The American Botanical Council (ABC) presented seven Botanical Excellence Awards during its 17th annual ABC Celebration and Botanical Excellence Awards ceremony on March 9, 2022. The event celebrated ABC’s Sponsor Members, other supporters, and some of the organization’s accomplishments over the previous year, as well as the recipients of the Botanical Excellence Awards, which ABC started in 2006. Recipients are chosen based on outstanding contributions to the herbal and botanical communities.
The Celebration was held at the Hilton Anaheim during Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California. Approximately 160 ABC supporters and friends attended the event. This included Celebration Sponsors, ABC Sponsor Members, as well as supporters of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program, ABC’s Sustainable Herbs Program, and ABC’s Adopt-an-Herb Program.
As one of the first in-person ABC events since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Celebration was a joy-filled occasion that allowed friends and colleagues to reconnect face to face. A segment of the Celebration honored the life and legacy of Steven Foster, who died on January 15, 2022. Steven was a longtime ABC Board of Trustees member and a vital and prolific contributor to ABC publications for decades. In 2022, ABC announced the creation of a new annual award: the ABC Steven Foster Botanical Conservation and Sustainability Award.
“The ABC Celebration is one of the two largest events hosted by ABC each year — the other is HerbDay at ABC’s headquarters in Austin,” said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. “This year, after having canceled the 2020 event and producing a one-hour video Celebration in 2021 due to the pandemic, it was a pleasure to see so many friends and colleagues in person. The ABC Celebration is our way of highlighting the ABC Botanical Excellence Awards and honoring people who have excelled and contributed so much to the herbal research and education community.”
United Plant Savers Receives Inaugural ABC Steven Foster Award
ABC presented its inaugural ABC Steven Foster Botanical Conservation and Sustainability Award to the United Plant Savers (UpS), a nonprofit, grassroots plant conservation organization.
The ABC Foster Award recognizes excellence in conservation, sustainability, and regenerative farming efforts related to medicinal and aromatic plants. It is named in honor of botanist, author, and photographer Steven Foster and commemorates his professional interest, writing, and advocacy work in this field. Foster had more than 40 years of experience with sustainability and conservation in the world of herbs and medicinal plants. He served on ABC’s Board of Trustees for more than two decades, was a key consultant and content contributor for ABC’s Sustainable Herbs Program (SHP), advocated for industry trade resolutions to protect threatened botanicals, and was a founding member of the UpS advisory board.
UpS was founded in 1994. Its mission is “to protect native medicinal plants, fungi, and their habitats while ensuring renewable populations for use by generations to come,” according to its website. The organization owns a 379-acre botanical and wildlife sanctuary in Rutland, Ohio, in the northern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The sanctuary is home to hundreds of plant species, many of which are native to Appalachia, including a large population of goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis, Ranunculaceae).
In 2019, during UpS’ 25th anniversary, the organization opened its Center for Medicinal Plant Conservation. This facility, at the entrance of the UpS Sanctuary, is open to the public and dedicated to renowned ethnobotanist and ABC co-founder James “Jim” Duke, PhD (1929–2017), and his wife, Peggy (1931–2021), a botanical artist. The building includes a classroom for the organization’s wide variety of educational programs, a commercial kitchen for use as a teaching apothecary, a library of medicinal plant books, a museum, an herbarium cabinet, and more. The venue is meant to engage and educate the community and serve as a model to inspire other botanical sanctuaries to establish similar centers that celebrate and help conserve the medicinal plant diversity of their respective regions.
UpS’ sanctuary is the center of its Botanical Sanctuary Network, in which UpS members designate private land to be used for the conservation of medicinal and other plants. This network includes sanctuaries throughout the United States and Canada. UpS provides certain benefits for members of the network. The organization’s Medicinal Plant Conservation Certificate Program, in which students learn about medicinal plant identification, how to sustainably harvest and prepare the plants for use, and more, has attracted people from around the world. UpS also publishes an annual journal, the Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation, and other educational content. Its Species At-Risk List tracks native species it considers to be threatened. The organization also hosts events and workshops, offers grants and awards, and more.
