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January 30, 2008


(posted with permission of cropwatch)

Editorial Comment

On 25th Jan 2007, Kim Bleimann President of Berjé Inc., made a block-buster of a speech about the state of the aroma trade entitled “What you’ll never hear from
your boss.” His audience was the Women in Flavour & Fragrances Commerce (WFFC) meeting in New Jersey, and although the talk is by now 12 months old, its message is still 100% relevant. We reproduce the speech here (with permission) in its entirety, with a strong recommendation that everyone reads it, especially the newcomers to this industry. It is rare to find in a speech where there is so much contained wisdom, abject disappointment at the way the aroma industry is being destroyed without really putting up a fight, the overall message being tempered with some wry humour.

A second lecture we are pleased to bring to a wider audience is that from Robert Tisserand, who bounced back on stage after a 10-year absence from public speaking at the Alliance of International Aromatherapists Conference in Denver, Colorado in October 2007. Robert’s paper entitled “Challenges of Essential Oil Therapy: Proof of Safety” raises some important issues in the safety area. Our particular interest would be to develop some of the themes mentioned in the lecture i.e. more attention given to matrix effects in essential oils & how the beneficial effects of individual substances contained within natural aromatic materials, which have anti-carcinogenic, anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative properties etc., might easily nullify the adverse effects of other substances within the same oil/ ingredient which are individually alleged to be irritant, carcinogenic etc. In this way we would hope to be eventually able to show that the existing system of single ingredient hazard-based precautionary-principled prediction attempts to estimate the actual risks presented to the end user for complex biological substances, perfume compounds or finished
cosmetics, is invalid.

The subject of coumarin has made even more twists & turns in recent weeks. Cropwatch has updated & re-issued its Coumarin – the real story document to include the National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation (NTEF) vs. l’Oreal’s knock-about over alleged adverse effects from the coumarin-containing Angel perfume by Thierry Mugler, and punches holes in the somewhat chemophobic arguments presented by the NTEF. We separately examine the questionable Dec 2007 statement by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) regarding dangerous levels of coumarin exposure from applied fragranced cosmetics, especially for children. We conclude that the BfR may be another organisation apparently incapable of doing a proper literature search on ingredients – had they done so, they may not have made the statement that they did. As it is, they have been slapped down by both the IKW and IFRA. Whilst it is rewarding to see an IFRA spokesperson actually defending an aromatic ingredient for once (instead of regulating us ingredient users into obscurity), we bring you aspects of the coumarin toxicity saga that IFRA forgot to mention.

On the allergen front, a further paper from Vocanson et al. (2007) re-addresses the lack of allergenicity of pure coumarin, identifies a dihydrocoumarin impurity as the possible culprit for any slight allergenicity in impure coumarin. The SCCP are on the rack on this one - you remember that in their last Opinion they seemed to ‘misunderstand’ the results from the last paper from Vocanson & chums (Vocanson et al. 2006). Hopefully they will understand this one, and pave the way for a re-examination of all their previous contentious decisions on fragrance allergens, before they are embarrassed even further by the results of even more investigative publications.

The lack of inertia from the SCCP regarding overdue investigations of its previous shoddy work, is revisited with the tea tree oil (TTO) situation Almost four years on from the SCCP’s questionable Opinion on TTO, the negativity of which caused so much damage to confidence in the tea tree plantation business in Australia, and ten months on from the ATTIA dutifully lodging their document to fill the TTO toxicology data gaps that the SCCP identified, we still haven’t arrived at a revised SCCP Opinion on TTO’s stability & safety in cosmetics. A recent Cropwatch Statement (Jan 2008) optimistically & mistakenly identified a Brussels working group meeting on 22nd Jan 2008 (for which TTO was on the agenda) with a final SCCP meeting on the subject – we apologise for this. Apparently the SCCP is overloaded with work, and ATTIA’s TTO submission is a “big document” (nobody we know has seen it, or been able to throw it from the top of the stairs to see how heavy it is, so we can’t possibly comment on its bigness).

