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.


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.


​​​​​​​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.





Coping With Motherhood


New mothers all around the world are given the same job description which looks something like this:
  • Must be able to multi-task 24 hours a day, cope with no sleep and expect no pay. No prior training is available. Job satisfaction is anticipated to be high.”

Motherhood-imageCertainly new motherhood brings with it unprecedented joy but also a fair share of anxiety and exhaustion. With so much to learn from feeding, changing nappies and sleep cues to settling and interpreting crying, mothers often look outside themselves for answers. Yet despite our information age of internet and chat forums, as mothers we should also remember that we possess good instincts and intuition that ought to be listened to. So many mothers go against their instincts when they choose to follow some of the modern parenting styles such as controlled crying and teaching early independence. When we really stop to listen to what we need and what our children need, there is no need for experts because we already know the answers. Even so, the road to being a relaxed and confident mother often starts rocky and has many pitfalls.

Postnatal depression is common these days as mothers struggle to meet their own and society’s expectations.   The myth of the superwoman who can have it all – a successful career, happy children, a healthy relationship and personal intimacy has been questioned more and more in recent years. We now know that this is hard to achieve or sustain and rarely brings the quality of life that we want. Most mothers (and fathers) crave more time with their kids and more meaningful relationships with their partners and loved ones. When this fails to be achieved it can bring about depression and anxiety.

mother overwhelmOther causes of postnatal depression are birth dissatisfaction or trauma, not having any support from family or friends and hormonal imbalance. Another risk factor for postnatal depression and anxiety which affects most new mothers is simple sleep deprivation. Babies are born very dependent on their mothers for their wellbeing and survival.  Unlike most species, humans are born with an immature physical and mental capacity and they take the longest to mature to adulthood.  This means that babies and children depend on their parents (or caregivers) completely for food, clothing, shelter, warmth, hygiene and emotional security.   These needs are most intense and physically demanding in the early days and often lead to exhaustion.

Babies need to be fed regularly as their tiny tummies don’t hold much. Humans are a ‘cached’ species – meaning that we have evolved carrying our babies and feeding them regularly. The composition of breastmilk is designed for this close relationship with mother and baby. It is high in lactose (milk sugar) and relatively low in protein and fat. This means that babies really need to feed regularly as breastmilk is quickly broken down.   This contrasts with ruminant mammals such as cows whose milk is much higher in protein and allows the offspring to have much longer stretches between milk feeds and they grow quickly to maturity over a year or two.

Being up feeding a tiny baby in the night means a full night’s sleep is uncommon for mothers in the first 6-12 months.   Breastfeeding does offer some help by way of hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin that promote calm and connection. After breastfeeding mothers tend to sleep deeper and more soundly until the next feed, so even though their sleep is interrupted it is still refreshing. Even so, night after night does add up and most mothers end up feeling tired and emotional at least some of the time.

timeout natureLooking after ourselves really well is essential to prevent exhaustion and depression.   This means making sure you eat a healthy, nutritious diet to provide nutrients for physical and mental wellness and stamina.   If depression or anxiety is apparent then herbal and nutritional remedies can be safe and effective, even while breastfeeding.  Mothers of all ages need to take time out for themselves regularly. Even just a short walk, a long bath or the occasional massage can really help with our ability to cope with the demands of motherhood. Ensuring you have a nap in the day occasionally can really help to recharge your mind and body.

Baby’s thrive on gentle rhythms and predictability and are easily upset by overstimulation and too many activities. As parents we need to welcome this time of quietness and stillness and learn to say ‘no’ to unnecessary engagements. Slowing down and not over-committing to social engagements is a good idea. Trying to let some days unfold at their own pace will bring a sense of calm and peace for you and your baby.

Last of all, build a community of likeminded friends and ask for help from family where possible. Support makes all the difference – so don’t try to do it all on your own!




Birth Interventions


Did you know that birth interventions are a growing problem in most countries? Caesarean births are as high as 50% in many Australian private hospitals and around 30% of births in Australia are now by caesarean. Given that the World Health Organisation state that caesareans should normally only be around 10-12% researchers are looking for reasons why.


Why The Excess Intervention?

Epidurals are now in the spotlight as they have been shown to lead to prolonged second stage labour and women often end up with so-called 'emergency' caesareans. Approximately 30-50% of Australian women have epidurals during birth - the rates depend on the woman's age, place of birth and whether a woman has already given birth before.  A recent study found that an epidural actually prolongs labour for more than 2 hours - and almost 3 hours for women who have previously given birth.  The normal perceived time line for epidurals is only 1 hour, which means that many normally progressing women are misdiagnosed as failure to progress or abnormal labour - which leads to intervention.

The classic 'cascade of intervention' often starts with induction of labour, whereby a birth is artificially started with a drug called syntocin. Mimicking the action of the birth hormone oxytocin, syntocin stimulates uterine contractions. Unlike natural release of oxytocin, which is regulated by the body, a syntocin drip may not provide the correct amount. For many women, artificial induction or augmentation increases pain, requiring an epidural which further interferes with the natural birthing environment. Epidurals prolong labour and interfere with the ability for a woman to read her body's signs and signals of birth. Artificial induction and prolonged labour quite commonly lead to distress in the baby and in turn an emergency caesarean is usually the next step in intervention.

birthcostsThe Many Costs

The cost of birth interventions including caesareans in terms of the financial public health burden is massive. The WHO estimate that the cost of the global “excess” in c-sections was estimated to be a massive US$2.32 billion, while the cost of the global “needed” c-sections were around US$ 432 million. (WHO 2010)

Not surprisingly, women giving birth in private hospitals have a higher risk of birth interventions.  One study looked at low-risk Australian women having their first birth in either private or public hospitals. For women giving birth in private hospitals only 15 per 100 women had a vaginal birth with no obstetric intervention compared to 35 per 100 women giving birth in a public hospital.

