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2012: A Year of Progress and Growth at ABC

At its very core, the American Botanical Council’s (ABC) mission centers on the enhancement of public wellbeing by improving the lives of people and the world through increasing the quality and quantity of information on the responsible uses of medicinal plants and related beneficial plant materials. In 2012, ABC continued to work toward that goal by promoting the use of herbs, essential oils, teas, and other beneficial botanicals for responsible healthcare and self-care on a global basis. ABC’s approach is based on a unique, ever-improving, and expanding mix of educational services, including printed publications, a searchable website, online databases, public lectures, media education, consulting and research services, an online bookstore, herbal demonstration gardens, an internship program, and more.

These services reach a broad array of constituents — more than 3,000 ABC members and tens of thousands of additional consumers in 81 countries. They include the following areas of stakeholders: consumers, healthcare practitioners, researchers, educators, professionals from all segments of the natural products and health industry, government employees, and members of trade, local, and national media.

Below is a brief look at some of ABC’s activities and accomplishments in 2012.

New Staff

ABC welcomed Jenny Perez, a former ABC volunteer, as the new education coordinator (see Employee Profile on page 14). Jenny came to Austin from Bastyr University, where she taught medicine-making classes to naturopathic students, as well as an undergraduate course called “Herbs and Food” and a series on “Medicinal and Edible Plants in the Landscape.” Jenny also created and led the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program, which combined permaculture design, biodynamic agriculture, and landscaping. 

In 2012, in an effort to increase services to and communication with our members, ABC added a communications and marketing position that was filled by Sara O'Connor. In addition to her degree in radio and television, Sara brings with her years of nonprofit experience and a gift for communicating through multiple channels, including video, the Internet, social media, and print.

Mary Ceallaigh joined ABC in late 2012 as the new executive assistant to ABC’s Founder and Executive Director, Mark Blumenthal. Mary has a bachelor’s degree in Human Development, is a certified yoga instructor, and has a passion for health and wellness.

Three New Benefits for ABC Members

In 2012, ABC put its highly respected reference book, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, on its website at, making it ABC’s 8th searchable database available to ABC members. Used for years by educators, researchers, practitioners, industry members, and others, the content contained in The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs database provides extensive therapeutic monographs and clinical study details on 30 popular herbs in the United States. 

In response to demands for increased information about what’s happening in the herbal community, ABC also created a new publication for its members in 2012. Published weekly, ABC’s Herbal News & Events provides updates on conferences, symposia, webinars, and other educational opportunities, as well as links to recent herb-related media stories from around the world. 

ABC also improved its highly acclaimed, peer-reviewed HerbalGram in 2012 by making the journal’s content available online in a gorgeous, full-color, page-flip version or by PDF, which ABC members can access on their smartphones, tablets, and computers.

New Garden

ABC added a Sacred Seeds Garden to its more than 25 onsite herbal demonstration gardens. This garden is part of the international Sacred Seeds effort to conserve, through planting and harvesting, seeds that are historically important to a region. ABC’s Sacred Seeds Garden focuses on medicinal plants used traditionally by Native Americans and early Mexican and European settlers in the Central Texas region. This garden is becoming an important part of ABC’s educational services to dietetic and pharmacy interns, and many visitors including the general public, herbalists, and other health professionals. 

Supply-Chain Integrity Programs

ABC continued making progress on its newest programs, including the American Botanical Council-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia-National Center for Natural Products Research (ABC-AHP-NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Program, and the ABC Solvents Reference Book Project. Both of these educational efforts seek to improve the integrity of the global herb supply-chain in order to help ensure that consumers have access to clean, accurately identified, safe, and beneficial herbal products. 

In 2012, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program produced three extensively peer-reviewed articles focusing on the adulteration of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, Ericaceae) extract, skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora, Lamiaceae) herb, and so-called grapefruit seed extract. All are available for free on ABC’s website. 