So it seems that we now have an SCCP ‘expert’ committee that isn’t actually expert; lacks necessary cross-disciplinary skills (admitted to Cropwatch in 2007 by Brussels regulatory staff); has previously offered Opinions when it was unable to conduct a proper literature search (admitted to Cropwatch 2007 by Brussels regulatory staff); makes flawed decisions which are being challenged in the scientific literature, and now apparently can’t get through the workload. We understand that following a contact with a Unit C7 – Risk Assessment official, a date later this year (perhaps June 2008?) to review a draft of the position is possible. The need for a separate Fragrance Commission within Brussels populated by independent fragrance experts - for which we believe there is a body of potential support in the Brussels Parliament - was never more apparent. In this way an admission of the relative safety of TTO might advantage the beleaguered TTO industry, which has suffered from Brussels wrong-footedness & dithering.

To conclude, existing EU regulatory staff continue to fail to present sensible policies for the survival of European aroma industry as they continue, unimpeded, to tunnel-vision their way from regulatory meeting to regulatory meeting, to further their repressive ingredient policy agendas. Unwittingly, perhaps, they are helping to kick the fragrance industry in the head as it lays bleeding to death, and we desperately need a new initiative from professional, trade & research organisations & industry itself, if natural aromatic products are not to become completely relegated to obscurity. The clock is ticking….


Vocanson M., Valeyrie M., Rozières A., Hennino A., Floc'h F., Gard A. & Nicolas J.F. (2007) "Lack of evidence for allergenic properties of coumarin in a fragrance allergy mouse model." Contact Dermatitis 57(6), 361-364.

Vocanson M., Goujon C, Chabeau G, Castelaine M, Valeyriea M., Floc'h F., Maliverney C., Gard A. & Nicolas J.F. (2006) “The Skin Allergenic Properties of Chemicals May Depend on Contaminants - Evidence from Studies on Coumarin.” International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 140, 231-238

Posted by Tony Burfield on January 30, 2008 in Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 24, 2008

NEJM Gynecomastia Article now available for free

Just a note that the original article (February 2007) in the New England Journal of Medicine on Prepubertal Gynecomastia Linked to Lavender and Tea Tree Oils is now available here for free online. Apparently NEJM locks things up for about a year before publishing them at no charge. I imagine we will see another spate of media interest.


Posted by Rob on January 24, 2008 in Lavender/Tea Tree/Gynecomastia, Notes and News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 17, 2008


Jan 2008.


The SCCP (Scientific Committee on Consumer Products) has the subject of tea tree oil (TTO) on its agenda for its Brussels meeting of 22.01.08. You will remember that allegations about the instability & skin safety of tea tree oil, as well as complaints about gaps in the toxicity data, were previously made in the flawed SCCP Opinion SCCP/0843/04, to which the Australian Tea Tree Oil Industries Association (ATTIA) (but not producers of Chinese TTO) dutifully responded by privately submitting evidence to the SCCP on March 31st 2007. You might want to consider some further points:

a.) That the pharmaceutical industry sees the widespread use & beneficial effects of TTO as competitive to its health-care products portfolio and that Brussels is frequently visited by pharmaceutical trade lobbyists. Aspersions are frequently made in the media against the safety or efficacy of particular essential oils (which Cropwatch will list in detail in its next Newsletter) which have advantaged the interests of the pharmaceutical & chemical trades. Questions need to be asked why baseless allegations about TTO safety have prompted this particular chain of events starting in 2004.

b.) That ATTIA were in a privileged position with respect to fund-raising for financing the safety studies demanded by the SCCP, via Australian governmental & customer-base support. Whilst it is heartening to see the essential oil industry defending itself against toxicological imperialism for once, taking this as a precedent for further SCCP safety data demands for other essential oils & natural aromatic ingredients would seriously financially compromise the position of the essential oil producing industry.

c.) Cropwatch is grateful to Ian Southwell for delivering the ATTIA booklet to us at Graz in 2007, which summarises the TTO findings as presented to SCCP. However as we understand it, the actual experimental data has only been presented to the SCCP committee. This lack of transparency concerning privately submitted evidence to the SCCP by third parties is not uncommon - a similar situation exists, for example, with the research on photoclastogenicity for the furanocoumarins bergamottin & isopimpinellin, privately commissioned by RIFM (Research Institute for Fragrance Materials) & carried out by David Kirkland of Covance UK. RIFM's summary of the findings in its’ 2007 Newsletter does not substitute for access to the full data being available in the public domain.

