(Austin, TX). The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) announced today that it has officially delivered notice of new joint funding to five university-based dietary supplement research centers from NCCAM and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), both agencies of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Botanical research centers were created previously to focus on basic research and clinical studies of botanical preparations. The focus of the new funding will be directed toward determining the mechanisms of action of these preparations and their active phytochemical constituents. According to a news release issued by NCCAM, “Research conducted by these centers will advance the scientific base of knowledge about the safety, effectiveness, and mechanisms of action of botanicals.”
Although much of the research funded by NCCAM and ODS in the past five years has focused on clinical trials on botanicals and phytomedicinal preparations, the new focus for research will be based on mechanisms of action and constituent properties. Consistent with this new focus, clinical trials have been excluded in the new five-year funding cycle, except where some trials are already ongoing, e.g., Phase II clinical trials on black cohosh and red clover currently being conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
“The change in direction of the research activities reflects NIH’s increased interest in determining the actual molecular-mechanistic basis for how herbal products operate in humans,” said Mark Blumenthal, Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) in Austin, Texas. “Although this type of information is important in documenting the way herbs work and is certainly needed, we hope that in the future, NCCAM and ODS will also fund more human clinical trials of appropriate design to test the safety and efficacy of many popular herbs in the U.S. market.”
The five centers that were notified that the funding was activated on April 5, 2005 are: (1) Botanical Center for Age-Related Diseases at Purdue University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Rutgers University; (2) Botanical Dietary Supplements for Women's Health Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, IL (UIC); (3) Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome at Pennington Biomedical Research Center of Louisiana State University System, and Center of Agriculture and the Environment of Rutgers University; (4) MSKCC Research Center for Botanical Immunomodulators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, The Rockefeller University, the Institute of Chinese Medicine, and the Chinese University; and (5) Wake Forest and Harvard Center for Botanical Lipids at Wake Forest University and Harvard University.
Two of the five centers—University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Purdue University—have been funded by previous NCCAM-ODS grants to establish botanical research centers and have been conducting research in their designated areas of interest for the past five years.
UIC will continue its work on botanicals for women’s health, specifically for menopause and premenstrual syndrome. The primary herbs being researched in this area are black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, syn. Cimicifuga racemosa), chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), dong quai (Angelica sinensis) and red clover (Trifolium pratense), in addition to several new plants that will be studied during the next five years.
The UIC Center Director is Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, Research Professor of Pharmacognosy and Senior University Scholar. Among his many internationally renowned duties, positions and consultancies, Prof. Farnsworth is the co-editor of the medicinal plant research journal Phytomedicine and is a founding and current member of the Board of Trustees of ABC.
The full NCCAM press release is available on the Internet (http://nccam.nih.gov/news/2005/040705.htm.) and is pasted below, with the list of the five newly-funded centers and a brief description of their areas of research focus.
About the American Botanical Council
Established in 1988, the American Botanical Council (ABC) is the leading nonprofit, member-based organization educating consumers, healthcare professionals, researchers, educators, industry, and the media on the safe and effective use of herbs and medicinal plant products. ABC is located on a 2.5 acre site in Austin, Texas where it publishes HerbalGram, a peer-reviewed quarterly journal. ABC is also the publisher of The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, a continuing education module and reference book, which contains extensive therapeutic monographs on the safety and efficacy of 29 popular herbs, including black cohosh and chaste tree. More information is available at http://www.herbalgram.org/.