My CAM experience… the past, the present and the future

Troll: (noun)

  1. One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption; and
  2. an ugly cave-dwelling creature

I received a nasty, stupid comment regarding one of my posts. Fortunately for me, I have fairly thick skin and rather than rise to the bait, I deleted the comment and it will never see the light of HiResday. It was clear that this person (troll) had not read my blog and was trying to get some kind of argument from me. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am argumentative (FYI – I am also inquisitive, and friendly and a good mum…). But I do not have time or energy to respond to ignorance. So, in light of (but definitely not responding to) that, I wanted to comment about my beliefs of and experience and history with complementary medicine – just so that you know where I am coming from:

My mum used to visit a psychic. I am not sure whether she still believes, but it was my first “hearing”of this “alternative” world, and I had LOADS of questions! Not ones that needed answering by a psychic, but more about how it was possible. I remember listening to the cassette tape she came home with, and the psychic person sounded so other worldly and so knowledgeable.  In hindsight, it was probably just a bit warped (remember that!) and that made it sound very “real”.

It was not until the start of the 90s, when I began playing with essential oils (without any knowledge of their potential benefits or harms) that I began to explore complementary medicine.  In 1998, I started working as PA to a fairly well known and published Australian energy healer and I was introduced to a whole world of magical, esoteric alternative medicine.  I learned about energy healing, reiki, meditation, crystal healing, crystal scrying, numerology, psychic healing, astrology- the list goes on.  I loved my job. I loved the people who were always around – their positivity was awesome, and at that time, I needed that.

A zen stones skyscraperI still meditate, and if I don’t have enough time for a full “session” (a bad excuse, hey!), I use the tools of relaxation to help me focus and to chill. I find this skill particularly useful when my head is spinning following a day of writing, and I cannot get to sleep. I am feeling relaxed right now just thinking about how it feels to meditate! I love the images that people use to depict meditation, because they induce relaxation. I have had some almost “religious” experiences when I have meditated and I love being able to take the time out to focus a little on me.

I have given and received countless healing treatments, and I don’t know what it was that I felt – whether it was anticipation or fear, a want or a need, or whether it was the transference of “universal energy”. It does not matter, because it was amazing, and it was an experience I had and loved, at a time in my life when I was looking for “something”.

In 2006, following the birth of my 1st child, I decided to (finally!) educate myself; I wanted to learn something practical; I wanted to set myself up in business, and work from home. I read about a course at Edinburgh Napier University, and I jumped right in!  The course was the now completely defunct (another subject for another day) BSc Complementary Medicine/BA (Honours) Complementary Healthcare.  At university, my colleagues and I learned how to be good practitioners. We learned about the history and traditions of aromatherapy and complementary health, the chemistry of essential oils, anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, massage (it was a health science degree, so we learned a lot), regulation, ethnomedicine, reflexology, five element theory and Chinese medicine, we learned about running a small business and so much more.  And I was introduced to research.

There were people in my class who wanted to practice from a very spiritual place and there were others who adopted a more scientific approach (not reductionist, but looking for evidence!).  I LOVED this course! I met some amazing teachers, and I made some wonderful friends (I have even been asked to contribute to one of my lecturer’s books!)  I left Napier with a 1st class honours degree, a very wide knowledge of complementary medicine, a thirst for more education, and, finally, an understanding of what I actually wanted to do with my life. I did not want to be a practitioner, I wanted to help people en masse. I WANTED TO BE A RESEARCHER IN THE ACADEMIC FIELD OF COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE… (but I still love to make things, and doing fun stuff with essential oils, which will happen… watch this space…)

iStock_000011772479SmallNow I am close to finishing my PhD and my focus is very clear. I want to go and find evidence for the benefits of CAM. I still think about the esoteric – the unicorns and the angels – but I am very focused on the evidence. I am not opposed to modern scientific medicine, but I wonder if there are any cheaper, safer (ie less side-effects), alternatives to current prescriptive medicine, and if so, in what areas of health? How can CAM be useful for chronic illness, and how can it be used effectively to prevent ill-health and promote wellness?

