There is a substance on Earth more ubiqitous than water, more precious than gold, and more magical than Harry Potter's pants. Apply it to any wound, scrape, blemish, graze or scald in existence and all ills and pains will melt away (like that cool bit in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indy pours water from the Holy Grail onto his Dad's gunshot-wounded belly, and the wound is washed away). There is a name for this fabled mystical ointment, and it is spake thus - Tea Tree Oil.
I am daily reminded of the power of this wondrous elixir by clients of mine, who have invariably rubbed/poured/applied it on/to their faithful companion's skin. Well, let me pose the heretical question - if this stuff is so bloody good, why are you coming to see me now, eh?
Now, listen, I don't have a problem with tea tree oil (previous paragraphs to the contrary); I'm aware that it smells quite nice, and that your friend recommended it, y'know, the one who's son has got that terrible eczema, and the man in the health food shop said it worked for his irritable groin, and there's a nice picture of a leaf on the bottle. I would simply suggest that you can't go wrong with a nice bit of bathing in warm salty water, that's all. Pint of warm water, teaspoon full of salt, bit of cotton wool and bajinga! Robert's your mother's brother.
This may seem trivial (okay, okay, it is trival, but it segues me onto a wider point. What is the reason behind the supposed majestic power of tea tree oil? I know the answer. I get told it several times a day.
It's because it's natural, that's why. And natural has got to be good, hasn't it?
I really don't understand Joe and Jane public's obsession with things being 'natural'. In fact, I'm pretty sure they don't understand it either. Natural. What exactly does that word mean?
Here's the dictionary definition (according to Encarta, anyway) - present in or produced by nature; of, relating to or concerning nature.
Well, I don't know about you but I don't remember the last time I was walking through a forest and I was hit on the head by a bottle of tea-trea oil shampoo falling from a ripe tea-tree oil shampoo tree. I don't want to labour the point of this particular product, but my point is that tea trea oil, like any other product, must be produced - extracted from the tree (melaleuca alternifolia, if you must know; no, I'm not writing it again) via a commercial and highly mechanised industrial process. It may be present in or produced by nature, but it's also produced by a lot of machines, manpower and energy, then put in a plastic bottle.
Good thing, too. You know what 'natural' means to me? It means dying alone from septicaemia contracted from an infection you got from a thorn in the foot. It means watching your baby cubs be mangled to death by the new male lion who's muscled his way into your pride. It means getting very nasty cramping diarrhoea and vomiting from taking tea tree oil internal, as it happens to be toxic.
'Natural' isn't great. It's horrible, because nature is horrible. It might look very nice having a picnic in a buttercup-strewn field on a summer's day, but try spending the same day in the same field as a field mouse and see how much you enjoy it. If you end the day with some food in your belly and not dead, then you're having a good day. Even then you'll probably get even by an owl overnight.
It's war out there. If there isn't at any one moment within a few hundred yards radius from where you are sitting now a large amount of creatures fearful, starving, killing or dying, then you're probably sitting on Pluto (in which case it's probably you doing the fearful and dying bit unless you're in a space suit or you're an alien - in which case I'd like to say - Greetings, my alien masters! Spare me, and I'll give you the rest of them! Ahem.)
Nature is pain, and death, and starvation. It necessarily follows from evolution - you're either the absolute best at extracting a particular kind of resources out of your enviroment, or your dead. So don't come to me with your 'natural'. Your arnica cream might be 'natural' (although it isn't), but so is getting your arm bitten off by a polar bear. Take your pills, and thank God for Western medicine. It's not perfect, but it's a bloody sight better than the alternative.