Newswise — In the U.S. alone, medicinal and nutritional herbs are a $4 billion-plus industry, worldwide the figure is at least $20 billion annually. The Appalachian Mountains in Western Maryland and West Virgina support a unique and exceptionally diverse flora, including many plants that have a long history of medicinal use. In recognition of the need to conserve wild native plants, to scientifically explore and understand their true medical efficacy, and to generate economic benefit for the people of the Appalachian region, the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) and Frostburg State University, in collaboration with West Virginia University, have established the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies (ACES).
October 13-14, 2005, the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies, will host the first in a series of Symposia's to discuss the collaborative efforts on ethnobotanical studies that integrate bioscience with indigenous herbal medicine practices, wildlife habitats, conservation efforts, cottage industries, and economic development for Central Appalachia. The year's Symposium will take place at Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort in Cumberland, Maryland, and include well known speakers such as Dr. Jim Duke of Green Pharmacy Garden, Bob Duggan from Tai Sophia Institute and expert guests from Frostburg University, West Virginia University, and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. To view the agenda or register for this program, visit http://www.umbi.umd.edu/nande/EthnobotanySymposium.html.
The Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies and this symposium is a collaborative, inter-institutional effort devoted to the multidisciplinary study and conservation of native plants and will foster economic growth in the region through the managed development of the area's natural resources. It will work with existing businesses and facilitate the development of new local enterprises to explore the use of regional plants for health-related purposes.
"ACES will increase knowledge of central Appalachian biodiversity, including genetic variability within and among species and ecosystems," says Dr. Jennie Hunter-Cevera, president of UMBI. "In addition, this collaborative research may lead to the validation of the biology of the use of herbal plants as supplements or alternatives to pharmaceutical based therapeutics. UMBI is putting the tools in the biotechnology toolbox to work in better elucidating the mechanisms of the effects of herbal plant chemistry on human metabolism and their role in boosting our immune system, as well as their role as potential cures of human afflictions and disease. The upcoming symposium in October, will touch upon these topics and provide us with an opportunity for experts in the field to dialogue and lay the ground work for future work."
The Center's goal is to conduct multidisciplinary research and education programs on native plants with potential medicinal properties, conservation of these plants and Appalachian ecosystems as a whole, preservation of Appalachian culture as it relates to the harvesting and traditional use of medicinal plants, and the exploration of economic benefit to the region that may be derived from managed development of botanical resources.
"We believe the state of Maryland will be greatly impacted from this center in the years to come," said Dr. Catherine Gira, President of Frostburg State University. "Within five years, we envision the evolution of the Institute from a "virtual center" to a physical facility located in western Maryland and housing a conference center, a museum/education center, and a research center, which we believe will attract more information technology and virtual learning businesses to the region, as well as bring federal and industry research support dollars to the Appalachia region."
For more information on the Appalachian Center for Ehtnobotanical Studies and the upcoming conference visit http://www.umbi.umd.edu/nande/EthnobotanySymposium.html