An Interview with Dr. Rosari Kingston, the authority on Irish Ethnobotany
Did you know that Irish plants can transform the health of your skin—including offering renewed cell growth, increased elasticity of the skin, reduced lines and wrinkles, and reduced irritation?
Yes, indeed! We interviewed Dr. Rosari Kingston, a major authority on Irish Ethnobotany, to educate our community on the long rich history of indigenous Irish plants.
As a respected scientist and the published author of the fascinating new book, Ireland’s Hidden Medicine, Dr. Kingston explores the origins of Irish herbal medicine. Read on to learn more about the potent capacity of sensitive skin-loving Irish plants: Comfrey, Calendula, Marshmallow, Heartsease, and Immortelle.
And be sure to check out Dr. Kingston’s website to reclaim your health through the proven effectiveness of western herbal medicine and Irish healing principles.
Can you define Ethnobotany for our audience as well as Herbal Medicine?
Ethnobotany is the study of the interrelationship between people and plants, historically and cross-culturally, particularly the role of plants in human culture and practices, how humans have used and modified plants, and how they represent them in their systems of knowledge.
Herbal Medicine, on the other hand, is practiced within a particular knowledge (i.e., the study of one culture with no—or only a secondary—cross-cultural focus).
What attracted you to the science?
Cooking. I wondered why housewives with far less amenities than I have went to the trouble of growing, harvesting and preparing such fiddle-some plants. I mean, picking the leaves off thyme is a pure and utter penance, so the question I asked was, why did they go to so much trouble? It was then I discovered that herbs were health giving and prevented a lot of problems.
Is there a memorable adventure you can share that gives our audience a glimpse of your life as a medical herbalist?
Not really, it is all memorable. The joy of a woman conceiving naturally through herbal treatment, without IVF, is always satisfying. For me also, seeing older people gaining new vigor through herbs is rewarding. Today, I see increased anxiety and depression. Herbs and other therapies do a lot in this situation. I find great satisfaction in helping a young person discover the joy of life.
Your new book, Ireland's Hidden Medicine: An exploration of Irish indigenous medicine from legend and myth to the present day, is beaming with Ireland’s rich history and its unique healing traditions. Please share a few of the actionable takeaways we can expect to incorporate into our daily lives from reading your book.
There is a hunger among people to connect with their roots. The healing methods of a people are part of that hunger. Modern medicine is an industry. It is apart from us. It does not sing to our soul. It is effective, massively so in some areas, but chronic illness and emotional illness eludes its therapeutic effectiveness. It is in this area that indigenous medicine is amazing. All indigenous medicines treat, in various ways, emotional, spiritual, and physical malaise. It does this through rituals, prayer, plant medicine, physical manipulation, and care. In my book, I set out possible ways to incorporate these methods throughout the year. It is important to remember that in Ireland, pilgrimage is to a sacred space, be it a well, a mountain, a stone, a lake. It is not a journey to a relic in a church. The divine is perceived in the landscape, for example up to 20,000 people may climb Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday in July. The sacred and the numinous is not necessarily found in a building, but in the world around us.
What is your favorite location to visit in Ireland and a must-see for visitors who want to experience all things Irish?
The whole island!!! Even though I was brought up by the sea and still live near it, I am drawn to the woods and mountains. They are still a relatively unexplored part of our country and ‘forest bathing’ is a health trend that is beneficial for all of us.
How does Irish Ethnobotany and Ireland’s vast therapeutic landscape play a role in the formulation of our Bia Collection?
The plants used in the Bia Collection hold the energy and vitality of the earth. Harvested with care, at their prime, these plants bring a nuance and inherent energy, the vital force, to the collection.
As brand devotees know, the Bia Collection™ is all about powerhouse hydration. How would you say indigenous Irish botanicals work to improve hydration and cleanse without stripping the skin?
The botanicals together form the perfect skincare. These botanicals help tone, moisturize, soothe, or deliver anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits. Plants such as bog myrtle help cleanse pores, while plants such as calendula, milk thistle, aloe, and cucumber help soothe redness. Marine plants like serrated or bladder wrack bring minerals to the skin and increase elasticity, while plants like arnica help shed excess water in eye bags. The cleansers based on castor, borage, and blackcurrant seed oils help remove impurities without stripping natural oils from the skins surface, thereby leaving the moisture locked in. The Codex hydrolyzed jojoba oil grains exfoliate gently and can be used every day even on the most sensitive skin.
