Pregnancy and infant massage: working with Weleda

I’ve been approached over the years by many companies wanting to work with me to promote their products and develop pregnancy massage awareness. I have never quite felt comfortable with any of their approaches. However, recently, one of my students, who works for Weleda, felt that we would be a good match, and put us in touch.

I have been using Weleda products for years. I love their Hypercal (hypericum and calendula) wound healing ointment for cuts and for healing the perineum. My daughter is a fan of their Wild Rose deodorant .
One of my assistant teachers, gives me wonderful Weleda body oil and shower products from time to time. However I am just getting to know their mother and baby range.

This range has just been recognised by The Beauty Shortlist Baby Awards. Weleda has won  BEST BABY SKINCARE BRAND!

Calendula Nappy Change Cream also won BEST NAPPY CREAM!

The Baby Derma White Mallow Baby Lotion also won BEST BABY LOTION!

The Calendula Baby Bath was the runner up in BEST BABY BATH PRODUCT.

http://www.thebeautyshortlist.com/2014-baby-awards-winners-finalists/?utm_content=bufferff413&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Initially I was a little cautious, as many of their products include almond oil. Their pharmacist, Evelyn, explained to me that it oil is an oil which is extremely well tolerated by the skin and is easily absorbed. Due to its high content of essential fatty acids, it protects the skin from drying and improves the skin’s barrier function, keeping it smooth and supple. Weleda has been working together with the Manan cooperative in the region of Valencia (Spain) for some years now. Located in the hills near Alicante, it is one of the largest almond cultivation sites in Europe and Weleda receives a regular supply of organically grown almonds from there.

This has made me question the fears of allergic responses from the use of almond oil, as this is an oil I used to use a lot. I would love to hear from you about your thoughts on this. I am going to write a future blog about this so be good to include your views and any research you may have.

I decided to try using one of their main products for pregnant women,  the Stretch mark massage oil  (formerly known as Pregnancy body oil). This is made up of sweet almond oil, jojoba seed oil and wheat germ oil with essential oils. I first started using it on my own tummy and liked it, so have begun to use it with a few clients and am enjoying working with it. It is light and easily absorbed: and has a lovely gentle smell. Try it and let me know what you think.

If you don’t want to work with almond oil, they do have some alternatives: notably the baby oil. This is made of only sesame oil and calendula. I also began by using it on myself and then with clients and it is a lovely product. Many of the other baby products are also great for mums, and indeed anyone else, too. My son used the oil recently after he shaved his head! The only drawback is that they don’t have any waxes. Working so much on the floor as I do, I also like to use waxes, but maybe one day I can persuade them to produce waxes too!

I have always said that the quality of the oils we use with clients is the most important factor. Weleda oils fit the bill. Of Weleda’s plant-based raw materials 78% are cultivated in controlled organic and biodynamic environments, or are obtained from controlled wild sources. All Weleda’s products are made from pure natural substances; artificial preservatives are never used. Their company motto – “In harmony with nature and the human being” very much fits with my background in Chinese medicine, the human is a microcosm of the universe which is a macrocosm.

I hadn’t realised that Weleda manufactures over 2500 pharmaceutical products and 10 dietary products as well as their 120 natural body products. It was founded in 1921 as a pharmaceutical laboratory with its own medicinal plant garden. Its ethos is based on Anthroposophy (human wisdom) developed by the scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), around the time of the first world war and immediately after. Anthroposophy, like Chinese medicine views the human being,holistically i.e. body, soul and spirit. It is the philosophy underpinning Steiner Waldorf schools and kindergartens, anthroposophical medicine, natural body care and biodynamic farming. Weleda adopted a sustainability strategy in 2011 and this means that they have joined he Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT), a non-profit association that promotes the “Sourcing with Respect” of ingredients that come from native biodiversity. Most of the Weleda product range is manufactured in Switzerland, Germany and France. These are all places where I regularly teach and Weleda’s market presence is also traditionally strongest there.

In the summer I went up to visit, with my son,  the UK Weleda Head office. This is in the buildings of the old Steiner school in Ilkeston, Derby. Their staff were very open and I visited their wonderful biodynamic garden. Claire, the head gardener was passionate about the land and the plants. I saw how they used the remains of flowers and leaves from the manufacturing process to make compost and she explained about the biodynamic practice of placing cow horn in the earth which helps improve the soil fertility. The gardens are a beautiful 15 acres of land with 300 plant species including calendula, birch, composts, flower meadows and bees.

weleda manuf

Biodynamics encompasses more than an organic approach. The first action is to look at the land as an organism. This means looking at all the elements. The Steiner approach is based on the four elements (as opposed to the Chinese five elements) of earth, air, fire and water. Each element is matched to a part of a given plant – earth to root, air to flower, fire to fruit and seed and water to leaf. The parts of the plant are also matched with their element to the twelve signs of the zodiac. This is then linked in to the moon moving through the signs so that the phases of the moon are used in a specific way for cropping and planting. I have always been interested in in the effects of the moon cycles on our energy. It makes complete sense to apply this to the earth. I am now beginning to bring this awareness into my garden by planting at the new moon and pruning or digging up at the waning moon.

