The term “weed walks” can raise a few eyebrows on Waiheke Island. But that’s exactly what naturopath Helen Elscot is up to when you see her wandering around the island’s parks, beaches and reserves.
Helen holds herbal workshops on Waiheke and around New Zealand teaching participants how to identify weeds, plants and flowers which have medicinal properties and how to use them to make digestive tonics, herbal creams and syrups, lip balms and natural cosmetics.
But as well as teaching how to turn herbs into a natural first-aid kit, Helen has also launched a series of weed-walks during which she can point out the useful plants on the island’s highways and byways.
“When you start thinking about plants as having health-giving properties, even the most mundane inner-city suburb, the dullest supermarket car park or wind-blown beach is transformed into a natural pharmacy waiting to be used”.
Herbal medicine has always been part of life although developments in modern medicine and science have sometimes overshadowed the knowledge and use of plants as a tool for healing.
But complementary therapies are experiencing a revival of interest at both a general and scientific level. This rediscovery of practical knowledge and wisdom from the past lends itself to a more ecologically stable and ‘natural’ way of life today.
Add to the ecological angle the fact that, in these economically tough times, people are trying to save money by looking to harvest their own veggies, keep their own chooks and – as the successful British television series terms it – “Grow Your Own Drugs”, and Helen’s herbal workshops seem a sure-fire hit.
Helen says that making your own natural remedies for minor complaints can be easy, cheap and fun and means you can be proactive in maintaining good health. This also can mean fewer trips to your GP – something which may also save you money as well.
“On our last workshop at Palm Beach we found kawakawa, manuka and kanuka, ribwort, cleavers, dandelion leaf, nasturtium and flax and the group was escorted on our weed walk by a local cat, intent on being with us in Palm Beach Hall during the course and not willing to be left out on our travels around Palm Beach”.
In Helen’s courses you will be introduced to the use of various medicinal herbs in the home and be able to positively identify herbs already growing in your own garden and around the island.
Properties and actions of each herb are covered so that an understanding of exactly how each herb can stimulate, sedate or tonify different body systems such as the respiratory system, nervous system and immune system to help promote healing.
Drying and storage of herbs is also covered to enable you to start cultivating immediately. Any cautions or contraindications in using individual herbs, particularly with regard to specific health conditions and simultaneous use with medication are covered with details of the latest research available.