While it is easy to estimate the financial cost of excess c-sections, the emotional and health costs for both the mother and baby are harder to quantify.  There have been many studies looking at the immediate and long term impacts of birth intervention. Postnatal depression rates are higher in women who have had birth intervention and there are lower breastfeeding rates also linked to birth intervention. Also for every caesarean a woman has, her likelihood for additional caesareans in subsequent births is markedly elevated. The risk of uterine rupture and hysterectomy following caesareans increases to 1 in 1200 in women who have had 2 or more caesareans. This can be a shock for women who did not anticipate that their fertility would end following what seemed to be a 'normal' birth option. This is a stark contrast to 1 in 30,000 risk of hysterectomy during birth for women giving birth vaginally.

For the baby, allergies are more common following a caesarean birth as the baby does not have the benefit of the vaginal flora of the mother which occurs during the normal descent through the birth canal. Breastfeeding initiation and duration is also compromised with birth intervention, which further puts the infant at a disadvantage.

newborn2While clearly some births end up in intervention due to unavoidable complications, our birthing culture has become such that for many women interventions have become the norm, rather than the exception.  Conversely, the benefits of having a natural birth are many and varied.  Preparing for birth well with healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices, having continuity of care with a midwife and having birth support with a known midwife or doula are all factors that have be linked to enhanced outcomes for the mother and baby.

I am pleased to provide comprehensive natural and holistic support for women through pregnancy, birth and the post-natal period.  Alongside diet, exercise, relaxation and lifestyle advice I also offer personalised prescriptions of safe and effective natural supplements, herbs and homoeopathic birth kits for labour.

For more information and local resources for preparing for birth naturally please click on the links below:




Probiotics & Fermented Foods


Exploring the Many Health Benefits of Probiotics & Fermented Foods

Our digestive tract contains hundreds of different species of bacteria that may be either beneficial to our health or harmful. 

The good bacteria are involved in many functions including the production of vitamins, maintaining the growth and health of gut cells and boosting immunity.

The harmful bacteria can contribute to candida (thrush), weight gain, immune and behavioural disorders.

More than 70% of our important immune cells live in the gut and are dependent on healthy bowel flora!


History of Fermented Foods 

Most cultures around the world include some fermented foods in their traditional cuisine. From fermented dairy in Europe to lacto-fermented pickles such as sauerkraut in Germany, kimchi in Korea and miso soup in Asia.  Any properly fermented food generally contains bacteria that are beneficial to health.

Unfortunately, our culture has slowly moved away from sourdough breads to yeasted breads and our diet contains very few foods rich in healthy flora – other than yoghurt.



You only have to walk down the refrigerated aisle at the supermarket to see the massive range of yoghurts and cultured dairy products. However, it is essential to know that there is a big difference between many of the yoghurts on the market!

Most of the commercial yoghurts contain sugar, fruit or artificial flavours and may or may not contain any added bacteria.  Always look for a natural yoghurt that has no additives or sugar and has added probiotics, such as acidophilus and bifidobacteria.

Sugar is added to improve flavour but may cause a decline in the potency or health benefit of yoghurt.  Many yoghurts (especially low fat ones) contain as much as 10-15% sugar which has the potential to contribute to weight gain and aggravate diabetes.


Children and adults alike, can sometimes be reluctant to enjoy a sour taste when they are used to sweetness.  If you are weaning children off sweeter yoghurts on to a healthier natural yoghurt, you can always add a small amount of freshly diced fruit or honey to add sweetness until they acquire a taste for sourness.

It may also be worth trying different brands of natural yoghurts as some are creamier and less sour than others.  I find my homemade yoghurt to be delicious and naturally sweet and creamy without the intense sourness.  My kids are happy to eat it plain - it is normal yoghurt to them.  They find it hard to stomach much of the regular sweetened yoghurts when they have them occasionally (at the grandparents)!


You can also use probiotics supplements to restore the healthy gut flora.  Probiotics contain either a single species or a range of live microbial agents to help colonise the gut and restore balance in the body. These are essential following any gastric disturbance such as diarrhoea but are also essential following antibiotics when good and bacteria are destroyed.  Because probiotics are living organisms that are sensitive to heat and light, they should be kept refrigerated and most types should be sold from a fridge in the clinic or shop (except freeze dried preparations).


There are specific health conditions and illnesses that have been shown to improve with probiotics. 

These include the digestive disorders:

  • ulcerative colitis
  • Crohns disease
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • colon cancer
  • gut infections


It seems obvious that the function of the bowel may be improved with correct levels of bacteria, however there are other conditions that are also benefitted by probiotics. These include autoimmune diseases such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis and behavioural issues such as ADHD and autism.


Allergies can also be improved when the bowel flora is correct and studies have shown that pregnant women can prevent allergies in their babies by supplementing with probiotics during pregnancy.  Babies are naturally exposed to flora in the birth canal that help to colonise their immature guts after birth. Thus with caesarean birth, the baby misses out on this exposure and is more prone to allergies and gut issues.


Interestingly, breastfeeding also helps to colonise the infant gut with good flora and will go a long way to improving and preventing allergies, gut disorders and will boost generally immunity.


Clearly our overall health is directly related to bacteria in our environment and our gut. While some bacteria are harmful, the vast majority play an essential role in maintaining and supporting our health.

Try some traditional lacto-fermented condiments or natural yoghurt to boost the good guys in your gut on a daily basis and supplement with a probiotic if you have a health complaint that might benefit from this.





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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