America's National Institutes of Health (NIH) has given a $6 million grant to fund research on the botanical ingredients St. John's wort and echinacea.
The funding which came from two departments, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), will go towards setting up a research centre based in Ames, Iowa and will be released over a five-year period.
St. John's wort, or Hypericum, is said to help mild depression, while echinacea is used to fight colds and other infections.
The new Center for Dietary Supplement Research will be made up of scientists from both Iowa State University in Ames and the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The director of the Center, Dr Diane F. Birt, is currently chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University and is an expert in nutrition and its relation to disease.
"The new centre joins five other centres to move the NIH into exciting scientific areas relating to dietary supplements used by millions of people in the US and around the world," said Dr Paul Coates, ODS director.
Other established NIH Centres are at the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Missouri, Purdue University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Arizona. All are being funded by the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (established in 1995 as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act), NIEHS, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and other organisations within the US' National Institutes of Health.
It is hoped that the research centres will advance the scientific base of knowledge on botanicals, including issues of their effectiveness, safety, and biological action.