As you may have seen in my Top 5 picks for November (have a read here if you missed it), I'm a huge fan of Artemis and their beautiful certified organic NZ-made naturopathic herbal remedies. So I was pretty excited recently when Sandra Clair, the founder of Artemis, suggested we meet!
Sandra is old-school herbal/naturopathic med, having done her formative training in a traditional apprenticeship amongst nuns in the rolling hills of Switzerland (swoon). She brings with her a plethora of knowledge, and whilst we only met for a few hours (she was up from Dunedin), I know we could have spoken for days! I did however manage to rack her brain for as much goodness as possible, so I could share it here with you too.
It was an absolute pleasure talking about the history behind both herbal and conventional pharmaceutical medicine, and where the future might take us in terms of integration between these two fields. Every product I've tried from the Artemis range is just divine, and after meeting Sandra I have even more faith in the absolute integrity behind her products, and her undivided desire to help restore people's health. She even told me she'd decided not to have kids, as Artemis had become her baby! Now that's commitment.
I hope you enjoy the interview below as much as I did. You might even like to grab a cup of herbal tea while you're at it!
Hi Sandra! Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey with Artemis.
I grew up in Switzerland where natural healthcare is a living tradition and a normal part of modern medicine. My own path to becoming a Medical Herbalist is unique in that it combined a traditional apprenticeship with scientific study. For 3 years I studied under a renowned Swiss herbalist, midwife and nun who passed down to me the ancient art of collecting, harvesting and preparing plant medicines. I learned clinical skills in the community practice, where we administered the medicines prepared from locally harvested plants we gathered in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, as well as undertaking formal training in health sciences and herbal medicine from universities in both Australia and New Zealand.
Artemis happened quite organically. In 1995 I started my clinic in Dunedin, practicing as a medical herbalist. The traditional plant medicine I was used to prescribing in Switzerland wasn’t available. Upon exploring more of Otago I discovered the amazing quality of medicinal plants growing wild in Central Otago. I was astounded at their potency. I harvest St John’s Wort, Thyme and many other plants from this area every year, even now. Their quality is unmatched globally. Through necessity, I created my own traditional remedies – teas, tinctures and creams. Apparently word spread of “Sandra Clair’s Teas” and soon local health stores were calling me with orders to stock my range. A range that didn’t yet exist! However, I felt a sense of duty to meet this demand and share traditional plant medicine with everyone who wanted to experience it. And so, Artemis was born.
Why did you decide to choose a more plant-based lifestyle?
I have always lived a lifestyle that centred around medicinal plants and a natural lifestyle, ever since I was a child. Growing up in Switzerland, it was simply the way of life!
If you had to give someone three reasons why they should try incorporating more organic plant-based food and products in their life, what would they be?
What do you think the biggest misconception is about plant medicine?
I think the biggest misconception is that it isn’t a valid form of medicine. And yet, if someone cared to look, there is an impressive body of evidence available that clearly demonstrates the benefit of traditional medicines. I am undertaking a PhD at present that investigates the effectiveness of plant medicines and every day I discover new studies that underpin the validity of traditional medicine. Another issue is that there are various qualities of herbal medicines available and it is important when shopping to choose the brands that deliver therapeutic potency made with pure herbs. Organic and wildcrafted herbs deliver the best nutrition profile and are the best ones to use. Furthermore, in more complex issues, people often aren’t getting their remedies from a qualified medical herbalist so their experiences are far from ideal. They may not choose the right remedy or the right quality. It’s so important to make sure your advice and medicines come from a qualified and experienced practitioner, similarly to how you would make sure you see a qualified physio for any injuries!
What’s your favourite thing about what you do now?
I get an immense amount of joy from helping people and seeing others explore and enjoy the benefits of plant medicine. I’m lucky enough to be invited to talk to different groups on how plant medicine can be used preventatively and restoratively, and it is always so gratifying to hear people's stories of how plant medicine has helped them or they’ve become more open-minded to a natural approach.
What gets you up in the morning?
I am a lineage holder of a long line of medical herbalists. The understanding that it is up to me to pass this centuries-old knowledge about how to look after ourselves with proven remedies and rituals of self-care to the next generation is a powerful motivation.
Any sacrifices you’ve had to make along the way?
I call myself an accidental entrepreneur. Starting my own business in a foreign country where plant medicine was not that well known or appreciated yet required an enormous amount of time, energy and willingness to put this inter-generational vision before any personal wishes. The patience is paying off and I am very happy about how Artemis has grown and is becoming a household name for go-to natural healthcare. We're now providing our plant medicines beyond New Zealand to overseas customers, and are excited to bring our quality NZ-grown plant medicines to more people all over the world.
Can you share with us your top tips for staying healthy and happy?
What’s a typical day on your plate?
Of course, throughout the day I drink a number of Artemis teas – I have a cup of Liver Detox Tea first thing in the morning – it’s the most basic health maintenance, just like cleaning your teeth or having a shower! Then a cup of Kidney Cleanse Tea mid-afternoon, and Repower Green Tea whenever I need a bit of a pick-me-up! I also have an evening ritual of drinking a cup of Deep Sleep Tea to help me wind down before bed.
You’ve got a rampant meat and dairy eater coming for a meal – what would you make to help them fall in love with plant-based food?
An oven made nut loaf with lots of herbs and finely chopped silverbeet is delicious.
You've been given permission to raid our Be Good Organics stock room - what's one foodie product and one skin care product you'd nab.
Any last words of wisdom you’d like to impart?
Health is our biggest wealth! Look well after it and enjoy the journey on the way.
How can we can stay in touch with you, if we want to find out more?
If you love potatoes you are going to love this recipe. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and topped with the most divine caper aioli. I’ve made these 6 times the past few weeks and would happily eat them every night for the rest of my life!