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American Botanical Council Hosts Annual Botanical Excellence Awards


The American Botanical Council (ABC) hosted its 13th annual American Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony on March 8, 2018, at the Hilton Anaheim in conjunction with the Natural Products Expo West and Engredea trade show and conference in Anaheim, California.

More than 350 guests attended the event and enthusiastically celebrated ABC’s nonprofit educational mission and the honored recipients of the 2017 ABC Botanical Excellence Awards. The guest list was composed largely of ABC Sponsor Members and members of ABC’s Board of Trustees, Advisory Board, and Director’s Circle. The evening was a delightful melding of lively conversation, vegetarian appetizers, and cocktails.

ABC chose two books to receive its 2017 ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Awards. The first, Chinese Medicinal Plants, Herbal Drugs and Substitutes: An Identification Guide (Kew Publishing, 2017), is the recipient of the Duke Award in the reference/technical category, and the second, Joseph Banks’ Florilegium: Botanical Treasures from Cook’s First Voyage (Thames & Hudson, 2017), was chosen for the consumer/popular category. This is the third time that ABC has awarded the Duke Award in both categories in the same year, and the first year that the award has been given to a text on Chinese medicinal herbs. [Editor's note: A review of Chinese Medicinal Plants, Herbal Drugs and Substitutes appears on page 74 of this issue. See page 54 for our feature article on Joseph Banks’ Florilegium.]



The ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award for 2017 was presented to Professor Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, an Israeli organic chemist and the “father of cannabis research.” Mechoulam was the first researcher to isolate, determine the structure of, and synthesize delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive and intoxicating component of cannabis (Cannabis spp., Cannabaceae).

Pharmatoka SAS, a French company that specializes in the research, development, and production of herbal dietary ingredients for urogenital health conditions, was the recipient of the 2017 Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award.



ABC also presented its first annual Fredi Kronenberg Excellence in Research and Education in Botanicals for Women’s Health Award to Tieraona Low Dog, MD, a highly respected expert in integrative medicine and women’s health. 

Richard “Dick” Griffin was the recipient of the ABC Champion Award for 2017. Griffin has consistently served ABC and other organizations in the natural products community through partnerships with his insurance companies, Grifcon Enterprises and Griffin Insurance Services, and his consulting work with R-T Specialty, LLC.

The 2017 ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award was presented to Jon Benninger, vice president of Informa Exhibitions’ Global Health & Nutrition Network.

James A. Duke Botanical Literature Award Presented in Reference and Consumer Categories

ABC gives the Duke Award annually to books that contribute significantly to the medicinal plant-related literature and the fields of botany, taxonomy, ethnobotany, pharmacognosy, phytomedicine, and other related disciplines.

The Duke Award was created in 2006 to honor economic botanist and author James A. Duke, PhD, who died on December 10, 2017. Duke’s prestigious career achievements in economic botany and ethnobotany include decades of work at the United States Department of Agriculture and the authorship of more than 30 reference and consumer books. Among his many other positions, he was also a co-founding member of ABC’s Board of Trustees.

Reference/Technical Category

Chinese Medicinal Plants, Herbal Drugs and Substitutes was written by Christine Leon, PhD, and Lin Yu-Lin as the culmination of a 20-year collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England, and the Institute of Medicinal Plant Development (IMPLAD) at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, China. The Kew-IMPLAD collaboration included 14 field expeditions into 15 geographical regions in China, in which 4,500 reference specimens were collected and cross-referenced with herbarium vouchers.

Gina Fullerlove, head of publishing at Kew, thanked ABC for its recognition and acknowledgement. “This was a challenging and hugely collaborative project for Kew as its publisher,” she said. “Our specialist expertise in developing and designing highly illustrated reference works, our understanding of content and how it is used, along with experienced botanical editorial skills, were deployed throughout the project. The Kew Publishing team worked with the authors at all stages to develop a reference work that we hope will be accessible and of value to the plant science and phytomedicine communities it aims to serve.”

In order to help prevent accidental or intentional adulteration, this text provides an accurate and authoritative resource for the purpose of herb industry quality control. The text contains more than 3,000 full-color, annotated images of medicinal plants in situ and of specific plant parts used in traditional formulas labeled with both Chinese Pinyin names and current scientific names.

Co-author Leon commented: “Accurate species identification of Chinese plants used in traditional medicines and other natural products is vital if they are to be safe and fit-for-purpose. Our joint Kew-IMPLAD field expeditions across China these last 20 years provide the backdrop to our morphological identification guide, which aims to provide the tools for resolving, at least in part, some of this challenging issue. Aware of ABC’s excellence in herbal quality-assurance initiatives, it is a huge honor and privilege, therefore, for my co-author Lin Yu-Lin and me to accept the ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award for 2017.”

