In Memoriam: Steven Foster, Renowned Herbalist, Photographer, Author

The American Botanical Council (ABC) shared news of the passing of Steven Foster, longtime ABC contributor and member of the ABC Board of Trustees. A heartfelt letter by Mark Blumenthal, ABC Founder & Executive Director, celebrates Foster’s many contributions to the industry, including his work as the author or co-author of 19 books and hundreds of articles and his work as a renowned photographer of herbs and medicinal plants.

Foster started his career at the Sabbathday Lake, Maine, Shaker’s Herb Department—America’s oldest herb business dating to 1799, according to his website, www.stevenfoster.com. And as an international consultant in medicinal and aromatic plant technical and marketing issues, Foster served on projects around the globe, including in Argentina, Armenia, Belize, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, England, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of Georgia, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vietnam.

“His 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,” Blumenthal shared, adding, “A self-taught botanist, and without any higher education, Steven knew as much or usually more about botany and the history of the literature on herbal medicine than many academics with numerous advanced degrees. His knowledge and memory of the botanical literature was almost photographic, and he had a beautifully eloquent way to explain and communicate his herbal wisdom.”

Foster was also involved in one of ABC’s most important publications, Blumenthal shared, noted that in the early 1990s, Foster wrote the initial text for the primary proposal for the community funding of ABC’s The Complete German Commission E Monographs — Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines (Integrative Medicine Communications, 1988).

Just a few highlights of Foster’s long career, as outlined in a profile published by ABC in HerbalGram as well as on Foster’s website:

  • 1998 Industry Achievement Award, Texas Herb Growers and Marketers Association]
  • 1999 Best Title in Health/Medicine, Independent Book Awards (IPPY) 101 Medicinal Herbs 
  • 1999 Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Medal-Health, 101 Medicinal Herbs
  • 2002 Otto Richter Memorial Award, International Herb Association
  • 2008 Herbal Insight Award from the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) for his “significant impact” on herbal knowledge
  • 2010 Alan Lesniewicz Memorial Lecturer, Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden, The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and the UIC/NIC Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research.

“The last time I saw Steven was thanks to INS Farms for sharing their Elderberry harvest with Steve and I,” remembered Heather Wainer, Publisher and VP of Media at WholeFoods Magazine. “It was a special day in many ways, including that I did get to know Steven, the man behind the beautiful herb pictures that I love, on a more personal level. I am so grateful for that memory, and I cherish the beautiful photos Steve captured that day, and throughout his career.”

Blumenthal added that ABC will be dedicating a special page on its website, www.herbalgram.org, featuring Steven’s photography and tributes from friends and colleagues. “All of us at ABC send our deeply heartfelt condolences to Steven’s wife Donna, his children Abbey and Colin, stepson Farrar, and Steven’s siblings and other family, and his vast network of friends in the herbal community,” Blumenthal wrote. “Blessings on his soul’s peaceful journey.”

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