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ABC Presents Annual Botanical Excellence Awards

The American Botanical Council (ABC) held the 9th annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards ceremony on March 6, 2014, in Anaheim, California. As in previous years, ABC’s event was held in conjunction with the Natural Products Expo West trade show and NEXT Innovation Summit (previously Nutracon).

The Celebration, held at the Hilton Anaheim, was attended by approximately 350 ABC Sponsor Members, Small Business Members, members of the ABC Board of Trustees, Advisory Board, and Director’s Circle (a group of supporters who assist ABC’s executive director with fundraising and educational efforts), and other supporters of ABC’s nonprofit educational mission from academia and the natural products community. The evening was replete with effervescent conversation, opportunities to forge new connections and to refresh older ones, luscious food and drink, and several of the esteemed award recipients.

It was a particularly momentous Celebration as it occurred on the heels of ABC’s 25th anniversary and the 100th issue of ABC’s quarterly, peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram. The occasion was marked with special mini cupcakes decorated with edible ABC logos, tote bags adorned with ABC’s 25th anniversary logo for guests, and slide shows featuring congratulatory quotes from friends of the organization.

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal entertained the crowd with one of his signature cartoon slide shows, after which he presented the James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award, the Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award, and the Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award. Joseph M. Betz, PhD, who received ABC’s inaugural Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award, presented the 2013 award for that category.

ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award

Two authors are joint recipients of this year’s James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award. Co-authors, herbalists, clinicians, and researchers Kerry Bone and Simon Mills received ABC’s 2013 award for the significantly revised and updated edition of their internationally renowned herbal medicine clinical practice guide, Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine, 2nd edition (Churchill Livingstone, 2013). 

The ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award was created in 2006 in honor of noted economic botanist and author James A. Duke, PhD. Over the course of his long and prestigious career in economic botany and ethnobotany at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Dr. Duke authored more than 30 reference and consumer books. He is also a co-founding member of ABC’s Board of Trustees and currently serves as Director Emeritus.

The Duke Award is given annually to a book or books that provide a significant contribution to literature in the fields of botany, taxonomy, ethnobotany, phytomedicine, and other disciplines related to the vast field of medicinal plants. In 2011, due to the diversity of quality books related to medicinal plants, ABC created two distinct categories for the James A. Duke Award: reference/technical and consumer/popular. However, depending on a variety of factors, ABC may or may not choose to designate recipients for both categories each year.

Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy is widely regarded as the first comprehensive, science-based guide for herbal medicine practitioners. “From our work as educators we recognized the need for herbal clinicians and students to have a modern text that balanced both traditional practices and modern evidence,” said Bone, an Australia-based medical herbalist with more than 25 years of experience and co-founder and director of research and development at MediHerb.

“It really was the first text that addressed our own needs in the clinic: how do we formulate for an individual who is asking for help in front of us?” said Mills, managing director of SustainCare in the United Kingdom and secretary of the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), a multinational consortium of European experts in herbs and medicinal plants. “As we did not have a reference, we had to write one ourselves! It is still distinctive for this reason.”

Bone and Mills — who have been colleagues since 1981 when they met at the School of Herbal Medicine in the United Kingdom — previously co-authored The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety (Churchill Livingstone, 2005), which was the recipient of the inaugural ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award for 2005.

As Dr. Duke noted, Bone and Mills — who have a combined 50-plus years of experience as practicing herbalists — have a reputation for producing quality herbal medicine-related work. “The authors are … meticulously scholarly,” he said. “I, as a rogue herbalist in the herbal community, have long held them in high regard.”

Since the publication of the first edition of Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy in 1999, more than 40,000 copies have been sold worldwide, and it has become an essential component of many respected, upper-level phytotherapy programs, including those at the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute), the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, and the Endeavour College of Natural Health in Australia, Southern Cross University in Australia, as well as most of the naturopathic teaching schools in Australia and New Zealand.