Consumer/Popular Category

Joseph Banks’ Florilegium was written by Mel Gooding; David Mabberley, PhD; and Joe Studholme. The 320-page book highlights 147 full-page, color botanical prints that resulted from the work of the English botanist and naturalist Joseph Banks and the skilled team he oversaw on Captain James Cook’s famous South Pacific voyage on the HMS Endeavour from 1768 to 1771. After the voyage, Banks had 743 copper-plate engravings made from the artwork of the Scottish artist Sydney Parkinson, who was part of Banks’ team on the expedition. The engravings, known collectively as Banks’ Florilegium, were printed and published in color for the first time between 1980 and 1990, with a limited number of complete sets being produced. The selection included in the book comes from those prints, making them available to the general public for the first time in one volume. 

Studholme, who helped oversee the printing process, expressed his pleasure at seeing Banks’ work recognized. “We feel greatly honored that Joseph Banks’ Florilegium has received the James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award,” he said. “Ever since we first embarked on the Florilegium project in 1980, it was always my ambition to publish a well-illustrated accompanying book so that more people would learn about the extraordinary achievements of Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on the Endeavour voyage and the wonderful skills of their draughtsman, Sydney Parkinson.”

Philip Watson, commissioning editor of Thames & Hudson, the publisher of the book, commented: “It’s fitting that Joseph Banks’s work should be recognized now, 250 years after he set sail with Captain Cook, gathering plant specimens, [some of which] were then still unknown to science. Joseph Banks’ Florilegium includes some of the most precise and exquisite examples of botanical illustration ever made. They continue to demonstrate the power of the relationship between art and botanical science. It’s an honor for Thames & Hudson to publish these exceptional prints for the first time in book form.”

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC, said: “As a science-based research and education organization, ABC is committed to recognizing excellent publications in the various fields related to herb and medicinal plant sciences. These two landmark volumes of this past year are particularly poignant, since 2017 is the year that Jim Duke died. We at ABC are certain that Jim would have heartily agreed with our selection of these two uniquely significant contributions to the world’s botanical literature.”

Past Duke Award recipients include Handbook of Essential Oils: Science, Technology, and Applications, 2nd edition (2016); Clinical Aromatherapy, 3rd edition (2015); Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge (2014); Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, 2nd edition (2013); Medicinal Plants and the Legacy of Richard E. Schultes (2012; reference/technical category) and Smoke Signals (2012; consumer/popular category); the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Botanical Pharmacognosy (2011; reference/technical category) and Healing Spices (2011; consumer/popular category); Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health (2010); An Oak Spring Herbaria (2009); and Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition (2008). 

Raphael Mechoulam Receives ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award

ABC presents this annual award, named in honor of the late, celebrated Professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, to an individual who has made significant research contributions in the fields of pharmacognosy, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, or other related scientific disciplines. Farnsworth, who died in 2011, was a highly published and internationally renowned research professor of pharmacognosy, a senior university scholar in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of the co-founding members of ABC’s Board of Trustees. 

Mechoulam, a professor of medicinal chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, has been investigating Cannabis compounds for more than 50 years. “Cannabis has been known for millennia both for its therapeutic effects and for its effects on mood and behavior. However, as the chemistry of the cannabis constituents had not been well established when we started our research in the 1960s, there was essentially no modern medical use of cannabis,” he said. “Present-day pharmacology and clinical work with any drug — including drugs from plants — [are] based on reliable chemical knowledge.”

In the 1960s, his research team became the first to isolate THC and elucidate its structure. They also established the structure of cannabidiol (CBD), a psychoactive but non-intoxicating constituent of cannabis, and isolated other cannabinoids, including precursors of THC and CBD. “Later we synthesized these constituents and thus made them available for research,” Mechoulam said.

Subsequently, Mechoulam and colleagues began to investigate the effects of various cannabinoids on human health. In the 1980s, he discovered that CBD has potent antiseizure properties and that THC can help alleviate certain side effects of chemotherapy in children with cancer. He also was part of the research team that found the first evidence of an endogenous ligand for cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

“ABC is pleased and honored to bestow the Norman R. Farnsworth Award to Professor Mechoulam,” said Blumenthal. “He is recognized internationally for his many compelling and pioneering discoveries regarding the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis. These accomplishments created new research opportunities in the novel field of the human endocannabinoid system, one of the most important regulatory systems in human physiology.”

