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What Does Organic Mean?

When you hear the word ‘organic’, what do you think of? Most people will think of fruit and veg, green trees and goodness, because organic means healthy, right? More and more we can find the word ‘organic’ on the front of our cosmetics and food alike, which instantly makes us think of these wonderful ideals and we buy into the product as being ‘natural’. Whilst there is nothing wrong with buying into organic cosmetics I just wanted to write a post with a few truths about this powerful word and to make you question what ‘organic’ actually means…

As a Biochemist the word organic to me means ‘a molecule containing carbon’. This can include both chemicals derived from plants and animals but also man-made chemicals which contain carbon too. For example, the carbon containing chemical called ascorbic acid, also known as Vitamin C, can be found naturally in oranges but can also be produced by man-made processes which result in exactly the same product. These two chemicals are exactly the same; where it comes from makes no difference and both are deemed chemically to be ‘organic’ compounds. The word has taken on a different meaning due to Organic Farming. Organic food products are ones which have been grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides and which have not been genetically modified. It is for these reasons that people connect organic with meaning healthy. The arguments for and against organic farming are lengthy and have been detailed thousands of times before; I’m not here to tell you what to think but please remember that scientists are ordinary people with ordinary lives and families – we are not all in on a conspiracy to kill people through toxic tomatoes! Everything scientists do is to help humanity solve problems that it has gotten itself into, such as an increasing demand for food…

But what about ‘Organic’ cosmetics? Many organic cosmetic companies use ingredients in their products which are completely naturally-derived, that is they have been extracted directly from plants that have been grown using Organic Farming principles. There is no problem with this whatsoever as many active ingredients even in ‘non-organic’ cosmetics are derived from plants – remember the Eperua Bark extract in L’Oreal Skin Perfection Anti-fatigue Perk up cream? However, the thing that makes us scientists rage is the notion that ‘natural’ ingredients are safer and better for you than man-made ingredients – the notion that Organic companies push to sell products through scaremongering. The truth is, there are thousands upon thousands of plants and plant-derived products out there, many of which have amazing beneficial cosmetic uses. However, just because an ingredient comes from a plant DOES NOT make it safe –  thousands and thousands of those plants are poisonous, such that animals in the wild know which plants and berries to avoid. The most famous historic plant poison is Deadly Nightshade or Belladonna from the Atropa Belladonna plant which women would drop into their eyes to dilate the pupils and give a more attractive appearance but it causes increased heart rate and eventually blindness. Maple Holistics is where you need to go to learn everything about the best products out there.

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