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In this issue we feature beautiful engravings of botanicals that come from Captain James Cook’s first historic voyage to the South Pacific in the 18th century. The head botanist on Cook’s HMS Endeavour was Joseph Banks, who, after the voyage, produced 743 copper-plate engravings based on the artwork of Sydney Parkinson, who skillfully depicted many of the plants collected during the Endeavour’s circumnavigation of the Earth. The engravings are known as Banks’ Florilegium and were printed and published in color for the first time in the 20th century.

Publisher Thames & Hudson’s new book, which recently received the 2017 ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award in the consumer/popular category, includes 147 of these prints, making them available to the public for the first time. Thanks to Thames & Hudson for providing nine beautiful prints from the book, and to HerbalGram Assistant Editor Connor Yearsley for his compelling and in-depth account of this important contribution to the world’s botanical knowledge.

Many medicinal and aromatic plants are harvested from wild populations in areas all over the world. Accordingly, the issue of sustainability and appropriate harvest of wild plants has become increasingly important in the botanical industry. Guest author Chuck Peters, PhD, a botanist at the New York Botanical Garden, writes about his 35 years of experience in assisting tropical communities with scientific methods to survey and safeguard future availability of economically important wild plant populations.

This issue’s herb profile describes devil’s claw from the deserts of southern Africa. The plant’s secondary tubers have been used traditionally for analgesic and other properties. Numerous clinical trials support the plant’s ability to relieve lower back pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis. As always, we are grateful to ABC’s Gayle Engels and Traditional Medicinals’ Josef Brinckmann for compiling traditional, pharmacopeial, and modern research information on this botanical medicine.

 We also offer an extensive review of the book that received the 2017 ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award in the reference/technical category: a massive tome on the identification of Chinese traditional herbs and drugs with about 3,000 color photos. The groundbreaking book is the product of an almost 20-year collaboration between botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Institute of Medicinal Plant Development (IMPLAD), a major research center in Beijing, China. 

Besides the two books that received ABC’s recognition this year, ABC awarded the Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award to Professor Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, and its Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award to the French company Pharmatoka. These and other ABC awards are described in this issue.

The myth of the unregulated herb industry in the United States is a theme we’ve addressed in previous years, with a seminal article on the numerous ways that herbs are regulated as dietary supplements by federal agencies in issue 93. In this issue, Karen Raterman writes on how the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the leading trade association in the US that deals primarily with herbs, has implemented numerous self-regulatory initiatives. Establishing voluntary policies and standards for responsible members of industry in various key areas in which they have expertise is a common practice in most industries. This article explains AHPA’s pioneering work on self-regulation, including the standardization of common names for herbal products and its publishing of a highly reliable guide to herb product safety labeling, plus numerous other policies and programs intended to guide its members in practices of responsible commerce.

And finally, this space in our previous issue was devoted entirely to my tribute to ABC co-founder, the beloved ethnobotanist Jim Duke, PhD. There was not space to discuss our publication of the systematic review of 19 clinical trials on ivy leaf extract, a phytomedicine of increasing popularity for its potential benefit for cough and upper respiratory tract infections. We frequently summarize systematic reviews and meta-analyses in our Research Reviews section, but this is only the second time ABC has published an original systematic review on a specific herb (the first was a review of clinical trials on ginkgo extract in normal, healthy adults in issue 67).

– Mark Blumenthal