Mechoulam has published more than 380 scientific journal articles to date, and he continues to investigate cannabinoids and serve as an advocate of the healing properties of cannabis. “I strongly believe that plant and endogenous cannabinoids or their derivatives will become major drugs,” he said.

Throughout his career, Mechoulam has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Discovery Award, an EMET Prize in Exact Sciences, and lifetime achievement awards from the International Cannabinoid Research Society, the Eicosanoid Research Foundation, and the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, among others.

Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer, noted: “Professor Mechoulam is truly a giant among natural products scientists. He made some of the most impactful discoveries in the area of botanical research. With the elucidation of the structures of THC, CBD, and many of the minor cannabinoids, he laid the foundation for scientific research on cannabis. The discovery of endogenous ligands for cannabinoid brain receptors provided an avenue for numerous researchers to investigate the physiological processes in which the endocannabinoid system is involved.” 

Ethan Russo, MD, the director of research and development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, praised Mechoulam’s groundbreaking research on cannabis and its compounds. “The work of Professor Mechoulam has been exemplary, not only to cannabinoid science, but in demonstrating the complexity and applicability of botanical medicine to therapeutic frontiers,” said Russo, who is also an ABC Advisory Board member.

Past recipients of the ABC Farnsworth Award include Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, PhD (2016); John T. Arnason, PhD (2015); Harry Fong, PhD (2014); Gordon Cragg, PhD (2013); De-An Guo, PhD (2012); Djaja Soejarto, PhD (2011); A. Douglas Kinghorn, PhD (2010); Rudolf Bauer, PhD (2009); Ikhlas Khan, PhD (2008); Hildebert Wagner, PhD (2007); Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD (2006); and Joseph Betz, PhD (2005).

Pharmatoka Receives ABC Varro E. Tyler Excellence in Phytomedicinal Research Award

The ABC Tyler Award was created to honor one of the most respected scientists in late 20th-century herbal medicine and pharmacognosy. Varro E. Tyler, PhD, was an early member of ABC’s Board of Trustees and vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Purdue University. He was the senior author of six editions of a leading pharmacognosy textbook and numerous other professional and popular books and academic articles. Tyler encouraged scientific and product integrity, and envisioned a rational phytomedicinal health care sector that valued the proper evaluation of products’ quality, safety, and efficacy.

“Pharmatoka is an excellent example of a phytomedicine manufacturer that has focused on funding clinical research on its key formulation, and, as such, is highly deserving of the ABC Tyler Award,” said Blumenthal. “Pharmatoka is respected for its research leadership on cranberry [Vaccinium macrocarpon, Ericaceae], and its research has helped set a therapeutic standard for cranberry extracts.”

Gafner said: “I congratulate Pharmatoka for this award, which is well deserved due to the company’s efforts to support its cranberry extract with clinical evidence. Of the many clinical trials that Pharmatoka initiated, I am particularly impressed by the study into the safety and efficacy of cranberry for infants and children between one month and three years of age. Clinical data on the benefits and adverse event potential in infants are lacking for a majority of herbal ingredients, despite the fact that parents often welcome safe and effective botanical dietary supplements for this age group. It is my hope that the pioneering work of Pharmatoka will inspire other suppliers and manufacturers of dietary supplements to follow suit.”

In 2004, Pharmatoka began developing a cranberry fruit juice extract for urinary tract heath, and the company launched its flagship product, ellura (sold as urell in European markets), two years later. Each ellura capsule contains 36 mg of bioactive cranberry proanthocyanidins (PACs), which have been shown to be able to reduce the adherence of certain bacteria to the lining of the urinary tract. In clinical trials, ellura has been shown to help reduce the frequency of recurrent cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), a type of urinary tract infection. To date, seven clinical trials have been conducted on ellura.

“I very much appreciate the honor that ABC has bestowed on the work that Pharmatoka has done during the past 12 years,” said Gunter Haesaerts, founder and CEO of Pharmatoka. “Pioneering the fundamental science of cranberry PACs and clinical observation of bacterial anti-adhesion was challenging but rewarding in the end. All that work eventually led to the creation of the first-ever cranberry PAC-based traditional herbal medicine,” he added, referring to the European regulatory approval of an herbal medicine based on traditional use and modern research.

According to its website, “Pharmatoka selects only top-quality [active ingredients] with full scientific support and drug master files…. We partner with an active scientific committee of international scientists from various fields of medicine and research.” In 2014, Pharmatoka created its second product, Prostaril, an extract of saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae) for prostate health, and the company is in the process of developing other phytomedicinal products.

