Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Anecdotal Evidence?

An amazing turnout for Mondays with Marge this week, as she responded to numerous questions that ran the gamut: sustainability, nursing moms, stretch marks, CBD oil, and much more! 
Ulrike posed an excellent question which resulted in quite a long thread:
Marge, I have long been curious about the often cited "anecdotal evidence" in aromatherapy (and other healing modalities, of course). I have seen you respond kindly and generously and with great interest regarding the experiential testimony of individuals, and I have taken note of your eager willingness to add such anecdotes to the greater "story" of aromatherapy. I am wondering what your personal and professional stance is on the relevance of the decidedly subjective experience that non-professionals have with the very aromatic medicine, which takes a life-time to study and comprehend in its theoretical and scientific intricacies.
Marge:  GREAT question, Ulrike! You always make me think. Thank you!

Okay. ALL that we know comes from individual experience. Even research stems from the original experiences.  Every time you open a book or journal and read a single case study, you are reading shared ‘anecdotal evidence.’

For example, most reputable aromatherapy courses call for submission of case studies.  This is so we
can learn more about the oils we are using/choosing.  For my CCAP course we had to do case studies for each particular oil studied as part of the course.  This involved preparing the oil  with a particular purpose for a specific individual. A set format for interviewing the individual was provided:  Certain info about the patient/client. The condition/problem. How the oil was administered and, finally, the result.
So it (anecdotal evidence) is more structured than you might expect. True, it is one piece of evidence. But do you see the strictures? It’s a bit more than: "this was happening, so I used A-B-C oil and got better.” There's a tad more structure. If possible, find out about the type of pain/cause of pain in the individual and exactly how much oil was used.  (Ex, a 2.5% dilution in Jojoba, applied topically, or  5 drops in an aromastone w/in 3 feet of the bed) and of course, the resulted outcome from using the essential oil. SOME of my case studies had no positive result. So, “this” oil didn't work for that situation, in that case. This is also anecdotal information. Maybe not a success story that time, but information.

When people write to me that they used THIS oil for that problem... and the result; I always ask permission to share. NOT because I think that this oil is going to be the miracle cure for that problem. But because I want a record, with as much detail as possible. So the next time someone emails me for input: “This is what is going on, do you have any suggestions?” I can truthfully and hopefully helpfully reply, “Well, a while ago, someone had the same thing happening, and they used ‘such and such,’ and the result was helpful. You might want to try it.” If THAT person tries the same thing and also has positive results? Aha…this is interesting.  Then, the numbers start to add up.

That's why, for example, I love to publish "success stories" in our newsletters. Because they are on record. We can find them, if we are faced with a similar situation in the future. There is a written, searchable record, either in this blog or on our website.

See, although I have spent years studying under some inspired and inspiring teachers, I am NOT a "holistic practioner." My knowledge base still seems to be "what works for what".. which is just the opposite of a holistic approach. It is using the oils the way allopathic meds are used, and I've been criticized for that. But there is, sometimes, a need to know "what works for that." So much of THAT knowledge has come from the clients who have shared their aromatic journeys with me over the years. It is important to learn the science, the chemistry,why this oil does what it does, and that oil does something totally different,and, most of all, the safety. The safety, "safe and appropriate" use has to underpin the anecdotal evidence. There may be oils that would be very "effective" for a specific situation, but not safe to use. We need to study that and to know that. But every time someone writes to me "this was happening, and this oil helped".. they are adding to our knowledge base. (And if they write something that I think is neither safe nor appropriate, then I get the opportunity to maybe suggest a different approach next time.)

Does that help, or make any sense? ‘Anecdotal evidence’ is the building blocks of our knowledge and our science. Almost everyone in our field today knows that Calophyllum inophyllum with a STRONG dilution of either Ravensara Aromatica OR Ravintsara will ease the pain and inflammation of active Shingles. I think that first came from Kurt Schnaubelt, but someone may have taught him. There is NO published research on this topic. (I wanted to do my CCAP case study on it, but the course required the use of an "inert" carrier so we could study just the effect of the essential oil.) This known result about Ravensara in Calophyllum for shingles is "anecdotal evidence" at its finest. Someday I hope it will be researched and published. But for now, we have seen it work. We know it works. Anecdotal evidence. The first step. And if anyone has access to a population of Shingles Patients... contact me.. we need to do a research study.

Ulrike: Such great and helpful response, Marge! Thank you. 

This morning Sue Pace added a comment on the "holistic vs allopathic" split. "I'm sorry I missed this last night. I've been chastened as well for looking at aromatherapy through an allopathic lens. (In my defense, I'm a career medical person, but certainly recognize the need to look at the patient as an entire being and not just a set of symptoms--I'm trying, dang it!) But---in a way, looking at the science of the oils and "what oil works for problem x" is not such a terrible thing if it gets the attention of allopathic professionals. These people want to see *proof* (scientific studies) of the efficacy of using a complementary treatment before they'll believe it. They're not necessarily being narrow-minded; if you can show them that it works, reliably, then they will pay attention. The physicians with whom I work were very dismissive about my "voodoo", as they called it, until I showed them good solid studies and even helped a number of them using aromatherapy for various ailments. They're still a bit dubious, but I think it's because they themselves are trapped in the linear thinking of allopathic practice. But at least now, their minds have opened.

 Marge: It's a balance. YES we want to treat the whole person! But sometimes easing a "symptom" makes a huge difference to that whole person. When POSSIBLE, I try to look at the emotional/spiritual effects of the oils I am selecting to use, but sometimes ALL we want to do is ease the pain, stop the itch, help with the cough. THEN we can perhaps address underlying issues. Thank you, Sue!!!!!

Note: Monday, May 30th, is Memorial Day Holiday in the U.S., and as of this writing, I plan to be celebrating with my “grands,” so no Mondays with Marge.  We’ll do it again on Monday night, June 6th, at 8:00 p.m. CDT. 

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