Winter wellness with Phytomed

14 April 2015

Pharmacist, herbalist and Phytomed founder Phil Rasmussen takes us through some of his top tips for winter wellness.

Phil Rasmussen set up Phytomed in 1998, out of his own backyard. His dual expertise in pharmacy and herbalism meant he was the perfect alchemist – and his herbal health business hasn’t stopped growing. It now employs 32 staff including three sales reps in Australia, and is exporting over the ditch as well as into Ireland, the UK and Singapore.

Phytomed consists of two brands, Phytomed, the original brand which provides 230 herbal extracts to qualified practioners in New Zealand and Australia, and Kiwiherb, a retail brand available over the counter to the consumer, which launched in 2000.

Phytomed is underpinned by strong sustainability principles. Phil prioritises the sourcing of organic, New Zealand-grown medicinal herbs. Plants like tanekaha, kumarahoe and manuka can also be used as alternatives for imported herbs like golden seal and arnica, which have declined markedly in the wild due to the proliferation of ‘wild-crafters’: people usually in poorer countries who go out and pick herbs in the wild, trying to earn a meagre living out of it. 

“There’s a disconnect between knowing about herbal uses, and thinking and knowing about the sources of the plants, and the impact it has on the environment and the people who harvest or grow them. Over-harvesting in the wild has led to the demise of a significant and growing number of medicinal herbs,” says Phil.

Phytomed also supports the development of smaller herbal growers overseas. For example, the company pays almost double the normal market price to procure organic ginger from Vanuatu, in order to help the community in Vanuatu thrive.

In the world of herbal health, many plants are imported from countries with poor labour practices. By prioritising New Zealand-grown herbs and actively working with local growers Phytomed can ensure their workers are treated well. “We sometimes pay them three or four times what we could get that same herb for in Eastern Europe, but as long as we make a small margin out of that we are very happy because the quality is just so much better, and it’s the ethical choice.” Phil also says that medicinal herbs produced in New Zealand, such as ginseng, echinacea and arnica, have higher levels of active ingredients than most overseas sources.

Top tips for winter wellness
Keep colds away with echinacea
Phil recommends New Zealand-grown, organic echinacea root (the root is about 20 times stronger than the other plant parts and was the part traditionally used by North American Indians) as a preventative. Echinacea root is a key ingredient in Kiwiherb’s Echinature product (also made with organic manuka honey). At the first sign of a cold, smash 5 – 10mls back every hour or two and behold the power of echinacea!

Grow your own
Plant some echinacea in your own garden. The flowers are beautiful, bees love it and you can harvest your own herbs!

Try a daily immune tonic
WinterGuard is a good example of an immune-boosting, daily tonic from Kiwiherb that contains olive leaf, echinacea root, ginger, marshmallow and a NZ ‘weed’ species mullein (which is good for respiratory complications).

Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Exercise regularly, eat a mostly vegetarian diet to keep yourself in good health.

Pick your own for home-made wellness teas
Feeling a bit iffy?
Try olive leaf tea for its anti-viral and healthy heart properties. Strip the leaves off the stem and add a heaped dessert spoon to hot water.  
Kawakawa and Manuka are good for cold and flu symptoms. Grab a good handful of fresh leaves and chop them up to make into a tea (adding some honey for taste and additional benefits).
Grow and pick your own peppermint,  rosemary (mood enhancer and good for the liver), thyme or ribwort leaves and use to make a daily tea.

Embrace wild weeds
Providing they haven’t been sprayed, or grown with chemicals, go foraging for wild herbs like nasturtium and dandelion root. Nasturtium leaves, flowers and seeds contain compounds which could have cancer-protecting properties and are good for the lungs and the kidneys. Dandelion root makes a great liver tonic, and the root and leaves can also be chopped and added fresh to salads.

But initially, BE CAREFUL! Don’t go picking anything until you are completely sure what it is and that it is safely grown (for example, hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides if it is a weed). Ask a herbalist or botanist for help.  

Find out more about Kiwiherb and Phytomed here: 

Check out our giveaway on Facebook to win one of six 100ml bottles of Echinature to help you survive the cold snap.