And all these plants are gentle on the natural skin microbiome and, though we are familiar with the gut microbiome, it is only in recent years we have discovered that the skin microbiome is important also.
One of the hero Bia products we hear about is the Skin Superfood with the patented BiaComplex™. How does this BiaComplex™ specifically work to hydrate and calm dry,flaky, irritated skin?
In the BiaComplex™, all the plant properties combine their effects to synergistically soothe and keep skin hydrated:
- Comfrey allows the skin to shed its dry layers so that hydration can penetrate the skin barrier.
- Heartsease helps skin retain the moisture by improving cellular osmotic function.
- Marshmallow and immortelle form a soothing, protective gel to lock in moisture.
- Calendula soothes irritation and moisturizes the skin.
Again, all these Irish plants are gentle on the natural skin microbiome. It’s important to not imbalance or harm this important protection layer of skin. These Irish plants are gentle yet so effective in a daily skin regimen.
Can we go deeper on the secrets of comfrey, heartsease, marshmallow, immortelle, and calendula? Please share their origins in Irish herbal medicine so we understand why the Skin Superfood has such amazing clinical results?
|Comfrey: In Irish, comfrey is called “lus na gcnamh briste,” which means ‘herb of the broken bone.’ The colloquial name for it in English is ‘knit bone.’ It is called this because it increases cell growth, and so enables fractures to heal more quickly. Yet, interestingly, it is not an herb I heard of any traditional bonesetter in Ireland using. They used other herbs, such as the bark of the ash but not comfrey. Comfrey may then be more useful in skin repair and allantoin is the ingredient in comfrey that helps skin heal. It is also anti-irritant. It is particularly good for sensitive skin.||
|Heartsease: Heartsease was used traditionally to clear the blood and is still given to birds, including racing pigeons, to reduce the stress on their hearts during flight (heart’s ease). It contains isoflavones which are a type of phytoestrogen and phytoestrogens have a similar chemical makeup to estrogen, the female hormone that declines with menopause. Heartsease has a beneficial effect on the skin because of the presence of these isoflavones. It helps to improve the skin epithelium, by binding to estrogen receptors and promoting cellular proliferation. It also helps to increase the elasticity of the skin.||
|Immortelle: Traditionally, this herb was used to protect the liver and optimize its ability to do its job within the body. Today we know Immortelle is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant and antiallergenic. Because of these properties, immortelle is a powerful anti-ager. It reduces the appearance of scars, fine lines, and wrinkles.||
|Marshmallow:The healing power of marshmallow is attributed, in part, to the plentiful mucilage content in the root. This makes it soothing and moistening, which is why marshmallow lozenges are so useful in chesty coughs. The same constituents mean it is also helpful in reducing skin irritation. It benefits skin that has been exposed to ultraviolet radiation, so is the perfect herb to ease skin after a day in the sun.||
|Calendula: Is there anything as beautiful as this herb catching the sun on a summer’s day enriching our spirit? Not only does it inform us of the beauty and magic of our world but also helps us in many ways. Culpeper tells us that the leaves mixed with vinegar and applied as a compress to the forehead is effective for relieving headache. Today, we may still use it as a compress to relieve headache, but there is also exciting research being undertaken, where one of its constituents, lutein, is being examined for its role in maintaining healthy eyes.||
The orange colors of its petals come from these lutein molecules, and they are powerful antioxidants. Marigolds are also rich in pro-retinol A. Traditionally it was used as a skin tonic, to soothe tired skin, and by preventing dehydration it is effective in restoring dry or flaky skin.
Rosari, thank you so much for your insights! Would you like to leave us with a thoughtabout self-care from the Irish perspective?
Gladly! It’s hard to choose one, but this is one of my favorites:
“It is better for health if night is seen as a time of preparation for the day ahead. Seeing the night as the beginning of the day is part our indigenous tradition.”