herbal teas

Herbal Tea as Medicine

Herbal Tea as Medicine

As we head into the cooler months, a warm cup of tea in our hands can be a real blessing. But aside from being a tasty beverage, herbal teas can also be a great way of getting our medicine. Plants contain all sorts of phytochemicals, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that are good for us in a general sense as well as having more specific actions on certain systems of the body.

 

History of Herbal Teas

Before the advent of modern manufacturing processes and herbs coming to us in tablets or brown bottles, herbal tea was the major way herbs were delivered as medicines. In many cultures around the world, households kept some basic dried herbs in the cupboard for simple ailments and this 'folk medicine' was passed down from generation to generation. Herbalists were often midwives or lay healers and often also in charge of spiritual matters in their communities. During the middle ages however, there was a push from the Church to gain more power and the practice of herbal medicine and healing was forbidden and many herbalists were persecuted and much knowledge was lost.  Over the past couple of hundred years, modern medicine has slowly gained power and prestige and despite many modern drugs coming from plants, herbs have lost much of their place and respect in the world of medicine. Despite this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) still classifies herbal medicine as an important, effective and viable medicine for most of the world's people who have limited access to modern pharmaceutical medicines.

Bringing Back Herbs to the Household!

Many of us use both fresh and dried herbs in our cooking - and this is a simple form of food as medicine. But having a range of simple herbal remedies as teas in the cupboard is still a good way to care for yourself and your family for basic common health complaints. While herbs do not offer a replacement for modern drugs in every condition, having some basic knowledge and remedies on hand can give you other options and alternatives to mainstream approaches for simple complaints such as colds, coughs, digestive disorders, stress and sleep issues. Herbal teas are also great for children as they provide a gentle and safe option that is effective but without the side effects of some modern medicines.

Herbal Tea as Medicine

There are two main methods to make a medicinal tea - using dried or fresh herbs and boiling water. Plants contain different constituents in different parts of the plant - active parts can be found in the roots, the bark, the leaves, the berries, the flowers. Some constituents are easily dissolved in water, while others are not. Thus the preparation method employed in making a herbal medicine is important - and the best method will make it most potent and effective.

Infusion

An infusion is what we usually think of when we think of making a tea. Simply pouring about 1 cup boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons of dried herbs is how to make a basic herbal tea infusion. Infusions are best for leaves and flowers that are more delicate and yield their active constituents easily in boiling water - and ones that contain essential oils are readily captured and not destroyed by simple infusions.

Fresh plant infusions are also possible with fragrant herbs like lemon grass, mint, lemon myrtle, lemon balm and they tend to be milder in taste and concentration. With fresh plant material, we tend to use a bigger volume as it already has a lot of moisture content. Chop or crush a decent handful of fresh herbs per cup of boiling water.

Decoction

​​​​​​​Decoctions are when herbs are simmered over low heat over a period of time (usually for at least 5-10 mins) to extract more of the constituents. Decoctions are best employed with woody stems, barks and roots that need a longer processing time to release their medicinal actives. There are some herbs that teas or decoctions are not suitable for, as the active products are not readily extracted in water. Alcohol is a better solvent in this regard - such as for certain resins and gums.

 

Cleansing tea - great for detoxing!

I have created different herbal blends that I make up from organic high quality herbal teas as well as some single teas. These teas offer tasty and effective medicine or a range of common conditions:
  • Lung and Cough Tea
  • Relaxation Blend
  • Digestive Blend
  • Cleansing Tea Blend
  • Lactation Tea
  • Peppermint or Spearmint
  • Raspberry leaf
  • Dandelion root or leaf
  • Nettle leaf

 

So next time your in the clinic, go grab a pack of herb tea - you will find it is vastly different from the tea bags you get at the supermarket and it will offer you a simple home remedy too!  I can also post teas out to you - details and purchase options can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Green tea

Green Tea - Camellia sinensis

tea

Green tea is a popular health promoting tea, enjoyed all over the world.

Black, Oolong and Green tea all stem from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, however differences in processing results in three very distinct products not only in taste but also in health benefits. Green tea is the least processed and therefore isn’t exposed to oxidation, resulting in a tea that retains more antioxidants. The specific antoxidants found in green tea include catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate and proanthocyanidins.

