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NIH Botanical Research Centers Program (BRCP)
In 1999, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) received a mandate from the United States Congress to establish a botanical research initiative. Currently, ODS in collaboration with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at NIH supports 6 botanical research centers to promote collaborative interdisciplinary study of botanical dietary supplements. A primary objective of the BRCP is to build collaborative interdisciplinary research teams that will advance basic science to inform clinical studies. The research conducted by each center is expected to have high potential for being translated into practical benefits for human health. The work of the centers is relevant to health maintenance, disease prevention and, to a lesser extent, disease treatment. Taken together the centers provide: (1) a balance across clinical areas; (2) proficiency in natural products research focused on botanicals; and (3) expertise in using contemporary methodologies. Each center has a thematic focus. For example, one center studies actions of botanical oils rich in n-3 fatty acids and their potential to prevent inflammatory diseases, such as atherosclerosis. Another group studies the role of selected botanicals on the molecular and cellular processes that influence the development of metabolic syndrome. One of the earliest centers has just completed data collection from a Phase II clinical trial designed to evaluate the efficacy of Cimifuga racemosa and Trifolium pratense in the management of menopausal symptoms. Finally, the BRCP provides a rich environment for training the next generation of scientists in a number of disciplines including pharmacognosy.