ABC’s 30th anniversary is a major milestone for the Austin, Texas-based organization and speaks to its enduring message about the benefits of herbal medicine and the science behind it that has resonated with thousands of members and supporters both locally and in more than 80 countries around the world.
In 1988, Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal established ABC with internationally esteemed ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, and Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, a renowned pharmacognosist and medicinal plant researcher. A few years later, Professor Varro E. Tyler, PhD, another eminent pharmacognosist and author, joined the Board of Trustees. They created the organization with the goal of providing accurate information to assist the public in making educated, responsible choices about herbal medicine in self-care and as an accepted part of conventional health care. Thirty years later, their vision still drives the nonprofit’s mission, publications, and programs.
“My primary thought on reflecting on 30 years of ABC’s service to the medicinal plant community is one of profound gratitude and deep appreciation to all who have helped ABC reach this important milestone,” said Blumenthal. “This includes my gratitude to the late Jim Duke, Norman Farnsworth, and Varro Tyler for helping me establish ABC and for being the first members of the ABC Board of Trustees; gratitude to the many employees of ABC, past and present, who have worked to make the organization so successful; gratitude to the hundreds of Sponsor Members and thousands of other ABC individual, academic, and professional members who have supported ABC’s unique nonprofit research and educational mission; gratitude to the ABC Board of Trustees and Advisory Board for their many hours of volunteer service; and gratitude and appreciation for the plants, without which there would be no life on Earth and which provide us their amazing nutritional and healing energies.”
In the summer of 1983, Blumenthal published the first issue of HerbalGram, then an eight-page, black-and-white newsletter with brief updates on medicinal plant research, community events, and regulatory news. In November 2018, ABC will publish the 120th issue of the magazine, now an 80-page, full-color, peer-reviewed journal that has become a leading publication in the field.
ABC celebrated a number of other publication milestones in 2018. In February, ABC’s monthly e-newsletter HerbalEGram began its 16th year; since 2004, ABC has published more than 160 issues of this digital companion to HerbalGram. HerbClip, a twice-monthly publication that provides summaries and critical reviews of medicinal plant-related clinical research, began its 26th year in 2018. ABC has now published almost 7,500 HerbClips. ABC’s newest online publication, Herbal News & Events, entered its seventh year in 2018. Launched in 2012, the weekly Herbal News & Events newsletter was created to keep ABC members and supporters up to date on relevant educational events and news articles.
New digital resources
ABC has now published more than 45 articles in its HerbalEGram Food as Medicine series, which explores the history, traditional uses, nutritional profile, and modern research of a different conventional food each month. The Food as Medicine series is based on work by interns in ABC’s dietetic internship program, led by ABC Education Coordinator Jenny Perez, and is produced in collaboration with HerbalGram Associate Editor Hannah Bauman and ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD.
In 2016, ABC added a complete digital archive of HerbalGram issues dating back to 1983. Previously, only issues 85 and later were available online as PDFs. ABC also added a new Herbal MediaWatch feature to its website in 2016. Updated weekly, Herbal MediaWatch is a news feed that contains articles, press releases, and other online publications on a wide range of subjects of interest to ABC’s members and supporters.
ABC’s headquarters at the 165-year-old Case Mill Homestead in the heart of East Austin serves as an extension of the organization’s commitment to herbal education. Purchased in 1997, the property was renovated with the help of the nonprofit’s first capital campaign and updated with expansive medicinal plant gardens, a greenhouse, and annex that functions as home for ABC’s library and a community meeting space sometimes used by other Austin nonprofits. With guidance from ABC’s dedicated education department, the gardens are used as a tool for dietetic and pharmacy interns from local universities, who apply their research in hands-on medicine-making labs and presentations using herbs from the grounds.
The Case Mill Homestead also functions as the idyllic setting of ABC’s annual HerbDay event, where community members gather to celebrate the healing properties of plants. In March 2018, ABC hosted its 13th annual HerbDay celebration.
In the past five years, ABC added two new features to its expansive, 2.5-acre grounds. In 2015, ABC completed work on a new garden space, which received official designation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, the largest wildlife conservation and education organization in the United States. Three years before that, in 2012, ABC introduced its Sacred Seeds garden, which is part of the United Plant Savers’ international network of garden sanctuaries intended to protect locally important and traditionally used plants.
Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program
The nonprofit continues to expand the scope and reach of its Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) in collaboration with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) and the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi.
BAPP is an international consortium of nonprofit professional organizations, analytical laboratories, research centers, industry trade associations, industry members, and other parties with interest in herbs and medicinal plants. The program advises industry, laboratories, researchers, health professionals, government agencies, the media, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated botanical ingredients sold in global commerce. Since 2011, more than 200 US and international parties have financially supported or otherwise endorsed the program.
To date, the BAPP has released 45 extensively peer-reviewed publications, including detailed articles featured in HerbalGram, Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletins, Laboratory Guidance Documents, and Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletters, all of which are available for free to the public on the program’s website.
What’s next for ABC? Enhanced focus on herb sustainability
Throughout its history, ABC has demonstrated a commitment to medicinal plant conservation. In 2018, ABC published an extensive feature on goldenseal conservation in HerbalGram issue 119 representing 21 years of additional research on this vitally relevant issue since ABC published a cover story on this same topic in HerbalGram issue 41 in 1997. Other conservation articles throughout the years include the impact of climate change on medicinal plants in HerbalGram issue 81 and an article on the sustainable harvest of wild plant population in issue 118. These articles, along with many more throughout the years, are the foundation for ABC’s involvement in the soon-to-be-announced new strategic endeavors on botanical supply chain sustainability.
Source: American Botanical Council