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Ding Dong Science Calling!

September 6, 2009

I want to believe. I REALLY want to just believe but in what? That is the question!
I have just spent three days at the Natural Health Expo in Sydney exhibiting our cosmetic kitchen. We had a great time, met some wonderful people and heard some amazing stories of how people have been cured of all manner of ills through one or another therapy. While I love to hear these testimonials and meet with the people for whom the world has suddenly been re-illuminated with hope, all I have is questions. It bugs me!
I have never been able to accept much without question. I suppose I accept that the sky is blue because it is (the scientific explanation is a bit too dull really); that we stick to the earth because of gravity (although I could easily be persuaded otherwise on this too!) and that Brussels Sprouts ruin a good Sunday roast! Other than that, everything else is up for debate I guess, and that is hard work.
The fact that I don’t just accept that vibration therapy will cure my allergies or that surrounding myself with crystals will calm my troubled mind doesn’t automatically make me a cynic. What it does mean is that I like to apply the discipline of my scientific background to everything from cooking or child rearing to levitation. For me science isn’t a systematic recipe that you follow out of a well-worn book. It is a philosophy based on open-minded logic, which is then supported by reproducible evidence that then stands the test of time. Science never stops looking and its outcomes are never preordained.
Many natural therapies are based on apothecary dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. Conceived during a time when the scientists of the day were grounded through their immersion in their subjects of study. There were no sanitized laboratories in which to conduct clinical trials, no risk management, no workers compensation and no recourse for patients suffering undesirable side effects. On the plus side there were no sales and marketing departments, shareholders and government bodies dangling the carrot of cash in front of them so long as what they “discovered” fit the brief and was delivered swiftly and with little “downside”. The pioneers of natural and modern medicine built up their treasure chest of cure all’s by feeling their way. These people spent their whole lives listening, looking, and feeling peoples joy, sorrow and pain. Has anything really changed?
Of course, the local “healer” was not totally free from commercial realities. If he/she didn’t cure enough people, the chances are that they would either be burned, banished from the village or otherwise disposed of. The stakes (so to speak) were and still are high.
Now while many of today’s natural therapies follow in the footsteps of their historical brothers and sisters just like any other market, this one is evolving to cope with the stresses and strains of modern life! It is these new variations on the old theme that I want to find out more about and see where it leads me.
So while I’m scratching my head and trying to make sense of this magical world I wonder what everyone else is doing? Does everyone have this brain battle going on or are some people happy to go ahead based on he cheery results reported on the label?
Our cosmetic kitchen clientele had, for the most part read the book on the dangers of “chemicals” in their cosmetics and so were glad to see that our “kitchen” was stocked with a wide range of vegetable oils, clays, salts and essences. While I am pleased that our “back to basics” approach appeals to practically everyone, the fear factor about what chemicals are and aren’t worries me. In my mind, the word “chemical” has no nasty connotations. It is purely a word used to describe matter be it extracted through cold processing of a plant or produced synthetically in a laboratory. While logic would start by saying that that naturally occurring chemicals are likely to be more in harmony with our bodies than synthetic (we evolved with them), science would require this assertion to be quantified and tested. And it is the quantification and the testing that I need to see in order to believe. Most people can quote examples of where natural isn’t all good and synthetic isn’t all-bad but that argument misses the point in my eyes. Water is bad if you have too much OR if you get even a tiny bit of it into the wrong place. It is about dose, about quality, about usage guidelines and about reproducibility. For me, a good “cure” can either tick all of these boxes or it can explain why it doesn’t need to. It is OK for something to just make you feel good. The placebo effect is often as good a cure as any!
So, I’ll evaluate everything that I have seen, heard and will go on to read from the expo with the same sciencey brain that drives me insane! I’m hoping to find something that will make my skin clearer, my hair more shiny and see my energy levels soaring through the roof. And if I don’t find it this year I’ll be back again for Brisbane 2010!

The Natural Health Expo 2009

The Natural Health Expo 2009

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2009 8:09 am

    I like a more scientific approach to skin care and tend to take advertisements with a huge pinch of salt. That’s why I like to “test” products to see whether they really work. I trust recommendations from family and friends and always being suspicious of SA’s advice as they’re bias in trying to promote their own brand(s).

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