Vetiver Days

Vetiver days and velvet nights

Layers of wool and glowing lights

Candle gazing and spicy mulled wine

Orange blossom, lemon myrtle and thyme

These winter rituals restore our flesh and bones

Sustain our spirits and guide us back home

Vetiver essential oil comes from the fibrous roots of a tall, tufted grass native to India. It is a rich viscous oil with an earthy, woody, and smoky yet sweet scent. Vetiver is known for its deeply grounding and restorative effects on the nervous and endocrine systems. We have always adored this scent and have created a few gems with it over the years, one is our Vetiver Perfume Oil, blended with the uplifting citrus essential oils of neroli (orange blossom) and bergamot.  Another is our newest creations Vetiver Face Cream, we have been working on perfecting this recipe for over a year! Here is the link…

A time of restoration. The human body is a part of nature, not separate from it, therefore you function optimally when you are aligned with natural seasonal cycles. Your moods, hormone production and energy levels are directly influenced by the external environment. For example, the changes of light perceived by the eyes, whether by sunlight or artificial light, will influence how well you sleep. The body thrives best when allowed the space and time to rest. On a daily basis this means aligning ourselves with the the rise and fall of the sun so that we will enough melatonin to sleep. When we look further into natural cycles we could align ourselves with the the rise and fall of the moon, allowing one week a month to let go of normal routine. Take the pressure off and give ourselves a break from the persistent list of things to do. On a yearly cycle we could align ourselves with the seasons, planning our time so that we are able to use the natural energy of the sun in the warmer seasons to start new projects. And respectively plan our time so that we are able to slow down the pace of work, or the type of work we do, and take a more introspective indoors approach to life in the colder seasons.

Winter, the coldest and the darkest season, gives us a good reason to internalise.

A time to go inside. Find a retreat within yourself, within your body and mind, and take rest here. Once you have given yourself permission to take rest, then you might look around and discover that your internal world needs a bit of a spring clean, perhaps you have been hoarding old concepts and beliefs since you were a child, and even though they were relevant at that time they are now just blocking the sunlight shining in through the windows of your mind. Then once you have let those go you might decide to clean the windows, light the fire and take a seat. And then, once you have taken the time to simply sit in this space within your internal world you might find that what you thought was empty space is now a place of infinite wisdom. Your internal world can be a place where you can come to find the answers to your questions, or a place where you can come to find peace at not knowing all of the answers. Journalling can become a valuable practise to enhance this internalising process, having the thoughts on the page and out of the head creates wonderful clarity. And you may even discover the talented, quirky and highly perceptive parts of yourself that have been burdened by daily doses of junk and drama.


Trataka is a yogic meditation technique that is to gaze at a single point to train the body and mind into focused attention. The most common is Candle Gazing, staring into the core of the flame of a candle within a dark room will not only enhance your ability to focus but also help to strengthen your eyesight. The purpose of this practise is to train the mind to focus on a single point so that you are more capable of sitting in stillness, meditating without the mind hopping from thought to thought. However, naturally, the mind will hop from thought to thought, but it is the spaces in between the thoughts that Trakaka aims to enhance. It is in these spaces that one can experience a level of consciousness that is beyond the chit chatter of the mind. It is a simple practise, all you need is a candle and 10-30 minutes of time. In the night time or pre-dawn hours of the morning, find a comfortable seated position, one where you will not be distracted. Close the curtains, light the candle and turn off the lights. Gaze at the candle for 2-3 minutes, with a steady and relaxed gaze try not to blink, if your eyes start to sting then go ahead and blink, the main thing is not to strain. After 2-3 minutes close the eyes and you will see that the image of the candle has been impressed upon your mind, focus on this image with your eyes closed. If the image starts to shift away from the center of your focus then bring it back to the center of your internal gaze.  When the image starts to disappear then open the eyes and gaze at the candle flame for another few minutes. Continue candle gazing for a minimum of ten minutes, once you have finished then simply spent a few moments focusing your awareness on your breath before setting a heartfelt intention for your sleep, or the day ahead.

Lemon Myrtle, Backhousia citriodora, is a member of the Myrtaceae family along with eucaplyptus, teatree, manuka, kanuka, clove, pohutukawa and feijoa. It has an intensely invigorating lemony herbaceous flavour and is an excellent tonic for the digestive system. We already know how potent the members of the Myrtle family are for their anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-septic qualities, Lemon Myrtle also acts as a decongestant which makes it excellent for respiratory congestion such as with coughs and colds. Another lesser known quality of Lemon Myrtle is that it is deeply restorative for the nervous system, it both calms and invigorates the mind, making it an excellent strengthening winter elixir. At Wellington Apothecary we have created a blend of Lemon Myrtle, Lemon Balm & Manuka as a loose leaf herbal tea for the purpose of calming and strengthening digestion and the mind at the same time. We call it ‘Rest and Digest’ because we know how important it is to take the time to slow down, switch out of the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight’ mode) and into the para-sympathetic nervous system (the ‘rest and digest’ mode) in order to be calm and digest food well. When we live in the mode of ‘rest and digest’ we allow the innate intelligence of the body a period of restoration, which in turn sustains our spirits. And opens a gateway for us to reconnect with this infinitely forgiving organism…

This body that we call home.




Many years ago I was recommended by my yoga teacher to go to Ashram Yoga Retreat to have my own teacher training experience. At the time I was flattered to think that anyone could see the potential in me to become a yoga teacher, even though it seemed like something I would love to do. I brushed it off as unrealistic, and carried on my merry journey… Which lead me to the co-creation of Wellington Apothecary.


