Right on trend and natural, of course

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2014

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Take a little hair of the dog before drinking to help with the coming hangover or down some hoppy tea to help with insomnia.

Herbal remedies are becoming increasingly popular, in line with society's 21st century focus on clean eating and healthy lifestyle choices.

Simone Reddington's Woolston business is right on trend.

The Apothecary herbal medicine shop started up in The Tannery complex just before Christmas. Reddington provides natural remedies for all sorts of ailments.

Gingko improves circulation, fish oil helps with menstrual pain, and willowbark contains the key ingredient in aspirin - salicylic acid.

"I think of herbs as tools in a toolbox," Reddington said. "A doctor has drugs in his toolbox, whereas we have herbs."

Reddington was introduced to natural remedies by her mother, who was a big believer.

"I just felt people needed somewhere to get their herbs," she said. "There's a really big demand for this."

Medical herbalist Richard Whelan has practised in Christchurch for 25 years, relying solely on word-of-mouth referrals to generate business.

"There's been a steady increase in awareness of natural medicine," he said. "I think the internet has a lot to do with it. If you look at pharmacies now, they all have a huge section of vitamins and herbs, supermarkets too.

"Herbs have been off the radar for a while but now they're coming back."

Whelan said most of the world's population still relied on herbs and natural remedies as their primary healthcare. Much of the world could not afford pharmaceuticals and remedies handed down through the generations were the accepted system.

However, in countries like New Zealand, the opposite is true. The cost of medical care in New Zealand is heavily subsidised and therefore the cost of natural remedies is artificially high.

"Most people don't have any idea what drugs really cost because they're so subsidised," Whelan said. "It makes herbal medicine more expensive."

For many patients, Whelan takes the place of a mainstream doctor. "It's a huge responsibility," he said. "I think a lot of people go into natural medicine quite naively, thinking it will be all butterflies.

"But I couldn't tell you the number of people I see who say I am their last resort. They've exhausted all the other conventional healthcare options.

"We see some really serious cases and this is really effective medicine."

Whelan consults every new patient for at least an hour before considering a diagnosis and treatment plan. He never treats two conditions or patients the same, and makes all his own medicines.

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- The Press

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