I do not agree with Tim Minchin’s quote: “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine”, because I think a lot of the benefit of CAM comes from holistic practice, and that is much more than a prescription in a bottle! I do agree with another one, though, that “alternative medicine … has either not been proved to work, or has been proved not to work – much more of the former, and, I wonder, is this “proof” better (ie quality, more rigorous and without bias?) than some of the poor scientific evidence of effect? I am not so sure…

From my happy place of fond memories, I really want to believe that all CAM works.  But the reality is, it doesn’t ALL work, and we need to start developing a scientific evidence base to support those that do. The public needs the real low down; they need to know where they can get good advice, and when they are being completely shammed. I love complementary healthcare; I love its history and tradition and it is because of all my life experience, that I want to be a very big part of the future.iStock_000014098136Small

And so, a final note – One very “traditional” CAM practitioner and educator once said to her audience that science, and learning about CAM in a university setting means that you lose the intuitiveness of the practice. To that, I say: you are not born with the knowledge of how to practice any complementary medicine; you need to learn this, and a university is the right institution; it has access to the most current knowledge, it is not biased, and it is a very broad education (with many transferable skills). An intuitive practitioner does not innately “know” which oil to use before they speak to a client; the “intuitive” is the practitioner who learns how to listen AND hear, they watch and feel (through massage or palpation), and then they can be intuitive with their practice, because then they have a better understanding of the clients needs. All of this comes from education. Intuition is important.

So is the knowledge that drinking some essential oils will kill you!

Look out for my next blog – something about “Show me the evidence…”

“…I realized that rewards are not the goal- if one seeks the ultimate it will elude you. The reward is life itself, in its richness, in its sadness, and joy.”

Valerie Ann Worwood


Operation LOVE YOUR BODY! (#ihaveembraced)


This post is going to take me away from my usual mutterings about complementary health, to shine the torchlight on this amazing Adelaidean lady, Taryn Brumfitt (yep, that is her, above!) who has a dream to create positive change about the way we perceive our body; she wants us to stop feeling horror and sadness when we look in the mirror, and start feeling love and wonderful acceptance.  To that end, she developed the Body Image Movement.  She has a wonderful webpage, she has spoken publicly about her mission, she has been interviewed in a variety of press both here and in the States, and she has more than 50,000 loyal followers on facebook

I recently heard Taryn (and her very awesome talking partner, psychologist Dr Emma)  lecture at the Developing Daughters event.  The audience was a group of concerned mums and dads who wanted to know more about the way the media portrays beauty, the unethical use of very young girls in overtly sexual advertisements, and about how big fashion houses have us believing their version of “reality”.  This affects us, and it affects our daughters. It was a very inspirational evening and, if you ever have the opportunity, you should go along and listen. This has really influenced the way I speak to my girls about health, food and loving our bodies.


This is not a reality...
This is not a reality…

Embrace – The Documentary –  The event of childbirth, her beautiful children and the media pressure of the “perfect” post-pregnancy body (and some nasty/ignorant/uneducated trolls….) are the driving force behind the documentary project Embrace.  Taryn is on the campaign trail looking for support via the kickstarter website to make this doco and get her message “out there” to a much, much larger audience.  Here is a link to her pledge page, where you will find a bit of a personal history, some background about the doco, and a link to click and pledge. Below, is her promo – take 5 minutes and check it out!

 I am supporting this campaign because I get it. I have two beautiful daughters and I want to put my arms around them and protect them from this unreal beauty/body ideal, and to teach them that their body is a fantastic vehicle for their very busy little lives – it carries them to school, around the netball court, the ice-skating rink, cubs, music practice – anything that they want to be a part of. It lets them know when they are tired, or hurting and it lets them feel joy and happiness. And they are can look at themselves in the mirror and be happy, because they are beautiful, just the way they are!

I recently read about a group of very young (age 9-ish) children who had to weigh themselves and measure their BMI, in front of the whole class group, as the teacher thought that this covert form of body shaming was an acceptable maths activity.  This cruel kind of behavior*  has got to stop, and body confidence is a good way to start. So, dig deep and support this campaign!! Thanks for your time 🙂


Taryn Brumfitt

from an adult who should know better – and frankly should be SACKED!

Noix de Coco



The prize for the most talked/written/facebooked/tweeted about oil in 2013 has got to go to Coconut Oil, and so I think that I too, should take a look at this iconic pomade.