ABC solicited and organized constructive comments from 25 international peer reviewers in academia, government, and industry, which have helped shape the development of an ABC Solvents Reference Book. The newest draft, which will undergo a second round of peer review in 2013, includes additional text and graphics to make the book more readable and engaging. ABC hopes to publish the book this year.

Ongoing ABC Educational Activities

Media education continues to be an important feature of ABC’s educational mission. In 2012, ABC fielded approximately 50 media requests. Serving as a reliable third-party resource makes it possible for ABC to help the media better understand and interpret the scientific data surrounding herbs and other beneficial botanicals. 

Blumenthal delivered 45 lectures on issues concerning the botanical and natural products industry. Traveling more than 60,000 miles, he visited 19 different cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, where he made presentations on quality control issues — particularly problems related to adulteration of botanical materials. 

ABC’s 2012 internship program trained 17 pharmacy and dietetic interns from sixth-year pharmacy school and graduate dietetic programs. At ABC, interns learn from knowledgeable professionals, conduct research on herbal topics, work with herbs in ABC’s gardens, and prepare herbal teas, tinctures, salves, and other remedies. For many of these students, ABC’s internship was their introduction to the traditional lore and science behind botanicals and herbal medicine. 

New Awards for 2012

Blumenthal was honored to receive two awards in 2012. He was named one of the first Honorary Advisory Board Members of the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Blumenthal also was named a Natural Legend by New Hope Natural Media for his significant contributions to the natural products community.

Each year, ABC presents awards recognizing excellence in the herbal community. In 2012, ABC created two categories for its James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Awards: Consumer/Popular and Reference/Technical. At the 7th annual ABC Celebration and Awards Ceremony in March 2012, Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, received the Consumer/Popular category award for his book Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. Roy Upton received the Reference/Technical category award for the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia’s Botanical Pharmacognosy: Microscopic Characterization of Botanical Medicines. In addition, Bioforce AG received the ABC Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award, and Professor Djaja Doel Soejarto, PhD, was awarded the ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award.

ABC Publications

Providing high-quality and reliable science-based information is an essential component of ABC’s educational mission. In 2012, with the addition of its newest publication Herbal News & Events, ABC dramatically increased the number of publications and the amount of content available to ABC members. ABC published the following:

  • Four issues of the quarterly publication HerbalGram. Topics covered include the following: numerous Research Reviews — including pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides, Geraniaceae) use for acute bronchitis in children and the use of butterbur root (Petasites hybridus, Asteraceae) extract for migraines — medicinal cannabis (Cannabis spp., Cannabaceae) updates; articles on adulteration of bilberry, skullcap, and so-called “grapefruit seed extract;” a seminal article on herb regulation; an update on the controversial ingredient DMAA; and much more.
  • 12 issues of the monthly publication HerbalEGram. This e-newsletter includes original articles by ABC editorial staff, updates on community news, links to current media stories and events, and a featured book section.
  • 360 HerbClips. ABC publishes 15 HerbClips twice per month containing summaries and critical reviews of recent clinical trials and other publications relevant to the herbal community.
  • 29 issues of ABC’s newest publication, Herbal News & Events. In addition to providing media updates, this weekly e-publication provides information on upcoming conferences, webinars, seminars, and other events.

Anniversaries and Milestones

In 2012, ABC entered its 25th year of operation. Originally founded to support the publication of HerbalGram, ABC has grown tremendously over the years, both in terms of the quantity and quality of the educational services it provides and the number of individuals benefiting from those resources.

ABC is looking forward to continuing to provide high-quality, peer-reviewed information to the herbal community and invites its members and stakeholders to help it celebrate some exciting upcoming milestones in 2013: 

  • ABC will move into its 26th year as it celebrates its official 25th birthday.
  • ABC will publish the 100th issue of its acclaimed journal, HerbalGram.
  • HerbalGram will celebrate its 30th birthday.
  • HerbClip will turn 20.
  • And, HerbalEGram, ABC’s monthly e-newsletter, will observe its 10th anniversary.

More information on becoming an ABC member and supporting ABC’s unique nonprofit educational mission is available by contacting ABC at 512-926-4900 or


—Denise Meikel