Introduced to Clarins by Jean-Marie Pelt, founder of the European Institute of Ecology, Jean-Pierre Nicolas has always worked to bring nature and Man together. A university doctor and vice-president of the French ethnopharmacology society, he cultivates the links that benefit both Man and nature, in search of a natural balance and harmony. Guided by the common sense of those who have never lost contact with nature, this teacher of traditional and natural botanical knowledge is above all a simple man.
Moving from the scientific to the traditional and vice versa to transmit useful knowledge is an exercise Jean-Pierre Nicolas finds easy. With thirty years of experience, he is a man who strives to reveal the real and the authentic, since, as he says, “we owe nature everything”. From his initial training as an educator he has retained an attentiveness to others and a sense of pragmatism for restoring confidence, and
he never gives up. “The education of biodiversity involves guidance and simplicity”, he likes to emphasize. After working as a socio-cultural supervisor which set him on his path to become an anthropologist, Jean-Pierre Nicolas has been developing his skills at teaching and communicating naturalist knowledge for over 20 years.
Whether at Brasparts, his home in the Finistère region of Brittany where he cultivates his own garden, or in the villages of Burkina Faso or Madagascar, Jean-Pierre Nicolas devotes his boundless energy to bringing together human communities and their plant environment. His research on plants involves working with local populations who have harvested, cultivated and protected them for a long time. His principle is never to bring anything new into these environments. It is important to show much humility and be very attentive to others, to begin to restore confidence to those who have lost it. After drawing up the Ethical Charter of Jardins du Monde, Jean-Pierre Nicolas has worked with Clarins since 2004.
“Defending Clarins values which, since the beginning, aim to protect, to do things well and with a heartfelt passion, with a human quality, is enjoyable and stimulating”, he says. Jean-Pierre Nicolas practises an art that combines knowledge and humility. Long before a product is formulated and manufactured, he is the man who finds the plants that satisfy the most demanding requirements of the brand. For the last three years he has worked with Clarins Laboratories, in search of new plants and active ingredients, and always within a very strict set of rules that respect the plants, biodiversity and local cultures.
He carries out traceability research on plants and ethnoscientific checks essential to the development of new products based on active ingredients of natural origin. “At Clarins,” he reminds us, “there is a consensus regarding plants and a strong commitment in favour of development that benefits local populations and particularly women. Because we can only save nature with the help of people, this aspect of guidance
and support, along with eco-coherence is fundamental.”
A genuine, human researcher
Jean-Pierre Nicolas is the co-director of more than twenty scientific theses in medicine and pharmacology and is continuing his research within the framework of his association Jardins du Monde. His work has been the object of national and international scientific publications. Very active in the field, both planting and raising awareness, he is the author and co-author of over 14 books on traditional pharmacopoeia, medicinal plants used by mothers and health workers, and manuals on ethnobotany covering regions
as varied as the Himalayas, the high plateaus of Guatemala and the savannahs of Burkina Faso. Always careful of protecting natural balances, respecting living things, sharing and communicating knowledge, Jean-Pierre Nicolas is committed, with Clarins, to an approach that respects human communities and biological diversity. Together, they are helping to preserve plant resources through cultivation or harvesting which is safe and respectful for our health and beauty. With every meeting, the selection of plants is narrowed down. All criteria are examined. There are enough individual plants to meet all needs. “At Pontoise we check everything. Scientific tools are used to verify popular, traditional knowledge.”
His scientific work on plants also includes local practices, to take into account local demands and valuable traditional know-how. Jean-Pierre Nicolas doesn’t do anything half-way. Wherever he is, he is particularly committed to helping communities in need and restoring their confidence. “Plants can help provide treatment, even in the case of incurable diseases. The important thing is to be on the same wavelength as local populations. To see what can be done and what cannot be done, without judging, while always remaining thoughtful and present.”
A committed visionary
Plants are real nuggets of gold for humanity. “We must encourage younger generations to be interested in plants, raise their self-esteem and give them hope for the future. This involves educating them about the environ- ment and health... ensuring that young people, through their own self-respect, then respect nature and become interested in the use of plants.” Thanks to exchanges on the subject of medicinal plants, Jean-Pierre Nicolas also valorizes how mothers use traditional treatment practices. For him, a woman’s words are the words of a whole social unit. On this subject too, he shares the same belief as Clarins regarding women, who are the primary health “agents” in the world. Because, “if a woman feels good, her children will feel good too. It’s above all a question of self-esteem”, he says. Jean-Pierre Nicolas is a committed researcher who continues to publish and write books to safeguard and circulate knowledge, and accord it the value it deserves. Popular knowledge which should never be kept just for the specialists.