Previous recipients of the ABC Tyler Award include Brassica Protection Products (2016), MediHerb/Integria Healthcare (2015), SFI Flordis International (2014), Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Company (2013), Horphag Research (2012), Bioforce AG (2011), New Chapter (2010), Bionorica AG (2009), Indena SpA (2008), and Dr. Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals (2007).

Tieraona Low Dog Receives Inaugural ABC Fredi Kronenberg Excellence in Botanicals for Women’s Health Award

This inaugural award is named in honor of distinguished researcher, educator, and longtime ABC Board of Trustees member Fredi Kronenberg, PhD, who died in April 2017. Kronenberg dedicated her professional life to the study of medicinal plants and phytomedicines for women’s health conditions, and was particularly interested in phytoestrogen-containing botanicals, such as black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae), for the treatment of menopause symptoms.

Kronenberg was a champion of integrative medicine and co-founded a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) center at Columbia University: the first CAM program at an Ivy League school. For 10 years, she also co-directed an onsite five-day continuing education course for physicians and other health care providers interested in botanical medicine.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the inaugural Fredi Kronenberg award from the American Botanical Council,” said Low Dog. “I share [this award] with all of my colleagues who are dedicated to using the best of scientific research and traditional wisdom to improve the lives of women through the gifts of herbal medicine.

“Fredi was brilliant and unassuming: a scientist who loved the natural world,” Low Dog continued. “We shared a passion for herbal medicine and women’s health, exchanging notes, ideas, and papers. She was a fabulous photographer, and we spent many afternoons wandering through gardens and forests. We served together on editorial and advisory boards, and nurtured a friendship that spanned more than two decades.”

Low Dog has dedicated her career to integrative medicine research and education, and she is a passionate advocate of and expert in natural medicine for women’s health. She is the founding director of Medicine Lodge Ranch, a natural medicine school for clinicians and health care providers located in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. She also directed the first Interprofessional Fellowship in Integrative Health and Medicine at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine.

Previously, Low Dog served on the United States Pharmacopeia’s Dietary Supplements and Botanicals Expert Information Panel, which she chaired for 10 years. She also has served on the advisory council for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (now known as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) and was an appointed member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy. In addition, Low Dog is a founding member of the American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health, and is on the editorial board of Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society. She is also a long-time member of the ABC Advisory Board.

“The ABC Board of Trustees believed that establishing an award in Fredi’s name was an appropriate way to honor Fredi’s extensive professional commitment to research in and integration of herbs and phytomedicines in women’s health, both in selfcare and health care” said Blumenthal. “It was clear to ABC that our friend and colleague Dr. Low Dog, due to her considerable educational efforts in the growing area of botanicals in women’s health, should be the initial recipient of this award.”

Michael Balick, PhD, a member of the ABC Board of Trustees and the vice president and director of the Institute of Economic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden, said: “There is no one more deserving of the first ABC Fredi Kronenberg Award than Tieraona Low Dog. She has been a leader in the field of women’s health for years, and a mentor to so many in this field.”

Throughout her career, Low Dog has received numerous honors and recognitions, including lifetime achievement awards from the Nutrition Business Journal (2017) and Scripps Health (2017), an Herbal Insight Award from the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; 2015), and The People’s Pharmacy Award for Excellence in Research and Communication for the Public Health from NPR’s “The People’s Pharmacy” radio show (2010). In addition, she has spoken at more than 550 conferences and authored or co-authored more than 45 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, 22 chapters for medical textbooks, and multiple books, including Healthy At Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions (National Geographic Books, 2015), Integrative Women’s Health (Oxford University Press, 2010 and 2015), and Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative Medicine: A Clinical Guide (Churchill Livingstone, 2005).

“Dr. Low Dog much deserves this inaugural ABC Fredi Kronenberg Award,” said Gafner. “She has made countless contributions to improve women’s health through lifestyle interventions and herbal medicine in everyday practice as a physician, through publication of scientific texts, and presentations and discussions at symposia, trade events, and on TV shows. Without a doubt, she has been one of the most impactful people in the area of herbal supplements and women’s health over the past two decades.”

Dick Griffin Named ABC Champion for 2017

The ABC Champion Award was created to recognize individuals who have been outstanding supporters of ABC and have helped the organization promote and achieve its nonprofit educational mission, whether through monetary support or contributions of time. The generosity of ABC’s friends and members is vital to the nonprofit’s continued success and growth.

