MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

HRH, The Prince of Wales has supported quackery on uncounted occasions. Several years ago, Charles even began selling his very own line of snake-oil. Now he surprises the British public with a brand new product: the ‘Baby Organic Hamper’. It is being sold for £195 under Prince Charles’ Highgrove-label and advertised with the following words:

A limited edition, hand-numbered hamper box packed with our new gentle organic bath and body products and a Highgrove Baby Bear. An ideal gift for new babies and parents. The blend of organic Roman chamomile and mandarin has been developed to be calm and gentle on delicate skin.

Roman chamomile has been known for centuries for its calming and relaxing benefits and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Mandarin, known as ‘happy-oil’, has been chosen for its antiseptic properties and ability to boost immunity. Combined, this blend of ingredients produces a calming, protective barrier helping babies to relax. The exclusive, fully jointed Highgrove Baby Bear in antique mohair is made by Merrythought.

Provenance The unique bath and body collection has been created with Daniel Galvin Jr. in collaboration with Alexandra Soveral. Daniel Galvin Jr. has pioneered and developed organic products for hair and beauty over the last decade and Alexandra Soveral is a renowned and highly respected aromatherapist and facialist.

This new collection has been formulated in accordance with The Soil Association’s standards for health and beauty products, ensuring the purity of the range. Hamper Contents Body Lotion 100ml. Bath and Massage Oil 100ml. Flower Water 100ml. Bath and Body Wash 100ml. Balm 50ml. Highgrove Baby Bear.

Terms like relaxing benefits … anti-inflammatory … antiseptic properties … ability to boost immunity … protective barrier … helping babies to relax do undoubtedly amount to medical/therapeutic claims which, by definition (and by English law), need to be supported by evidence. I fail to see any sound evidence that either chamomile or mandarin oil or their combination have any of these effects on babies when applied as a body lotion, bath oil, massage oil, flower water, body wash.

The only RCT for mandarin-oil I could find concluded that results do not support a benefit of ‘M’ technique massage with or without mandarin oil in these young postoperative patients. Several reasons may account for this: massage given too soon after general anaesthesia, young patients’ fear of strangers touching them, patients not used to massage. For Roman Chamomile, I also identified just one relevant study; its results do not seem to suggest that the oil is the decisive factor in producing relaxation: Massage with or without essential oils appears to reduce levels of anxiety. Neither of these trials were done with babies, and crucially, no clinical trial at all seems to exist of the combination of the two oils as used in the Charles’ products.

As Charles and his team are clearly not scientists or health care experts, they took advice from people who might know about such matters: Daniel Galvin Jr. in collaboration with Alexandra Soveral. Daniel Galvin Jr. has pioneered and developed organic products for hair and beauty over the last decade and Alexandra Soveral is a renowned and highly respected aromatherapist and facialist.

This might look responsible at first glance; at closer scrutiny, Daniel Galvin turns out to be more an expert in cosmetics than in medicine; his own website explains: Born into the country’s most influential hairdressing dynasty, Daniel Galvin Jr, has been instrumental in the growth of the organic beauty market for the past 12 years and has been in the industry for 27 years. As a salon owner and creator of natural, organic professional haircare, he is at the forefront of colour expertise, with a client list including a ‘who’s who’ of TV personalities, British actors, royalty and London’s most beautiful socialites.

Alexandra Soveral might have once worked as an aromatherapist, but today she is the co-owner of a firm marketing natural beauty products; her website explains: We use rare & organic ingredients of the highest quality to create products that work in synergy with nature. We work towards a synthetic chemical free world. The scents from our essential oils evoke mind, body and soul reactions that promote well-being. We aim to continue our journey by always ensuring we source out new ways to improve our products and be kind to the planet.

At this point, two questions emerge in my mind: 1) is this just foolish nonsense or is it more sinister than that? 2) Why on earth does Charles venture into this sort of thing?

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I would be inclined to file Charles’ baby-hamper under the category of ‘foolish nonsense’. Ok, it exploits the love of parents for their new-borns – £195 per item is not exactly cheap (even considering that it is HAND-NUMBERED!) – but the type of customer who might buy this product is probably not on the brink of financial hardship. The ‘foolish nonsense’ does, however, acquire a more sinister significance through the fact that the heir to the throne, who arguably should be an example to us all, yet again is responsible for unsubstantiated therapeutic claims. So, on balance, I think this is more than just foolish nonsense; in fact, it is yet another example of Charles misguiding the public through his passion for quackery.

