In 1999, the Botanical Research Center (BRC) was created after Congress gave the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) funding to explore the health-related effects of botanicals on people, including why they effect us in various ways; their interaction with other ingredients or botanicals; the different effects of using an extract, tablet or tea; verifying the botanicals’ safety; learning the changes and variations in genetic material in the botanical; and how certain organisms can effect the genetics of the botanical, CAM at the NIH reports.
Since its founding, there have been many promising developments. For example, certain compounds of echinacea may be able to help fight HIV; echium oil decreases triglycerides (which can help control asthma and atherosclerosis because triglycerides are a cause of the two); and most botanicals studied have been shown to have positive effects on asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cataracts and cancer.
The most common plants out of the 48,000 species at the BRC are Russian tarragon, echium and borage. At the moment, Russian tarragon, a group of chemicals (anthocyanins, found in the skins of grapes) and shiliahua are being tested to see if they have the potential to slow or reduce insulin resistance. This seems promising because insulin resistance is one cause of obesity. In addition to this study, the effects of St. John’s Wort on viral diseases, inflammatory conditions and pain of infections are being investigated, in addition to numerous other experiments.

(CAM at the NIH, 07/02/08)