“Dick is an extraordinarily generous man,” said Blumenthal.“He created a great business opportunity for himself and others when he foresaw an opportunity to pool the positive safety records of many companies in the herb and dietary supplements industry to produce the industry’s premier product liability insurance program. This has resulted in great savings for many leading companies, allowing them to invest in other areas of product development, research, and growth. Dick has shared this good fortune, which has been greatly beneficial to ABC, its members, and its educational mission.”

ABC Development Director Denise Meikel commented: “Dick is kind, funny, and a true gentleman. As an ardent supporter of ABC, both personally and professionally, his efforts have helped continue and expand ABC’s reach throughout the years.”

Griffin is a commercial lines insurance broker with more than 50 years of experience in the natural products industry. In 1996, he formed the National Products Liability Insurance program for the US dietary supplement industry with the goal of creating insurance products that fit the specific, unique needs of manufacturers and suppliers. Through his idea of pooling applicants, he was able to provide these services with lower premiums and higher standards of safety coverage.

Griffin thanked ABC for the award, stating: “I’ve worked with members of the American Botanical Council and other innovators in the natural products space for many years, and I’m so honored to be awarded this significant recognition. I’ve spent my life’s work finding insurance solutions that help individuals and businesses succeed. I wanted to be sure the innovators could focus on developing products to improve customer health goals while our insurance programs protected their companies.”

Through his work and connections with other companies and organizations in the natural products industry, Griffin has fostered a beneficial partnership with ABC and provides the nonprofit with quarterly override contributions. This effort, in addition to other donations initiated by Griffin, has provided ABC with approximately $100,000 since 2010.

Currently, the scope of Griffin’s program has expanded to the cannabis industry, with the goal to provide all lines of insurance coverage to medicinal cannabis dispensaries and related businesses in states where these enterprises have been legalized.

ABC created the Champion Award in 2015. Previous recipients include medicinal plant expert Josef Brinckmann of Traditional Medicinals (2016); Ed Smith, co-founder of HerbPharm (2015); and Terry Lemerond, founder of Europharma, Inc. and Enzymatic Therapy (2014).

Griffin’s daughters, Nicole Griffin and Rene Kim, accepted the award on his behalf at the ceremony.

Jon Benninger Receives 2017 ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award

Named for ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal, this award is given to an individual who has played a significant role in creating a sense of community among herbalists, researchers, members of the herb and natural products communities and industries, and others who work in the area of medicinal plants.

At Informa, Benninger is in charge of the strategic direction and growth of two of the largest natural products trade shows in the United States, SupplySide West and SupplySide East. He also works closely with Informa’s Natural Products INSIDER, a leading industry publication. In addition, he frequently collaborates with those responsible for other Informa events and publications, such as Natural Products Expo West and Vitafoods, and the Nutrition Business Journal.

“It is an incredible honor to be associated with the people who have received the Mark Blumenthal Community Builder Award in prior years,” said Benninger. “I must share this recognition with all of my colleagues in our company and our industry who have been a part of SupplySide over the last two decades. It is a privilege to work with all of you toward our shared vision of healthy people, healthy markets, and a healthy world.”

Blumenthal noted: “Jon is largely responsible for creating and growing one of the global herb industry’s most significant events: the SupplySide West trade show and conference held every year in Las Vegas. Through the SupplySide events, Jon has brought together thousands of people: herb growers, producers, brokers, manufacturers, consultants, and numerous other stakeholders in the global botanical industry and extended community. Many people in the fast-growing herb and dietary supplements industry owe a debt of gratitude to Jon for his vision and foresight in creating the highly beneficial SupplySide shows.”

Benninger began working for the Phoenix, Arizona-based media company Virgo Publishing in 1995 as the founding editor of Natural Products INSIDER. One year later, in 1996, he helped launch Virgo’s first SupplySide trade show, which was held in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2014, Virgo was acquired by London-based Informa. Before his current position, Benninger worked in a variety of roles at Virgo, including editor, publisher, group publisher, business development director, and vice president of business development.

Benninger also serves on the boards and committees of various organizations in the natural products community. Currently, Benninger is a member of the AHPA’s communications committee, the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s communications and media outreach committee, and the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA). In addition, he is a member of ABC’s Director’s Circle and on the board of trustees of the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona.

Previous recipients of the Community Builder Award include Ikhlas Khan, PhD, the director of the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research (2016); Michael Tierra, herbalist and co-founder of the American Herbalists Guild (2015); Loren Israelsen, president of UNPA (2014); Sara Katz, co-founder of Herb Pharm and past president of the United Plant Savers (UpS) (2013); and Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist, teacher, author, and founder of UpS (2012).

—ABC Staff