Containing more than 1,000 pages of practical, thoroughly referenced information, the new edition of Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy has been extensively updated with the most relevant scientific and clinical data from the past 15 years. Significant revisions were made to sections on pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics, safety and herb-drug interactions, and herbal treatment for chronic disease states. In particular, the second edition contains six new herbal monographs, discussions of many additional conditions such as asthma, migraines, and prostate cancer, and innovative hypotheses on herbal therapies for inflammation and autoimmune disease.

“Biomedical science is now validating and elaborating many of the traditional insights of herbalists/natural therapists regarding the cause and treatment of disease,” noted Bone. “So there is a much better biomedical underpinning of the things we do and teach in clinical practice…. All of [this is] reflected in the second edition.”

“[T]here has been an explosion of information in the last 15 years,” added Mills. “However, most of it is laboratory based and of varying relevance to the practitioner. Our main challenge has been to wade through all this new material and process it for clinical relevance.”

“The authors are able to embrace traditional herbal use and respect science related to herbal medicine,” said Steven Foster, chair of ABC’s Board of Trustees. “Since the first edition appeared 14 years ago, scientific understanding of herb actions and use has evolved to provide practical information for the clinician, which is reflected in these pages.” 

In a foreword to the new edition, Blumenthal — who recused himself from the award selection process due to his contribution to the text — similarly praised Bone and Mills’ balanced presentation of traditional herbal knowledge with modern clinical evidence. “These authors are eminently qualified to convey this information, and they do so in a lucid, non-dogmatic, rational manner,” he said.

Past recipients of the James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award include the following: Medicinal Plants and the Legacy of Richard E. Schultes by Bruce E. Ponman and Rainer W. Bussmann (Missouri Botanical Garden) in the reference/technical category and Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee (Scribner) in the consumer/popular category in 2012; Healing Spices by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, (Sterling Publishing) in the consumer/popular category and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Botanical Pharmacognosy (CRC Press) in the reference/technical category in 2011; Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health by Aviva Romm, MD, (Churchill Livingstone) in 2010; An Oak Spring Herbaria by Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi and Tony Willis (Oak Spring Garden Library) in 2009; Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, by David J. Mabberley, PhD, (Cambridge University Press) in 2008; Google Book Search in 2007; Medicinal Spices by Eberhard Teuscher (MedPharm Scientific Publishers) in 2006; and The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone (Churchill Livingstone) in 2005.

Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award

Gordon M. Cragg, PhD, of Bethesda, Maryland, is the recipient of the ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award for 2013. Dr. Cragg is a former research director of the US National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Natural Products Branch, where he was involved in NCI’s search for new cancer medicines from plants and other natural sources. ABC presents this award each year to a person who or an institution that has made significant contributions to ethnobotanical and/or pharmacognostic research (i.e., research on drugs of natural origin, usually from plants).

Dr. Cragg spent the majority of his professional career at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Cancer Institute. He was appointed chief of NCI’s Natural Products Branch (NPB) in 1989; he officially retired in 2004, but has remained highly active with the department as an NIH Special Volunteer. During his time at the NPB, Dr. Cragg received three NIH Awards of Merit for his efforts: for his contributions to the development of the highly successful anticancer drug Taxol and related derivative compounds; for his leadership in establishing international collaborative research in biodiversity and natural products drug discovery; and for his teaching contributions to NIH technology transfer courses.

After growing up in rural South Africa, Dr. Cragg earned his BSc in chemistry from Rhodes University in 1957. He attended the University of Oxford for a PhD in organic chemistry, after which he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California – Los Angeles, focusing on the biosynthesis of plant hormones.

Throughout his career, Dr. Cragg has advocated for natural products research and worked to protect the source materials for drug discovery. For example, Dr. Cragg’s commitment to responsible natural products research is evident in his work in Brazil. He contributed to the development of natural product chemistry programs in the northeast and southeast regions of the country. Furthermore, he played a pivotal role in an initiative to protect the country’s biodiversity and sustainability efforts that led to the exploration of new potential pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and agrochemical products.

