The power of Central Otago Thyme to support respiratory and immunity health
From hillside to health products
According to Dr Sandra Clair, founder of Artemis, the tingle on your tongue from tasting the smallest piece of Central Otago Thyme when it is ready to harvest is one of the easiest ways to detect the potency of the active volatiles in this powerhouse plant. This potent thyme - Thymus vulgaris - has been used for respiratory health for centuries. In New Zealand, one of just two countries outside of Europe where it grows wild, it is only found in the harsh alpine environment and extreme climate of Central Otago, having been brought to the area by European miners in the gold rush of the 1860s.
Sandra, a Registered Medical Herbalist, anthropologist and scientist who has recently earned her PhD in Health Sciences from Otago University, recognised the unique properties of the wild growing plants in Central Otago not long after she arrived from her homeland of Switzerland. She has been harvesting Central Otago Thyme for more than 20 years.
Originally from her Dunedin based clinic, and then under the Artemis brand, Sandra expertly formulated a range of products for family immune defence and respiratory health support Demand in recent years has ramped up signficantly for popular products such as ViroGone, ChestRelief and Thyme Lemon Tonic from New Zealand and export markets.
Each year the Artemis team harvests the thyme by hand during a very short window of just a few weeks, with the timing governed by nature. To ensure maximum efficacy, the harvest has to coincide with the plants producing the highest quantity of active volatives.
When is it the right time, the steep hillsides are a spectacular sight of rich purple and green and a heady scent hangs in the air, which becomes stronger as the sun shines. During the harvest period, just as it is all year round, the extreme climate is changeable, with blue skies and sunshine becoming squally sleet within hours. But this, Sandra explains, is one of the factors that contributes to the beneficial properties of the thyme.
“Plants grow strong in these conditions, they don’t just survive, but they adapt to thrive. We know that the climate and soils of Central Otago produce some of the world’s finest wine. And it is the same for Central Otago Thyme ”
Artemis has developed specific expertise in harvesting and processing methods, constantly adjusting the extraction process from the plant to retain the maximum active constituents. Every step of the process meets both scientifically backed standards and adherence to sustainability principles.
“One of our founding values at Artemis is kaitakitanga – guardianship of health and the land. We need our precious natural resources to continue to thrive, year after year, so we only take what we need, and take it carefully.”
“But our philosophy also extends to all our supply partners for other herbs and ingredients – we partner with people who can provide organic or wild-grown certifications and standards, people who are experts in growing and harvesting the best plants for health products. All of our imported and New Zealand ingredients meet the highest regulatory standards,” explains Sandra.
Using only what is 100% natural and of the highest quality is at the heart of everything Artemis does and the ThymeMed Respiratory & Immunity range includes a fresh plant extract of Central Otago Thyme, more powerful than any dried extract could be.
In many overseas countries, such as Europe and Canada, plant medicines are regulated as part of their mainstream health care systems. In these countries, thyme is recognised as a medicine with multiple applications in respiratory health products.
The situation in New Zealand is different, with plant medicines not yet recognised as having therapeutic value, a situation which Artemis is actively seeking to change. But until then, Sandra has confidence that her years of expert observation about Central Otago Thyme are now being backed up by scientific research.
In 2018 Artemis embarked on a three-year research project with Plant & Food Research, carried out with Research & Development funding from Callaghan Innovation. The research was commissioned to scientifically investigate the potential health benefits of wild-grown Central Otago Thyme and to validate Artemis’ proprietary harvest and extraction processes.
The first round of results, released in 2019, showed that Central Otago Thyme has significant potential as a natural New Zealand resource to support respiratory health.
“When I started working with Central Otago Thyme it was apparent that this is an extremely powerful plant. It is wonderful to finally the scientific evidence to support that knowledge,” said Sandra.
Artemis has a phrase which sums up the essence of the company, ‘Proven by tradition, backed by science’.
“It’s not just a tagline, it’s how we operate,” explains Sandra.
“Traditional plant remedies are based on thousands of years of use across the world. Modern science is now providing evidence which fully supports and explains many of these traditional plant uses. It is great news for people who want natural options to support their health, and right now, for Central Otago Thyme”