“It is such a special and fitting honor for UpS to be selected as the first recipient of the ABC Steven Foster Award,” Rosemary Gladstar, noted herbalist, author, and founder of UpS, wrote (email, March 19, 2022). “I know Steven would be pleased. He was an avid supporter of UpS and served on the UpS Board of Directors from 2000 to 2003. Steven brought his many skills and talents, and also his wit and wonderful sense of humor, to the board meetings. I remember thinking how much more fun, and productive, those long board meetings were when Steven was present.
“Steven was incredibly generous in sharing his many skills and talents with UpS,” Gladstar added. “He not only contributed his time and expertise to the board meetings, but also taught at several UpS events and conferences. He was a contributing author of the UpS book Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs [Inner Traditions, 2000], wrote several articles for the Journal of Medicinal Plant Conservation, and contributed many of his beautiful plant photographs for UpS’ At-Risk and To-Watch lists. These are lasting gifts to UpS.
“His crowning contribution, however, was at UpS’ 25th Anniversary Celebration and grand opening of its Center for Medicinal Plant Conservation,” Gladstar continued. “Steven, who was a close friend of the Dukes, gave a stunning keynote presentation that highlighted the life and work of [Jim and Peggy]. It seems a fitting legacy that we are now honoring Steven Foster for his numerous contributions to herbalism, his long-term love affair with the plants, his work with UpS and other plant conservation organizations, and the many gifts he shared with the herbal community over the past several decades.”
Susan Leopold, PhD, the executive director of UpS, also expressed gratitude for the award. “We are honored to be the recipient of the inaugural ABC Steven Foster Award,” Leopold wrote (email, March 11, 2022). “A huge thanks to our members, Board of Directors, and staff for their dedication to the plants. We couldn’t do what we do without them.
“Steven leaves a legacy for us all to carry on, as we advocate for the beauty and wisdom medicinal herbs provide,” Leopold added. “Steven was incredibly supportive of UpS’ most recent project: the Duke Ethnobotanical Archives. Jim and Steven were both mentors to so many. The conservation and sustainability of medicinal herbs depend on the continued mentorship of the next generation. ABC’s Steven Foster Award will elevate the work of those who carry on his spirit of mentorship, research, and advocacy.”
Blumenthal said: “While many organizations, companies, and individuals are doing excellent work in the areas of medicinal and aromatic plant conservation, sustainability, and regenerative farming in the United States and internationally, it was clear that Steven would have wanted us to recognize UpS for its laudable mission and vital work. UpS is really deserving of this recognition and is the obvious organization to receive it.”
Korean Ginseng Industry Book and Ethnobotany Memoir Receive ABC Duke Award
ABC presented its 2022 ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award to A History of the Korean Ginseng Industry(Korea Ginseng Corporation) by Il-Moo Chang, PhD, in the reference/technical category, and The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines (Viking) by Cassandra Leah Quave, PhD, in the consumer/popular category.
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 award was created in 2006 to honor economic botanist and author James A. Duke. Duke’s prestigious career achievements in economic botany and ethnobotany include decades of work as the lead medicinal plant expert at the United States Department of Agriculture and the authorship and co-authorship of more than 30 reference and consumer books. Among his many other activities and positions, he was also a co-founder of ABC and served on its Board of Trustees.
Chang is professor emeritus of the Natural Products Research Institute in the College of Pharmacy at Seoul National University. As the former director of the Korean Ginseng Research Institute, he is a leading international authority in the field of traditional Asian medicinal plants, particularly Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng, Araliaceae). His extensive historical treatise on Asian ginseng in Korea spans from the root’s first recorded use as a traditional food to today’s large international ginseng industry.
The book details the importance of Asian ginseng root in Korean history and culture. As the text describes, the government of the Republic of Korea has developed and supported Asian ginseng with extensive scientific research on its cultivation, harvest, quality control, chemistry, extraction, pharmacological and toxicological effects, and clinical benefits. This is particularly true of Korean “red” ginseng, the name given to ginseng roots that are steamed according to a traditional process that changes the roots’ color from beige to dark auburn. This steaming process also changes the roots’ chemistry.