Dr. Cragg was elected president of the American Society of Pharmacognosy in 1998 and subsequently became an honorary member of the society in 2003. In 2010, Dr. Cragg was presented with the William L. Brown Award for Excellence in Genetic Resource Conservation by the Missouri Botanical Garden; during the symposium held in honor of the award, a newly discovered Madagascan plant — Ludia craggiana, Salicaceae — was named for Dr. Cragg.

“Gordon Cragg is recognized around the world as a leading figure in the efforts to discover new anticancer drugs from plants and other natural materials,” said Blumenthal. “He has a reputation of being a first-class scientist, a friendly collaborator, and an empowering mentor to other researchers. ABC is honored to recognize Dr. Cragg with the annual ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award.”

Numerous professional colleagues of Dr. Cragg’s were unanimous in praise of his work and selection as the recipient of the ABC Farnsworth Award.

“Gordon’s work in this area has been groundbreaking and creative,” said Paul Coates, PhD, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements at NIH. “I have known Gordon personally for about 10 years, during which time we have co-edited two editions of the Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements along with other distinguished colleagues. Gordon’s expertise, insight, and careful attention to experimental detail helped to make the botanical entries in the Encyclopedia first-rate and extremely useful.” 

“Gordon Cragg has been a diplomat in the cause of plant biodiversity and honest relations between the NCI and ‘source countries’ even before the Convention on Biodiversity was signed,” said John Beutler, PhD, associate scientist at the Molecular Targets Lab at NCI and member of the ABC Advisory Board. “His scientific knowledge and thoughtful approach have won him many friends in many countries, and make him a very deserving choice for ABC’s Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award.”

“Gordon Cragg is a most worthy candidate for the ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Award. Long a proponent of research on plants, he has always advocated doing it the right way — proper documentation of collection and taxonomic identification and sustainable collections,” said John Cardellina II, PhD, distinguished scientist at the Chemistry and Technical Innovation Center of McCormick and Co., Inc. and member of the ABC Advisory Board. “He was an early, staunch advocate of indigenous rights and returning value to the country of origin. In many ways, he reminds me of Professor Farnsworth — a scholar of broad academic interests who advocated solid scientific research and quality standards for plants and plant products consumed by humans for health benefits.”

The Excellence in Botanical Research Award’s namesake is ABC’s co-founding Board of Trustees member, the late Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, a research professor of pharmacognosy and senior university scholar in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois - Chicago. When Professor Farnsworth died in 2011 at the age of 81, the global medicinal plant community lost one of its greatest champions.

“The naming of the award after Professor Norman Farnsworth is of huge significance to me,” wrote Dr. Cragg. “I had the pleasure and privilege of being associated with his dynamic leadership and research in the area of drug discovery from plants and other natural sources for well over 20 years, and his contributions to the National Cancer Institute natural products program over many decades were outstanding. He was truly a giant in our field of research!”

“[Mark Blumenthal and his] colleagues at the American Botanical Council have been highly effective advocates and spokespeople for the essential role played by medicinal plants and phytomedicines in healthcare worldwide,” continued Dr. Cragg, “and I wish to thank [Mark] and the Awards Committee of the ABC Board of Trustees most sincerely for bestowing this tremendous honor on me. It is a great pleasure for me to accept this prestigious award, and I feel truly humbled to be joining the group of eminent scientists who have been previous recipients of the award.”

Past recipients of the ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award are highly accomplished and respected researchers from around the world. They include the following: Joseph M. Betz, PhD, of the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (2005); Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, formerly of the Peninsula Medical School at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom (2006); Hildebert Wagner, PhD, of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Biology in Munich, Germany (2007); Ikhlas Khan, PhD, of the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research (2008); Rudolf Bauer, PhD, head of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Karl-Franzens University of Graz in Austria (2009); A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD, chair of the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy in the College of Pharmacy at Ohio State University (2010); Djaja D. Soejarto, PhD, of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois – Chicago (2011); and De-An Guo, PhD, director of the State Engineering Laboratory for Traditional Chinese Medicine Standardization Technology and director of the Shanghai Research Center for TCM Modernization at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2012).

Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award

ABC presented its 2013 Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award to Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd. of Osaka, Japan. Since its founding in 1955, the company has been committed to scientific and clinical research of its products, including its top-selling, clinically researched odorless Aged Garlic Extract®.

“The ABC Varro E. Tyler Award represents our extensive chemical, pharmacological, and clinical research on Wakunaga’s proprietary Aged Garlic Extract, sold as Kyolic® Aged Garlic Extract in the USA and almost 50 international markets,” said Albert Dahbour, vice president of Wakunaga of America, a subsidiary established in the early 1970s. “We invest a lot in scientific discovery and to be recognized for our dedication to botanical research is very inspiring for us.”

The late Prof. Tyler — who has been described as one of the most respected men in late 20th century herbal medicine and pharmacognosy — was an early trustee of ABC, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Purdue University, and vice president of academic affairs at Purdue. He was the senior author of six editions of the leading textbook in the field, formerly used in every college of pharmacy in the United States, as well as numerous other professional and popular books and many articles in the academic literature.

“Prof. Tyler always believed that herb companies should reinvest a portion of their annual sales revenues into legitimate scientific and clinical research, and that is why we established this award in his name,” said Blumenthal. “In our view, Wakunaga merits ABC’s recognition for its outstanding commitment to such research, as evidenced by its strong record of funding hundreds of chemical, pharmacological, and clinical studies on its unique, proprietary garlic preparation.”

Prof. Tyler urged his students and colleagues “not only to seek the truth but, after finding it, to discard any preconceived ideas which it may reveal as untrue.” He encouraged scientific and product integrity, and envisioned a rational herbal healthcare sector that valued the proper evaluation of products’ quality, safety, and efficacy.

According to Jay Levy, director of sales for Wakunaga of America, the company’s focus on research is part of its commitment to promoting public health through herbal medicine. “This mission is accomplished by providing products of the highest quality, which are supported by truthful science and accompanied by helpful consumer information,” he said. “We are extremely proud that we now have over 700 peer-reviewed, published papers on the efficacy of Aged Garlic Extract. Our future plans are to continue to invest in the research of herbal products.”

In 2012, garlic (Allium sativum, Alliaceae) was the second best-selling herbal dietary supplement in the food, drug, and mass-market channel in the United States with sales of almost $35 million in that channel alone. Kyolic, Levy noted, is responsible for 70 percent of branded garlic sales in the natural foods category in the United States.

Kyolic, as stated on Wakunaga’s website, is “designed to support and strengthen [the] cardiovascular system by reducing … major risk factors and promoting overall heart health.” A clinical trial published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012 and featured in ABC’s HerbClip service found that Kyolic significantly reduced blood pressure in participants with hypertension. In addition to its cardiovascular benefits, various formulations of Kyolic have been studied for the ability to support digestive health, the immune system, circulation, and more.

“We are deeply honored to receive the Varro E. Tyler Award from the American Botanical Council,” said Dahbour, “and will continue Prof. Tyler’s passion for botanical research and discovery.”

Previous recipients of the ABC Tyler Award include Horphag Research of Switzerland for 2012, Bioforce AG of Switzerland for 2011, New Chapter, Inc. of the United States for 2010, Bionorica AG of Germany for 2009, Indena SpA of Italy for 2008, and Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals of Germany for 2007.

Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award

Herbalist and educator Sara Katz was selected as the second-ever recipient of ABC’s Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award. The award, created in 2013, is granted to persons in the herbal medicine community who have played a significant role in creating a sense of community among herbalists, researchers, members of the herb and natural products communities, and related groups who work in the area of medicinal plants.