In different parts of Asia, the tea is harvested at different times according to tradition. In Japan, only one cultivar of Camellia sinensis is used, the Yabukita variety, and the leaves are harvested any time from late spring all the way through until autumn - giving the leaves more time to grow on the plant.  In contast, in China, many varieties are used and the green tea is only harvested in the early spring, meaning the leaves have less time to grow. Not only the leaves are plucked, but in China the spring buds of the plants are also harvested. The Chinese method of drying the leaves uses a pan to dry fire them, or they might be oven dried or dried under the sun. The tea is then hand processed with workers rolling the tea leaves into shapes - such as balls, twists, spirals and swords.  Green tea is traditionally only brewed for 2-3 minutes and if you leave it longer it can be quite bitter and higher in the astringent tannins.

Genmaicha - Japanese green tea with roasted rice

Genmaicha - Japanese green tea with roasted rice

Some Japanese Green Tea can also contain twigs and roasted puffed rice along with the green tea, the popular variety is referred to as Genmaicha. Kyoto was the birthplace of genmaicha, where legend tells of a tea farmer who mixed roasted brown rice (as a filler) in with his cheapest blends of green tea so that even poor people could afford to buy his tea, and get some extra nutrients along with the tea. Genmaicha has a milder nutty flavour combining the fresh grassy flavor of green tea with the aroma of the roasted rice and it became a popular brew in time. Tea steeped from genmaicha has a light yellow hue and It is traditionally brewed for 3-5 minutes.

What it’s good for

Anti-Ageing

Green tea contains a potent range of antioxidants responsible for fighting a prime culprit in the ageing process; free radicals. Epigallocatechin gallate, a green tea polyphenol now incorporated into many skin care formulations, has been shown to reduce damage done to skin cells and is proported to offer antioxidant protection against mild sun exposure. To learn more about natural sunscreens, includling a recipe that includes green tea in it, please click here.

Cancer

Green tea has been shown in several studies to decrease proliferation of cancer cells and it can also increase apoptosis, which is what we call the highly regulated process of inbuilt cell death. Many cancer cells lose their innate programming for cell death and thus keep growing and spreading. Agents that can stimulate this process of apoptosis can lead to reduced cancer cell numbers. Epigallocatechin gallate was found to reduce the risk of skin cancer through its protection against UV radiation. Topical application of green tea half an hour before skin exposure was shown to be protective against sunburn. Systematic scientific studies and research suggest green tea possesses protective capabilities against breast, prostate and upper gastrointestinal tract cancers.

Weight Loss

Green tea consumption has been associated in several studies with moderate weight loss, reduced weight circumference and metabolic parameter improvements when combined with regular exercise. Animal studies found this weight loss to be due to decreased leptin (dubbed the obesity hormone), decreased food intake and an increase in metabolic rate due to increased thermogenesis. Green tea also contains caffeine which has a subtle stimulating impact on weight loss, but usually not strong enough on its own to exert much impact.

Memory and Mood
Matcha powder is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that is good for anxiety and stress.

Matcha powder is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that is good for anxiety and stress.

Green tea intake has been shown to significantly improve cognitive performance and learning ability with long-term consumption. This is thought to be due to a combination of improved cerebral blood flow and the neuro-protective effects of L-theanine, a compound found in green tea. L-theanine exerts this action through modulation of our neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. Despite these neurotransmitters being cut from the same cloth, GABA and glutamate have opposing effects in the body. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and is often released by the body in times of stress. GABA on the other hand is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and when released has a calming effect on the body. L-theanine works by blocking the glutamate pathway, in turn increasing GABA. Incorporating green tea into your diet is a nice way to gently reduce the effects of glutamate but for those suffering from anxiety and stress a supplemental dose of L-theanine would be more beneficial. I have found using an actual capsule of concentrated  L-theanine can be an effective supplement for anxiety and tension in my patients.