The biodynamic approach is part of the natural agriculture movement which also encompasses a more Japanese version: Shumei. I add the Japanese version in as of course shiatsu, which is a main part of my work, originated in Japan.  I have been buying some vegetables produced by Shumei recently which are grown near me in Bristol at Yatesbury. They have an even better quality and taste than organics! Natural Agriculture is not simply a method for growing food, it’s an individual relationship with Nature. The Natural Agriculturist has a very conscious interaction with the natural world which is essentially a practice of respect, which informs all aspects of life. This is the approach I like to have in my work with myself and my students and clients, based on the principles of Chinese medicine but applying them to our current world and reality.

I was also encouraged to learn that since 2005, Weleda Benelux has been supporting the botanical garden in Sevapur, in South India, where over 250 regional plants and medicinal herbs are cultivated in accordance with biodynamic methods. This project supports families in the area.

weleda sustain

Weleda states “ Our products aim to support human beings in their personal development, in maintaining, promoting and restoring their health and in their efforts to achieve physical well-being and a balanced lifestyle. “
There are not many companies around which have such a lovely approach and so I feel happy to explore ways in which we can work together. We are currently exploring what these might be, but they are going to include ways of promoting this kind of approach to pregnancy and birth.

So far, I have agreed with Weleda to do a presentation on pregnancy massage, including abdominal techniques,  using their some of the mother and baby products at their Insight Days on 29 and 30 June at Ilkeston. I will also explain  the importance of teaching perineal massage. These days are an opportunity to learn more about Weleda products in a very hand ons way. Theyt include a visit to the wonderful gardens where you will have an opportunity to learn how to make a tincture. The day includes a lovely lunch made from local produce and lots of opportunities to try out different products. For more information and to book a place contact  susie@fairgrieve.co.uk before then and mention you read this blog.

I will keep you updated: meanwhile I would love to hear your thoughts on this collaboration.

Suzanne

12 comments

  1. Pingback: Almond oil: good for baby’s skin? | Well Mother

  2. I have been using almond oil for my parent/baby classes for many years and as far as I know there has never been any allergic reaction. There was one incident when the baby did react but the mother thought it was a food allergy. Hard to prove. I feel confident in recommending it. Tamsin

    • suzanneyates

      Thanks for that feedback Tamsin. Great to hear that some infant shiatsu/massage teachers are still using almond oil.. Do you use any particular one? ie advise a make, cold pressed, organic? Have you ever had parents questioning use of almonds because of the links with nut allergies? What happened with the incident when the baby did react? Suzanne

  3. And now onto a tale of research and Olive Oil! There was a study done back in 2009 looking at Olive Oil and Sunflower Oil and its uses in Baby Massage. Can’t copy the text as it is on the IAIM Website and it is blocked. Here is the page: http://www.iaimbabymassage.co.uk/baby-massage-news.html#15. The research used ‘drops’ of oil twice daily, but didn’t specify if it was massaged in or just left on the skin. Also, the research was carried out on adults, to determine the suitability of oil use in babies. Quite a leap there! The Olive Oil came out badly – deterioration in the stratum corneum. Sunflower Oil passed OK. There was also some mention of a study doing the same thing in 2009 – it’s not clear if it was the same study – BUT THIS ONE WAS FUNDED BY JOHNSONS & JOHNSONS. Nuff said……!!

    • suzanneyates

      Dear Julie
      Thanks for posting these. Interesting. I am currently looking for some research as well. It seems it is not that conclusive…”may pose a threat”. But if we do a patch test, we can assess if the child will have a reaction or not. It does so much depend on exactly which type of almond oil, or indeed any other is used…

  4. Hi Suzanne, I can understand the need for research in this department, but have failed to find any. I guess the rationale is that no parent is going to surrender their baby for a research study to see if massage with Sweet Almond Oil will produce an anaphylactic shock or not. And I think that may be the crux of the issue. Regardless of how well the nuts have been cultivated, it is well known that a small percentage of people do have severe anaphylactic reactions to nuts, amongst other things. I would prefer to believe that this is due to the chemical additives too – we would need to go back prior to extensive farming methods to see if any allergies appeared with nut oils then. I have attached below an excerpt from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology regarding SAO. I think as there is no evidence to say it is either safe, or not, I personally would prefer to use a blend of the many other fabulous, non-nut oils out there…………………

    Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
    Volume 99, Issue 4, Pages 502–507, April 1997 Abstract
    Background: No information is available on allergenicity of tree nut oils, and information on peanut oils has been conflicting. Many of the nut oils now on the market undergo minimal processing and may contain residual antigen. Objective: This study was carried out to determine whether several of the new “gourmet” tree nut oils, as well as peanut oils, contain residual proteins that could bind IgE from sera of patients with allergy. Methods: Several brands of walnut, almond, hazelnut, pistachio, and macadamia nut oils were examined. Peanut oils, both unrefined oils (which have been shown to contain allergenic proteins) and refined oils (without previously demonstrable allergens), were also examined to confirm reproducibility of immunoreactivity as reported by other investigators. Oils were extracted with 0.2 mol/L ammonium bicarbonate, and protein concentrations in the aqueous extracts were measured. IgE binding was assayed by slot-blot and Western immunoblotting. Pooled sera from patients with a history of systemic reactions to various tree nuts or peanuts were used as appropriate. Results: The oil extracts known to be from oils that had undergone less processing at lower temperatures tended to demonstrate qualitatively greater IgE binding and higher protein concentrations.
    Conclusion: Tree nut and peanut oils may pose a threat to patients with allergy, depending on the method of manufacture and processing. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 1997;99:502-6.)

    Allerg Immunol (Paris). 2000 Oct;32(8):309-11.
    [Percutaneous sensitization to almond oil in infancy and study of ointments in 27 children with food allergy
    Guillet G1, Guillet MH.
    Abstract
    A five month old child with atopic dermatitis developed contact dermatitis to almond with positive patch test, positive prick test, and class 4 anti-almond IgE. Focal lesions of persistent eczema were correlated with application of almond oil for 2 month on cheeks and buttocks. The child had not ingested almond and her mother did not report almond intake during her breast-feeding. This observation points to the problems of possible percutaneous sensitisation to food proteins. The study of skin ointments containing components of food origin in 27 food sensitized atopic patients confirm that the choice of an ointment for lesional skin is of importance.

    Sincerely,
    Phil Lieberman, M.D.

    • evelynliddell

      Hi, I feel the need to defend the Almond Oil corner and being someone with multiple food intolerances I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back me up. Very few studies exist regarding Almond Oil and sensitisation. Also, the effect of applying a known allergen is not comparable to ingesting the same allergen.
      Many years of traditional use of Almond Oil, specifically for sensitive skin, has proven a high tolerance to Almond Oil without adverse dermatological effects. On the contrary, sensitised skin and Almond Oil are highly compatible.
      Sense must always prevail and it is out of the question to use any ingredient, almond oil included, if there is a pre-existing known risk of anaphylaxis to that specific ingredient.
      Evelyn Liddell
      MRPharmS MFHom(Pharm)

    • suzanneyates

      Thanks for those observations Evelyn. No one yet has come up with a study saying that it is not safe to use almond oil. It has been used for centuries as a base oil. Jan Kushmirek, in his book “Liquid Sunshine” writes ” no aromatherapist should be without it”. Please keep sending me information on this.

  5. Hi I’m a personal fan of Weleda products both personally and professionally as it’s a brand we have sold well in our stores and online http://www.borndirect.com/weleda the fact that a lot of their products contain almond has not been an issue in the 14 years+ we have been selling it. Weleda products contain the purest of pure ingredients, all organic plus bio-dynamic, you cannot get closer to a more natural and edible product for a baby. Which as we know any product going onto skin is absorbed into the blood supply as food is. I think the issue with nuts is to do with un-pure oil products, ie not from a clean source such as Weledas. We can be quick to blame all nuts when in fact its usually the ‘additive’ eg pesticide or added ingredient that is the culprit.

    • suzanneyates

      Thanks for that Eva. I tend to agree with you. I am wondering where this “myth” has come about re almond oil per se. If anyone has research I would be very interested. And the key for using any oil, or indeed any product on a baby is “patch test, patch test” ie try a small amount on a small area, wait for 24 hours to check that there is no allergic reaction, then re check…

  6. Hi Suzanne. I think this raises some very interesting issues. I am a fan of Weleda and their wonderful ethos. However, I cannot recommend their products for my mums and babies sadly. In my baby massage classes I categorically advise mums to avoid sweet almond oil in any products as they have no way of knowing if their baby has a nut allergy. The second most ‘allergic’ oil seems to be sesame, so even their alternative is unsuitable. There are so many healthy luxurious oils available (avocado, jojoba, borage, olive, sunflower) that there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to persist with the SAO.
    I recommend Neals Yard mum and baby products – although not biodynamic, they are Soil Association certified organic, allergy free, cruelty free and lovely to work with.
    A great discussion to open up. Would be really interested to hear other comments :-)

    • suzanneyates

      Dear Julie, Thanks for your feedback… Yes, this is the kind of discussion I want to start… To unpick where the idea has come from about sweet almond oil causing allergic reactions.. Do you have the research on it? have you come across babies or adults who have allergic reactions to almond oil? And interested to hear other people’s discussion… Thanks

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