In 2013 I was invited to give a weekend presentation to the Czech Aromatherapy Association, and we set the dates for April 26/27 2014. On Thursday, April 24th I arrived at the airport in Prague, and was met by Jaromir and Blanka, who then took me on a one-hour drive around their beautiful city en route to the Hotel Step. Many of the existing structures date from the 14th century.
Friday was just for sightseeing on foot, and I was accompanied by Katerina Hroudova, Marie Noe and Hana Belikova. Hana would be my translator for the event. We saw some beautiful gardens with blooming lilacs, fragrant peonies and a Cedrus atlantica tree, and many statues, frescos and ancient walls, ending with perhaps the main tourist spot – the Charles Bridge. The coffee in Prague is excellent by the way.
How it turned out
Everything was set up perfectly on Saturday morning, and after some introductions I got started with my presentation, which was all about safety. This is a necessarily technical subject, and has the potential to be terminally boring, especially with translation slowing things down to half speed. But, there were three factors that made the weekend work.
One, I included some positive information about aromatherapy, all of which was relevant to the subject matter. When I talked about some in vitro testing that shows lavender oil to be cytotoxic to skin cells, I also showed evidence to the contrary, and illustrated the skin healing effects of lavender oil. This was part of a discussion on the relevance of in vitro testing. Two, the translation was excellent. At one point I said to Hana “you’re doing a great job” and she retorted “how do you know?” OK, I don’t understand any Czech, but when the translation is immediate, speedy and confident, it’s a very good sign. And, Hana is a professional translator, as well as being an aromatherapy enthusiast.
Three, the audience understood what I was saying! You can tell by facial expressions and body language, and also by the questions asked. I don’t just mean that the translation was effective, but that they understood the technical content and could see the connections I was making between constituents, oils, properties, hazard and risk. This suggests a thorough aromatherapy knowledge and training.
The Saturday presentation included several slides showing different types of adverse reaction, the difference between hazard and risk, types of evidence, weight of evidence, inhalation, ingestion, transdermal absorption, and metabolism. Michal Babka, asked a question about dosage for animals, and I answered that this would be, as with humans, related to body weight. He mentioned that he had used essential oils to help a giraffe in the Berlin zoo.
On Sunday we talked about risks involving cancer, pregnancy, drug interactions and skin allergies. These subjects were not covered in their entirety, but examples were given illustrating key points. I also covered phototoxicity. This was not originally planned, but I realized early on that I needed a little extra material to fill the day. Following a question, there was a discussion about whether any fatty oils had any scientifically established SPFs. The outcome – probably not, because the existing research evidence does not meet regulatory standards.
When we got onto drug interactions, a pharmacist asked about whether grapefruit oil would interact with statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, as grapefruit juice does. My answer was no, since the main compound in grapefruit juice responsible for drug interactions is not found in the essential oil.
Most of the audience was Czech of course, but there were also a few who had traveled just for the event, including Eva from Spain (who understood my English, but not the translation) a lady from Russia (who understood some English and some Czech) and a Greek lady who lives in Canada. I signed many books, including two of my older books written in Czech, and copies of the new Essential Oil Safety, which Marie, a publisher, was selling.
I was disappointed that Katerina Svoboda was not able to be there, but I was given a written note from her, which was a pleasant surprise. Katja has spent most of her career in essential oil research, and co-authored a book showcasing the kind of pictures of essential oil glands that illustrate the new Essential Oil Safety cover. We have known each other for many years.
On Monday April 28th, I made my way back to Ojai California with many new friends and pleasant memories.