What it’s not good for

  • Due to its caffeine content, high intake of green tea may increase central nervous system (CNS) stimulation of drugs such as nicotine and salbutamol and conversely reduce drug effects of CNS depressants such as benzodiazepines.
  • Green tea contains high amounts of tannins that are capable of binding to and reducing the absorption of iron and other minerals. Caution in iron deficiency and iron supplementation should be exercised.
  • Caffeine content of green tea may effect blood glucose, monitoring in diabetes is advised
  • Due to its caffeine content, green tea may exhibit a diuretic effect, so ensure you drink an extra glass of water for each cup of tea consumed.

Here is a guide to all the different types of green tea with some of the benefits and highlights to choose from when selecting the best one for you.

greenteachart

 

Excessive intake of anything, even something that is seemingly good for you, is indeed not good for you. Drinking 3-4 cups of green tea per day is sufficient to get the beneficial effects according to the research. I also recommend combining green tea with other herbal teas that can have additional medicinal benefits for your individual needs.

Drinking very high doses of any caffeinated beverage including green tea is unsafe and can cause major health issues due to caffeine content.

 

 

Herbal Home Remedies

fennelHerbal Home Remedies for Digestion

  • There are many herbs that can be effective to support digestion. Different herbs have different actions and can be employed for spasm, pain, bloating, wind, constipation or diarrhoea.
  • Incorporating herbs into you daily routine in cooking, as teas and tonics can bring the healing benefits of herbs without having to take another supplement or pill.

 

The following table lists a range of effective herbs and their actions on the digestive tract.

Herb Actions Suggested Use
Fennel Carminative, relaxant, antibacterial, antioxidant rich Use in cooking or crush and use as a tea – ½ teaspoon crushed herbs – steep for 5-10 mins in boiling water.

 

Oregano Antimicrobial, antioxidant, digestive tonic, antispasmodic, carminative (relaxant) Use fresh herb in cooking or as a tea or for stronger antibiotic effect use the essential oil capsules.
Barberry / Oregon Grape / Golden Seal Bitter, stimulates digestive enzymes, high in berberine and natural antibiotic action, astringent, mucuous membrane tonic Dried roots can be made into a bitter tea or macerated with vinegar for a natural digestive tonic. Capsules and tinctures are also available.
Gentian Bitter, stimulates enzymes, improves digestion, stimulates persistalsis, improves appetite Key ingredient in classic Swedish bitters, the tincture can be used to stimulate digestion and activate the bitter receptors.  Take 10 drops in water before meals.
Ginger Warming stimulant, stimulates hydrochloric acid and enzymes, improves digestion, stimulates persistalsis

Antiemetic (relieves nausea)

Grate fresh ginger and add to cooking, stirfries, marinades.

Have fresh ginger tea – ½ teaspoon of grated ginger per cup boiling water

Globe Artichoke Liver and gall bladder tonic, stimulates bile output, promotes digestion of fats, high in minerals and prebiotics Can use the artichoke heart as vegetable in cooking, however the leaves are the potent medicine.

Use fresh or dried leaves as tea or mixed with vinegar as a digestive tonic.

Myrrh Antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, antiinflammatory Best to use as a tincture or tablet as the bitter resin that gives Myrrh its medicinal action is not well extracted in water. Also can be irritating on the stomach lining if used for too long

 

Get my recipes for herbal vinegar and ginger and turmeric oxymel below or click on the picture to the right.

Herbal Oxymel & Vinegar Recipes

  • To learn more about the benefits of turmeric, please check out this blog post.

 

  • For personalised support for your digestive issues and to get access to practitioner quality herbal teas, medicinal tinctures or tablets please make a time to see Karen in person or over skype or zoom.

 

Fever

Natural Fever Management

fever thermometerI see many children in my practice with recurrent infections and lowered immunity. In these cases, I always check in with the parent about their usual routine for fever management. So many parents are scared of fevers and I spend a large part of the consultation educating about the importance of fevers, their role in immunity and how to manage them more naturally.  It is not uncommon for parents to give multiple doses of paracetamol or ibuprofen containing medicines to lower a fever. While every parent is well meaning and wants to ease discomfort in their child, these drugs are not without side effects. Many children overdose from excess paracetamol ingestion and it is the leading cause of paediatric hospital admissions and calls to poisons information hotlines.  Children aged between 1-3 years old have the highest incidence of accidental poisoning.