Among her many noteworthy accomplishments, Katz is co-founder of the herbal products company Herb Pharm, a founding member of the American Herbalists Guild, and board president of United Plant Savers (UpS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to conservation and sustainable production of indigenous American medicinal plants. She has served on numerous local and national boards — including that of the American Herbal Products Association — and she has organized and co-organized multiple herbal conferences throughout the United States, notably five UpS conferences at Herb Pharm between 2000 and 2012, with proceeds benefiting the conservation nonprofit.

Along with strong support from others in the herbal community, Katz received a nomination for the honor from the recipient of the inaugural Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award, celebrated herbalist, author, and UpS Founder Rosemary Gladstar. “[Sara] is a driving force in the herbal community and is involved in so many herbal ventures. In fact, there’s very little Sara’s not involved in, or [hasn’t] supported in one way or another,” said Gladstar. “The thing is, she does it quietly, often behind the scenes … but she’s always speaking out, doing, helping, being involved in the greater circle.”

“I am so humbled, floored, and surprised. To be in the same teacup as Mark and Rosemary — I cannot imagine a more meaningful award…. I couldn’t be happier and I am over-the-moon honored,” said Katz. “The herbal community is international, ranging from scientists to herbalists to farmers,” she observed. “There is a spirit and a spark and an understanding that unites all of us, and that’s a lot of people.”

Katz grew up in southern Florida without much exposure to herbs or the natural-living culture. “In my early 20s, I chose to break away, and I went about as far as I could — to Portland, Oregon,” recalled Katz. In search of a career and drawn to natural healing, Katz enrolled in Western States Chiropractic College (now the University of Western States). Though bodywork ultimately was not Katz’s calling, her chiropractic training did connect her with a group of like-minded individuals endeavoring to establish an herbal medicine-centered naturopathic college. The start-up funding for what became the Pacific College of Natural Medicine was raised through conferences Katz co-organized.

Shortly thereafter, Katz and herbalist Ed Smith chose to diverge from that path, forging a trail that led to their 1979 co-founding of Herb Pharm — today an award-winning herbal extract manufacturing business and certified-organic farm. “We packed up our bags, found a rental, and moved to Williams, Oregon, where we started making extracts in our kitchen. Ed traveled the country teaching herb classes, and people were fascinated by our extracts, so we joined forces and started doing everything about herbs,” said Katz. She added: “It was the most modest home business that you can imagine, the way it started.”

Katz and Smith’s “Pharm Farm” in southern Oregon grew simultaneously with their Herb Pharm Herbaculture Intern Program, which currently offers three 10-week sessions per year. During that time, the interns live on site, spending weekdays learning medicinal plant cultivation and harvest, and evenings and weekends in classes devoted to topics ranging from plant identification to therapeutic herbalism. Over the past 35 years, the program has provided training to thousands — many of whom have gone on to pursue careers in natural medicine. It stands among Katz’s proudest and most passionate efforts, along with her “completely gratifying” work to conserve and protect indigenous medicinal plants with UpS.

“What motivates me is working toward purposeful goals with a dedicated, passionate, intelligent group of people,” said Katz. “The role I find myself in now is as a mentor in the various nonprofit organizations that I’m involved with. In many cases, the way is being led by remarkable young women, and I am absolutely thrilled to be able to help them navigate the world of business and organizations with all I’ve learned through the years.”

“Herbs lead the way,” she continued. “For me, it’s a spiritual path; it’s what connects me to the unknown and the world of nature, and I think it’s that way for many of us. When you get that spark of the medicine plants, it’s forever.”

“Sara is a truly amazing person, perhaps a proverbial ‘force of nature,’” noted Blumenthal. “I remember, back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, her working in her home late at night, packing orders for the line of ‘home-made’ herbal extracts that she and Ed made, sending them to herbalists and alternative healthcare practitioners all over the United States. She was like three people in one — her energy and enthusiasm seemed boundless. And, she’s taken that high level of energetic commitment beyond the business to educational activities and organizations across the United States, particularly with her dedicated volunteer work as president of United Plant Savers.”