“[There have been] major new insights and progress made in the areas of methods for quality control of botanical materials, both for (clinical) research and in production; progress in the methodology for the identification and metabolism of active principles; [and] appreciation of botanical complexity, and the resulting requirements for multidisciplinary botanical research,” commented Guido Pauli, PharmD, PhD, guest editor of Fitoterapia and a professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Pharmacy.
Dr. Pauli said a variety of factors inspired the creation of the symposium, including a general lack of highly-multidisciplinary symposia that broadly covered botanical topics, research work in his UIC/NIH Botanical Center (which had received NIH funding since inception of the Botanical Center Program at NIH). The Symposium also served as a belated celebration of DSHEA’s 15th anniversary, and additionally honored the 80th birthday of Dr. Norman Farnsworth, a member of the Commission charged by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994 to develop DSHEA, and a prolific contributor to the field of pharmacognosy as it relates to plant products developed for human health.
More than 200 attendees took in the symposium’s 15 speakers, which included Annette Dickinson, former president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN); Paul Coates and Catherine Meyers of NIH NCCAM; and Shaw Chen, MD, PhD, FDA’s deputy director, Office of Drug Evaluation IV and leader, Botanical Review Team.
Each presenter spoke about many possible applications of plants to human health while embracing a broad number of scientific disciplines. The symposium was structured to cover the four major aspects of botanical research: Regulation and Funding; Product Integrity and Defining Quality; Bioactivity, Pharmacokinetic (“ADME”) and Mechanistic Studies; and Generation of Clinical Evidence.
Dr. Pauli said that one particularly enthusiastic and noteworthy aspect of the presentations was how well the different sub-disciplines (e.g., pharmacology, botany, chemistry, clinical, regulatory) cross-communicated and how well the talks and the language was connected. “It became clear that DSHEA had not only set regulatory framework but also created grounds for an area of research that requires various disciplines to speak a common ‘botanical’ language,” he said.
When asked what he thought the overarching takeaway message of such a broadly focused symposium was, Dr. Pauli said one word sums it all up: progress. “There is significant overall progress in the understanding of botanicals plus great opportunity for future research,” he said.
So much has happened since the creation of DSHEA in 1994 and Dr. Pauli said that from his vantage point, the future looks increasingly bright providing that regulation is wisely enacted and enforced. “The botanical future is bright as we are beginning to develop/have the tools for a holistic, bioanalytical description of botanicals,” he said. “Despite the needs for quality botanicals, there is a tendency/risk of overregulation of (ethno) botanicals in both the U.S. and global marketplace.”
The symposium was supported by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), and was sponsored by American Botanical Council and Herbal Gram, Basic Research, FreeLife, Herbalife, Natural Products Association, Natural Standard, NuSkin, Schwabe North America and Stratum Nutrition.
For more information about the specifics of each of the symposium’s presentations, follow this hot link to Fitoterapia’s special symposium coverage edition.