Elena’s Nature Collection

A review of the web site for Elena’s Nature Collection.

Grade D

Elena Schalburg, a retired burns-unit nurse, has created a line of products for skin care, especially eczema and psoriasis. She emailed me to let me know of her web site and product line. The products include things like Trinity Soap and Shampoo and Eureka Cream. The products contain essential oils and herbs, but they’re not listed clearly on the site (none of the ingredients specifically mentioned is medically known to treat psoriasis).

Whether these products work or not, I cannot say, but Elena claims an “80-90% success rate” for psoriasis and eczema. How she knows this is unclear, but she appears to be relying heavily on customer feedback for this number. The number of people who do not contact Elena again after using her products is unknown, so how much the inclusion of their opinions would affect her calculations is also unknown.

And that, unfortunately, is about the only direct claim she makes for psoriasis itself. She offers no hard evidence, just her own opinion that her products treat psoriasis. Not even a single testimonial mentions psoriasis (not that it would mean anything if all of them were about psoriasis).

Is Elena’s say-so useful in attempting to figure out if she’s correct or not? It’s clear that seventeen years of experience as a “burns and plastic” nurse doesn’t qualify a person as a dermatologist, psoriasis expert or an immunologist. In fact, according to this:

I believe that treating the allergen or bacteria by natural means helps the skin enough to combat the problem [eczema] and after reducing the bacteria significantly the skin will itch less and scratching will be reduced.

it would appear that Elena doesn’t really understand that “eczema” is a “catch-all” term for a bunch of related skin complaints, which may include allergic reactions (like contact dermatitis) or bacterial infections, but also include eczematous diseases caused by other things. An expert on skin diseases she isn’t, despite her “professional background.”

Something of interest to note about Elena’s site is the repetition, in many places, that her products are tested by Microtech Services “that has UKAS accreditation to BS standards.” Well, the services involved are microbiology testing services, in this case meaning that they check for unacceptable levels of microbes in cosmetic products. They’re accredited by the U.K. Accreditation Services (UKAS) for doing this kind of testing. It is important to note here that this company does not do anything like test the products to see if they work as advertised, only that they are “clean.”

One other quote of Elena’s I’d like to focus on is the following:

The battle against eczema and psoriasis is often long and very depressing, and most people come to me at the end of their tether.

I think I can vouch for this. I regularly get emails entitled “HELP!” from people who tell me they’ve “tried everything,” and asking if some over-the-counter cream or another would help. But, recognizing that these people are desperate, and thus in desperate need of the best possible information, I usually provide the most accurate answer possible:

Nobody knows if cream X will help, because the manufacturer hasn’t done any clinical testing for psoriasis.

When people are at their wits’ end, depressed and desperate for something — anything — to help with their skin problems, it is not the time to sell them a product or two (and 3.5 ounces of Eureka Cream will set a person back about US$ 45 as of May 1, 2003). Desperate people are not the best consumers and offering products and platitudes (“magic results” or “made with love”) instead of real help (coping skills, scientific explanations, etc.) is nothing more than taking fiscal advantage of the situation.

Not that this is entirely Elena’s fault, of course. People have been doing this for thousands of years. And, of course, there is a market for platitudes and “magic” products. There’s just something that doesn’t sit well with me about a person who appears to be happy that her customer base is admittedly comprised almost entirely of emotionally-unbalanced people, to whom all she can offer is expensive untested products and sappy new-age “wisdom.”

Make no mistake, I believe that Elena is sincere about what she says, but I also think she’s also confused (for example, counting customer yes/no “votes” is not an acceptable methodology for assessing the success of a treatment) and passing that confusion on to her customers. Having good intentions doesn’t automatically make a person correct.

Elena informed me, via the email, that she is going to do a radio show, from 2:30 to 3:00 PM on June 2nd, 2003, on Southern Counties FM, 104.5-104.8 FM. I assume this won’t be heard much outside of England.

Finally, to answer a question posed in the email, I do not make treatment suggestions because here in the United States, it is (A) illegal to practice medicine without a license and (B) unethical for even licensed doctors to suggest treatments based on an email or even a telephone conversation. Elena, leave the doctoring to the real doctors.


Other Related Pages

A Natural Remedy for EczemaBroken Link, by Elena Schalburg, is mostly just more of the same stuff one can find on her web site, except the first four paragraphs pretty much say, “since eczema is a difficult disease, both to treat and to research, people should just ignore their doctors and the findings of modern medicine, and go with their gut reactions instead.”

Eczema Care — Natural RemediesBroken Link is a quick review, with unsubstaniated claims like, “During the last 15 years Elena has treated most skin conditions with enormous success and is therefore able to provide a top class service to anyone wanting advice.”

Natural Creams to Heal the SkinBroken Link is a fluff piece on Elena and her product line.

Natural Ways to Ease Skin TroubleBroken Link says, in part, that Elena’s Eureka Cream “has been proved to ease the symptoms of skin conditions almost immediately.” Where is this “proof?” I couldn’t find it on Elena’s site. (This article also contains incorrect statements about psoriasis and Mahonia aquifolium.)