To me, it is the smell of summertime with its beautiful and distinctive aroma. 80s de rigueur at Australian beaches, it was the skin tonic of choice for sunbathers. The slip, slop, slap message meant that the bottle of summer experienced a hiatus. These days, however, coconut oil  is promoted for its high sun protection factor, and coconut oil is back in vogue.

Coconut oil is usually found in a solid state and will melt at around 25 degrees.  In the solid state it is white, however, once melted, the oil is clear (Price, 1999). It is not commonly used in aromatherapy practice, however, it is a great emollient and is often used in commercial massage creams.  It is rich in lauric acid (said to have anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial qualities), is a rich source of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and contains more than 85% saturated fat, as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (Canapi et al., 2005). It is resistant to oxidation which means that products that contain coconut oil generally have a longer shelf-life.

Before I go on, it is important to you as a consumer to note that the most common coconut oil found on the shelves of your local supermarket may be inferior to those which provide all of the alleged health benefits you read about; there are two methods of extraction of coconut oil – the most commercially viable method, dry extraction, loses most, if not all, of the proteins, carbs and vitamins.  Oil which has been extracted using a wet method may be able to retrieve this goodness (Canapi et al., 2005).  However, there has been no research in this area, and therefore no conclusive evidence (Schardt, 2012).  So, buyer beware – not everything is what it seems.  In a crowded market-place it will be difficult to discern, however, looking for words such as “raw” or “virgin” may be beneficial.  My best advice would be to go to a reputable health-food shop or essential oil distributor and ask them some questions.

In a very quick, and not overly thorough review of the internet literature (37,600,000 pages dedicated to the oil on google), I have discovered the following to be amongst the most commonest claims. I am going to take a bit of time here to investigate these claims (pros AND cons!), and then you the reader can make up your own mind…

1.  Coconut oil is useful for weight-loss (11,000,000 google hits!): Because coconut oil contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), it behaves differently from other “fats” – that is, it will be absorbed straight into the cell, where it will be burned up (immediately!) as energy and less likely to be stored as fat.

  • The evidence: a masters student in Brazil published the results of his research where he compared weight loss amongst 40 obese women who were all asked to reduce their calorific input by 200 cals/day and exercise 4 days/week.  Half of these women were then asked to take 2 tablespoons (240 cals) of coconut oil, while the other half consumed soy bean oil.  The women in both groups lost the same amount of weight at the end of three months, which would suggest that the oil is not superior to soy bean oil for weight loss, and it certainly cannot provide any other conclusions (Schardt, 2012). It would be safe to say that the weight loss is probably linked to a reduction in food intake, and increased physical activity.  Schardt does suggest, however, that there may be some confusion surrounding testing for weight loss of a product known as MCT, a formulation which includes coconut extract and consists of 100% medium-chain triglyceride.  In several recent studies, participants who consumed this product lost more weight than those who consumed liquid vegetable oil. However, these studies are small, and there has been no longitudinal work done to understand the long-term effect.
  • Prof. Thomas Brenner, Nutritional Sciences @ Cornell University has come out in defence of what is known as “virgin” coconut oil suggesting that it does not contain as many trans-fats, and that the evidence that saturated fats are bad for us is flimsy (Clark, 2011).  That said, it is recommended we consume only 20 grams saturated fats each day.

2. Protects against type 2 diabetes (3,420,000 results): Due to the smaller size of the chains, those MCFA found in coconut oil are able to permeate fat burning cells, where they will be directly converted to energy and “burned off”; improved metabolism = reduced insulin resistance!

