Natural products from ancient remedies


As Dr Simon Jackson recounts his stories in the jungles across various continents, the adventures sound like they belong in an Indiana Jones movie.

The 45-year-old Briton has a doctorate in pharmacognosy, the study of medicine derived from natural resources. While the King's College graduate was doing research, he travelled deep into the forests of Indonesia, the Amazon and Africa to study the indigenous plants there.

"In Africa, I learnt about the baobab tree fruit, which has more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than red meat, and more calcium than milk," he says. "The oil of the seed of the baobab tree is good for smoothening raised scars and pock-marked skin, too."

While in Africa, he also found out about the benefits of the kigelia pinnata plant, which can get rid of dark spots. "The local women also use it to firm their breasts," he adds.

In Peru, Dr Jackson lived alongside the shamans, and they shared ancient remedies with him.

Today, the doctor taps the knowledge he gleaned from traditional healers for his eponymous skincare line, which was started in 2008.

He was in town in March to introduce Dr Jackson's Natural Products to the Singapore market. They are available exclusively at

Launched in 2012 after four years of research, the line comprises seven skincare products. Prices start from US$16 (S$21) for a jar of Coconut Melt, a multi-purpose coconut oil; to US$125 for a bottle of Skin Cream.

Dr Jackson's Natural Products started out at two counters in London in 2012; today, there are more than 100 counters across five markets.

Dr Jackson was motivated to start his skincare line after seeing teenagers with skin cancer at the Charing Cross Hospital in London, where he conducted research on skin diseases.

"These days, children are taken to a lot more sunny places on vacations, and it takes 15 or 16 years before the damaged cells become cancerous; then they have only three or four months to live," says Dr Jackson, who is a bachelor and specialises in African medicinal plants for the treatment of malignant melanoma.

"My first product was made to prevent people from getting skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun."

The Skin Cream 01 with SPF 20 is meant to be used on the face and body. It contains kigelia extract to prevent blemishes, baobab to treat damaged skin, as well as moisturising shea butter and marula oil.

Each of Dr Jackson's products contains just three or four main ingredients, a departure from other beauty brands, which usually cram a lot more into their potions.

"There is no need to have so much chemicals on your skin," he says.

All the products are stored in simple apothecary-style bottles and jars; the ones that contain photosensitive ingredients are kept in amber-glass containers.

"It is basic pharmacy. Amber glass jars prevent red wavelengths of light from getting through so the contents are preserved," he adds.

"The jars we use are the ones used in labs to store chemicals."

And only glass containers, not plastic ones, are used.

"Plastic can dissolve into the creams," he says.

Naturally, Dr Jackson is equally picky about the ingredients he uses. Each batch of the raw ingredients' DNA is analysed in the labs for their authenticity, components and efficacy, he says.

The brand's products are not just good for the skin. They also benefit the communities that produce the raw ingredients for the brand.

A percentage of the sales goes to a research foundation called Natural Products Community, dedicated to supporting poor rural communities, such as those in Africa, through a fairtrade supply chain.

The children of the communities are also taught the value of the medicinal plants and the ways to conserve them.

"When we first turn up in front of the rural communities, it is hard to get their trust. So we work with the communities prior to discussions. Then the healers see the work that we're doing to benefit the rural population; that we're not just taking the fruits and running away," he says.

"Besides keeping this knowledge transfer of pharmacognosy alive, the business is about commercialising these principles, making quality products that are efficient, and putting money back in the countries of origin of the knowledge and ingredients."

Next, the brand is working on beauty cocktails made with traditional Chinese medicine.


Coconut Melt

US$16 (S$21), from

An organic formula of coconut oil that nourishes the lips, skin, cuticles and hair

Face and Eye Essence

US$101, from

Contains rose water and roman camomile to soothe skin, kigelia to keep skin elastic, and vitamin C-rich baobab


Skin Cream 02

US$125, from

A rich cream to repair damaged skin. Blended with baobab, anti-inflammatory frankincense and mango seed extract.


This article was first published on May 1, 2015.
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