American Botanical Council Enters 25th Year

(AUSTIN, Texas, October 31, 2012) On November 1, 2012, the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) enters its 25thyear of education and research on the science-based health benefits of herbs, medicinal plants, and other beneficial plant-based ingredients. The independent research and education organization was established in 1988 by Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, along with noted ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, and the renowned late pharmacognosist Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD.

Remarking on the occasion, Dr. Duke said, “I am pleased and proud to see ABC approaching that monumental 25-year milestone. Nice work. It is so much bigger and better than I envisaged 24 years ago, thanks to Mark, of course, and the dedicated staff.”

Blumenthal and Drs. Duke and Farnsworth came together to form ABC as a means of supporting HerbalGram, the seminal publication for which the nonprofit is most well-known. Since those first years of ABC, HerbalGram has grown from a grassroots newsletter into a full-fledged, peer-reviewed, quarterly scientific journal. ABC’s 25th year will see HerbalGram celebrate 30 years of publication, with the 100th issue going to print in late 2013.

“ABC started as a means of supporting HerbalGram, which at that time was a newsletter for many people in the disparate herbal community,” said Blumenthal. “Now in our 25th year, HerbalGram has not only surpassed all expectations in terms of quality, relevancy, and impact on the herbal community internationally, but its success has allowed ABC to branch out and create many new means of fulfilling our unique educational mission.”

The number of ABC-produced publications continues to increase. One that also will celebrate a major milestone soon is HerbClip™, which turns 20 in 2013. For two decades, HerbClip has offered summaries and critical reviews of seminal articles covering medicinal plant-related clinical research, regulations, marketing information, and conservation and sustainability. HerbalEGram, the monthly e-newsletter for ABC members, will enter its tenth year in 2013, and with it will come a new design. ABC’s recently-introduced weekly e-newsletter, Herbal News & Events, will commence a second year of keeping ABC members and supporters up-to-date on events, conferences, and news stories that are relevant to the herbal community.

In addition to using the written word to educate the public on the responsible use of herbal and other plant-based ingredients, ABC helps steward the next generation by offering internships for pharmacy, dietetic, botany, horticulture, journalism, and marketing students at its Austin, Texas headquarters. 2013 will mark the 15th year that ABC has called the Case Mill Homestead “home.” The 2.5-acre complex boasts more than a dozen herbal theme gardens where medicinal plants are cultivated to help educate interns as well as the general public through tours and events like HerbDay. HerbDay is a coordinated series of independently produced public education events that celebrate the importance of herbs and herbalism. Each year, ABC opens its gardens for a full day of herb walks, lectures, children’s activities, and plant and book sales. The 8th annual HerbDay will be held on May 4, 2013.

An increasingly digital world also has led ABC to expand its education methods online. The information-rich is constantly growing with new articles and information. ABC recently added a new database to its online resources: The ABC Clinical Guide to HerbsABC’s highly-praised reference book, is now available through ABC’s website, allowing members to search through therapeutic monographs and clinical study details on 30 best-selling herbs. What barely could have been imagined when HerbalGram first began and ABC was founded is now a reality with the addition of a digital, flip-page version of the journal. The insightful articles and full-color photographs found in each physical edition of HerbalGram have been faithfully rendered online to create a seamless digital experience on a smartphone or tablet computer.

ABC’s 25th year will feature the continued growth of two major research projects. In 2011, ABC collaborated with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) to address the accidental and intentional adulteration of botanical dietary ingredients. Dozens of underwriters and supporters have come together to sustain the program. To date, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants program has published four articles on botanical adulteration, all of which appeared in HerbalGram and are available online. Four additional adulteration articles are slated for next year. In 2013, ABC also is planning to publish a book by Blumenthal and Jay Pierotti, PhD, on solvents used in the manufacture of botanical extracts, food flavors, and natural food ingredients.

Steven Foster, author, photographer, and Chairman of ABC’s Board of Trustees, said, “For nearly a quarter century, a time in which we’ve seen herbal product sales in the United States increase by an estimated ten-fold, and perhaps more scientific research on medicinal plants published than in the previous 200 years, the American Botanical Council (ABC) has been at the international forefront of serving as the primary vehicle for bringing truthful information on the benefits and risks of herbs to the research community, health professionals, industry, the media and consumers. Through its widely respected journal HerbalGram, HerbClip service, dozens of special publications, and media communiqués, ABC is the premier go-to source for cutting-edge knowledge in the modern herbal renaissance.”

“It would be easy to look back at all we’ve accomplished so far and think, ‘We’re already doing so much for the herbal community,’ and not push ourselves to do more,” said Blumenthal. “But the drive to do more than the status quo is integral to the spirit of ABC. I look forward to everything we will do in our 25th year and beyond for the next decades.”

