Finding the Inner Herbalist

In 1 of about 3 storage facilities for tinctures…yes they go through that much!

My career path has taken me a long way and in a very different direction from the one I started on.  During my uni days I wildcrafted herbs, enthusiastically made potions and, yes as the semi-famous story goes, even misidentified one wild-crafted species and accordingly almost poisoned my mother and me. Ahhh the good old days.  But seriously, I did initially aspire to become a great herbalist. Then I almost poisoned myself again with some over-enthusiastic dosing in fourth year – and perhaps like people who’ve ever made themselves truly hideously sick on a particular alcohol, have struggled consuming tinctures myself ever since.  I know…right…it was as much that the nutrition path chose me as it was that herbal medicine said, no thanks!

Last week, after speaking at an event, I went walkabout around Hobart & had the great fortune to visit both the Gould’s Apothecary & their herb farm, Bronzewing and I was potently reminded of why this core naturopathic modality is so incredibly appealing & powerful – for practitioners and patients alike – when it is executed with such a high level of integrity.

You’ve heard it all before, right? Perhaps even done the taste test comparison between a ‘regular’ ginger or echinacea or…whatever herbal prep and one born from Gould’s and had that ‘Aha!’ moment? Yes, me too, but seeing it with my own eyes from paddock to…product…was even more impacting. Herbs are not my strong suit in naturopathy & never will be, that’s why I have monthly mentoring specifically in herbal medicine with a colleague who lives and breathes herbs, however, I love that it is hers and others and via collaboration, we can give our patients it all. Especially, if we are discerning regarding herbal product quality.  Oops did I just say that out loud? [trouble maker!]

Drying calendula and some other green herb! LOL

 

 

 

Apparently, this 3 storey heritage apothecary is already firmly on the selfie-taking map among tourists (who happen to also be naturopaths) – but if you haven’t already done so, don’t miss it if you go to Hobart…that and Mona 😉

 

 

 

 

 

Harvesting Echinacea flowers, I know, how instagrammable right?!

 

The incredible Greg Whitten who runs the herb farm

Hey, Weed Lovers

Weed lovers

I know you’re out there. Reading a recent news article I had instant flashbacks of being a young, big-eyed, rosy cheeked naturopathic student of 20+years ago.  While my career since may have taken me in somewhat of a different direction, I know many of my colleagues have stayed true to their roots (both weedy and herbal) and love nothing more than a bit of urban foraging.  Sometimes even sharing their bounty with me, much to my delight.  I salute you! (more…)

With or Withania You?

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Cheesy I know! 😉  However, recently the issue of knowing when to use Withania somnifera & when not to, came up again in mentoring so I thought it’s probably a good one to share.  Withania, aka Aswagandha or Indian Ginseng, has become a favourite adaptogenic prescription for many practitioners, myself included.  I remember learning specifically (about a million years ago!!) that this herb is ‘warming’ & ‘nourishing’, thanks in part to its iron content. In a traditional medicine context, it’s used for those particularly vulnerable populations such as children, the pregnant, the elderly and the malnourished, boiled in milk as a tonic.  These ideas always stayed with me, and lead me to only use Withania in similar patients and presentations with good results. (more…)

When I Would Give Withania A Miss

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We kicked off mentoring this year with some great cases last week.  One was a pregnant hyperthyroid client.   During the session the wonderful practitioner mentions that the client is using Withania somnifera as required for anxiety.

Insert sound of brakes screeching to a dangerous squealing crash!  Here’s a situation where I would give Withania a miss.  (more…)

Why I wouldn’t use Vitex

 

 

We had a great case in one of our graduate mentoring sessions the other day (thanks Kate 😉 ) , about a 40 something mum of 3 who reported to have cyclical mood and depression.  Further investigation of the case, however, revealed that some of the key characteristics of the mood disorder were actually anger, aggression, irritability, hyperactivity, vivid nightmares etc.  This particularly came to light with her responses to a mood survey that the practitioner had asked her to complete.  I think validated tools like this (esp. DASS), when used appropriately, can give us enormous insight – often revealing things we might not have thought to ask about or that the client might not have voluntarily offered up, particularly if they are not socially accepted or attractive qualities.

If you practice anything like me, then Vitex is an absolute reflex response (think the very funny reflex paper ad – that’s me in my clinic!)  & godsend for most cyclical mood issues. However, apart from the fact that this woman’s key period of mood aggravation, although clearly related to her menstrual cycle, was day 5-14 rather than during the late luteal phase, there was another stand out reason for me why I definitely wouldn’t use Vitex. (more…)