  • The evidence: Researchers at the Garvan Institute for Medical Research conducted some experiments in mice and found that the relatively small size of the MCFA meant that they could penetrate mitochondria far easier than those long-chained fatty acids found in animal products, making it far easier to convert to energy.  On the downside, however, it is important to note that MCFA is linked to fat build up around the liver (fatty liver disease) (Heather, 2009) which is a causative factor in the onset of cirrhosis.  However, in this research, the mice who were given coconut oil  had reduced fat stored in the muscle and improved insulin action compared to those who were fed lard.  The authors of this research suggest that other oils, such as fish oils, may be more beneficial for the health of the liver and that if one was to consider replacing MCFA oils for others in their diet, that they consider this risk.
  • Of the 17 citations found on the CoconutResearchCentre website  there was only one small (n=40) clinical study (studies in humans) of the effect of medium-chain triglycerides on various measures associated with type 2 diabetes including waist circumference, BMI and body weight.  The results were very mixed but warrant further investigation (Han et al., 2007).  The other 16 studies were conducted on mice, rats and/or in vitro (in the lab).  Much more evidence is required.
  • There is currently no advice given by Diabetes Australia that suggests sufferers should include coconut oil in their diets

3. The worlds healthiest populations, Eat a lot of Coconut (Kris Gunnars, 2013) (962,000 hits!):

  • Coconuts are the WHOLE FRUIT and I will compare it to the OIL hereCoconut Oil Stat
  • It probably goes without saying that these populations using WHOLE coconut in their cooking are also using fresh fruit and vegetables, chicken, fish and perhaps tofu than what is experienced by us in the west
  • Professor Mark Wahlqvist at Monash University has studied a West Sumatran diet and suggests that it is the amount of fat (saturated or unsaturated) – meat, eggs, sugar, carbs that will distinguish between healthy and unhealthy.  The more of these foods that you eat, the more at risk you become of heart disease.

What else?

Some authors make their case for the health benefits of coconut oil, by consulting the literature and adding a list of references for their work (I have done the same thing!). Dr Joseph Mercola is one of those authors who wrote about the apparent plethora of health benefits in an article in the Huffington Post in 2011.  Here he talks about improving heart health, thyroid function, metabolism, and improving immunity.  It looks impressive enough – but the age of the references is telling.  Articles that are more than 20 years old at the time of publication are certain to have been superseded by newer evidence.  Why would an author not look at the most recent evidence? Usually because it contradicts what the author is trying to say…. As in all academy, it is good practice to provide a balanced view. Capture coconut

There are, of course, many benefits when applied topically.  It is wonderfully emollient and lovely as a soap – look for coconut products (but avoid the palm oil – another blog for another day!) at your health food shop.  Traditionally it has been used to treat burns (although that would need to be substantiated to be called “evidence”).

It is useful for treating eczema when it is at the dry, itchy stage and is especially great for children because it is natural AND safe, and it will not harm little ones if they get it in their mouth.  It is a promising barrier to environment; it is moisturising and has antibacterial properties.  A recent study by Evangelista et al., (2013) is encouraging. When virgin coconut oil was applied to the skin of 50+ paediatric eczema sufferers for 12 weeks compared to the same number of participants using mineral oil, participants in both groups experienced improvement, however the VCO group had much greater improvement in barrier function, reduced inflammation, reduced itching, and there were no side-effects reported.  It warrants more investigation, but this is significant, good news.

shutterstock_92471503frizzIt is often promoted for hair-care and is said to be a useful treatment for frizz and tangles (I have an 8-year-old daughter and it is very useful!).  It may also prove beneficial for treating and preventing head lice.  A 2007 paper suggests that a mixture of coconut, citronella and neem oil may be as useful as (without the side-effects and controversy) DEET for preventing transmission of head-lice (Canyon et al., 2007).  The authors suggest that this might be due to the “greasiness” but it too warrants a further investigation.

As part of a mixture with Shea butter and sugar or salt, coconut oil is a great exfoliant. It is a wonderful massage oil as it is not immediately absorbed (and it is very relaxing!).  Used as part of your evening beauty routine, it is deeply moisturising! But avoid it on your skin during the day it is fairly greasy, and while it is said to have a protective SPF, I think that it may offer more burn.

So, in summary – do your research carefully! Be critical when reading.  There is not much evidence to support the claims which are abundant on the net, but there is also a little bit of hope.  So, enjoy this beautiful oil, but don’t count on it as a magical cure-all.  Good health should be considered very broadly and we should not pin all our hopes on one product.