Cropwatch Statement

  1. Cropwatch has been collecting information on any end-user adverse effects from TTO oil usage, via the public returns of an extensive questionnaire on its website www.cropwatch.org. However at a meeting between Cropwatch, the Perfume Foundation & members of the Cosmetics Commission in Brussels in 2007, Cropwatch were told that end-user data on ingredients was not admissible as evidence for safety assessments. As we consider this position to be both nonsensical & legally challengeable, Cropwatch has continued to keep the TTO questionnaire running on its website, since completed questionnaires continue to be received from TTO users. We will be closing the project shortly, and the data will be independently scientifically assessed.
  2. Cropwatch has no confidence in the SCCP to be able to properly assess the risks presented by the use of TTO, because, amongst other things, estimations of any actual adverse effects from end-users are ignored. It was admitted during the Cropwatch-Perfume Foundation-Cosmetics Commission meeting mentioned above that, up to that point, comprehensive data-searching of the published literature on specific topics was unavailable to Brussels staff. Evidently then it cannot be ruled out that the SCCP Opinion SCCP/0834/04 was merely based on a trawl of selective evidence, & its conclusions have to be regarded as unsafe. Further, Cropwatch considers that a negative safety opinion on tea tree oil as a cosmetic ingredient would rebound on the more widespread use of tea tree oil as a biocide (e.g. to help combat hospital-acquired MRSA or Clostridium difficile infections). Because risk-benefit considerations for individual ingredients are not taken into consideration by the Cosmetics Commission (stated Cosmetics Commission policy to Cropwatch, 2007) the SCCP may in this instance be in danger of generating an Opinion, which either indirectly or directly, could affect public safety.
  3. From information already disclosed by ATTIA regarding their full findings, and from Cropwatch's so far unpublished questionnaire returns, it would seem that predictions of adverse health effects from TTO oil usage by career toxicologists and others involved in advising the EU regulator, were considerably exaggerated. As this is a further example of safety assessment imbalance at Brussels, Cropwatch calls for a review of the way that cosmetic ingredient safety is assessed by the regulator, since the existing (over-) precautionary principled approach is clearly failing the public.

Cropwatch Team 2008

Posted by Tony Burfield on January 17, 2008 in Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Regulatory Issues, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2008

Aromatic Beer on the way?

Beer and Ale brewers may be turning to herbs and aromatic plants to flavor beer in the face of increasing prices and possible scarcity of hops, the traditional beer ingredient since the 12th Century, according to an article in Guest On Tap, an online beer aficionados magazine published on the US West Coast.

With the increase in cost and scarcity of hops, brewers may turn to “gruit” beers. Before a German nun, Hildegard von Bingen, first promoted the use of hops in beer in the 12th century, brewers used gruit, blends of herbs and spices, to flavor their beers.
  Roots Organic Brewing Co. makes a gruit kolsch as its summer seasonal, flavored with mugwort, sweet gale, grains of paradise, chamomile and lavender. Roots Heather Ale uses the flowers of the heather plant to give that beer its dryness.
  Colorado’s New Belgium uses wormwood (the active ingredient in absinthe) to bitter its Springboard Ale, which also incorporates goji berries, schisandra and some Mount Hood hops for flavor.
  So enjoy those imperial IPAs as if they were your last, and look forward to some interesting beer flavors in the new year.

Posted by Rob on January 8, 2008 in Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Notes and News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 07, 2008

Coumarin Again

We have a new developments over allegations of coumarin toxicity to humans. To recap, coumarin is commonly found in perfumes & cosmetics, because of its deliberate addition as a perfumery synthetic ingredient, and because of its widespread distribution in added natural aromatic materials (see Cropwatch article at http://www.cropwatch.org/nlet4art4.htm). Coumarin is not restricted IFRA, although it has been wrongly classified as a sensitiser by the SCCP [see Floc'h (2002) & Vocansen et al (2006)], but nevertheless must be labelled according to an adaptation of 7th Amendment of the Cosmetics Directive 76/768/EEC if its concentration in the final retailed product from whatever source is greater than 0.01% in products intended for rinsing off the skin, or 0.001% in leave-on products. 

