13-190 Decision Details

13-190 Decision Details

The Punga Tails website (http://www.pungatails.co.nz/) contains advertisements for several products from the “Mohdoh Mouldable Aromatherapy” range (http://www.pungatails.co.nz/shop/Babies+Natural+Care/Mohdoh+Mouldable+Aromatherapy.html). These products, apparently intended for therapeutic use in babies, are claimed to “combat a variety of ailments through play therapy, colour therapy and aromatherapy”.

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Each of the product detail pages, from which the products can be purchased, links to an FAQs page (http://www.pungatails.co.nz/FAQs/Mohdoh+Mouldable+Aromatherapy.html). This page makes various claims about specific products and about how the range of products are said to work. These claims are unsubstantiated and, in some cases, based on inaccurate, inappropriate, and deceptive use of scientific terminology.

The FAQs page makes several claims about aromatherapy and colour therapy. As the FAQs page does not pertain to a particular product, it does not make many specific claims as to potential therapeutic use, but it does make the following claims about aromatherapy in general:
– “[Aromatherapy is] great for children”
– “[Aromatherapy] produces no damaging side effects”
– “[Aromatherapy’s] benefits have been proven through thousands of years of use”

As the products are said to rely partially on aromatherapy for their alleged effectiveness, and as they exist on a page dedicated to answering questions about the product range, these claims also apply to the products.

While not a specific claim, the first claim strongly implies that these products will be effective for their advertised indications when used in children. The third claim is much stronger, and explicitly states that aromatherapy has proven therapeutic benefits yet offers no attempt at substantiation aside from an inadequate appeal to antiquity. As such, these statements are both in violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Principle 2 and Part B1 Requirement 3.

The second statement is a direct violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Part B1 R4.1 (i), as it claims that aromatherapy has no side effects associated with use.

It is relevant to note that a systematic review of the scientific literature investigating aromatherapy, published in 2000[1], concluded the following:
“the effects of aromatherapy are probably not strong enough for it to be considered for the treatment of anxiety. The hypothesis that it is effective for any other indication is not supported by the findings of rigorous clinical trials.”

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The statements made on the FAQ page about colour therapy abuse scientific terminology in such a way as to exploit their consumers’ lack of knowledge, in violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Part B1 Requirement 4(b). The inappropriate use of scientific terminology is in violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Part B1 R4.3.

– “Colour therapy is a holistic and non-intrusive form of healing, which introduces the optimum balance of colour energies into the human organism in order to promote harmony between the body, mind and spirit.”

The above statement misuses the scientific term “energies”. It is not used here in a such a way that may refer to the more colloquial meaning of a feeling of vigour or alertness.

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– “If our energy centres (Chakras) become blocked or depleted, then our body cannot function properly and this, in turn, can lead to a variety of problems.”

The existence of chakras is not supported by evidence, and no attempt at substantiation is given to attest to their existence or the claim that they can cause health problems by becoming “blocked”. To call them “energy centres” is an inappropriate and misleading use of scientific terminology.

To claim that chakras may become “blocked” and this can lead to health problems is a false and unsubstantiated claim, in violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Principle 2 and Part B1 R4.3.

The claim that health problems can be caused by blocked chakras also plays on superstition – chakras are a part of Hindu and Buddhist superstition that have no basis in science – so is in violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Part B1 Requirement 4 (c).

Spreading false and misleading medical misinformation such as this demonstrates a failure to adhere to the high standard of social responsibility required by the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Principle 3, and also fails to meet the less strict criterion of the Therapeutic Code of Ethics Basic Principle 4 that advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers or society.

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– “Using the colours of the spectrum, colour therapy aims to balance and enhance our body’s energy centres (Chakras) and also helps to stimulate our body’s own healing process.”

The objections to the previous statement also apply here. The claim that seemingly non-existent “energy centres” can be “balanced and enhanced” to induce healing is an inaccurate and inappopriate use of scientific terminology and an abuse of consumers’ lack of knowledge, in violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Code Principle 2 and Part B1 Requirements 4 (b) and 4.3.

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The FAQs page also lists indications for which each of the products in this range are intended. No attempt at adequate substantiation of these claims is made on the FAQs page, the listing page for this range of products, or the detail page from which the products can be purchased. Whereas some indications are vague enough to remain technically meaningless and escape any therapeutic specificity, others are not:

– “Stimulates and improve [sic] concentration”
– “Relieves travel anxiety and nausea”
– “Helps you quit smoking”
– “Helps lose weight”
– “Helps to relieve headaches and tension”

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The product listing page (http://www.pungatails.co.nz/shop/Babies+Natural+Care/Mohdoh+Mouldable+Aromatherapy.html) advertising this product range makes claims as to the therapeutic use of each specific product. Again, some descriptions are vague enough to remain technically meaningless and escape any therapeutic specificity, but others are not:

– “Relief from travel sickness”
– “Relief from breathing difficulties”
– “Improves focus and concentration”
– “relief from stress & anxiety”
– “Relief from headaches & tension”
– “help with Insomnia & Restlessness”

I believe there is some evidence to suggest that aromatherapy can assist with relief from stress and anxiety, but as far as I know the other claims are likely to be false. I could find no attempt at substantiation on the website.

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The product listing page also contains various generic therapeutic claims as to the efficacy of the products and the concepts on which they allegedly rely:

– “The concentration of oils is controlled to ensure that Mohdoh is both safe and effective.”

No substantiation of the claim that these products are effective for their described indications is offered, although it does seem likely that they are relatively safe.

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– “Specific colours are used for each formulation selected to balance the energy centres that may be out of harmony within the body.”

This statement misuses scientific terminology in a misleading and inappropriate way.

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– “The synergistic effects of touch and smell have been shown to be very effective in treating a number of stress related complaints and the tactile nature of the dough has in itself a soothing, calming effect.”

Despite seeming to allude to some form of substantiation, no details or reference is given and, as such, the claims of this statement remain unsubstantiated.

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The product detail pages (e.g. http://www.pungatails.co.nz/shop/Babies+Natural+Care/Mohdoh+Mouldable+Aromatherapy/Mohdoh+Sleep.html) all describe the product as “a powerful natural remedy” that is “extremely effective”. Under the “How It Works” section they also all claim to provide “fast and effective relief”.

While the indications of each product differs, and many are worded in a vague way using modifiers such as “helps”, the strong wording such as “powerful” and “extremely effective”, as well as “all forms of” in some cases (e.g. “an extremely effective way of providing relief from all forms of stress and anxiety”), is enough to qualify these as therapeutic claims. No substantiation is offered for the therapeutic effectiveness of any of these products.

When describing their products’ intended use, some product detail pages also refer to specific illnesses or disorders, such as insomnia, hay fever, and colds.

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[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1313734/

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