Why Do Fevers Occur?

coldFevers are a common occurrence in children and less common in adults possibly due to a child's immune system being more immature and many adults tend to suppress the fever response over the years and have a generally lower vitality. The most important thing to know is that fevers are not a disease but rather a symptom of another disease process. The body uses a fever to stimulate and enhance the immune system to deal with the actual disease process. A fever may occur in response to many different challenges that the body faces, including infections, burns, dehydration, heatstroke, vaccination, drug and alcohol use, excessive exertion and exhaustion. In babies and young children fevers can also accompany teething, overdressing and overexcitement. Most fevers that occur are the result of a viral infection and are considered a natural defence mechanism employed by the immune system.  Research has revealed that the raising of core body temperature destroys many viruses and bacteria which can only survive in a narrow temperature range. Fevers also enhance immunity through increasing white cell counts.

The thermoregulation of the body (temperature control mechanism) is a finely regulated process. While many people get alarmed that the body temperature is elevating and might not stop, it is important to understand that the fever process is finely regulated by the brain. The hypothalamus (brain region) acts like a thermostat and responds to substances in the body and can increase or decrease temperature states.  These substances called pyrogens are produced by the body but are also produced by infectious agents such as viruses and other pathogens. In most cases though the temperature rises to 39-40.5 and stops. In very rare cases, if the core temperature stays elevated for too long at a very high temperature above 41 degrees C, it is possible for the fever to cause damage to tissue and impair cell function.

But what about febrile convulsions – aren’t they dangerous?

brainThe fear of a febrile convulsion is certainly what drives many parents to turn to paracetamol or ibuprofen during a fever. A febrile convulsion or mini seizure normally occurs when the body temperature rises too rapidly and contrary to popular thinking is not due to how high the temperature is per se.  A febrile convulsion generally only lasts one to two minutes but can last up to 10-15 minutes. The actual risk of febrile convulsion is actually very low, only occuring in approximately 3% of children. These convulsions, while being stressful to witness, are actually benign, do not damage the brain or impair intelligence. There is no long term complications or increased risk of epilepsy or other seizures following a febrile convulsions. Research has shown that paracetamol does not decrease the risk of febrile convulsions. It is possible that as the medicines wear off, there can be a more rapid rise in temperature as the body attempts to increase the fever response and that might be a possible trigger for seizures.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever?

sick childLike many ‘old wive’s tales’ there is truth in this saying. When we eat while having a fever it diverts energy away from the vital response and can decrease our ability to fight the illness. In addition, it is possible that the body may misinterpret food substances absorbed from the gut as allergens during a fever response as it is on high alert. In most cases of fever, our body ensures we don’t eat too much anyway, as our appetite is often very low and we don’t feel like eating.  However, it is very important to remain well hydrated during a fever as the increased body temperature and sweating can lead to dehydration. Small frequent drinks of water and medicinal herbal teas are best initially in the early stages and then you can use bone or vegetable broth or diluted vegetable juices once on the mend.

It is normal for a fever to increase the heart rate and be accompanied by other symptoms such as a headache. Remember that when using paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve a headache or lower the fever might make your child more comfortable, it will also make their body work harder to fight the infection. So instead of trying to bring a fever down, consider allowing it to do its job. I find in most incidences when a fever is allowed to run its natural course the patient

dispensaryrecovers much quicker. I have also found that in cases of chronic lowered immunity and recurrent infections, allowing a fever to run its course has an immune enhancing effect that boosts the vitality and helps to prevent another infection – effectively breaking the cycle of recurrent infections. There are some remedies that you can use during a fever to alleviate some of the unpleasant side effects but still support your body. I find homeopathic remedies can be effective and some herbal teas are useful.  Supporting your body with vitamins can also be a good way to enhance the immune response without lowering the fever.

Natural Fever Management Tips

When dealing with a fever, you should aim to support yourself or your child by staying warm, keeping well hydrated and getting plenty of rest.  The onset of sweating will often resolve the fever, but do not force your child to be over dressed or covered to stimulate this.  As a general rule, if you or your child is still shivering or has cold hands or feet, do not attempt to lower the temperature as the body is still raising the temperature to the optimal level.  Wait until the body is universally hot or sweating has started, as this heralds the climax of temperature. The body will naturally bring the temperature down when it deems that the time is right.

