Plants, our living pharmacy
Humans and plants share a very long co-evolution. Plants are the foundation of our lives. Without plants for oxygen, food, shelter and energy production there would be no human life on earth.
It is not surprising therefore that plants are also our oldest medicine. Every culture in the world has a history and tradition of herbal medicine, and traditionally herbal experts have diagnosed, prescribed and formulated natural medicines from their local environments for their individual patients and their community.
If human history was represented by one hour, then plant medicines have been used continuously for 59 minutes and synthetic drugs for less than 1 minute.
Medicinal plants contain nourishing nutrients (naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, trace elements) as well as unique phytochemicals that effectively re-balance and strengthen human physiology. They are quite different from modern vitamin pills which will cover a nutritional gap but don’t have the additional rebalancing and long-term benefits that herbs have.
Around the world, plant medicines are used in primary healthcare because they have been scientifically shown to:
- Increase the body’s resistance, repair and recovery mechanisms
- Prevent illness in the first place
- Improve health outcomes when taken alongside drugs
- Have a high safety profile: suitable for babies, children, in pregnancy, breastfeeding
Plant medicines have been shown to support and heal human physiology without many of the side-effects that can be experienced with many synthetically derived drugs.
But it’s not about having to make choose one route or the other exclusively. Pharmaceuticals are indispensable in emergencies and as life-saving medications, but it is possible to manage many common ailments naturally. Modern science confirms that medicinal plants can help to reduce stress, improve sleep, enhance stamina, aid digestion, immunity, and detoxification to name just a few.
Expertise to harvest, process and formulate to meet the highest standards
But it takes an expert to fully understand how to source, harvest and formulate the right plants in the right dosage to really make a difference.
Dr Sandra Clair, health scientist, medical herbalist and founder of Artemis, is one such expert.
She grew up in Switzerland, a country where plant medicine has always been fully integrated into the official health system, and readily accepted as the basis of modern medicine. Her childhood was spent at the foothills of the Swiss Alps, a living, breathing, natural pharmacy.
In parallel to academic studies she undertook a traditional apprenticeship with Franciscan nun, midwife and medical herbalist, Sister Pauline, who connected her with the Materia Medica, a 500-year-old pharmacopeia of Traditional European Medicine. Through this apprenticeship, and further formal study, Sandra learned about the unique properties of plants, their active ingredients and techniques for harvesting and preparation of herbal remedies.
When she left Europe in 1995 to travel, Sandra brought her expertise and a vision for helping people to be healthier to New Zealand.
Settling on the Otago Peninsula, Sandra opened a practice in Dunedin and was surprised to find that high quality plant remedies were not widely available, but she was delighted to discover the quality and potency of plants growing naturally in the wild alpine environments of Central Otago.
Sandra quickly gained a loyal following as a practitioner, with a desire to preserve and enhance the legacy of Sister Pauline and the experts who had preceded her.
To cope with the growing demand for her products, in 1998 she founded Artemis, borrowing the name from the Greek goddess of the wilderness, protector of women and children.
Scientific validation for traditional herbal remedies
Today she continues to lead the research and development process for Artemis, forging new paths for New Zealand plants such as Central Otago Thyme to be scientifically validated and recognised at a global level for their considerable health benefits.
Plant medicines have been with us for millennia, and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 80% of the world population, or 5.6 billion people, use medicines from plants for their daily healthcare needs. The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 encourages all governments to make provisions to integrate safe and effective herbal remedies into mainstream medicine. This is to provide traditionally and culturally appropriate choices and to cover the many gaps of care in our current health care systems.
Plants provide us with natural, sustainable and effective solutions for our overall health and wellbeing. With more people are choosing natural and plant-based solutions for healthier lifestyle choices, Artemis is staying true to its promise to expertly formulate powerful plant medicines that are proven by tradition, backed by science.