In his pre-recorded acceptance speech, Chang said, “I am highly honored to accept the ABC Duke Award, and now I feel that a wonderful dream can come true.” Rian Lee, CEO of Korea Ginseng Corp. USA, accepted the award on Chang’s behalf at the ABC Celebration.
The Plant Hunter, Quave’s engaging memoir that recounts her global journeys, is a personal and insightful look into the importance of ethnobotany, which is the study of how people of a particular culture or region use local plants. Quave is an associate professor in the Department of Dermatology in the School of Medicine at Emory University and the curator of the Emory University Herbarium. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific publications. She is also a past president of the Society for Economic Botany, recipient of several academic awards, and host of the “Foodie Pharmacology” podcast, which discusses the connections between plants, culture, and health.
Quave told ABC (email, March 4, 2022): “I am absolutely thrilled to be recognized with the ABC Duke Award. I wrote The Plant Hunterwith the goal of sharing the amazing science behind botanicals in an accessible form, through the story of my own journey to becoming an ethnobotanist. This award is especially meaningful to me as I met Jim more than 20 years ago in the Peruvian Amazon. I so admire his books and thoroughly enjoyed discussing the amazing medical potential of plants with him. It is such an incredible honor to come full circle back to that moment with this award.”
Blumenthal congratulated the awardees. “I believe that Jim Duke would wholeheartedly approve of these two books that received the 2022 ABC awards in his name,” he said. “So would our late friend and colleague Steven Foster, who was an integral part of the Duke Award committee’s selection process since we started granting this award in 2006, when Jim was still alive. In fact, Steven and I discussed both of these books as candidates before his unexpected passing in January.
“Both books excel in communicating some essential elements related to the value of medicinal plants,” Blumenthal continued. “On behalf of all of us at ABC, our heartiest congratulations to Professors Chang and Quave for their important contributions to the world’s medicinal plant literature.”
For the first time, ABC also named an honorable mention in both Duke Award categories to reflect the large number of excellent works considered for the award. In the reference/technical category, the honorable mention is Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Volume 5: Immunology, Orthopedics, and Otolaryngology (Chelsea Green Publishing) by Jill Stansbury, ND, and in the consumer/popular category, the honorable mention is Medicinal Herbs of California: A Field Guide to Common Healing Plants (Falcon Guides) by Lanny Kaufer. (See page 66 in this issue for a review of Medicinal Herbs of California.)
Guido F. Pauli Receives ABC Farnsworth Award
Guido F. Pauli, PhD, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and the Norman R. Farnsworth Professor of Pharmacognosy in the UIC College of Pharmacy, received the 2022 ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award.
Named in honor of the internationally respected professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD (1930–2011), the ABC Farnsworth Award is given annually to an individual who has made significant research contributions in the fields of pharmacognosy (the study of drugs of natural origin, usually from plants), ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, or other scientific disciplines related to medicinal plants. Farnsworth was a widely published and internationally renowned research professor of pharmacognosy, a senior university scholar in the UIC College of Pharmacy, and one of the founding members of ABC’s Board of Trustees.
Pauli expressed appreciation for receiving the award. “Receiving the ABC Farnsworth Award is particularly special, as ABC and its community share the same passion for plants that has driven and continues to drive my research,” he said. “The joint goal of enhancing the quality of botanicals for the benefit of human health is another connection that makes this award special for me. Having worked closely and developed a very friendly personal relationship with Norman Farnsworth during my first decade at UIC, being connected to him and his legacy through this award is just wonderful.”
Pauli has belonged to the UIC College of Pharmacy since 2001, when he joined the faculty as a research associate professor in the Institute for Tuberculosis Research (ITR). He became an assistant professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy in 2002 and advanced to the rank of professor in 2012. Pauli was named the Norman R. Farnsworth Professor of Pharmacognosy in 2017 and became a UIC Distinguished Professor in 2019. He is also the associate director of ITR and the director of the UIC Pharmacognosy Institute, which evolved from the former Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences (PCRPS), an internationally renowned research center for the study of biologically active natural products.
