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Honoring Those Who Came Before Us
The somewhat worn phrase “we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us” is perhaps trite because, like so many such sayings, it’s true. At certain times all of us must stop and take stock of who we are, how we operate—professionally and personally—and where we obtained our knowledge, ideas, values, and inspiration. Much of this comes, of course, from our parents, grandparents, and other family members, and much also derives from our teachers.

Many of us in the medicinal plant community recently lost several of our most inspirational teachers: Nina Etkin, Madalene Hill, and Michael Moore. All three could not have been more different, and yet they shared a common trait—their love of plants and how they nourish and heal.

I first met Madalene Hill in the late 1970s. Over the years, she became one of my greatest teachers, with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of herbs, their botany and horticulture, their history, culture and lore, their flavors and aromas, and so much more. To me, Madalene was a modern-day Mrs. M. Grieve (the author of the classic 1930s 2volume herbal treasure A Modern Herbal).

My first meeting with Michael Moore was at his herb shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the early 1970s. Michael was one of my first teachers on herbs. Michael was one of those people who appears almost larger than life. There are few people in North America who knew more about medicinal plants in general than Michael Moore did and probably no one who knew more about Southwestern plants. Michael was a botanical dynamo, the virtual godfather of traditional herbal medicine in the United States, with a stream-of-consciousness style that kept the listener’s attention focused on his next words. No one nodded off in Michael’s lectures!

Noted ethnobotanist, scholar, and author Nina Etkin was known throughout the world of ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology as a consummate scholar who wrote extensively on the cultural aspects of plant-based foods and other plant uses. She focused on the human side of these disciplines, or as one colleague commented, putting the ethno into ethnopharmacology. Hers was one of the most popular courses at the University of Hawaii, typically filling up on the first day of registration.

We memorialize these elders in this issue, but nothing we write about them in our limited space can fully communicate the depth of their passion for plants and their interactions with people, and the contributions they made to the entire field of herbal studies.

Also in this issue, we share some fascinating folk tales on how certain herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine received their names or were discovered to have health benefits—excerpted from the book Herbal Pearls: Traditional Chinese Folk Wisdom. Another of our featured articles explores the market and regulation of supplements for pets in the United States. Such products, though less frequently covered in the media than supplements for humans, represent a growing sector of the herbal market.

Herb sales in the United States appear to be rising, if only slightly. Our annual report on herbal supplement sales is included in this issue. This year’s market report draws on additional data and follows a slightly different format than previous HerbalGram market reports. We include additional information because the herb market in the United States consists of multiple channels, some of which are tracked by different market research firms. Our 2008 herbal supplement market report addresses this complexity by incorporating additional data from the health and natural foods channel—a particularly important sector of the herbal supplement market. This year’s expanded coverage therefore provides a more comprehensive view of the overall sales of herbal dietary supplements in the United States.

–Mark Blumenthal