In the EU, flavourings are regulated according to the Articles of the European Council’s Directive on food flavourings 88/388/EEC, amended by 91/71/EEC and implemented into UK national law in the Flavourings in Food Regulations 1992: You might remember, that coumarin had been restricted with respect to its allowable concentration in foodstuffs because of allegations of (non-linear dose related) rat & dog carcinogenicity which occurred at high levels of coumarin administration. These considerations caused the regulators to limit coumarin concentrations in food & beverages to 2 mg/Kg, except for limits for chewing gum (50 mg/Kg), alcoholic drinks (10mg/Kg) & caramel confectionery (10mg/Kg). However the EU Scientific Committee for Food (1997) recommended the lowering the coumarin limit to the limit of detection in food, 0.5mg/Kg. However, we know that the metabolism of coumarin proceeds through a different major route of 7-hydroxylation in humans compared with the 3-hydroxylation pathway in rats (Cohen 1979, Fentem & Fry 1993, Kaighen & Williams 1961, Lake et al 1989), further species to species differences being investigated for example by Fenton & Fry (1993), who found that a heptatoxic route involving 3-hydroxylation and involving a 3,4-epoxide occurs in the rat, but not in baboons, gerbils, some strains of mice, and man. This hypothesis had also been muted by Steensma (1994) amongst others, and was further explored in Lake's paper with Gray (1999), who fed dihydrocoumarin  to rats (which cannot form the 3,4 epoxide metabolite) and found no heptacarcinogenic effect. Lake's fairly thorough (1999) review paper pointed out (amongst other things) that dietary exposure to coumarin (0.02mg/day) plus cosmetic exposure to coumarin (0.04mg/day) sill adds up to a TDI which is still approx. 100 times less than the minimum figure causing observed adverse reactions in humans, and between 2000 and 3000 times lower than the dose necessary to produce liver tumours in rats. (Lake 1999). 

Now enter the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), who just recently (20.12.2007) have maintained that they have "evaluated the analytical results of the controlling bodies of the federal states in order to assess the scale on which cosmetics contribute to consumer exposure to coumarin." They find that "it has not been fully elucidated whether coumarin taken in via the skin has a similarly harmful effect on the liver to coumarin ingested from the gastro-intestinal tract". Presumably they would cite in their defence of this position, the paper by Yourick & Bronaugh (1997) who found that coumarin rapidly penetrated rat & human skin and is not metabolised by enzymes in the skin. Coumarin is thereby presumed by rapidly enter the systemic circulation to be metabolised by the liver. So what, you may ask? Humans still are not at risk from heptacarcinogenic effects according to figures given by Lake (1999). But the BfR also states that consumers could already exceed the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of coumarin just by using cosmetics with high coumarin levels, an opinion at therefore at variance with Lake's (1999) findings. The president of the BfR Prof. Hesel says that coumarin should not be used in products for infants & toddlers as a precautionary measure. That statement you might think, comes 130 years too late, since coumarin has been extensively used at fairly  high concentrations in many fragrances for infant care products, since its commercial production in 1876, and infant toxicity has not been revealed to be a problem thus far. 

At least one perfumery organisation has commented internally to its members that Prof. Hesel has not understood the species differences relevant to coumarin metabolism. However Cropwatch can take a broader view. Firstly we don't know for sure that detoxification mechanisms in babies/very young children are exactly similar to those for adults. Secondly, the perfumery organisation that made the comment was only slightly acquainted with coumarin metabolism (as I was until recently) and hadn't allowed for the fact that not all humans metabolise coumarin via the 7-hydroxylation route - there some may a proportion of 'low 7-hydroxylators' (see Hadidi et al 1997).who may be more at rise to coumarin exposure. Further, all of use may use a proportion of other routes other than the major 7-hydroxylation route to detoxify coumarin. Obviously we need more research.to properly assess the risks. It is a matter of judgement how precautionary we need to be on restricting coumarin levels in cosmetics -obviously a harsh coumarin limit would severely affect not only the types of perfumes that could be sold (i.e. no traditional chypres) and the number of essential oils & absolutes that could be used. One further piece for consideration is contained in a paper published by Givel in 2003, who gives an insight into information on coumarin toxicity in tobacco perfumes, who continued use until 10 or 20 years ago demonstrates the conflict between a duty to protect the health of the people of the nation against the right to keep trade secrets (tobacco fragrance formulation). Givel reports that "despite known severe toxic and carcinogenic risks to humans, coumarin was also reportedly used as an additive in pipe tobacco in the USA at least as late as 1996 (and from cigarettes supposedly in 1985).   