Pauli explained that his research focuses on innovating methodology for botanical quality control and enhancing collaborative botanical research. “I think that such contributions can be significant for advancing botanicals in general,” he said.
“In my experience, the best products in daily life are created by the combination of two things: inquisitive minds and sense for quality,” Pauli continued. “This highlights the importance of doing botanical research and driving innovation for the future and explains why I find this ABC research award truly encouraging.”
Among Pauli’s most impactful research activities are investigations into the usefulness of quantitative nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), a laboratory method used to analyze natural products such as botanical extracts. He also has assessed the residual complexity of plant extracts and isolated compounds by chemical and biological methods, as well as the usefulness of centrifugal partition chromatography (CPC) as a separation technique for natural products. As co-director and later director of the UIC Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, he was instrumental in the identification of the constituents responsible for the estrogenic (and other) activities of hops (Humulus lupulus, Cannabaceae), red clover (Trifolium pratense, Fabaceae), and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis, Fabaceae). One of his most recent publications, co-authored with a group of researchers from UIC and the University of Chicago, investigated the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in human lung cells and mice and found that CBD had a significant negative effect on the virus’ replication. The results of this widely reported research collaboration were published in the scientific journal Science Advances.1
“There is no question in my mind that, if Professor Farnsworth were still alive today, he would wholeheartedly support ABC’s decision to grant this eponymous award to Professor Pauli,” said Blumenthal.
Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer, said: “I have always been impressed by the high quality of Guido Pauli’s scientific research. His hard work, passion for medicinal plants, and commitment to scientific excellence have made him one of the most prominent natural products researchers in North America at this time.”
Zeller Receives ABC Tyler Award
Max Zeller Söhne AG (“Zeller”), a Swiss company that specializes in the development, production, and marketing of clinically studied herbal medicines, received the 2022 ABC Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award. Zeller is the leading producer of phytomedicines for the Swiss market, according to its website. The history of the company dates back to 1864.
The ABC Tyler Award was created to honor one of the most respected US scientists in late-20th century herbal medicine and pharmacognosy. Professor Varro E. Tyler, PhD (1926–2001), was an early trustee of ABC and vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University. He was the senior author of six editions of a leading pharmacognosy textbook that was used widely in colleges of pharmacy in the United States and wrote 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 phytomedicinal products’ quality, safety, and efficacy.
“We are delighted and very grateful that ABC has awarded Max Zeller Söhne AG the renowned ABC Tyler Award for 2022,” said Georg Boonen, PhD, CEO of Zeller, who has been with the company for more than 22 years. “This international award acknowledges our central company mission statement: the continuous evidence-based research of herbal medicines in order to confirm with reliable scientific evidence the efficacy of our established phytopharmaceuticals, which have been used for decades with good results.”
Zeller is a family-owned company that has been based in Romanshorn, Switzerland, for five generations. Its nonprescription phytomedicinal products (herbal medicinal products, herbal self-care products, and food supplements) are available in drugstores and pharmacies in Switzerland. Zeller Medical AG, a subsidiary of Zeller, produces prescription herbal medicines for health care professionals, including products for gynecological, urological, and dermatological conditions.
The company produces five herbal medicines that are available outside of Switzerland. These products, which are sold in more than 25 countries (not yet including the United States), are marketed for sleep disorders, mild-to-moderate depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, and allergic rhinitis.
According to its website, Zeller “places the utmost importance in maintaining the highest standards … through research, rigorous processes, quality controls, and extensive product testing throughout [the] value chain.” The company follows this “seed to patient” philosophy to achieve its goal of producing products with consistent quality and efficacy.
Zeller is committed to investigating its products in human clinical trials and other studies. Among Zeller’s best-selling products are Cimidona®, a phytomedicine for menopausal symptoms that contains extracts of black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae) rhizome, and Remotiv®, a phytomedicine used to improve mood that contains extracts of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, Hypericaceae) herb.