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Why does he do it? Does Charles need the money? No, unlike other quacks, he is not motivated by commercial interests. Is it for boosting his public image? Charles has certainly had an alternative bee under his royal bonnet for a very long time; in his quest to spread his abstruse notions of integrated health care, he has aquired an image to live up to. This new foray into quackery seems nevertheless baffling, in my view, because it is so obviously and cynically disregarding the law, regulations and evidence.

The way I see it, there are only two explanations for all this: either Charles is less aware of reality than one might have hoped, or he delegates trivial matters of this nature to one of his many sycophants without caring about the embarrassing details. Both of these possibilities are neither flattering for him nor reassuring for us…GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

10 Responses to Prince Charles’ new and embarrassing venture into quackery: at £195 it’s a bargain!

  • Hi

    Agree with every word exept one – he’s the heir to the throne not the thrown. Or was this a subtle point I failed to notice?

  • The only thing that might actually work in there is the mohair bear. As long as the kid isn’t allergic to it, I guess…

  • In the immortal words of the Red Queen – “Off with his head !”. Truly a product for those with more money than brains. Still a lot cheaper than a million dollar wrist watch.

    The most sinister aspect of this is the fostering of the general acceptance of nonsense. It is another piece of the wallpaper of common knowledge based on “everybody knows”. It creates an armor that can ward off most attempts at reason. Because it is harmless on the surface it tends to make criticism seem petty.

  • In his latest travel book, “Last Train to Zona Verde” Paul Theroux, visits Northern Namibia, the region which is home to the Bushmen. PT refers to other authors who wrote about Bushmen, amongst them Laurens van der Post (Lost World of the Kalahari etc). PT had visited LVDP at his home and found him like some pompous old po-faced Auntie, a posturing fantasist, holding forth and surrounded by sychophants. Amongst those who sat awe struck at Van der Post’s feet was Prince Charles (LVDP was his Godfather). Private Eye hit the nail on the head in their regular satirical take on conversations between LVDP, who they called called Van der Pump, and HRH.
    Van Der Pump: ” Do you realise Charles, that when the sun sets, darkness falls”. HRH, mesmerised with the sheer brilliance of this pronouncement: ” Oh how wonderful! How true, how very true”

    What’s the point of all this? HRH appears to be easily gulled by phoney self styled ‘gurus’ in every field. I would rather believe Prof Ernst’s second take on HRH, that he is ‘not aware of reality’. So, rather than deliberately misleading the public about his potions, Baby Organic stuff or other, perhaps we should assume that he may simply be incapable of distinguishing between the charlatan and the true professional, or between hearsay, myth, and evidence based facts.

  • Given the acceptance level in the general population for quackery, it is entirely possible that HRH sincerely believes what he says. He still deserves a short haircut if he insists on going down the rabbit hole. I wonder – does the Queen hope to outlive him?

  • Other issues aside, chamomile does have some evidence supporting its use to promote relaxation.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19593179

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16628544

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23476690

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19831048

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894890

    Some of them involve German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) rather than Roman but constituents are fairly similar as far as I know. The oil is one of the major constituents so it is certainly plausible at least that the oil alone could have calming/relaxing effects. The quality and direct applicability of the research may vary somewhat here but it does echo some traditional uses and isn’t resorting to magical thinking at least. That said, it is odd as an outsider to see British Royalty promoting their own product lines – I guess they are more akin to celebrities than politicians though.

    • apart from the one study which I also linked to [which is not on babies and not on healthy individuals], these studies refer to oral use. I don’t think the bath oil was meant for drinking.
      but you are right, there is a faint shadow of plausibility…not enough though to make therapeutic claims.

  • Loved these comments!

    My thought was that if HRH must be a merchant (and does he donate his profits to one of his charities?), why not just say the baby products, including the bear, a

    All the bragging about hairdressers and “facialists”, to say nothing of aromatherapy, seems utterly superfluous. Perhaps these things impress the idle rich. Yes, yes, I am aware that the Monarchy “work” very hard at their duties, and I enjoy following their photo-ops as well as the next giddy American, but I maintain that both the Monarchy and the rest of the rich are relatively idle, compared to people who toil for minimum wage.

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