The new HerbalGram 40 Project and Fund has been established to grow ABC’s unique scientific research and education mission. ABC is inviting comments and donations for the new initiative via the HerbalGram 40 Project and Fund page.
The initiative is also a way for ABC supporters to identify enhancements to existing ABC programs and suggest possible new programs and projects relevant to the herbal community.
“The history of HerbalGram’s first 40 years of publication reflects much of the history and evolution of the modern herb and medicinal plant movement in the United States and beyond,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, and co-creator of HerbalGram. “Many of the articles in HerbalGram provided thought leadership to the emerging herb community, in areas of research, clinical practice, industry, and product development.
“Over the past few years, numerous ABC members and various herb community colleagues have stated repeatedly how important it is for those of us who have many years of experience in the herb movement to write its history for the benefit of the younger leaders who are embracing the herbal agenda, and for future generations.”
HerbalGram at 40
HerbalGram was created in the early 1980s by Blumenthal, then the owner of an herb wholesale company in Austin, TX, and Rob McCaleb, then the research director at Celestial Seasonings herbal tea company in Boulder, Colorado.
The first issue of HerbalGram was an eight-page newsletter printed in the summer of 1983. The lead articles in that first edition announced the formation of two new herb organizations, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), now the leading trade association dealing with herbs and medicinal plants, and the Herb Research Foundation, a nonprofit research and education organization. For its first five years, HerbalGram was the official publication of both organizations.
In November 1988, Blumenthal — along with renowned ethnobotanist James A. Duke, PhD (1929–2017), and acclaimed pharmacognosist Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD (1930–2011) — founded the ABC to support the development of HerbalGram into a four-color, peer-reviewed publication. At that time, other than a few scientific journals, there was very little reliable information available on herbs, medicinal plants, and their products in the market. In the past 35 years, ABC has grown into an internationally respected organization which has reached members in more than 80 countries, with numerous publications and programs.
In the current issue of HerbalGram (#138), Blumenthal has written an extensive, seven-page history of the publication in his “Dear Reader” column, which is usually one page. Blumenthal’s personal and historical narrative documents the evolution of both HerbalGram and ABC, providing examples of key ABC projects whose geneses are based on seminal HerbalGram articles. These include ABC’s translation and publication of The Complete German Commission E Monographs—Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines in 1998, ABC’s 2-3-page HerbClip summaries of clinical and other scientific research papers, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP), and many other educational projects and programs.
As part of the yearlong HerbalGram 40 Project, ABC is reviewing the history of HerbalGram via its key articles in a series of four timelines.
“There is so much substantial and relevant content in 40 years that we have divided the extensive annotated timeline into four decades, with each decade to be published in the next four issues of our quarterly publication, beginning with issue 138,” Blumenthal explained.
The 10-page, annotated timeline of HerbalGram’s first decade (1983–1993) is featured in issue 138, which was published in September 2023.
In comments submitted to ABC about HerbalGram, Peggy Brevoort, a veteran of the US herb industry who spent 20 years on the ABC Board of Trustees, stated: “It’s not often we can say, ‘We made a difference in the world.’ That is the truth about ABC and its publication HerbalGram — a true treasure of knowledge of the plant kingdom as well as a living history of the herbal renaissance in the United States and throughout the world! Here's to another 40!”
Tieraona Low Dog, MD, ABOIM, integrative physician, author, and educator, commented: “A great big THANK YOU for 40 years of being the very best in class when it comes to herbal research, science, regulatory issues, and conservation. I have an entire shelf filled with years of HerbalGram issues. They are a treasure trove of unbiased information that I can use as a physician and herbalist. But even more than that, they are a beautiful tribute to the powerful and enduring relationship we have with the plant world.”
Jim Emme, CEO of NOW Foods, stated: “HerbalGram has had quite an impact on my life and career. Many years ago, my sister, [who] was a Master Gardener, ... subscribed to HerbalGram. She gave me a ‘bootleg’ copy and, even though I was a food chemist at the time, it introduced me to the world and science of botanicals. And now here I am, decades later, the CEO of NOW, a dietary supplement company, interested and involved in all aspects of the botanical industry and still relying on HerbalGram to provide inspiration, trusted information, and resources.”