One of my very dear friends, Clara Bitcon, has recently started up an amazing sideline to her Melbourne-based Naturopathic Clinic (Clara Bitcon Naturopath and Herbalist), creating botanical based skincare products, teas and herbal medicines available online at Elm Botanicals. Clara has an innate passion for and knowledge of herbal medicines (along with a science-based 4 year university degree in naturopathy and herbalism) and has always enjoyed creating natural products for friends and family, using only the finest ingredients without any of the nasties.
I recently gifted my mum a collection of her goodies, and she was blown away by the lovely packaging, attention to detail and the feel and smell of Clara's creations. Each item is lovingly created by hand so you are getting a one off, boutique product - not a mass produced, chemical laden concoction.
Clara also practices from her Clifton Hill naturopathic clinic and is a wonderfully gentle, understanding and highly competent practitioner who takes the time to discuss your health needs and support you to make nutritional and lifestyle changes to improve energy, reduce stress and solve your medical conundrums (with the help of herbs, of course!). She has taken some time out to have a chat with us, so make a nice cup of herbal tea, sit down and enjoy!
Ps. If you are interested in medicinal herbs, Clara also has a lovely blog where you can learn more about using herbs simply in your daily life. Visit her at Elm Botanicals:A Notebook for a beautiful look into the world of these amazing plants and what they can do for us.
Hi Clara, can you tell us a little about yourself and your business?
I’m a naturopath living and practising in Melbourne after five years of residing (and becoming very at home) in the Northern Rivers. I’ve turned into a complete urban/country hybrid!
I love nature adventuring and spending long, long afternoons in the kitchen making, flavouring and creating. In the same stroke I love nothing better than beautiful coffee (my treasured “vice”!) and being surrounded by a fast paced clash ideas, culture and political debate that always has me thinking in different ways. I would say that the meeting of those two worlds describes me best.
My business and practice are very much about merging these two worlds together. Blending traditional, nature-based wisdom with all the advances in modern healthcare and a good dose of environmentalism are at the core of what I do.
Naturopathy is essentially a system of medicine that believes that the body has a remarkable ability to heal itself when given the right opportunity to do so. I’ve begun to start describing naturopaths as "gardeners of the body" as we work off many of the same principles.
If the soil is rich in nutrients, has the right balance of microbes, and the plants are put in positions they like, they will thrive. Our tools are healing foods, medicinal herbs, nutrients, a great deal of careful observation of the body and fostering a close connection with those we are working with. It’s a really beautiful profession I must say.
What sort of people do you see in your clinic?
All sorts really, but the underlying themes would definitely be busy urbanites who are doing a lot and they have run into a health complaint that they either would like to take a holistic and natural approach with, or conventional medicine has been unable to help. I also see people who simply want to improve their health and energy, but don’t quite know where to start.
The health problems I see most in the clinic are “functional” health complaints. Which basically means that they don’t have a disease as such, but it’s clear that the body isn’t behaving as it should. They are in a grey area. These may include digestive complaints, skin issues, hormonal imbalances, anxiety or depression.
I’ll spend a good 90 minutes talking to someone about their entire health picture before formulating a plan, which unfortunately the current healthcare system doesn’t afford doctors. We have the benefit of really finding the root of the problem and forming strong relationships with our clients.
What inspired you to start Elm Botanicals?
Oh so many things! But the flicker that began the spark was the desire to get naturopathy back to its roots.
|"Drift" Tea Blend|
I started a blog during my studies which I called “Elm Botanicals”. It was my online space to write and record all the fun things I was making, creating and learning. During that time I volunteered on herb farms in Australia and India and my eyes were opened up not only to incredible world of growing the herbs, but also how the current herbal medicine industry has a darker side of ecological and social exploitation.
All the issues of environmental degradation, unfair trade and food miles that we are very aware of in terms of our food (coffee and chocolate are good examples) are affecting herbal medicine is just the same way…the only difference is no one is talking about it. Which is crazy when we have a thriving network of local, organic growers producing incredible quality herbs!
Elm Botanicals the blog became the foundation for Elm Botanicals the business, which handcrafts medicines, skincare and teas from sustainable, ethical, organic and local herbs. I make the majority of the herbal medicines I prescribe my patients and I’ve also started a small etsy store to start sharing my favourite tea and skin care blends. It’s a lot of fun.
Melbourne winter just truly started and I’ve been finding delicious, warming comfort in turmeric chai lattes. Earthy, aromatic with a coffee twist. I like to add a generous amount of cardamom as it smooths out the caffeine to a nice sustained buzz.
I’ve also been loving the magazine Dumbo Feather. They’re not too many magazines I’ll read from cover to cover, but I have been with this one. It’s a compilation of “conversations with extraordinary people”, it’s like eavesdropping on a fascinating conversation in a cafe, but in print.
And I have to mention a herb for the third. Ladies mantle has been grabbing my attention lately both in the gardens and the clinic. It’s a member of the rose family and at this time of year with the morning dew, water droplets form in its folds and looks like little jewels. They’re really stunning to look at. I’ve been witnessing its helpfulness with a number of clients with skin trouble, very healing and cools down redness. It’s such a good example of the soft, gentle power the herbs can have.
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