Comlementary and conventional medicine.

I worked for a little over thirty years as a nurse, first in physical health and then in mental health fields. It was fifteen years before I left nursing that I trained as an aromatherapist.

Within the complementary and alternative health fields there are  a wide range of opinions and while I have strong opinions about some aspects of conventional treatments I will try and stick with facts.

One of the worrying things I see about conventional drugs is that nowhere in the world has any regulations as to what passes into the earth or the water system from our bodies from conventional medicine. Much of the world has seen a tightening of regulation over the past fifty years with many pesticides being banned altogether and restrictions being placed on others.

Much has been written about the effects of the contraceptive pill on fish and  the reduction of the percentage of male fish in some species as a result of this. Other species are affected by serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, a widely used class of antidepressant that causes them to become fertile at lower water temperatures before their main food species are present in sufficient numbers to feed the young.

Are complementary therapies immune from this? I suspect not. St. John’s Wort, widely used as a herbal anti-depressant has a similar mode of action to the antidepressants mentined above and if it was used on the same scale would likely have a similar effect. Natural does not automatically mean safe. If it did we could go about eating deadly nightshade berries with impunity.

The compounds found in essential oils are by and large safe if used sensibly by knowledgeable practitioners. Yes some can cause photo-sensitivity. I always warn clients about this if I am using these oils even in winter, just in case they use sun beds. There are other oils that can produce allergic reactions but to date I have not come across this. I have come across a possible headache reaction to vetiver, an oil I use quite a bit but only when used in a burner. I have found on on-line forums reference to this with perfumes containing the oil.

An interesting experiment for those who think essential oils and other natural compounds are harmless is to put a few drops of bergamot or bitter orange oil into a plstic filled with water. The oil floats on top of the water and will react with the plastic cutting the top off in an hour or so! A good example of why essential oils should not be used undiluted!

To return to the original topic, conventional medicine does things that I can not expect to do with essential oils. Antibiotics can clear infections that will kill without this intervention. At the same time essential oils can be a big part of preventing infections in the first place. Because an antibiotic acts on only one part of the life cycle of the bacterium, it is possible for resistance to occur. The essential oils attack the bacteria on several different parts of their system which make this very unlikely if not impossible.

To finish, while there are aspects of conventional medicine that I feel very uncomfortable with I also recognise it’s value. It is also why I describe myself as a complementary therapist and not, “alternative.”