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The Top 10 HerbalEGram Stories of 2019

By ABC Staff

Each January, the editorial staff of the American Botanical Council (ABC) compiles a list of the 10 most popular HerbalEGram articles from the previous year. The list reflects the topics that interested the organization’s diverse audience of researchers, educators, health care professionals, industry members, media, and members of the public.

The top 10 HerbalEGram articles of 2019, as determined by the number of individual link clicks, include a report on the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) public hearing on cannabis products; facts and misconceptions about the use and sustainability of frankincense (Boswellia spp., Burseraceae); the story behind controversial suspensions at Miami University following the discovery of an iboga (Tabernanthe iboga, Apocynaceae) tree in the school’s conservatory; and several articles from ABC’s ongoing Food as Medicine series, a collaboration between ABC Education Coordinator Jenny Perez and HerbalGram Associate Editor Hannah Bauman to present research on health-promoting foods that consumers commonly find in their local grocery stores.

The most-clicked HerbalEGram article of 2019 was a report by ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD, about his main takeaways from the FDA’s standing-room-only public hearing in May 2019 on the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labeling, and sales of products that contain cannabis (Cannabis spp., Cannabaceae) or cannabis-derived ingredients. Balancing the needs of consumers, industry, academia, health professionals, and other interested parties continues to complicate regulatory efforts to provide safe and effective cannabis-derived products, including supplements that contain the non-intoxicating compound cannabidiol (CBD).

The second most-clicked story, by HerbalEGram guest contributors Anjanette DeCarlo, PhD, Stephen Johnson, and Denzil Phillips, addresses the surge in popularity that frankincense has seen in recent years. Used as a source of incense, medicine, cosmetics, and essential oil, the resin is in danger of being overharvested, and the growing demand is causing concern among stakeholders. Readers are invited to test their knowledge of this ancient substance with this list of 10 fast facts.

Below is the full list of HerbalEGram’s 10 most popular stories of the year.

  1. Key Takeaways from the FDA’s Public Hearing on Products Containing Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Compounds By Stefan Gafner, PhD (June 2019)
    As cannabis and cannabis-derived ingredients experience a boom in popularity in the food, beverage, cosmetic, and supplement industries, the FDA faces the issue of regulating this new market. To hear insights about safety, quality, and marketing claims, the FDA held a public hearing on May 31, 2019. Gafner attended this hearing and has reported the main concerns held by the agency and those who gave expert testimony.
  2. Ten Fast Facts About Frankincense By Anjanette DeCarlo, PhD, Stephen Johnson, and Denzil Phillips (August 2019)
    The authors, who are natural products and aromatic plant experts, examine 10 common misconceptions about frankincense, an aromatic resin from Boswellia species. In light of a report from July 2019 that warned of an impending collapse in Boswellia populations, understanding this plant, which has thousands of years of ceremonial and medicinal use, is more vital than ever.
  3. Conservatory Controversy: Iboga Confiscation and Professor Suspensions at Ohio’s Miami University By Karen Raterman (December 2019)
    In November 2018, two professors, a staff member, and a student at Miami University in Hamilton, Ohio, were suspended or asked to resign after the discovery of an iboga plant in the school’s conservatory over concerns with its potential illicit use. The situation, which is ongoing, has drawn criticism from various quarters and raises questions about the legal status of certain plants, academic freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge deemed “criminal.”
  4. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia Publishes Oshá Monograph and Therapeutic Compendium By Hannah Bauman (January 2019)
    In December 2018, the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) published a monograph and therapeutic compendium for oshá root. According to AHP, this monograph includes the first published pharmacopeial standards for this relatively unknown North American botanical. Though oshá has yet to gain widespread market appeal, Native American tribes have used the root extensively in various ways, most notably for upper respiratory infections.
  5. Food as Medicine Update: Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus, Cucurbitaceae) By Jenny Perez, Hannah Bauman, and Becky Nichols (July 2019)
    Watermelon is summery, sweet, and bursting with bioactive compounds. All parts of this versatile fruit, including the flesh, seeds, and rind, have been consumed for thousands of years on the African continent, and many of its traditional medicinal uses, including as an ergogenic aid, glycemic control, and cardiovascular support, are beginning to be confirmed by modern research.
  6. Food as Medicine: Celery (Apium graveolens, Apiaceae) By Jenny Perez and Hannah Bauman (June 2019)
    The humble celery plant, often relegated to a vehicle for peanut butter, offers much more than meets the eye. Used for thousands of years in the traditional practices of their native Mediterranean area, the stalk and seed contain aromatic compounds that are being investigated for their benefits in cancer prevention, gout and arthritis, lowering blood pressure, and more.
  7. Food as Medicine: Rhubarb (Rheum spp., Polygonaceae) By Hannah Bauman and Jennifer Wible (April 2019)
    Synonymous with spring, the bright stalks of garden rhubarb hint at the beneficial phytochemicals within. Before the stalks were popular in pies and jams, however, the root of Rheum species was used for more than 5,000 years in the traditional medicine systems of northern Asia.
  8. Is the Saw Palmetto Supply Sustainable? By Steven Foster (February 2019)
    In this article for the Sustainable Herbs Program, author, herbalist, and photographer Steven Foster relates the history of saw palmetto fruit’s use as food and medicine from the beginning of European contact in the Americas to modern times. Saw palmetto’s past informs its future with regard to its continued, sustainable harvest.
  9. Food as Medicine: Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa, Rosaceae) By Jenny Perez and Hannah Bauman (September 2019)
    This berry, native to North America, is a rich source of anthocyanins and an important part of health and wellness for Native American tribes. Though forbiddingly tart and astringent on their own, black chokeberry juice and extract are increasing in popularity for their antioxidant, cardioprotective, and antidiabetic effects.
  10. Food as Medicine: Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae) By Hannah Bauman and Jamie Moser (July 2019)
    Common in nut mixes, the Brazil nut has an interesting history as a food, medicine, and article of commerce in its native Amazonian rainforest areas. The high selenium content in Brazil nut — the highest known in any conventional food — has potential benefits for a variety of populations, particularly the elderly, and is the focus of much of the clinical research on this nut.