of the recent clinical trial on the Swiss company Bioforce’s echinacea extract (Echinaforce®), which showed safety and efficacy in preventing symptoms related to the common cold in the largest echinacea clinical trial ever published. This study initially enrolled 755 people, significantly more than the 399 subjects enrolled in what was previously the largest trial, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005 and met with wide criticism (including our own) for using only about one-third the generally recognized dose of echinacea extract.   

And finally, as part of our ongoing series of articles focusing on the accidental and/or intentional adulteration of botanical raw materials, extracts, essential oils, etc. in global commerce, we include an article that author and esteemed botanical photographer Steven Foster and I have written on the intentional adulteration of bilberry extracts. This article is part of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program that ABC is conducting with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, and which is now being underwritten, supported, and/or endorsed by over 85 industry companies, third-party analytical laboratories, universities and schools of natural medicine, trade and professional organizations, and others.   Unfortunately, the bilberry issue is but one of numerous examples of economically motivated adulteration — an important subject that we intend to continue addressing in coming issues of HerbalGram.