Canapi, EC, Agustin, YTV, Moro, EA, Pedrosa, E & Bendaño, MLJ 2005, ‘Coconut Oil’, Bailey’s Industrial Oil and Fat Products, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Canyon, DV & Speare, R 2007, ‘A comparison of botanical and synthetic substances commonly used to prevent head lice (Pediculus humanus var. capitis) infestation’, International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 422-426
Clark, M 2011 “Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World”, New York Times, p D1Heather, A 2009, How coconut oil could help reduce the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes, The Garvan Institute
Evangelista, MTP, Abad-Casintahan, F & Lopez-Villafuerte, L 2014, ‘The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial’, International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 53, no. 1, pp. 100-108.
Gunners, K 2013, ‘Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil’, Authority Nutrition An Evidence-Based Approach, viewed 29 December, 2013 <;
Han, JR, Deng, B, Sun, J, Chen, CG, Corkey, BE, Kirkland, JL, Ma, J & Guo, W 2007, ‘Effects of dietary medium-chain triglyceride on weight loss and insulin sensitivity in a group of moderately overweight free-living type 2 diabetic Chinese subjects’, Metabolism, vol. 56, no. 7, pp. 985-991.
Price, L 2006, Carrier Oils – For Aromatherapy & Massage, Third, Third Impression edn, Riverhead, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Schardt, D 2012, ‘COCONUT OIL’, Nutrition Action Health Letter, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 10-11.

Every Post, by name

Jasmine grandiflorum (dawn-blooming)

I love Jasmine – it is fresh and sweet and it is my favourite olfactory clue that Spring is in the air. And lucky for me, there is so much of it in the area where I live. When I am oblivious to the world around me, busy in my head with the to-do list of my life, I am instantly drawn into the here and now, and I am reminded to enjoy every moment, the now. It is such a wonderful assault on the senses and I am grateful for its gorgeousness.

jasmine (1)Jasmine is an expensive oil at around $AUD124/5ml.  This is because it requires great skill when harvesting so as not to bruise he blossom; and around 8 million blossoms are required to produce one kilo of essence. And Jasmine promoted to improve health and well-being, particularly for those mothers who are experiencing the baby blues – but be aware, while some authors suggest that it is useful for lactating mothers, others suggest that it may inhibit the production of milk – so, for me, I would err on the side of caution; There are other oils for improving mood.  But if you are not a lactating mother, than this oil could be for you – it is wonderful for the skin, especially if you are prone to dryness and sensitivity; it is said to be useful for labour pains (traditional knowledge); and it is said to be stimulating, and an aphrodisiac – so good for those tired parents!

For me, though, the benefits are just a bonus. To be able to appreciate the warmth & sweetness of the odour is all that I need….

Reading this post will NOT cure your acne… (an expert blog)

The title of my PhD is “The clinical and cost effectiveness of essential oils and aromatherapy for the treatment of acne vulgaris: A Randomised Controlled Trial”. More than half of my waking life is spent either reading about acne vulgaris (acne), hearing peoples experiences of acne, or writing about acne (the other 40% is spent being a domestic goddess, but I digress…) So, it annoys me when some blog authors (which are more commonly accessed than research) offer reconstituted fiction, sold as fact. When ImageI read these articles, I understand that the author is not very well read, and clearly has no expertise in the subject! So today, I want to write about acne.

I want to be clear – this post is not going to cure your acne; it is not even going to offer any tips. I just want to write about what I know, what I am doing, and what I hope to be able to offer the sufferer* sometime in the near future. Acne is not simply a “cosmetic” issue; and it is a lot more than an adolescent problem that will pass; it is a very complex, multifactorial, chronic skin condition that can have serious and long term psychosocial effects. It can affect people in a lot of different ways and sometimes, very deeply. If you are one of these sufferers, I can empathise with your situation. I hope that this blog will help you to understand acne, and also help you to make decisions about how you treat it.

Acne is experienced by the vast majority of people at some point in their lives (1), and it is most prevalent amongst the 15-18 year old age group. For many the symptoms may ease towards the end of adolescence but for others, symptoms will continue beyond their teenage years, or commence (adult onset) in their early 20’s.

There is no clinical definition of acne and as a result a person may be unsure as to whether they are experiencing acne or whether they have a couple of pimples. In the academic literature, mild acne is variously defined as being, for example, one or two pimples, or less than 20 pimples, or less than 50 pimples; sometimes it is only described as mild, moderate or severe. It is not very clear – in fact, it is confusing.