Cohen A.J. (1979) “Critical Review of the toxicology of coumarin with special reference to interspecies differences in metabolism and hepatoxic response & their significance  to man” Food Cosmet. Toxicol. 17, 277-289. 

Floc’h F. (2002) “Coumarin in Plants and Fruits: Implications in Perfumery.” Perf. & Flav. 27 (Mar/Apr 2002), 32-36. 

Givel M. (2003) “A comparison of US and Norwegian regulation of coumarin in tobacco products.” Tobacco Control 12, 401-405 

Hadidi H., Zalsen K., Idle J.R. & Cholerton S. (1997) "A single amino acid substitution (Leu160His) in Cytochrome P450 CYP2A6 

Kaighen M. & Williams R.T. (1961) "The metabolism of 3-14C Coumarin" Journal of Med. Chem 3, 25-43. 

Lake B.G., Gray T.B.G., Evans J.G., Lewis D.F.V., Beamand J.A. & Hue K.L. (1989) "Studies on the mechanism of coumarin-based toxicity in rat hepatocytes: comparison with dihydrocoumarin and other coumarin metabolites Toxicology & Applied Pharmacology 97, 311-323. 

Lake B.G. (1999) “Coumarin Metabolism, Toxicity & Carcinogenicity: Relevance for Human Risk Assessement.” Food & Chemical Toxicology 37(4), 423-453. 

Lake B.G., Gray T.J.B. (1999) "Studies on the mechanism of coumarin-induced toxicity in rat hepatocytes: Comparison with dihydrocoumarin and other coumarin metabolites." Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 97(2), 311-323. 

Steensma A., Beamand D.G., Walters D.G. et al. (1994) “Metabolism of Coumarin and 7-ethoxycoumatrin by rat, mouse, guinea pig, Cynomolgus monkey & human precusion-cut liver slices” Xenobiotica 24, 893-907. 

Vocanson M., Goujon C., Chabeau G., Castelain M., Valeyrie M., Floc’h F., Maliverney C., Gard A. & Nicolas J.F.  (2006) “The Skin Allergenic Properties of Chemicals may depend on Contaminants” Int Arch Allergy Immunol 140, 231-238 

Further to my previous comments, now lets look further at The National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation (NTEF) case which continues to generate a considerable amount of media coverage in their campaign against L'Oreal and the coumarin-containing perfume Angel in particular. Their case looks increasingly badly realised - Cropwatch has been sifting through some of the published papers cited by the President of the NTEF, Angel de Fazio to support her case that coumarin is a harmful perfumery ingredient (in the NTEF news release of Oct 27th 2007), supported by Jack D. Thrasher, Ph.D., who is described as a "Toxicologist/Immunotoxicologist/Fetaltoxicologist". We have found that most of the references do not actually concern coumarin at all - they concern coumarins - a world of difference. Here they are in detail 

