Fairfield resident's herb venture flourishing
A love of gardening and interest in herbs has led Maree Murphy to a career as a medical herbalist and a business - Heavenly Herbs.
Always a keen gardener, Mrs Murphy studied for a BSc before teaching and then working in laboratories.
"That science background has come in very handy with what I do now. I enjoyed teaching but what I really liked was investigating and making things.
"I love a challenge, trying to find an answer for health problems."
Her Fairfield garden is home to more than 50 herbs, which she grows organically and uses in a range of teas, creams and herbal formulas.
While bringing up a family of nine children she started to experiment with growing herbs.
"I found a lot of value in them. The first one was lemon balm, for calming, which I made into tea. When I was breastfeeding my children it was brilliant."
Over the years she has done various courses on herbs and herbal medicine. "Then I did a sustainability course that Hutt City Council ran; that was very inspiring."
The course was about the time of the Christchurch earthquakes which got her thinking about how dependent the city is on other parts of New Zealand.
"In terms of things that I was interested in a lot of the products came from outside the area so I thought why not make my own?"
The ideas for much of her range have come from friends and family who asked for creams to help with everything from varicose veins to dry skin, sunscreen, baby's bottoms, eczema, stretch marks and more.
"People were telling me that they wanted skin creams that are natural. They're tired of putting chemicals on their skin. There's a demand for more natural products.'"
That demand led to the development of her business, Heavenly Herbs.
"There are two sides to that as well - one is the product line and the other is my hat as a medical herbalist."
A member of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists, she sees a growing number of clients at her home and has just started holding a clinic in Avalon during the day on Wednesday, and on Thursday night.
"I see people for all sorts of things, weight loss, stress, constipation, high cholesterol, difficult menstruation and so on. I find a lot of people are looking for natural solutions."
She is keen to stress that herbalists do not just work with herbs.
"We work with nutrition, herbs and lifestyle. It's a very holistic approach."
Though she uses as much as she can out of her own garden, some things she sources from elsewhere.
"But what I don't grow I try to source as ethically as I can."
She warns against people heading out to their gardens and "trying their luck".
"I'd done a lot of study and training to identify and use herbs. It's not something the unqualified should dabble in.
"Some herbs can react with medications so you shouldn't take them at the same time. There is a caution there."
The best part of being a medical herbalist, she says, is helping people take responsibility for their own health.
"At the end of the day you can't buy your health, you've got to have been proactive in caring for yourself."
Contact Maree on 567 5600, or firstname.lastname@example.org heavenlyherbs.co.nz