Acne is the result of 4 physical processes. The jury is still out as to what actually triggers acne and this is the subject of debate amongst authors in the academic press:

  1. Inflammation: mediators (CD4+ T-cell response) causing inflammation (and redness) are released into the skin – although the “role” of inflammation is unclear (2).
  2. Hyperkeratinisation: a disorder which causes the dead skin cells to remain in the hair follicle, causing it to become blocked; this is due to an excess of keratin, a natural protein found in the skin.
  3. Increased sebum production: sebum is the oily substance that prevents hair and skin from becoming too dry. Sebum production will peak twice in early life – the first is just a couple of hours after birth (some babies experience neo-natal acne) and again around age 9 (adrenarche) to 17 years.
  4. Propionibacterium acnes: the colonisation of P.acnes is implicated in acne, however, it is probably not the trigger (2,3); P.acnes is found on everyone’s skin and the amount found in the hair follicle does not correlate to the amount of inflammation experienced by the acne sufferer. It is also interesting to note that this bacteria is not present in the case of neonatal acne.

There are many physical presentations of acne; you have seen them and so I will not go in to detail. However, it is important to note that these symptoms can often be painful. Rarely, people may experience the most severe form of acne, known as acne fulminans (most commonly found in teenage boys); these people will often experience fever, weight loss and musculoskeletal pain; less frequently, they may require lengthy hospitalisation (4).

So, what causes acne? Recent research concluded that most people attribute acne to poor diet, stress and poor hygiene. I think we should break this down a little and take a look at what is fact and what is fiction:

  • Hormones: Yes, hormones are implicated. People go to a great trouble and expense to determine what is “wrong” with their endocrine system if they are experiencing the symptoms of acne. Acne is present in neo-nates and adolescents, and it is a symptom of Polycystic ovary syndrome – all times of hormonal change or upheaval. But it is not the full-stop in the conversation. We all experience hormonal change, why then do some experience symptoms while others do not?
  • It is genetic!: Many authors describe a familial link for acne. Yes, acne is a genetic, heritable condition. But, how is this helpful? I sometimes indulge in a little reading around twin research – I find it fascinating to read about the familial traits of health conditions. However, we don’t yet know which genes are implicated in acne, and we don’t have a gene therapy. So, is this actually helpful for the sufferer of acne? And the cases of identical twins where one experiences acne and the other doesn’t tells me that it may be simpler to deal with the environmental triggers…
  • Diet: There is no definitive answer, yet, but I think it probably does. And we have some theories which are worth testing. Eg, Cordain et al (2002) longitudinal study of Papua New Guinean and Peruvian nonwesternised populations found no acne amongst the population (mainly traditional hunter-gatherer) being observed. This is a significant finding, however, it cannot be confused with causation – we cannot assume that because we see something happening, that it is the cause; in these populations, we must also consider genetic factors; it is shared genetic factors that can dictate how a person looks and the similarities within a group or a culture; it is therefore conceivable that these factors may also affect skin health. But it is worthy of further testing. Also, just how appealing is a traditional hunter-gatherer diet to western adolescents??? Perhaps a low GI approach may be a little more teen-friendly? High GI foods cause a spike in blood sugar levels which will affect hormones and as we have noted above, hormones have a role in acne. Smith et al (2007) (5) conducted a study and their findings suggested that a low GI diet may have a positive impact on symptoms, but that further, larger studies are necessary. Another dietary link is between dairy and acne; Adebamowo et al (2008) conducted a large (4273 participants) prospective study of dairy intake of adolescent boys; they found that there is a positive correlation between acne and the intake of skim milk, but there is no correlation between acne and the fats found in whole milk.
  • Stress: I say yes. While there is some debate about whether it is a causative factor, it is frequently identified as something – a period of time, an event – that exacerbates the symptoms. The skin and the central nervous system share a number of hormones, neurotransmitters and receptors; therefore, it is not out of the question to be able to describe a relationship between these factors and conditions of the skin – in this case, acne.
  • Skin Hygiene: The most common misconception about acne is that it is caused by a lack of skin hygiene, and yet there is little evidence to suggest that cleaning the skin will limit blemishes. There is evidence, however, that over-washing, or rigorous scrubbing can irritate the skin and impact negatively on the symptoms. Over-washing may dry the skin and rigorous rubbing or using harsh exfoliants may irritate the skin and cause a general worsening of symptoms and may also cause scarring. Skin cleanliness should include washing twice daily with a gentle cleanser and no rubbing or scrubbing – avoid using a face-washer and exfoliants.

