Natural ingredients and products are getting much interest recently. This is no news. More and more data may suggest this is partly (at least) happening as a result of “fear towards chemicals”, which sadly might wrongly have become some sort of “fear of chemistry”, or even the fear of science. With in mind the idea of clarifying one wrong assessment often heard or read vs. the so-called “chemicals”, I have decided to write this short post.
Let me start by saying chemistry (or science in general) is not man-made. It is a pre-human concept/ruling system, gently but cleverly deciphered by mankind throughout centuries for a better understanding of its environment. This has also led to more comfort and better health and hygiene.
Chemistry was happening “naturally” way before the advent of mankind. It is, in this respect, neither only “what happens in labs” as some may think nor the sole study of a topic but is, and has always been, everything that relates to matter and its reactions, ..also in nature!
Everyone should know that natural ingredients are too either single chemical substances or made of different chemical substances (mixtures). The word “chemical” is, I assume, wrongly used in English by the masses (so in French). For most, it means (unwanted) “additive” or “residue” (read pollution/impurity). A chemical is indeed the correct expression relating to any pure substance, being a synthetized molecule in a beaker as much as a naturally occuring one.
Do not get mistaken when you use “chemical”, it is NOT synonymous to “synthetic”. Hence, it is not the origin that makes the toxicity/safety of one substance, it is its chemical structure. Chemistry applies to both synthetic and natural substances the exact same way as it has been shown by today’s science. And when it comes to toxicity/safety, it is capital to remember one thing: “EVERYTHING IS POISON, IT ALL DEPENDS ON DOSE”, as Paracelsus, one of the fathers of today’s medicine, stated in the 15th century.
We have to be aware that all substances are problematic at a certain threshold of exposure. This threshold may vary much. The concept of toxicity is generally accepted for substances that have the capacity to induce adverse effects at (very) low doses, but it is not because something is safe in one way or at a certain dose, that it will be in all ways, at all doses. Definitely not.
-> Venom will not be harmful if accidentally ingested while sucking off a snake’s bite (before spitting it out). Its full efficacy to induce adverse effects is in the blood system.
-> You may safely eat butter, almonds or chocolate, but eat as much as 1 or 2kg of one of these and the toxicity of its components will become evident.
-> Table salt (sodium chloride) is critical for the body to function well, but the World Health Organization and many governments have edited recommendations on its daily intake as it is vastly consumed in too high a dosage.
I know it has been written many times, but let me write it here once again: synthetic substances are not always toxic, natural substances not always safe. The main message of this brief article is: natural substances and synthetic ones are both CHEMICAL substances.