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Meeting Dr. Michael Balick, a Premier Ethnobotanist

Posted on June 02 2016

I have always been interested in the medicinal properties of plants. This is why in 2007, I started Babo Botanicals with a group of botanists. I felt few manufacturers were using natural oils, plants and minerals to solve skin, hair and sun issues. So when I got to meet Dr. Michael Balick, one of the premier Ethnobotanists in the world, I was so excited.

Dr. Balick is currently Vice President for Botanical Science and Director of the Institute of Economic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden. Ethnobotany is the relationship between plants, people, and culture. Dr. Balick has dedicated his life to preserving the history of medicine in societies all over the world through the study of plants. He has written 25 books on the subject, including one that will be of great interest to all those who follow herbal remedies, Rodales 21st Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature’s Most Powerful Plants.

Dr. Balick’s mission in to link plants with people and to preserve knowledge about medicinal and other useful plants. He does extensive field research so that a country has ethnobotanical information archived forever — before the information is lost. He works with traditional healers and health care professionals to conduct his research. Many ecologically and diverse countries have a diversity of plants that have served traditional herbal healers but has never been documented.

When he conducts his field research, he visits far away countries such as Belize, Palau, and Vanuatu (I had to look up this country) for over a month, enduring typhoons, hot sun and spotty electricity so that he can observe how these societies have used plants at present and over the past centuries. He interviews traditional healers, local people and does extensive plant collections. His recent book, Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize, written with noted herbalist Dr. Rosita Arvigo lists 3,400 plants (513 pages) of indigenous plants used for medicine.

I told him I was developing an oil to minimize stretch marks with an Amazonian Cacay tree, known scientifically as Caryodendron orinocense. He knew immediately its potent effects as an anti-oxidant. It contains 50% more vitamin E and twice the amount of Linoleic Acid than Argan Oil. It also has 3 times more Retinol than Rose Hip Oil.

I admire Dr. Balick so much for all he has done for history, healthcare and land preservation. And what a cool job!

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