So, we know all of this – what can you do about it?

At the beginning of this blog said that I was not going to offer any tips or cure your acne – I feel that I should leave that to another blog when I can talk about my findings. I am going to offer up this, though –

In 2001, acne prescription product was worth around $US2 billion and the over-the-counter industry was worth more than $US6 billion. There are so many products out there ranging from over the counter washes, creams, and spot treatments to prescription topical creams, tablets and then there is the cosmetic approach with peels and light therapies. With all of this you will find people who will offer to cure your symptoms if you spend a lot of money; be careful, do your research. Check the ace forums, of which there are plenty (; healthboards; acne discussions; acne). They are full of conversations and consumer reviews about all of the different products. You need to work out what you think is best for your skin; you can seek advice from a medical professional, a dermatologist, or you can seek out a reputable skin specialist who may approach it from a more natural perspective.

Read about diet and stress – learning about these two environmental factors may do more than improve your acne.

And finally, be kind to you. There is a lot of academic writing about the psychological effect that this condition has on the person. Believe me, there are loads of people who understand acne is far more than something a teenager gets and who are working tirelessly to try and understand it more in order to offer you help. You are most certainly not alone.

“And like flowers in the fields, that make wonderful views, when we stand side-by-side in our wonderful hues..

We all make a beauty so wonderfully true.
We are special and different, and just the same, too!

So whenever you look at your beautiful skin, from your wiggling toes to your giggling grin…

Think how lucky you are that the skin you live in, so beautifully holds the “You” who’s within.”

Michael Tyler, The Skin You Live In


(1) Williams, HC, Dellavalle, RP & Garner, S 2012, ‘Acne vulgaris’, The Lancet, vol. 379, no. 9813, pp. 361-372

(2) Farrar, MD & Ingham, E 2004, ‘Acne: Inflammation’, Clinics in Dermatology, vol. 22, pp. 380-384.

(3) Dessinioti, C & Katsambas, AD 2010, ‘The role of Propionibacterium acnes in acne pathogenesis: facts and controversies’, Clinics in Dermatology, vol. 28, pp. 2-7

(4) Zaba, R, Schwartz, RA, Jarmuda, S, Czarnecka–Operacz, M & Silny, W 2011, ‘Acne fulminans: explosive systemic form of acne’, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 501-507

(5) Smith, RN, Mann, NJ, Braue, A, Mäkeläinen, H & Varigos, GA 2007, ‘A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 86, no. 1, p. 107

* The concept of suffering involves feelings of loss, physical pain; the person may feel a loss of their integrity, autonomy and humanity. The person who suffers may often feel alone and this can affect a person’s long-term physical, psychosocial, and spiritual well-being.

Books, books and more books!

As I have mentioned previously, I would like to promote good books on this page and I thought that I should update you on some exciting news from one of my favourite aromatherapists/authors/people, Dr Jennifer Rhind!  She has recently published a second edition of her book Essential Oils: A Handbook for Aromatherapy Practice, available through the Jessica Kingsley Publisher website.  Her first book is the very first one I go to when I have a query about an oil as it is fully referenced and completely reliable.  Instead of re-hashing the same old stuff, she goes beyond and looks for the evidence!  It is very well written, and very easy to read.  I would highly recommend it to any aromatherapist or aromatherapy student.

What people think:

‘Finally we have the “missing-link” text to facilitate the journey into the world of aromatherapy practice! This excellent book is well researched, detailed, up to date, relevant and completely accessible to student and qualified aromatherapists alike’ – Rhiannon Harris, Editor, International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy

“This book is a breath of fresh air in written form” – Robert Tisserand, aromatherapy author, educator and consultant

You might also be interested to read Jen’s recent blog “A Meditation on Scent”.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries”

A C Grayling