“Zeller is truly a research-based company, and I am quite certain that Professor Tyler would heartily approve of its receiving this award,” said Blumenthal.
Gafner said: “I had the privilege to visit Zeller on two occasions and was always impressed by the company’s dedication to producing the highest quality phytomedicines. Zeller’s quality control practices are among the best in the industry, and with more than 30 clinical studies, the efficacy and safety of its products are scientifically documented. This certainly makes Zeller a worthy recipient of the ABC Tyler Award.”
Gail Mahady Receives ABC Kronenberg Award
Gail Mahady, PhD, an associate professor and director of the Clinical Pharmacognosy Laboratories in the College of Pharmacy at UIC and an expert in botanical dietary supplements and phytomedicines for women’s health and other conditions, received the 2022 ABC Fredi Kronenberg Excellence in Research and Education in Botanicals for Women’s Health Award.
The ABC Fredi Kronenberg Award was created in 2018 and named in honor of distinguished researcher, educator, and longtime ABC Board of Trustees member Fredi Kronenberg, PhD (1950–2017). Kronenberg dedicated her professional life to the study of medicinal plants and phytomedicines for women’s health conditions. She particularly was interested in botanicals such as black cohosh for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Kronenberg was a champion of integrative medicine and co-founded the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Columbia University — the first CAM program at an Ivy League school and the first government-funded CAM research and educational center. 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.
Mahady earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and a doctorate in pharmacognosy at UIC. At UIC, she is on the faculty of the Department of Pharmacy Practice in the College of Pharmacy. Previously, she was co-investigator at the UIC Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, a US National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded center that investigates the safety and mechanisms of action of botanical dietary supplements used by menopausal women as alternatives to hormone therapy.
Mahady focuses on the chemistry and pharmacology of natural products, dietary supplements, and traditional medicines and their applications for women’s reproductive health conditions (including PMS), infectious diseases (including Chlamydia and Helicobacter pylori infections), cancer, and menopausal symptoms. Like Kronenberg, she has conducted research on black cohosh. She also studies the association between vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamins A and D, and the development and metastasis of epithelial cancers. Her current interests include transcriptomics (the study of the RNA molecules in a cell or tissue) and proteomics (the large-scale study of proteins) of natural products in cancer, sarcopenia (muscle loss due to aging), and osteoporosis. Much of her research has been funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), NIH, the Regenstein Foundation, the First Analysis Institute, the Wrigley Foundation, and other sources.
Mahady is a member of several organizations, including the American Society of Pharmacognosy, and served on the United States Pharmacopeia’s Botanical Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines Expert Committee. She has consulted for the WHO’s Traditional Medicine Programme and US Federal Trade Commission. She is, or has been, an associate editor of UIC’s NAPRALERT database (which includes data from thousands of scientific papers on natural products), associate editor of Pharmaceutical Biology, contributing editor of Nutrition Reviews, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Mahady also has co-authored four editions of WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants (which include extensive reviews of widely used medicinal plants), as well as more than 100 abstracts, book chapters, and journal articles, and has given many presentations.
“I deeply appreciate and am honored to receive the ABC Fredi Kronenberg Award for 2022,” Mahady wrote (email, March 23, 2022). “Fredi was a dear friend and colleague, and I always appreciated her passion for the work and her joie de vivre, as she was great fun to be around. I am still saddened that she is no longer with us.
“I would like to thank all of my graduate students and postdocs who worked on all of the projects over the years, as well as my collaborators Dr. Alice Perez at the University of Costa Rica in San José, Dr. Armando Caceres at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala in Guatemala City, and Dr. Daniel Liu in China, and all the other people who have helped with the research,” Mahady added. “I also would like to thank Dr. Harry Fong and the late Dr. Norman Farnsworth, my mentors and advisors for many years.