1. Albert RE Allergic contact sensitizing chemicals as environmental carcinogens. Environ Health Perspect. 1997 September; 105(9): 940–948.
2. Gerard Van Den Berg*, Marius L. De Winter†, Wybo A. De Boer and Wijbe Th. Nauta. Inhibition of ß-glucuronidase by 2-diarylmethyl- 1,3-indandiones. Received 23 June 1975; accepted 23 October 1975. Available online 5 November 2002. Biochem Pharmacol. 1976 Jun 15;25(12):1397-403.
3. http://www.usp.org/pdf/EN/veterinary/phenylbutazone.pdf
4. Peter G. Dayton, Yavuz Tarcan, Theodore Chenkin, and Murray Weiner
The Influence of Barbiturates on Coumarin Plasma Levels and Prothrombin Response, J Clin Invest. 1962 February; 41(2): 300.
5. Ren, P, Stark, PY, Johnson, RL, Bell, RG. Mechanism of action of anticoagulants: correlation between the inhibition of prothrombin synthesis and the regeneration of vitamin K1 from vitamin K1 epoxide. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1977 201: 541-546.
6. Wallin R, Martin L F Vitamin K-dependent carboxylation and vitamin K metabolism in liver. Effects of warfarin. J Clin Invest. 1985 November; 76(5): 1879–1884.
7. Marek LJ, Koskinen WC. Multiresidue analysis of seven anticoagulant rodenticides by high-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray/mass spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Feb 7;55(3):571-6.
8. A Taylor and M G Townsend, Some biochemical studies on warfarin resistance in the rat. Biochem J. 1970 July; 118(3): 56P–57P.
9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coumarin
10. Wesseling J, Van Driel D, Heymans HS, Van der Veer E, Sauer PJ, Touwen BC, Smirkovsky M. Behavioural outcome of school-age children after prenatal exposure to coumarins. Early Hum Dev. 2000 Jun;58(3):213-24
11. Wesseling J, Van Driel D, Smrkovsky M, Van der Veer E, Geven-Boere LM, Sauer PJ, Touwen BC. Neurological outcome in school-age children after in utero exposure to coumarins. Early Hum Dev. 2001 Jul;63(2):83-9 

Working in reverse order, reference 11 deals with acenocumarol & phenprocoumarol exposure, whilst reference 10 deals with the after-effects of acenocoumarol, phenprocoumon & coumadin (Warfarin) exposure to prenatal etc. children. These findings are of interest to rat-poison users, but making an inference that coumarin would behave similarly to say, warfarin, is to say the least, unproven, if not pure conjecture. Reference 9 deals with a Wikipedia entry which isn't particularly damning about coumarin. References 8, 7, 6 & 5 also relate more to warfarin and anti-coagulant coumarin derivatives. Reference 2 concerns 2-aryldimethyl-indandiones which we will assume are absent in most perfumes - unless proof is furnished to the contrary. 

So really then there are slim pickings for a case against coumarin here, and to make any sort of case, it might have been far wiser to expand the 'low 7-hydroylators' hypothesis and other troubling aspects of coumarin metabolism set out in the first section of this note. 

Tony Burfield.

Posted by Tony Burfield on January 7, 2008 in Regulatory Issues, Research, Safety/Toxicity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Sky Fell In

Part of the sky fell in over the weekend. The UK's Times newspaper ran a 2-page story (see Times OnLine ) describing how the new Natural Healthcare Council modelled along the lines of the General Medical Council, (GMC) will regulate aromatherapy, reflexology, massage, nutrition, shiaztzu, reiki, naturopathy, yoga, homeopathy, cranial osteopathy & the Alexander & Bowen techniques in the UK. Nigel Hawles, the health editor for the Times, described the move as a success for the Prince of Wales. I believe, on the other hand, that it will be an unmitigated disaster for CAM.