RED FLAG : redflag
  • While most fevers can be managed safely at home, always seek medical advice when fevers are accompanied by other major or severe symptoms such as persistent cough, vomiting, headache with neck stiffness, respiratory distress or marked mood disturbance or when fevers are very high and continue for more than 24-48 hours.

 

 

Summary of Tips For Managing Fever and Keeping Hydrated
  • Offer plenty of water or rehydrating formulas but avoid using juice or milk as hydrating agents

broth

  • Use homemade bone broth or vegetable broths / soups once on the mend. Recipe is available here.
  • Herbal teas such as rosehip, yarrow, elderflower & peppermint can help with fever and cold symptoms.

homoeopathy

  • Homoeopathics such as Belladonna, Aconite are great for sudden onset fevers.
  • Tepid baths and sponging can make children more comfortable and will help to lower the fever a little if you feel it needs to.
  • Make sure  you or your child child gets plenty of rest and sleep!

 

 

 

 

Garlic

garlic-picWe just harvested our garlic crop. It is always great to pull up the garlic heads after their six month gestation period over the cooler months. Organic garlic is a wonderful addition to both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet! 

Garlic is rich in a range of sulphur compounds, which are thought to be responsible for its flavor and aroma. One of the main medicinal agents from garlic is the substance known as allicin. But interestingly, allicin is not found in its natural state in garlic. Allicin is actually formed from the coming together of two compounds that garlic contains, called alliinase and alliin. When the enzyme allinase reacts with the compound alliin — which happens when garlic is chopped, minced or crushed  — they form the special compound known as allicin. The reaction happens very quickly and the allicin that is produced is what gives garlic it’s distinctive smell and flavour.

Allicin is a great therapeutic agent and has been found to be effective as a natural antibiotic and anticancer agent and it can also help cardiovascular health - in particular will help to lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar and high blood pressure. I often prescribe garlic as an antimicrobial agent in my treatment of digestive issues, particularly SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and it is also great for colds, sinus and chest infections and as a natural antiseptic.

Unfortunately when garlic is cooked, the allicin is destroyed, so it is best to eat it raw, freshly crushed and left to sit for 10 mins or so to get the best medicine. The best way to simultaneously peel and crush garlic is to use a heavy knife blade and bash it hard. The garlic shell will easily come free and the garlic can be chopped or smashed with the back of the knife.

garlic-smash

garlic-crush

Crush garlic and leave for 5-10 mins to maximise the allicin content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course garlic still tastes great in cooking when it is roasted or braised, we just don't get the medicinal benefit. You can crush some garlic and mix with herbs and butter to make a nice final addition to everything from steamed veggies to soups, pastas or served on top of a steak. Garlic can be added to pine nuts or cashew nuts and blended with basil and olive oil to make a delicious super food pesto dip.

For sore throats or cough crushed garlic can be mixed with honey and taken as a sweet syrup medicine.

Make sure you source organic garlic when buying garlic as much of the imported garlic comes from China and it is treated with bleaching agents, antifungals and other chemicals that prevent sprouting. Methyl bromide is one such chemical routinely used in garlic harvesting and production and this is a highly toxic agent that can impact on the respiratory and nervous systems. Imported garlic tends to have much less flavour as well!

parsley

Parsley is a great cure for garlic breath!

 

Lastly, what's an article on garlic if you don't mention garlic breath!?  There are many folk cures to help with garlic odour and garlic breath. I find using a lemon and bicarb soda is a good way to take the smell off the hands.  Some good cures for garlic breath include chewing on parsley or sucking a lemon wedge. However eating an apple or drinking green or peppermint tea can also be a good idea. These all contain substances called polyphenols which can inactivate the sulphur compounds that contribute to garlic's odour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thyme

creeping thyme.JPGTime for Thyme!

Thyme is one of my favourite herbs in the dispensary for complaints such as colds, coughs and bronchitis.

