Herbal medicine and natural health communities mourn passing of leading figures Steven Foster and Jim Turner


Steven Foster was a leading herbal author and photographer, and a member of the American Botanical Council’s Board of Trustees. Attorney Jim Turner was the founder and chairman of Citizens for Health and a leading consumer health activist.

Steven Foster (left); James Turner (right)

Steven Foster (left); James Turner (right)

The herbal medicine and natural health communities are paying tribute to the passing of leading figures Steven Foster and James S. Turner, Esq. Steven Foster was a leading herbal author and photographer, and a member of the American Botanical Council’s Board of Trustees. Attorney James (Jim) Turner was the founder and chairman of Citizens for Health and a leading consumer health activist. Both Foster and Turner passed away suddenly this January.

Jim Turner

Jim Turner was known most prominently as the longtime president and chairman of the board for Citizens for Health, a Washington, DC–based nonprofit activist organization advocating for consumer access to natural healthcare and medicine. He cofounded the law firm Swankin & Turner, which represented businesses, individuals, and consumer groups on food, drug, health, environmental, and product safety regulatory matters.

At the age of 30, Turner co-authored the book The Chemical Feast: Ralph Nader’s Study Group Report on the Food and Drug Administration, an exposé that called attention to FDA’s regulation of food additives and that was dubbed by TIME magazine as “what may well be the most devastating critique of a U.S. government agency ever issued.”

James Turner

James Turner

Turner played a key role in the passage of policies that defined the current U.S. dietary supplements regulatory framework, including the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). He served as special counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Food, Nutrition, and Health, and on the Senate Government Operations Subcommittee on Government Research. Turner also advocated for FDA to make changes to its New Dietary Ingredient draft guidance for dietary supplements, and spearheaded numerous citizen petitions to FDA, including petitions addressing the agency’s position on sucralose and high-fructose corn syrup. Turner also played a key role in mainstreaming the practice of acupuncture, petitioning FDA to classify acupuncture needles as medical devices.

Turner was a member of advisory boards and committees such as the Food Safety Council, Americans for Homeopathy Choice, the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), and Voice for HOPE.

“Jim has been one of the most powerful and articulate voices and leaders in health freedom and consumer choice. We look forward to honoring Jim’s vision by continuing the vital work that Citizens for Health does on behalf of all Americans,” said James Gormley, vice president and senior policy advisor for Citizens for Health, in a press statement. The organization announced Turner’s family’s wishes that donations be made, in lieu of memorial flowers, to the Citizens for Health Education Foundation.

“Jim was a force to be reckoned with in the health freedom community for over half a century,” stated AHPA President Michael McGuffin, in a press release. “He would commonly greet me by asking, ‘Are we winning?’ and it is certain that all who care about freedom of choice in healthcare have won a lot over the years through Jim’s leadership and wisdom, and his advocacy for activism and cooperation.”

Steven Foster

Steven Foster was the author or co-author of 19 books and hundreds of articles on herbs. His renowned photography and editorial contributions were regular highlights in the American Botanical Council’s (ABC) journal HerbalGram. In a tribute by Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director, Blumenthal said, “[Steven’s] keen eye for plants and his ability to photograph them produced a treasure of thousands of beautiful high-quality photos that graced the pages of numerous books and magazine articles, including hundreds of his photos in ABC’s journal HerbalGram, many of them cover photos. If you have enjoyed the beautifully compelling four-color photography in each issue of HerbalGram, you can usually thank Steven for the photos.” A tribute page celebrating Foster’s memory has been published on the HerbalGram website.

Steven Foster

Steven Foster

In addition to having served as associate editor of HerbalGram, Foster was also a member and past chair of ABC’s Board of Trustees. Foster was a self-taught botanist, with Blumenthal noting that he “knew as much or usually more about botany and the history of the literature on herbal medicine than many academics with numerous advanced degrees.”

For instance, Blumenthal said, “Steven was one of the first people to help popularize the herb echinacea, having written the first book on echinacea—Echinacea: Nature’s Immune Enhancer (Healing Arts Press, 1991)—since Eclectic pharmacist and author John Uri Lloyd’s Treatise on Echinacea in 1917. At one time in his career, some colleagues even called him ‘Mr. Echinacea.’”

He added: “Steven’s knowledge, expertise and experience, and good judgment helped guide ABC since its founding. Steven was the primary source of many of ABC’s initial publications, including four volumes of ABC’s ‘Classic Botanical Reprints’ starting in 1989, just after ABC was founded, and his information-packed ‘Botanical Booklets,’ extensive profiles on over a dozen popular herbs, of which ABC printed tens of thousands and distributed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when most Americans knew very little about the names of herbs, other than peppermint, garlic, ginger, and a few others.”

The American Herbal Products Association also paid tribute to Foster in memoriam, highlighting his activism in the herbal field. For instance, the association said, “In 1988, Steven advocated to protect lady’s slippers (Cypripedium) from disappearing in the wild. His close friend, Mark Blumenthal, brought the matter to AHPA’s Board, leading to the adoption of AHPA’s first-ever and still-standing trade requirement that prohibits trade in wild-harvested lady’s slippers.”

Said AHPA: “Steven was a giant in the herbal community for almost half a century. To say he will be missed is both true and a gross understatement—he is irreplaceable.”

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