Well & Good

We talk to Mount local Katie Davies about herbalism and naturopathy, tips to boost your immune system, and her new brand The Well, a range of herbal tinctures and organic teas.

We talk to Mount local Katie Davies about herbalism and naturopathy, tips to boost your immune system, and her new brand The Well, a range of herbal tinctures and organic teas.

Katie Davies has seen first hand how chronic stress, poor diet and environmental toxins take a toll on people’s health. The Mount-based medical herbalist and naturopath has observed the knock-on effects in her clients, with a rise in anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, low mood, inflammation, digestive issues, liver overload and immune dysfunction.

In response to this, Katie has launched The Well, a new brand of herbal tinctures (liquid drops) and organic teas that aim to address these ever-growing conditions.

On the following pages, Katie shares insights into naturopathy and herbalism, and offers immune-boosting advice, including a delicious smoothie recipe.

What can people expect when they visit a naturopath?

Naturopaths take a holistic view of the person when trying to address health issues, from your diet to your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. They take a mind-body approach to healing people.

Mostly when people get to my clinic, they’re suffering from a chronic condition, so the first appointment would take about 90 minutes and involve an in-depth look at their health and lifestyle. We would discuss things such as diet, food sensitivities, hormone imbalance and digestive health; I might also order diagnostic tests. All of that would enable me to tailor an individual plan, which may include lifestyle and dietary changes, vitamin and mineral supplements and, as I’m also a herbalist, supporting herbal remedies.

Katie Davies in the Mount Maunganui sunshine.

What is a medical herbalist?

It’s someone trained to practice and prescribe herbal medicine, which uses plant extracts to support the treatment of a wide range of conditions. Medicinal plants contain nutrients and phytochemicals that effectively rebalance and strengthen human physiology. A herbalist will work closely with you to alleviate your symptoms, as well as correct underlying imbalances.

To become a herbalist, I completed a three-year Bachelor of Natural Medicine at South Pacific College of Natural Medicine in Auckland, which included studying medical sciences, such as anatomy, pharmacology and clinical diagnosis.

Tell us about tinctures versus teas

Tinctures are liquid herbal extracts that are readily absorbed and convenient to take. They offer the flexibility to increase a dose when treating acute conditions (such as a cold or sore throat), or use a slightly lower dose for weeks or months when supporting something like chronic stress. This is also ideal when prescribing low doses for children. For some, the main disadvantage is the taste — they are best diluted in a small amount of water or juice.

Therapeutic teas are more gentle than tinctures and are a good option for long-term support of a condition, such as nourishing the nervous system or liver. And as they are more affordable, they are more accessible for many people.

I blend five tinctures for The Well, using quality liquid herbal extracts — they’re designed to nourish the adrenal glands, support digestion and liver function, enhance sleep, boost immune function, and assist
with stress and anxiety. I formulate and hand-blend
the five loose-leaf tea in small batches, and they contain certified organic herbs and no artificial flavour, colour or preservatives. There’s a brew perfect for the afternoon slump, and blends that support stress and sleep, immune function, digestion and detoxification. The products are packaged sustainably too.


Supporting Your Immune System

A healthy functioning immune system is vital for overall health and wellbeing, and protects us against the many pathogens we face daily. A range of factors can contribute to immune system issues, including increased gut problems, food intolerance, underlying microbial infection, an inflammatory diet, high sugar intake, chronic stress, nutritional deficiency or toxic overload. Here, Katie shares some ways to best support your immune system.

1. Supplements*

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infection, disease and immune-related disorders. Sunlight on our skin is a good source, and it’s also found in cod liver oil, tinned salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. Take 1000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily for immune support.

Zinc is a vital immune supporting nutrient. Great food sources include pumpkin seeds, seafood, oysters and beef. Take 15–30mg daily with meals for additional immune support (for those 12 years+, as younger children would have a lower dose).

Vitamin C supports the immune response and is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of infections. Good food sources include kiwifruit, strawberries, rosehips, pineapple, blackcurrants and kumara. Take 500–1000mg daily with meals.

Essential fatty acids, such as those found in Arctic cod liver oil, support immune function and inflammation (and also contain vitamins A and D for added immune protection). Also found in salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

2. Herbs*

Herbs that can support immune function include elderberry, astragalus, andrographis and echinacea.

3. Food to fuel

Immune-boosting morning smoothie Blend together 1 cup frozen berries and/or mango/kiwifruit, 1 banana, ¼ cup pumpkin seeds, ¼ avocado, handful of spinach and ½-1 cup water.

Antioxidant-rich foods Colourful fruits and vegetables. Enjoy a cup of fresh fruit and at least four cups of fresh vegetables daily. Green tea is also a good source of antioxidants.

Fresh herbs & spices Garlic, ginger, turmeric, parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary and oregano are beneficial.

Wholefoods Eat fresh wholefoods that are as close
to their natural state as possible.

High-quality protein in each meal Good sources include fish, free-range chicken and eggs, lean red meat, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa and tofu. Also include a handful of raw nuts and seeds daily (almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, hemp and flaxseeds). Other healthy fats are avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and omega-3 found in salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies.

4. Food to avoid

Sugar Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, pastries, many breakfast cereals, pasta). Sugar suppresses the immune system, and many pathogens such as fungus and candida thrive on sugar, leading to an overabundance in the body.

Caffeine Keep coffee to one cup a day as it can stimulate the production of stress hormones and contribute to blood glucose dysregulation. Replace with tea such as lemon balm, rosehip or dandelion root, or lemon-infused water.

Alcohol Try to avoid alcohol during the week as
it’s inflammatory to the gut and increases the
burden on the liver.

Highly processed food Avoid artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

Unhealthy fats These are found in deep-fried foods and margarine.

5. Love your lifestyle

Get outdoors and spend time in nature — it’s calming and beneficial for overall health and wellbeing.

Connect regularly with friends and loved ones to support mental health and immune function.

Hydrate with at least eight glasses of filtered water daily. Herbal teas are also a great way to hydrate.

Move your body. Enjoy at least 30–45 minutes of moderate activity daily.

Get to bed before 10pm and get eight hours sleep to rest and restore. Listening to a meditation app before bed can help to unwind.

Practice yoga or meditation — both are very restorative. Also, two minutes of deep belly breathing can help to nourish the nervous system when you’re feeling stressed.

*Note Before starting supplementation or herbal remedies, it’s important to work with a naturopath or herbalist, or talk to your health practitioner, if you are taking medications, pregnant or breastfeeding, or have pre-existing health conditions. Ⓟ

As told to Sarah Nicholson