HerbClips are two- to three-page summaries and critical reviews of scientific journal articles that cover medicinal plant-related human clinical research, analytical methods, regulatory data, market information, ethnobotanical reviews, conservation and sustainability studies, and more.
ABC members at the Academic level and above can access the entire HerbClip database containing the 7,000-plus summaries. ABC Sponsor Members and HerbClip Service Members also receive HerbClips and, when available, the PDF versions of the original articles on which they are based.
Specificity one of the key aspects of service
ABC founder and executive director Mark Blumenthal said that one of the key aspects of the peer-reviewed service is that wherever possible the research reviews contain detailed product information on the ingredients or formulations used in the studies. Doing your own search on the PubMed database, by contrast, could bring up hundreds or thousands of hits on a particular botanical search term, but often sufficient detail is lacking in the abstracts of these studies. For example, using ‘turmeric’ as the search term brings up more than 4,000 hits, the most recent of which talks about using a “highly dispersible and bioavailable curcumin” in the study. Without more detail than what is available in the abstract, this result is almost meaningless as it relates to products in the marketplace.
“The growth of the HerbClips service has paralleled the explosion of research on many propriety and patented ingredients and botanical formulations,” Blumenthal told NutraIngredients-USA. “We think one of the interesting and indeed vitally necessary features of HerbClips is that we always, wherever possible, identify the formulation or consumer product that was used in a particular study. We name the company that makes it and give a discription of the chemical formula.”
“One of the unique aspects of the HerbClip database is that it is searchable not only on the Latin name and common name of the herb but also on the company name and product name of the ingredients used in the studies,” he added.
Reining in the borrowing of science
Blumenthal said having that information in the forefront could help limit the widespread practice of trying to apply research on specific formulations to a broad category. In this way purveyors of commodity ingredients might try to ride the coattails of companies that have put more investment behind the science.
“If the study was done on a particular extract of chamomile, for example, the results of that study are not necessarily generic to all chamomile products,” Blumenthal said.
HerbClip started in 1992, with Blumenthal photocopying research results and mailing them out to members of his then 4-year-old organization. After the costs mounted, he convinced Jim Beck, founder and then co-owner of Solaray, and Ken Murdock, then-president and owner of Nature’s Way, to help underwrite the publications. HerbClip then became a permanent, funded ABC publication, and transitioned to a fully online publication in 2009.
HerbClip started in 1992, four years after ABC was founded. At the time, ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal often shared relevant news and scientific articles with friends and colleagues. These were photocopied and mailed (this was prior to email and the web). About a year later, when he learned that this activity had become increasingly costly, Blumenthal called two friends in the herb industry — Jim Beck, founder and then-owner of Solaray, and Ken Murdock, then-president and owner of Nature’s Way — and asked if they would be willing to pay for summaries of the latest herb research and related developments. They agreed, as did many others over a short period of time, and HerbClip became a permanent, funded ABC publication.