I grew up on a farm south of Hastings. As an only child I spent hours alone in the hills and the bush and by the creek on the farm, which laid the foundation for my lifelong passion for botanic wisdom, healing and nature.
I always wanted to work with plant medicine, but needless to say, life doesn't always go in a straight line and so I have worked my way towards that via an international career that traversed the arts, corporate sector and conservation.
It was a role with the United Nations Environment Programme that got me thinking about how I could build a business that works with nature, and then gives back to it by using some of its proceeds to establish plant conservation projects. It also made me realise that the place I wanted to do that was right back here, in Hawke's Bay.
Changing career can be scary, but there is a certain pleasure in turning a private passion into the basis for a business. Over the past few years I have been developing a herbal skin care and remedies business called Archeus, which is a word coined by a physician and alchemist in the 16th century for the 'vital force' in people, nature and the universe.
All the ingredients I use are natural, mostly organic, and everything is handcrafted in very small batches. Like 'slow food', my products take time to craft; as I write this article there are some herbs gently macerating in organic camellia oil which, in a few days, will be ready to use.
Doing this work really highlights how many people have problems with their skin, often as a result of allergies. Conditions like eczema and dermatitis are a real bane of many people's lives. There are a number of herbs that are noted for helping the body deal with these sorts of concerns. Two I particularly like are deeply unglamorous and maybe even a little misunderstood. They are Stellaria media - otherwise known as 'chickweed' - and Urtica dioica, the common stinging nettle. Chickweed has very cooling properties, is rich in anti-inflammatory saponins and is a 'specific' for hot, itchy skin conditions.
The poor old nettle gets a bit of a bad rap, as its sting makes it hard to love, but if picked before flowering, nettle is a generous healer, a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, and wonderful for clearing skin irritations. I use these herbs for my products such as Vital Oil, and adding them to tea blends.
They are also great edible herbs and at this time of year they are popping up everywhere. Fresh chickweed makes a lovely salad herb, or a refreshing pot of tea. Nettles also make a fine tea and, if you're game, a great addition to vegetable soup! Aside from helping problem skin, nettle is a superb spring tonic and with its abundant supply of iron, chlorophyll and vitamins it will help your system shake off those winter blues. A word of caution: do not use the large and ferocious native tree nettle (Urtica ferox) known as Onga Onga, and make sure you only gather herbs that have not been sprayed. This can make gathering in roadside verges a bit of a no go as they may have been sprayed by the
Over the coming months I will introduce you to some of my favourite plants and give a few insights into how they are used in health and well-being. Right now though I'm getting my gardening gloves on and heading out to gather some nettle for a pot of tea!
Coming up in Element
Healing herbs in your garden - spring brings with it an abundance of plants for healing and beauty
Alchemy and aroma - the mysterious craft of distillation
The power of camellia - green tea in beauty and health
Herbal holidays and resolutions - some beautiful
ways to work with nature on your holiday
Archeus Vital Oil for sensitive skin
Shopgreen special $52 (normally $57.00)
If your skin feels dry or aggravated this handcrafted Vital Oil may just be the face and body treatment you are looking for. Archeus gently macerates and blends a range of healing herbs into antioxidant-rich certified organic camellia oil. Comfrey is used as an aid for tissue repair; while chickweed and nettle help ease itch and any inflammation. Vital Oil helps to reduce blemishes and promote radiant skin. You only need to use a few drops and your skin will thank you for it.
Visit archeus.co.nz for more information.
A portion of proceeds from every purchase is put towards Archeus' plant conservation activity.