Due to a recent social media post that has got some people concerned, I thought I would share my journey, thoughts and research about Bakuchiol/Babchi. In no way am I am expert nor do I pretend to be, but I do take my kuleana seriously for caring for mother earth by taking the time to understand the story behind each ingredient and researching things thoroughly before taking action. A few published documents especially ones supporting in-vitro research and funding requests don’t share the story of the farmers or those indigenous to the land nor do they necessarily represent the true status of the plant species.
Recently we added Bakuchiol to our Aloha Youth Serum after a discussion I had with someone about Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Hawaiian healing. It made me sad talking about how Hawaiian healing (La’au Lapa’au) almost completely died out due to the lack of desire or demand for our indigenous healing plants which followed the passing of almost all the traditional practitioners. Since there was nobody to share the amazing benefits of these healing plants, the need went away and as a result, species began to die out or teeter on the brink of endangerment. Because land is so valuable in Hawai'i and there is very little … what made money became more important, like cattle ranches and huge developments. When I see traditional healing practices thriving in this day and age, it excites me. So after hearing the beautiful benefits of this babchi plant, I thought it would be great to help support another traditional practice thrive. Babchi has been used in both Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda for decades if not longer.
For those of you that know me, this recent trend was not enough to get me to add this ingredient to my formula. I did extensive research before making calls to look for sustainable sourcing. My first step is my go-to “Red List” of threatened or endangered species. The IUCN Red List plays an important role as the world's most comprehensive information source on the conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. IUCN is the world's oldest and largest global conservation organization, bringing together more than 1,200 government and non-governmental members in a unique world partnership, which seeks to safeguard natural resources at local, regional and global levels. Governments frequently consult with and seek the advice of IUCN regarding key biodiversity conservation decisions. In short… Babchi, Bakuchiol, or Psoralea corylifolia or the accepted name, Cullen corylifolium was definitely NOT on this list on plants threatened, endangered or even to watch (and still isn’t).
Because sustainable harvesting and sourcing is a core value of mine I first search this list to make sure that I am never using a plant that is endangered or threatened.. at least not before talking to the farms themselves. I am also no stranger to endangered species as unfortunately, Hawai‘i has the highest number of listed threatened and endangered species in the nation. There are 437 threatened and endangered species in the State of Hawai’i. Some of the main causes of this state of endangerment are invasive species, life threatening plant diseases, pigs, climate change and greedy investors that take down native forests and thriving plant regions to make room for other profitable things. There are a few of these plants on the endangered Hawai'i list that I am currently helping bring back to a thriving state by supporting both their for-profit ingredient cultivation (we use in our products) as well as their reforestation projects. Rarely is this a black and white situation. Sometimes the farmers need the money, staff and resources backed by a reason to grow the plants so that they can keep the reforestation side of projects alive.
Hawaiian Sandalwood is the perfect example. It was actually on my NEVER to use list due to its endangered status. It wasn't until I became close to a Hawaiian ‘Ohana who pooled all of the family money together to buy back their ancestral land (which had been taken over by cattle ranchers years ago). This land had once been a thriving native forest of Hawaiian Sandalwood, ‘Ohi’a, A’ali’i... that contributed largely to the ecosystem of this entire mountain above Kealakekua on the big island. This family has now planted over 500,000 trees and is working to restore one of the rarest ecosystems left in Hawai'i, a native dry-land forest. I would not have known or supported their for-profit side (which allows them to continue this project) had I not taken the time to hear THEIR story.
So, after searching a few other legitimate endangered lists (primarily in India and China) and finding nothing saying that this specific ingredient is threatened in any way, I moved on to the more important part. The deep discussions regarding sustainable sourcing with distributors, farms and farming alliances in India where the plant is most commonly sourced due to its wild growing nature there. I like learning from the farms, because sustainable agricultural practices often rely on traditional knowhow and local innovation. Local people have a wealth of knowledge about their environment and crops and a lot of times, they need our money to help keep the plant thriving. According to the alliance, they keep locally adapted breeds and crop varieties, have social structures that manage and conserve common resources, help people in need, and maintain the social fabric. Farming is the livelihood of many people in India and from what I learned a personal experience back home, cutting off an ingredient source (due to a scare of harvesting) can also be detrimental to a species and the people growing it. I’m 100% sure that not all farms grow and harvest sustainably, which I DO NOT support. Over harvesting can be very serious… so I am not saying to take this concern lightly. I am just saying if there is a way to keep promoting both conservation and livelihoods through enhancing equitable and sustainable use of wild species and their associated ecosystems, this is IDEAL.
I also learned that should this “Bakuchiol Craze” lead to over harvesting or make it to the endangered list... India has a robust legal mechanism in place to conserve and sustainably utilize biological diversity. I also will not hesitate to remove this ingredient from my formula, should it do more harm than good for the plants, the people and the environment.
For more information, there are many well-respected resources to refer to, including:
You have done your home work thoroughly to write this column. Bakuchiol has been developed by Sytheon which is based on solid science and clinically validated by side-by-side comparison to Retinol. Sytheon publishes all studies in peer reviewed dermatological journals, not magazine.
Great article and references. Thanks a lot 🙏
Thank you first for your dedication to the cultivation of traditional healing cultivation the most basic and profound level of care, and the clarification of the perceived threat of overuse or extermination of not only bakuchiol, but of all resources. I appreciate how thoroughly you explained not only your process, but how it weaves into the fabric of the conservation efforts of other entities.