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The Day my Skin decided to give me a Taste of my own Medicine :-)

Many people are today aware of the ill-effects of chemical pesticides and fertilisers in their foods. Some have moved to consuming grains, vegetables and fruits grown organically or through natural farming methods, wherever they are able to access them. But when it comes to other personal products that we use, we are not as concerned because we think its “only an external application” and not something that we are ingesting. Besides, we definitely like the benefits and conveniences that many of them promise. And so we still use many chemicals on our skin.

But “skin” is the largest organ of the human body, and absorption and protection are its key roles. There is nothing new about this fact. We learnt it in school biology in Class 6. But do we actually use this 6 th standard knowledge? At least I did not, and realised it in a rather painful way!!

A few years ago I developed some extremely painful, pus-filled boils on my legs! What a horrible feeling that was! The doctor talked about “draining them”!!!! After going through a whole line of diagnostic questions and observations, I realised that the root cause was a food allergy. So I decided to experiment on a line of self-treatment using wonderful books on Ayurvedic Healing by Dr David Frawley and Dr Vasant Lad, which I had discovered during my pains and travails of dealing with our daughter Sanchita’s childhood asthma and allergies. In addition, I also referred to the Aromatherapy compendium by Dr Jean Valnet (, since I had recently returned from a conference on Aromatherapy, held at Grasse, in France, also known as the perfumery capital of the world. In the repertoire/collection of essential oils that I picked up from Grasse, I had also picked up a bottle of Neem Oil. Neem Oil from India!!! Talk about carrying coals to Newcastle!!! You might ask why? In India, when I had earlier picked up several essential oils from the wholesale market in Delhi, I found them reeking of solvents and finally over the years, and I was only able to use them for was adding to my floor mopping liquid.
Knowing about the antiseptic and antibiotic properties of Neem, Azadirachta Indica, I applied a few drops on the boil. Somehow, I suddenly got the horribly bitter unmistakable taste of Neem in my mouth. Thinking that maybe I had inadvertantly touched my oil-applying finger to my lips, I observed this phenomenon the next time around while taking extra precautions. Lo and behold, it happened again!!! While I had an inkling of this through my readings on aromatherapy, but discovering it first hand was quick a revelation!

Delving into details to solve the mystery of the neem taste on my lips, through tomes of research in books and on the internet, I inferred that-

A. The skin absorbs everything that we apply on it. Depending on their size, particles of whatever we apply on our skin too, penetrates through the multiple layers of skin and into the blood stream, and goes through all the internal organs as a matter of routine. These particles can be good for us or harmful…. After all that is the mechanism of
nicotine patches and some others for pain relief and heart management.

B. Most of the products that we apply on the skin are largely colorless, odorless and tasteless and hence we never sense their presence, let alone realise that some of them could actually be toxic (

C. Toxic or non-toxic, edible or inedible, artificially made chemicals leave traces in the kidney or liver, as they are subject to the body’s filtering mechanisms, rendering these organs less efficient over time. A case in point of edible chemicals with long term side effects are OTC or prescription drugs, which if taken over a prolonged period of time
have even resulted in cases of liver cirrhosis.

D. Artificially made chemicals often cause allergic reactions or act as triggers for some undesirable reaction in our bodies. For example, all products which have water “aqua” in them, need to have some preservatives to contain microbial or fungal action. The common chemical preservatives are parabens, imidazolidinyl urea, phenoxyethanol,
formaldehyde, which are all known to cause skin allergies.

I suddenly had this rather horrific visualisation of naughty chemicals swishing, swirling and coursing along my arteries and veins and finding an unsuspecting nook or cranny in some cell and hiding there till they are discovered and hopefully not in some tumour!! Not wanting to sound like an alarmist, lets just give these chemicals and their
manufacturers the benefit of doubt, and say that they have “unknown long-term side effects”.

There are so many good and not-so-good things that they don’t teach you, but which we discover ourselves by being mindful about ourselves and our life experiences….and I am discovering and rediscovering these every day!!