Written by Kerrie Alexander
Growing medicinal herbs may seem difficult and preparing teas or tinctures from them might appear complicated and time-consuming.
But the truth is you don’t have to be a skilled gardener to grow a few basic medicinal herbs successfully or be a trained pharmacist to easily prepare them for use.
In the process, you may save some money and reap the health benefits from the fruits of your labour.
Hervey Bay’s Kim Whitmee-Flexney is testament to that.
When I first walked into the remedial massage therapists Bask Holistic Health Clinic on Islander Road, there was a jug of the most beautiful coloured homemade purple pea tea chilled on the desk for clients after their massage.
You see, this is no ordinary clinic. There are no four white walls, crisp white linen, dimmed lights, or the smell of Denco Rub wafting from the massage room.
Instead, you will find a quirky little cottage as an office and a bright and an airy purpose-built massage room.
It overlooks the back garden that is home to hundreds of herbs, fruit trees and medicinal plants.
Kim describes the front garden as “chaotic” but beautiful in all its overrun glory being filled with a plethora of different plants used to make tinctures like sage, peppermint, arrowroot, King of Bitters, stinging nettle, ginger, thyme, lemon balm, lemon myrtle and so much more.
There’s strawberry’s, beans, peas, and an avocado tree that Kim saved and is slowing sprouting some leaves after some TLC.
She uses many of the plants, flowers and roots to make herbal extracts for the tinctures, creams and rubs with most of them used during therapy sessions or bought by her clients to use a complementary therapy for varying ailments like stress, anxiety, pain, cancer, digestive issues and more.
What are tinctures, I asked Kim with great intrigue.
She explained that tinctures are concentrated herbal extracts made by soaking the bark, berries, leaves (dried or fresh), or roots from one or more plants in alcohol.
The alcohol pulls out the active ingredients in the plant parts.
Tinctures have been around for millennia and are a key component of traditional herbal medicine.
The liquid is then stored in a dropper bottle so clients can drop the ingredients under their tongue for instant benefits.
“The tinctures have a life-time lifespan,” Kim said.
“If they are kept in mother form, most of them are in an alcohol base that’s over 90% and it will never go off because it sustains the spirit and all the chemical and constituents of the plants in the alcohol.
“It stays just as good as growing in the ground. It’s as fresh as like it’s just been picked on the day.”
Kim had a love of gardening from a young age and was always by her mother’s side while tending to their three-acre Creekside property in Mullumbimby.
It was the start of a gardening love-affair for Kim who remembers picking flowers and drying them out to make perfumes.
“Mum said she could never get me inside. I was always in the garden.”
The family made the move to Byron Bay where Kim fell in love with the beach and nature.
The use of alternative plants and medicines was prevalent in her circle of friends and local cafes.
“Mum had also done an herbal course so that was something I paid attention to,” Kim said.
It was during her study for a diploma in remedial massage 15 years ago that the truth about medicine really hit home.
“We learnt the basic remedial massage techniques, then added on Bowen Therapy, sports, lymphatic and aromatherapy.
“With the aromatherapy I had to do the test twice because there were such big names; it was more pharmacology to get to the chemical constituents that made up the plant that was going into the oil.
“We learnt that certain things affect different conditions.
“Depending on the person the oils can clash with blood pressure and other medications and things like that.
“We started learning how all those chemical constituents that make up the plant is what the pharmacists will single out and then give it a more technical pharmaceutical name.”
Then the “light bulb” moment happened.
“You see a pharmacist and you see all these big names and you’re like ‘we could never do this ourselves and we need to rely on them’.
“But the light switch came on through learning in my diploma that all those chemicals do exist, and we can grow them.
“Because of the way the medical world has gone it feels like it has to be made in a factory and has to be a process, but it doesn’t have to be.
“That’s the thing about natural health… it’s achievable for everyone!”
Kim and her three children moved into the Islander Road home 10 years ago and the yard went from an empty piece of land to almost every inch taken up with greenery.
Some of Kim’s favourites and best seller is the Stinging Nettle that’s a fantastic anti-inflammatory for arthritis and pain management.
“It’s really high in iron that’s good for anaemia, gout – a uric acid that builds up in people’s joints – prostate, muscles and joints,” Kim said.
“It’s a bit of an all-rounder and an old age cure. As we start aging these are the things that seem to affect people the most.”
A similar one touted as “a miracle plant” is Gotu Kola which being used as a complimentary therapy for certain cancers.
“It’s a detox and it really works at a cellular level that helps break down masses.
“I just pick the leaves and eat them. It’s really great for wellness and health.”
Another favourite is lemon myrtle that is high in zinc and vitamin c and has super anti-inflammatory properties.
“I use my essential oil for massages all the time, mainly lemon myrtle.
“I just use it on everyone now, so every massage has that aromatherapy element.
“It also has antiviral properties and it’s really helpful for your muscles.”
Comfrey is another plant taken and infused into an oil that Kim has seen work its magic firsthand.
“One of my clients had really bad knees and was on the way to an operation.
“She was just a mess. She takes some of my plants, she buys some of my tinctures and creams and oils and she’s got no pain in her knees anymore.
“The praise she gives me now is very rewarding.”
There’s also ashwagandha foliage that boosts strength, vitality and memory and great to add with a morning coffee.
Herbal Tonic to aid metabolism. King of Bitters for cold and flu. Bone Knit to help heals breaks and sprains.
Plus, turmeric, the king of the anti-inflammatory.
“It’s a favourite. I put it in my coffee and if I really want to dose it up, I’ll mix it with honey and have a spoon of it.”
“Some of my clients take it in capsule or tablet form and they haven’t noticed the benefit, so I gave them the turmeric in its natural form and they see it works so much better.”
Kim’s clients are often on the receiving end of goodies from her “dirt cupboard”.
“I pick little bunches of whatever is left over to give people and they just love it.
“It’s quirky and that’s me.”
To find out more about Bask Holistic Health phone Kim on 0417 639 598.