“Finally, hundreds of millions of women worldwide still rely daily on traditional medicine and medicinal plants for their basic health care needs,” Mahady continued. “Medicinal plants are used to treat everything from anxiety and depression to PMS, pregnancy, menopausal symptoms, and much more. Still, only a fraction of these plants have been investigated scientifically, so plenty of work still is left to be done in the field.”
Tieraona Low Dog, MD, who received the inaugural ABC Kronenberg Award for 2017, endorsed Mahady for the award. “Dr. Mahady’s work in the field of natural products and botanical medicine is extensive and distinguished,” Low Dog wrote (email, March 23, 2022). “From her research on the use of mushrooms for cancer to the use of medicinal plants during pregnancy by Indigenous women in Central America and the evidence for botanicals during the menopause transition, Dr. Mahady brings rigor and real-world experience to all that she does. She is a beloved educator at UIC and lectures to audiences around the world about the potential for medicinal plants to improve health. She is a role model for many, and I am delighted that she is being honored with this award. It is so well deserved.”
Mary Hardy, MD, who received the ABC Kronenberg Award for 2019, also expressed approval that Mahady was selected. “It is wonderful that botanical scientist Dr. Gail Mahady is being honored with the 2022 ABC Kronenberg Award,” Hardy wrote (email, March 25, 2022). “Her scholarship and research represent outstanding contributions to the fields of women’s health and botanical medicine in the best tradition of the award’s namesake, Dr. Fredi Kronenberg. Dr. Mahady’s collegial spirit and can-do attitude make her a leader in the field of botanical research.”
Gafner wrote: “I see a lot of parallels between Dr. Mahady’s career and Dr. Kronenberg’s career, both with regard to their contributions to scientific knowledge of herbs for women’s conditions and their educational efforts to bring rational herbal medicine closer to health care professionals. She was involved early on in UIC’s Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research, which may be the most successful academic program ever initiated that focuses on the benefits of herbs for women’s health. She has made exceptional and exceptionally practical contributions in this field. I congratulate her for receiving ABC’s award, and I salute the entirety of her academic work.”
Steven Foster Posthumously Receives ABC Champion Award
ABC posthumously awarded the 2022 ABC Champion Award to Foster. The ABC Champion Award, which was first presented in 2015, is given to individuals who have donated time and/or funds to support ABC’s nonprofit research and educational mission, publications, and programs.
Foster served on the ABC Board of Trustees for 22 years, including 10 years as the board president. He wrote more than 100 articles for HerbalGram and helped support the organization’s nonprofit research and educational mission. His compelling photographs of medicinal plants appeared in every issue of HerbalGram since issue 24 in 1991 and graced the covers of 59 issues.
Blumenthal said: “It is quite clear that as much or more than anyone else, Steven gave his time, energy, writing, and photography to support and expand ABC’s unique nonprofit mission. We here at ABC are all in agreement that Steven is truly deserving of this award. This is in recognition of his invaluable and irreplaceable gifts to ABC.”
Emily Ruff Receives ABC Herbal Community Builder Award
Emily Ruff, a community herbalist, director of Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary in Vermont, and founder and CEO of the Florida School of Holistic Living, received the 2022 ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award.
The ABC Blumenthal Award honors individuals who have played a significant role in creating a sense of community among herbalists, botanical researchers, members of the herb and natural products communities and industries, and others who work in the various areas of medicinal and aromatic plants.
Ruff has practiced herbalism for more than two decades and is involved with many plant-related organizations and programs that engage the community. At an early age, her passion for gardening and botany grew while wandering the wilderness and digging in the soils of Florida with her grandfather, who was a tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum, Solanaceae) farmer and urban gardener, and her father, a botany and astronomy professor. She later learned from healers in Guatemala, from Rosemary Gladstar in the mountains of Vermont, and from herbalists Carolyn Whitford and George D’Arcy at the Florida apothecary Leaves & Roots. She studied ethnobotany at the University of Central Florida and curanderismo (Latin American folk medicine) at the University of New Mexico.
