ABC’s Blumenthal on how HerbalGram 40 project will shape future & focus of the organization

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags American botanical council botanical extracts Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program Herbal dietary supplements Botanical supplements

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the American Botanical Council, and the 40th year for the organization’s superb HerbalGram peer-review journal (that’s right, HerbalGram pre-dates ABC), and gives ABC the opportunity to take stock and think about the next 40 years.

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West show in Las Vegas, Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, explained that the organization’s new HerbalGram 40 Project and Fund has been established to grow ABC’s unique scientific research and education mission.

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.

“It [the HerbalGram 40 Project and Fund] is based on the fact that, when we thought about doing a press release about acknowledging a milestone, which we do and most organizations do to talk about various milestones, we figured this is bigger than just a press release. Ok, we did HerbalGram for 40 years now, I’ll get a couple dozen emails, 'Hey, way to go, Mark! Thank you very much', and that would be it. And we realized it’s a great time for us to stop and take stock in the organization, look at our accomplishments, tell our story, invite stakeholder and member and community input and engagement,” said Blumenthal.

“And invite people to tell us what they like about us, what they’d like to see more of, and, in some case, what areas of the herbal community – science, research, sustainability, quality control, whatever – do they think that ABC should consider either focusing stronger on, or starting a new initiative, or whatever, so long that it’s adequately resourced with staff, funding, etc. So, we gave it a name, HerbalGram 40.

“The HerbalGram 40 Project and Fund is a one year long assessment of the organization internally, with input from our stakeholders, to determine how we want to move forward, what we want to energize and prioritize, what new initiatives we may want to start, and how we can resource the organization adequately, like playing on a keyboard but at a higher octave,” he said.

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.

Blumenthal also discusses the milestones around the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP), an award-winning, large-scale program to educate members of the herbal and dietary supplement industry about ingredient and product adulteration.

Watch the video for the full interview.

For more information about the HerbalGram 40 Project and Fund, please click HERE​.

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