The medicinal benefits of thyme have been recognized for thousands of years in many different regions and countries throughout the world. Thyme has a range of medicinal actions including anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. In addition to thyme chest congestion remedies and using it for respiratory issues such as sore throats, thyme has also been used for arthritis and urinary tract complaints.

Thyme is rich in aromatic essential oils, which is another reason that aside from its use in my clinic, it is also a popular herb in my kitchen for cooking! It pairs well with roast vegetables and meats and the effects of its essential oils on the gut mean that it can also improve digestion. The powerful essential oil has even been shown to be a potent inhibitor of harmful bacterias such as Staph and the tincture of thyme has been found to be beneficial for acne.

balmThyme is an ingredient in my popular lung and cough tea. Another great way to use Thyme is by making a chest rub, that can be a wonderful addition to your winter medicine kit! It is much like the classic Vicks vaporub but uses natural oils and beeswax rather than petroleum jelly as a base (which like other mineral oils and paraffin can leach minerals out of your body). It is super easy to make and lovely to use.

Spring is almost here…

 

Time to detox!

Spring is just around the corner and it is time to do a little spring cleaning.....inside and out.

But don't go grabbing the broom and cloths and start attacking your dusty shelves and corners just yet. I am meaning a little body cleanse is what is in order.

The seasons of spring and autumn are traditionally the best time to do detoxing, fasting and cleansing. These seasons are more gentle than the extremes of summer heat or the winter cold.  The body naturally shifts towards desiring a change in diet and lifestyle during these in between seasons.

In spring we tend to lighten up the diet with more salads, fruits and vegetables , while in autumn we often want warmth and denser foods to sustain us in the cold.  In previous times, when we lived closer to the land, the extremes of the seasons were more obvious. Nonetheless, our bodies still experience the seasonal shifts and it is great to work with this energy.

The shift from the cold towards the warmth of spring, brings with it a need to lighten up - both our food and our mood.

 

To assist you in giving yourself a little spring cleanse, energy boost and to help create a few good habits that will sustain you right through summer - I have created the Equinox Detox!  

Click here to learn more or register for the program.
To celebrate the launch of this new online group program, I am giving some lucky person a *free* registration.
Just comment below about why you might benefit from doing a detox.
  • Is it more energy?
  • Do you want to lose weight?
  • Would you like to feel younger?
  • Maybe you want to boost your immunity?
I will be selecting the lucky winner on 15th August, just in time to start the program on Monday 3rd September!

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!

Herbal Teas

Herbal Teas - not just a beverage!

I have recently made up a new batch of my beautiful organic tea blends. I always love making these up and when I open the package, it is wonderful to smell the freshness and see the beautiful quality of the herbs. Well dried organic herbs retain all the essential oils and other components that go into making a quality medicinal strength tea. Once you have tried these teas - you will find it hard to go back to tea bags!

These are available from the clinic and cost $8.50 per 50g packet. Or online here.

Available herbal tea blends:
  • Lung & Cough Tea - a beautiful and great tasting blend of marshmallow, licorice, hyssop, mullein and thyme
  • Respiratory Tea  - a delicious and refreshing blend of elder flower, peppermint, hibiscus, rosehip and lemon myrtle
  • Lactation Tea - a blend just for nursing mothers - with nettle, goat's rue, aniseed, fennel and blessed thistle
  • Digestive Tea - my favourite! A fragrant blend of spearmint, chamomile and lemon balm
  • Cleansing Tea - a useful and refreshing blend with calendula flowers, peppermint, nettle and dandelion leaf
Single herb teas are also available in the following herbs:
  • Raspberry Leaf - traditionally used by pregnant women
  • Roasted Dandelion Root - delicious alternative to coffee
  • Nettle - rich in minerals and blood tonic
  • Chamomile - classic tea for digestion and relaxation
  • Peppermint - popular tea for digestion

 

Nettle (pictured right) is one of my favourite herbs! Much maligned for its powerful sting when you brush against it, it is actually a great medicinal herb.  Packed full of minerals and traditionally used as a blood tonic, nettle has a range of actions including antiallergic, antiinflammatory and galactagogue (increases milk in breastfeeding mums).

 

 

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