Ruff has served on the board of UpS and multiple terms as president of the Florida Herb Society. She also founded the popular annual Florida Herbal Conference in 2012. After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, Ruff founded the Orlando Grief Care Project, which distributed hundreds of herbal remedies to the traumatized community. Ruff also has served on the board of the Mni Wiconi Clinic and Farm of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota. In addition to her passion for plants, she enjoys cooking, yoga, writing, photography, and music.
In 2018, Ruff founded a nonprofit organization to purchase the Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary in Orange, Vermont, from Gladstar, who founded it in 1987. The sanctuary, which covers about 600 acres and abuts more than 100,000 acres of contiguous forest, contains multiple biodiverse ecosystems and hundreds of uncommon plant and animal species. It is “one of New England’s foremost conservation education centers,” according to its website. The sanctuary is part of the UpS Botanical Sanctuary Network. It welcomes people to learn how to be better stewards of nature and offers online classes, self-guided day visits, guided tours, and private overnight retreats.
“I am humbled to be the 2022 recipient of the ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award,” Ruff wrote (email, March 16, 2022). “I stand on the shoulders of a long line of herbal community builders (especially Rosemary Gladstar, Steven Foster, and also the award’s namesake, Mark Blumenthal) and follow the pioneering paths that these trailblazers have carved out for future generations, including me, to walk along in our own herbal work. In a time when we are faced with so much personal and collective darkness, the plants are shining a bright light to illuminate our hearts and our paths forward. It is my sincere hope that herbal endeavors such as the Florida Herbal Conference, the Orlando Grief Care Project, and the continuation of the legacy at Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary can provide platforms for other herbalists to cultivate connection and open opportunities for service to their local and global communities.”
Gladstar endorsed Ruff for the award. “I was delighted to hear that Emily Ruff has been awarded the ABC Herbal Community Builder Award,” Gladstar wrote (email, March 17, 2022). “Having been the first recipient of this honorary award, I must admit, I have a certain affection for and attachment to it. I really can’t imagine a more fitting candidate than Emily. Though she is somewhat quiet and shy, and seldom calls attention to herself, Emily is an amazing organizer and networker. And she has worked overtime the past few years to build awareness of herbs and herbalism, not just within the herbal community, but in the broader community as well.
“As founder of The Florida School of Holistic Living and founder of the Florida Herbal Conference, Emily has helped create a sense of herbal community in the southeastern United States,” Gladstar added. “She also co-founded the Homegrown Local Food Cooperative in Orlando. Emily also served on the Medic and Healer Council [at Standing Rock] during the pipeline demonstrations [in 2016] and helped raise thousands of dollars that funded the community health clinic at Standing Rock during and after the demonstrations. An avid and dedicated plant conservationist, Emily has been an active member of UpS since its early days and also served as treasurer on the UpS Board of Directors. Currently, along with her herbal work, Emily devotes her time to wildlife and wilderness conservation.”
Blumenthal wrote: “I am pleased to choose Emily as the recipient of this year’s ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award. She was highly recommended by some of the previous recipients of this award, and after the opportunity of getting to know her a bit during the past few years, I understand their enthusiasm for their nomination, and I agree with their strong advocacy of her. Emily’s passion for herbs, people, and the plant-people interaction and her seemingly boundless energy are evident in her numerous herbal activities. She represents a younger generation of herbalists and their commitment to the idea of improved health via botanical medicine.”
The 17th annual ABC Celebration and Botanical Excellence Awards ceremony was made possible by the generous support of Alkemist Labs, Amin Talati Wasserman LLP, Applied Food Sciences, Brassica Protection Products, ChromaDex, Euromed, EuroPharma, Herbalife, Horphag Research, Indena USA, Informa, MegaFood, Natural Factors, New Chapter, NOW Foods, PlusPharma Inc., RFI, RT Specialty, United Natural Products Alliance, and Verdure Sciences.
- Nguyen LC, Yang D, Nicolaescu V, et al. Cannabidiol inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication through induction of the host ER stress and innate immune responses. Science Advances. 2022;8(8):eabi6110. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abi6110.