What is the real motivation behind this? Its all about money & control. The pharmaceutical trade has for a long time looked with envy at the £130 million per year turnover generated by Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM), which is expected to rise to £200 million within four years (Hawkes 2007) and its storm troopers have sought to kick complementary alternative medicine in the head, via adverse media coverage, at every possible opportunity. The threat posed is that the rise of complementary therapies and the popular use of natural products such as tea tree oil, ginseng, valerian etc., diverts attention from convention medicine & the potential income from conventional synthetic drug sales. Therefore any negative utterance by some academic 'expert' (who those of us within CAM have generally never heard of) knocking aromatherapy, herbal medicine, homeopathy etc. is faithfully reported by various lightweight science reporters who work for the supposedly independent quality UK newspapers such as the Guardian, the Independent or the Observer. Cropwatch has been puzzled as to why our rebuttals of the shallow, non-investigative & biased reporting has never been featured in the letters pages of these organs. We don't have to look far for an answer. Its down to sinister lobbying organisations and their many sympathisers, such as Sense About Science (hilariously described as ‘a charity’ by obedient newspaper hacks) who are thought to be indirectly financed by the pharmaceutical & chemical organisations & trades, and who exert their considerable influence in distorting media science reporting, defending GM products and. promoting an anti-environmentalist stance - for example dismissing industrial pollution effects in terms of false illness beliefs, arguing against organic food & vitamin supplements, alternative medicine and so on.. For the real low-down on Sense About Science (SAS), see the LobbyWatch website at http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=151, or Martin Walker's free downloadable E-book: Cultural Dwarfs & Junk Journalism. One of SAS's more chilling beliefs is that public discussion of scientific matters & their ethics should be discouraged and legitimate arguments trivialised or dismissed as fantasy, since the SAS view is the only valid one. The Corporate Science supporter Ben Goldacre, who runs a 'Bad Science' column in the Guardian which exercises a vendetta against various CAM professions such as homeopathy & nutrition, is under the Guardian's editorship protection, such that counterattacks to some of his nonsensical ramblings never see the light of day. Goldacre, who professes to be a mere hospital medic, whilst being quick to criticise CAM, refuses to comment on his own profession's lamentable failings (such as the abysmal statistics surrounding the failure of MD's to correctly diagnose & prescribe the appropriate treatment for a given patient's ills, the hundreds of thousands of patients who die or who's health is severely adversely affected by the unwanted side-effects of prescribed pharmaceuticals, or the hilarious but thorough reporting of an extensive study by the Union of Concerned Scientists that following a course of conventional drug treatment appears to statistically increase the chances of shortening your life, not to mention the serious chances of dying or losing limbs from hospital acquired infections!).

So why is Cropwatch opposed to the Natural Healthcare Council regulating CAM? The Nigel Hawkes article suggests regulation is needed partly because of high-profile cases where therapists have reportedly attacked clients. This argument is clearly absolute nonsense – the National Health Service has always represented much more of a risk. For example here in the UK, an inquiry started in 2000 decided that the medical practitioner Dr Harold Shipman allegedly killed up to 250 of his patients, some 218 of whom have been subsequently identified. Health care authorities subsequently carried out heavy modifications to medical practice to increase patient protection, but this move was merely 'shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted'.

As it is, regulation has all but destroyed the perfumery trade, & Cropwatch spends most of its spare time fighting the absurdities of the EU regulation outfall, and UK/Canadian/US National legislation that concerns natural aromatic & medicinal products. Within the EU in the cosmetics/essential oils sector, a bunch of Brussels lawyers with no scientific knowledge are advised by so-called 'expert' committees (themselves a bunch of academics with no trade experience) who rely on big industry to provide scientific evidence on ingredient safety & other regulatory matters. Of course big industry biases furnished safety evidence to 'expert' committees towards to their Corporate interests, and they employ and finance toxicologists to support their hyperbureaucratic policies, which are themselves so complex, that they profoundly disadvantage all of the less powerful competition with less available technical manpower resources. A similar state of affairs exists in Biocides regulation, where EU Directives are completely written around the interests of the chemical industry, making it virtually impossible cost-wise for small natural biocides with their small financial resources producers to sell their relatively safer products in Europe. It is a running open sore.

If the Natural Healthcare Council were to fully regulate all the CAM areas mentioned in the first paragraph, it would require a complete college-full of multi-disciplinary experts to administer the eleven or so areas mentioned. It will be very interesting to see who they put up to do this - we are promised eight of these regulators, who we learn elsewhere will be probably lay people under the chairmanship of Dame Joan Higgins.. What it probably would mean, is that those who passionate about CAM are going to have to spend much of their time, unpaid & unrewarded, teaching the regulators (and no doubt their “expert” advisers) how to do their job properly. If previous patterns are repeated, the regulators will make inappropriate decisions based on biased evidence proffered by those with hidden agendas, which the rest of us will have to spend years undoing. Although Cropwatch has made some unacknowledged headway in doing exactly this in other areas (cosmetics, biocides), it is extremely dispiriting the think that there is potentially much more to take on here as well.

