News Release

Thursday, May 3, 2007

NIH Funds Center in Iowa to Study Botanicals Used in Dietary Supplements

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced a grant to Iowa State University to study botanicals used as ingredients in dietary supplements. A multidisciplinary research team will study Hypericum (St. John’s wort), Prunella (Self-heal), and several types of Echinacea (for example, Purple Coneflower) for their anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. The center will be headed by Dr. Diane Birt, Distinguished Professor at Iowa State University, and will bring together researchers from ISU, the University of Iowa and Yale University.

“The work of all of the NIH-sponsored botanical research centers has proven to be important in advancing science in this area. We expect that this center at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa will continue to provide new insights into factors that can influence levels of bioactive components in plants and thereby modify the biological effects of botanicals used in dietary supplements,” said Paul Coates, Ph.D., Director of ODS.

NIH currently funds six dietary supplement research centers focused on botanicals. Scientists within these centers emphasize basic and preclinical research of potential benefit to human health. The studies at ISU will focus on identifying compounds and chemical profiles for anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activities and complement research at other centers that are studying the botanicals and inflammation. In recent years, inflammation has been identified as a common denominator of a number of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at NIH will co-fund the Iowa center. “Given that millions of Americans are using natural products, this research center will join several other NIH-funded botanical centers in conducting key research to determine whether and by what mechanisms botanicals may serve as effective treatments or preventive approaches,” said Ruth L. Kirschstein, M.D., Acting Director of NCCAM.

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at

The Office of Dietary Supplements was established in 1995 as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. The mission of ODS is to strengthen knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, stimulating and supporting research, disseminating research results, and educating the public to foster an enhanced quality of life and health for the U.S. population.

The mission of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is to explore complementary and alternative medical practices in the context of rigorous science, train CAM researchers, and disseminate authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM’s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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