About the American Botanical Council
Founded in 1988, the American Botanical Council is a leading international nonprofit organization addressing research and educational issues regarding herbs, teas, medicinal plants, essential oils, and other beneficial plant-derived materials. ABC’s members include academic researchers and educators; libraries; health professionals and medical institutions; government agencies; members of the herb, dietary supplement, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries; journalists; consumers; and others in over 81 countries. The organization occupies a historic 2.5-acre site in Austin, Texas, where it publishes the peer-reviewed quarterly journal HerbalGram, the monthly e-publication HerbalEGram, the weekly e-newsletter “Herbal News & Events,” HerbClips (summaries of scientific and clinical publications), reference books, and other educational materials. ABC also hosts HerbMedPro, a powerful herbal database, covering scientific and clinical publications on more than 240 herbs. ABC also co-produces the “Herbal Insights” segment for Healing Quest, a television series on PBS.

ABC is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. Information: Contact ABC at P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, Phone: 512-926-4900. Website: Contact: Public Relations.


The Pumpkin—A Smashing Success

By Steven Foster, ©2012

Which came first the Pilgrim or the Pumpkin? The pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) had already become the most widespread cultivated plant in North America by the time the Pilgrim’s European ancestors had barely crawled out of caves. Archeological remains of pumpkin seeds dated to more than 9,000 years old have been found in the Oaxaca in Mexico along with 7,000 year-old pumpkin seeds from sites in Illinois. At the point of European discovery, pumpkins and their relatives were cultivated from southern Canada to Argentina. It appears that what we know today as the pumpkin may have evolved from domestication of Cucurbita texana, now found in northeast Texas, but suspected of being of much wider distribution in ancient times. Molecular evidence gives rise to this hypothesis.

Pilgrims did not encounter pumpkins until they came to the Americas. However, Native American groups were happy to discover in the years shortly after the first invasions, gourd family members brought from the Old World to the Americas including muskmelon, watermelons and cucumbers, so of which probably arrived in the Americas via the slave trade.

The genus Cucurbita in the gourd family is comprised of about 13 species native to the Americas, five of which are cultivated and their remains found in archeological sites of peoples of ancient America. Their consumption since ancient times forms part of the staple diet of pre-Columbian America consisting of cucurbits, beans and maize. Pumpkins had edible seeds, a thick starchy, sweet rind, and excellent storage potential, lasting for months without decay, and easily dried in the sun or over a fire for long-term storage.

The big round pumpkin is typical of Cucurbita pepo, but the same species, in its evolution to diversity also gives use familiar cultivated varieties such as scallop squash; acorn squash; summer squash and crookneck; the unpalatable, inedible ornamental gourds, and the ever ubiquitous, no thank you, please, I don’t need more zucchini. The word squash comes from an Algonquin phrase askoot-asquash—“sometimes eaten when immature or raw.”

Descriptions of pumpkins began to appear in European herbals about 50 years after Columbus sailed home. Paintings of vegetable markets in the Netherlands and Flanders in the 1500s and 1600s show realistic images of eight different forms of pumpkins. In the 1636 edition of Gerarde’s Herball, the pumpkin was called “the Great Round Pompion.” By the early 1700s, pumpkin pies were a common food of England’s rural peasantry, undoubtedly an idea brought back by Pilgrims who had returned home to celebrate Halloween with family.

Osage Orange

A Forgotten Native Tree—The Osage Orange

By Steven Foster

The Osage Orange Maclura pomifera is one of the most curious small trees of the Ozarks. The fruit is the most unusual part—a large, green, grapefruit-like pome with outer texture that looks like like brain tissue. As one of the largest fruits of any woody plant in the United States, it is a shame it is worthless as food (or anything else).

Maclura commemorates William Maclure, an American geologist living from 1763 to 1840. Common names are many and include the familiar Osage Orange, Bois-d’Arc, bodec, hedge-orange, hedge-apple, horse-apple, and mockorange. With crowded zigzag branches armed with sharp stout spines an inch or more long, a thicket of this small tree was impenetrable. It is now widespread outside of what is thought to be its narrow native range from Arkansas to Texas because the Osage Orange is the true American hedge. Before wire fences were popular, it was extensively planted along fence rows. Hedges were planted in single or double rows. Seedlings were set about nine inches to a foot apart, resulting in a thick and formidable natural barrier.

The exceedingly hard, coarse-grained, heavy, bright orange wood is rarely used today. Perhaps the most unique feature of the wood is its excellent flexibility and elasticity coupled with its strength.  In an 1810 account of his explorations of the interior of the U.S., Bradbury found two Osage Orange trees growing in the garden of Pierre Chouteau, one of the first settlers in St. Louis. The trees were introduced to the settlement by Osage Indians, hence the common name of the tree. The Osage highly prized the wood for war clubs and especially bows. It was prized so highly that a bow made from the wood was worth a horse and blanket in trade. Though the plant grew outside of the Pawnee and Omaha-Ponca’s territories, both tribes prized the wood for bows, and obtained it from Indians in the southern part of Oklahoma. Today the tree simply suffers from little appreciation, thought of as a gangly undesirable weed tree. One person’s weed tree is another’s valuable natural resource. The Osage Orange can be either one.

Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper, October 18, 2012