The opposite of big pharma is pharmacognosy. An interview with Dr Jackson's.

Daniel McGlashan

After a twenty year stint studying medicines derived from natural sources, working with Shamans in the Peruvian Amazon, and discovering an ancient tree with healing properties going by the name of ‘Kigelia’ in Sub-Saharan Africa, Dr Jackson made his mark in the skincare world by releasing what is now known as the brand’s signature blend: the 01 Day Skin Cream. Comprised of a concoction of ingredients blending the very best of cosmetic science and exotic nature, this product proved to people around the world that this is truly a guy who knows his Baobab from his Shea. 

In a time where ‘natural’ skin care is often written by PR agencies, and the ‘Greenwashing’ of major global companies is rife  — Dr Jackson’s personal dedication in raising the benchmark of what natural really means has become his sole pursuit in his life, all wrapped up in the most observant and scientific way he knows how.
Wanting to know more, we got in touch with Mauro Durant, the Creative Director of Dr Jackson’s based out of the UK, to discuss everything from anti-aging secrets of tribal woman around the globe, and why their brand is like a student of Aristotle — ending up with a very persuasive reason as to why everyone looking to get the most out of their skin should switch from Big Pharma to Boutique Pharmacognosy.
Dr Jackson's Skincare
Dr Jackson's 07 Face Wash
Dr Jackson's Tea

Hi Mauro. Dr Jackson’s has introduced the word ‘Pharmacognosy’ to Global Design Collective’s vocab — can you sum it up for us in layman terms?

Hello! Don’t worry, not many people know about the word ‘pharmacognosy’. In layman terms, the word ‘pharmacognosy’ refers to medicines and drugs derived from natural products. At Dr Jackson’s, we use pharmacognosy principles around identification, efficacy, adulteration and quality of natural products with all of our ingredients. We aim to produce the best products possible, whilst respecting and protecting Mother Nature, supporting where we can the indigenous populations where our ingredients originate. We never use, or will ever use any plant species that are rare or endangered. 

After all of Dr Jackson’s intrepid travels and diverse studies, what made him take his knowledge into the skincare industry?

Dr Simon Jackson, Founder of Dr Jackson’s, decided to transition into the skincare industry because, after all of his expeditions and many years of research, he was very passionate to transfer his knowledge of plants with healing properties. First and foremost, he wanted to raise the benchmark of natural products and create a line of luxurious skincare that he believed in. There has been a massive trend in recent years about “natural” beauty, but this does not mean it is safe to simply mix natural ingredients in the kitchen and apply them to your skin. As a trained pharmacognosist, he believes it is crucial to ensure the quality of these ingredients, that they are used at the correct dosage, and that the products are developed by formulation professionals in the labs. The Dr Jackson company continues this in its aim to educate people about natural ingredients, plant species and their benefits.

What drove the brand to use apothecary ­style packaging for some of your products?

The use of apothecary style bottles for our products came as a natural choice for us, as it referenced directly to the historical methods used for storing chemicals and medicines in the laboratory. We use amber glass in many of our jars and bottles, as it doesn’t allow direct sunlight to affect the natural ingredients inside. Aesthetically, the branding and design of our packaging is minimalist in style without being gender specific, while at the same time uses ethical and sustainable materials, hoping that this will encourage our clients to recycle or upcycle their finished containers or boxes.

Dr Jackson has worked alongside many indigenous communities. How did they treat his interest in their plants and their uses?

As a young undergraduate, Dr Simon Jackson visited indigenous communities and observed that the Shamans were the local medicine men in the villages of the Peruvian Amazon; they provided primary healthcare for most, if not all the inhabitants of the villages. In the Amazon he discovered that their primary healthcare relied upon local plant extracts. Interestingly, around 95% of the world’s population use natural products for their primary health-care. He was astonished, suddenly realising that we are surrounded by effective natural remedies for most common ailments. He decided that we should learn from the knowledge communities like these have. This did not come without its own challenges though, as it was vital to build trust with them first. Extreme care must be taken not to ignore their traditions, and not let their culture die out.

As a young undergraduate, Dr Simon Jackson visited indigenous communities and observed that the Shamans were the local medicine men in the villages of the Peruvian Amazon

 What can we expect to see from Dr Jackson’s in the future?

It is our goal to continue developing new natural products that are beneficial and healing to the skin, hair and body, complemented by our herbal tea blends. We also aim to continue educating the public on the benefits of using natural ingredients products in an ethical and sustainable way as well as understanding the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. We plan to engage with global communities, institutions and associations which share our ethos. We believe that only by sharing and working together with like minded people, can we then make a real impact on the planet.

What has been the brand’s most memorable product to bring to the market and why?

Our most memorable product brought to the market was our very first: 01 Day Skin Cream. This was formulated using the very best of cosmetic science and nature, and which we fondly refer to as our ‘signature’ cream. Dr Simon Jackson developed this cream with SPF20, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, and includes several natural ingredients that he discovered during his many expeditions to South Africa, including Kigelia (Kigelia Africana). Traditionally, extracts from this tree have long been used by tribal women to ensure a smooth, blemish free complexion and also as a skin and breast-firming remedy. The fruits from the tree have been used to treat eczema, psoriasis and many other skin irritations. Additionally, chemical compounds identified within the plant ‘attach’ to dark skin pigmentation and stop melanin production, thus diminishing sunspots and liver/age spots. This has been especially effective on sun damaged skin. It was very exciting to bring this product to the market, which contained this wonderful super ingredient!

Global Design Collective works together with Water.Org to help supply water to those who need it most. What is your stance on businesses giving back to the global community?

By using medicinal plants that are native to rural communities, we support the employment of local people. Our company not only provides a safe means of financial support for the families in these communities but also promotes sustainable farming techniques, which enriches the land and the local environment. This ultimately has an impact on the global environment. We aim to use any ingredients we can from FairWild, which is a foundation that “provides a worldwide framework for implementing a sustainable fair and value-added management and trading system for wild-collected natural ingredients.” We are also using ingredients from indigenous plants, which is an advantage in water conservation, in that the plants are generally adaptive to the available water supply, and not in need of extraordinary watering to sustain them in non-native environments.

If your brand was a famous figure in history, who would it be?

If our brand was a famous figure in history, it would most possibly be Theophrastus (371 BC - 287 BC), a student of Aristotle, and also known as the father of pharmacognosy and/or botany. His two surviving botanical works include Enquiry into Plants and On the Causes of Plants. He also wrote a treatise about perfumes, which described how naturally-derived perfumes could be used. His work encompasses what our company aims to provide - a better understanding of plant species and their benefits. Our company aims to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors who used plants and the natural environment to heal and revitalize themselves. We believe and hope that with more education as to what is beneficial to your skin, consumers’ behavior will shift away from cosmetics full of harmful man-made chemicals to those that use natural products and are safer for our bodies.