First indications are that joining the proposed scheme will be voluntary, eventually to be obligatory. The Council will (initially) only have powers to strike off errant or incompetent therapists, or to set minimum standards for practitioners. This latter prospect is, in itself, most intriguing. Within aromatherapy, the low educational entry requirements & abysmal course standards set in UK colleges are a national joke, so setting minimum standards for practitioners will presumably be a great source of material for satirical magazines such as Private Eye. The profession is starved of finance, so no substantial evidence-based aromatherapy data-base exists as such - anything that does exist is likely to consist of published (so-called) aromatherapy studies by non-practising academics, rather than tapping the massive collective experience of everyday practitioners. Aromatherapy trade & academic magazines are owned by aromatherapists, their chums, & aromatherapy supply sellers - who profit from promoting their own businesses within the magazines.

But of course it is perfectly possible to be a fantastic massage therapist, aromatherapist etc., without having the dubious benefit of attending some badly-taught aromatherapy course and getting the duly signed piece of paper at the finish, and/or having to be obligatorily registered with and represented by some professional aromatherapy organisation or another. Perhaps this consideration should be the first lesson for the potential regulators of the National Healthcare Trust. Or perhaps, as in France, where aromatherapy has been legally designated as a 'sect' (in spite of the fact that now according to some with national pride, aromatherapy was invented in France), it may have to go underground for a while to survive. In any case the freer CAM is from regulation the better. Sure, these professions have an element of scientific content, but basically they are a folk-art, sympathetic to concepts of spirituality & energy flow, and they need to be severely left alone, and they are doing just fine from receiving no attention whatsoever, thanks, from a UK government obsessed with control. Finally, if you have any doubts about how a GMC-styled regulatory body might eventually end up in regulating the CAM profession, have a look at Martin Walkers's account (again in Cultural Dwarfs & Junk Journalism) on how the GMC and some of the major players have dealt with Dr Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield, you will remember dared to raise issues about the safety of the MMR vaccine and possible links with autism, and who is currently involved in GMC a fitness to practice hearing.

Tony Burfield.

P.S. Please pray with us that Prof. Edvard Ernst is not promoted to a position of adviser or authority within the National Healthcare Council. Ernst is a Corporate Science sympathiser who is working undercover as Director of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, & whose sole purpose seems to be to rip the soul out of CAM, armed only with a Corporate Science device called "the meta-analysis". Ernst's stature & reputation is such that it has even over-awed normally sensible Herbalgram staff who worship & reproduce his every utterance, & who apparently haven't noticed that now HE'S WORKING FOR THE OPPOSITION. Wake up!

Posted by Tony Burfield on January 7, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Politics, Regulatory Issues | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 03, 2008

Too Much Perfume may indicate Depression

Can’t smell the roses? Maybe you’re depressed. Smell too much like a rose yourself? Maybe you’ve got the same problem. Scientists from Tel Aviv University recently linked depression to a biological mechanism that affects the olfactory glands. It might explain why some women, without realizing it, wear too much perfume.

This according to research at Tel Aviv University reported in Science Daily that suggests that depressed women are also losing their sense of smell, and may use more perfume to overcompensate.

It appears that an autoimmune mechanism may be responsible:

In lupus patients and those with other autoimmune diseases, a particle known as an “autoantibody” attacks the person’s own immune system, appearing in the human body as an aberrant reaction to autoimmune diseases. This particle “is a real novelty,” says Prof. [Yehuda] Shoenfeld. “We have found that, when generated, it weakens a person’s sense of smell and can induce the feeling of depression.”

Unfortunately the original study wasn't cited. By some creative Googling, I was able to trace it back to the original press release (substantially the same as the Science Daily article) and eventually to this study published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, and to another study in Autoimmunity Reviews from 2006  that looks at the relationship between brain illnesses and olfaction. The latter study suggests that deterioration of the sense of smell may be used in the prediction of brain illnesses, and a number of other links from the abstract lead to other olfaction studies.

The Science Daily article and the press release mention the use of aromatherapy in the retail industry to change moods and encourage sales. Professor Schoenfeld suggests that this research may help change attitudes towards aromatherapy.

“I think that science is able to show that aromatherapy might not be just for quacks. After all, some of these remedies have been used since the time of the Egyptians to treat organic diseases.”

Posted by Rob on January 3, 2008 in Aromatherapy, Organizations, Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack