AUSTIN, Texas (August 8, 2018)— August 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of HerbalGram, thequarterly journal of the American Botanical Council (ABC). Since its firstissue in 1983, HerbalGram has transformed from a black-and-white newsletterto a full-color, 82-page journal with the visual appeal of beautiful botanicalphotography and intellectual draw of peer-reviewed articles. Though HerbalGramhas evolved significantly, its editorial mission to serve as a reliable herbaleducation resource has remained the same.
In the summer of 1983,ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal produced the first issue of HerbalGram,which was then titled “Herb News” with the subtitle “Herbalgram.” Blumenthal,who also was running his former herb distribution business, Sweethardt Herbs,spent many of his nights and weekends collecting, writing, and editing articlesfor the newsletter. It was this focus on disseminating trustworthy and timelyherbal information that would eventually lead Blumenthal to found ABC in 1988.
Originally publishedwith financial support from the newly formed American Herbal ProductsAssociation (AHPA), of which Blumenthal was a founding board member, the first HerbalGramwas an eight-page, black-and-white newsletter stapled at the spine. Itconsisted of “herb blurbs” on herbal miscellanea, a “media watch” section withherb-related news articles, a handful of paragraph-long “Rob’s ResearchReviews” authored by then-Associate Editor Robert McCaleb (who, at the time,was also head of research at Celestial Seasonings), listings of herbalinformation resources and schools, and more. The editorial staff included justBlumenthal and McCaleb, who also co-founded the Herb Research Foundation (HRF)together.
For the second issue,Blumenthal enlisted two additional part-time assistant editors. The publicationnow featured the title “Herbalgram” in larger font. This issue took on a moredefined format, with organized sections on industry news, conferences/meetings,HRF news, and “potpourri” — a catch-all section featuring various news items ofpossible interest to the growing herbal industry and community.
In the followingyears, HerbalGram transformed into a modern force in the botanicalmedicine community. In 1988, HerbalGram issue 18/19 was the firstcolor edition with a cover illustration of St. John’s wort (Hypericumperforatum, Hypericaceae). This 48-page double issue also was thefirst published under the auspices of both HRF and ABC, which Blumenthalfounded with the late ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD, and the late ProfessorNorman Farnsworth, PhD, in order to help transition the publication fromnewsletter to journal. In 1992, issue 28 was the first full-glossy, four-colorissue, and featured an image of the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models ofPlants from the Harvard Museum of Natural History on the cover. The journal increasedto its current length of 82 pages in 1999, and, in 2000, issue 50 was the firstto be published by ABC alone.
Eighteen years andalmost 70 issues later, the editorial staff of HerbalGram hasgrown to include an art director and three full-time editors, in addition toBlumenthal, who serves as editor-in-chief, along with many other employees atABC who serve in a variety of other important roles. The journal featuresarticles both from in-house writers and botanical experts from around theworld, and all are peer-reviewed by members of ABC’s distinguished advisoryboard or other professionals with relevant expertise. HerbalGramreaches thousands of readers in more than 81 countries who represent a range ofdiverse professions, from research scientists (e.g., pharmacognosists,ethnobotanists, etc.) and health practitioners (e.g., herbalists, naturopathicphysicians, pharmacists, conventional physicians, etc.) to industry members,government regulators, and many others.
HerbalGram has beena leader in presenting extensive literature reviews on specific herbs in aneffort to help establish a scientific basis for their potential healthbenefits. In some cases, these reviews can also help clarify erroneous orinappropriate claims about the uses of the herbs.
“HerbalGramhas served as the go-to source for detailed perspectives on developingherb-related topics for 35 years,” said Steven Foster, an herbalist,photographer, author, and ABC Board of Trustees member. “The publication is atthe forefront of covering topics such as herb conservation and the effect ofclimate change on herb crops, clear assessments of regulatory and marketdevelopments, as well as emerging science.”
Foster added: “Thedepth of coverage, detailed quality of presentation, rigorous peer-reviewprocess, meticulous editorial attention, aesthetic beauty, and broad appeal [ofHerbalGram]combine to reach a standard of lasting excellence that few science-basedperiodicals achieve.”
Recent HerbalGramissues have featured significant articles such as issue 118’s pictorial on Joseph Banks’ historicFlorilegium of botanical life that was encountered on Captain Cook’sfirst South Pacific voyage; issue 116’s beautiful and informative deep-diveinto medicinal trees of North America;and issue 103’s feature about the effects of climate change on thequality of tea.
Each year, HerbalGramalso publishes its annual Herb Market Report, which describes thetrends of the botanical dietary supplement market in the United States andfrequently is cited in other publications. Additional in-depth key articlespublished in recent issues have included a look into the history andpharmacology of the emerging Southeast Asian treekratom (Mitragyna speciosa,Rubiaceae); a pet supplement herb market report;notes from a 17th-century ethnobotanical expeditionto South Africa; and many more.
Loren Israelsen,president of the United Natural Products Alliance, praised HerbalGram’sdiverse content. “When my HerbalGram arrives in the mail, I knowI will begin another journey into the wonders of the herbal kingdom,” he said.“While I no longer save other magazines, I treasure and hold tight to my copiesof HerbalGram. I, along with many others, salute ABC and HerbalGramfor its 35 years of service to the advancement of consumer, industry, andprofessional education, high level of professionalism, and documenting the richhistory of our remarkable community.”
In November 2011, theABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) published itsfirst feature-length article — “A Brief History of Adulteration ofHerbs, Spices, and Botanical Drugs” — in HerbalGram issue92. The article, written by Foster, reviewed numerous cases of adulterated,fraudulent foods, spices, and drugs during the past two millennia. HerbalGramalso has published extensively peer-reviewed BAPP feature articleson the adulteration of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, Ericaceae)extract, skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Lamiaceae)herb, so-called “grapefruit seed extract,” and black cohosh (Actaearacemosa, Ranunculaceae) in addition to Foster’s epic 22-pagearticle, titled “Toward an Understanding of GinsengAdulteration: The Tangled Web of Names, History, Trade, and Perception.”
In 2012, ABCintroduced an online “page-flip” version of HerbalGram that is optimized forviewing on smartphones, tablets, and computers. In 2016, all issues of HerbalGrambecame available in PDF format, from 1983’s issue 1 through the current issue,thanks to a digitizing project overseen by Art Director Matt Magruder in 2016.Before that, only issues 85 and above were available as PDF files.
HerbalGram isavailable as a benefit of ABC membership at the Individual level and up. Italso is sold in some bookstores and natural food stores.