With a whole lot of new adventures to be had and lessons to be learned I had virtually forgotten about the yoga retreat, but I could still feel that the little seed that had been planted many years ago had grown into a delicate yet vital seedling. And this year I decided it was about time that I took notice of this seedling and started nurturing it. After all, I had been practicing yoga myself for a long time and felt ready to take my experience further and deeper into the rabbit hole.


I had spent many childhood holidays in and around the Coromandel region but I had never been to Opoutere before. On the way to Whangamata but not quite, the turn off takes you to a long gravel road, and further down the road is a long gravel driveway, the driveway to Ashram Yoga Retreat. A deeply traditional and also refreshingly unconventional place of experiential learning, where the rubbish bins at the end of the driveway are painted with naked ladies so that the rubbish men will stop throwing them around and instead stack them neatly with respect. How is that for ingenious psychological persuasion.


There is nothing that the people living at the ashram do not know about the psyche. The mind can be our dearest friend or our worst enemy, and it is through the practice of yoga that we can learn to use the mind in order to evolve, move through perceptual limitations and experience stillness amidst chaos.


Contrary to popular notions, yoga postures, or asanas as they are known in Sanskrit, are only preliminary practices. Within a traditional yoga practice asanas are the way to condition the body to be free of aches and pains in order to be able to sit in stillness, and therefore engage in a meditation practice. And what happens when you are able to sustain a regular meditation practice? You have the opportunity to observe your thoughts, and once you are able to observe your thoughts you are able to stop identifying with them, which means you can stop reacting to every little thing that is going on around you, and instead create some space in your mind for stillness… Perhaps even peace.


Of course, I am not saying that meditation is the be all and end all of our yoga practice, but it is needs to be acknowledged as an integral part of yoga. Yoga postures themselves affect the mind tremendously, because we know that the body and mind are intrinsically linked, perhaps even one and the same thing. You only need to simply ask yourself, how do you feel in your mind at the end of a yoga class?


My experience at the ashram not only blew my mind wide open about what yoga is and isn’t (this is a trick – yoga is everything), but it has also blown my mind open about how to best live a human life. Yoga practices can positively influence everything we do, and the way we perceive everything, if we choose to let it. What do I mean by this? Can we be satisfied with that feeling of peace for only the hour or so a day, or a week that we go to a yoga class? What happens when we go back home or back to work only to be faced with the same challenges that trigger the mind to go on chattering away with the same old stories?


We have all heard about mindfulness and how good it is for us, but how do we practice it? With AWARENESS. Being aware of what we are thinking while we are doing, and by knowing how to come back to this state of awareness when we realise we have drifted off on autopilot. And how do we become aware? The simplest and most powerful tool is free and is with us every moment of our lives, the breath. Remembering to come back to the breath.


The breath connects the mind to the body and the body to the mind, and has the power to transform old, stale, worn-out thought patterns into new benevolent thought patterns… Or no thought patterns at all! You know that feeling we come to every now and then when we find ourselves in the zone, totally at one with whatever it is we are doing, well we can come to this place even when doing the most mundane chores like doing the dishes.


Within the yogic realm breathing exercises are called pranayama and there are many to choose from should you want to alter your mind or your mood. The simplest is the ‘Yogic Breath’, which is inhaling deep in the belly and then the chest, expanding the diaphragm, and then exhaling completely, contracting the diaphragm. Once you do this a few times and you feel the influx of oxygen into your body, you may even like to try pausing, just for a moment at the top of the inhale and at the end of the exhale. It is in these pauses that you may find stillness while the body fully absorbs oxygen and fully releases carbon dioxide. It is a deeply restorative and rejuvenating practice.

Pranayama is just one of the many tools that I learnt at the ashram, although possibly the most essential. There are many other valuable practices to be experimented with such as neti pot, lagoo, kirtan, Sanskrit chanting, karma yoga, nidra vidya, candle gazing and not to mention the many amazing postures themselves… Of which Khandarasana (aka bridge pose) was a general favourite. I recommend doing your own research and experimenting for yourself, there is so much to learn!!


All in all my experience at the ashram was both deeply challenging and deeply rewarding. And what is not to be loved about delicious vegetarian food, philosophical chats, beautiful east coast beach walks, sunny skinny dips, daily guided relaxation sessions, bottomless herbal tea, full moon fire pits, waking at 5am to a starry sky, and the guidance of incredibly talented and inspiring teachers? I feel immense gratitude for the support that enabled me to have this experience and for having access to these incredibly valuable life tools… I look forward to sharing what I have learnt with all of you!

Artemisia absinthium


Silvery feather-like fingers

Soft, inviting and feminine

Steadfast, resolute and masculine

And essentially sacrosanct

Offering purification and strength

Both subtle and powerful

An enigma.



Carol Fisher describes the historical purgatory relationship with Wormwood as a herb that counteracts … “the effects of poisons including hemlock and toadstools.” As far as poisons go, our atmosphere, soil and food are all subject to being contaminated with poisons. Even if you eat organic foods and live in the countryside, we are all effected by the biosphere of this earth we live on, where nothing exists in isolation. And although not acute or immediately life threatening these poisons are slowly and insidiously burdening our bodies and preventing us from being as vital as we could be. Therefore, Wormwood is an excellent ally in opening up our elimination channels in order to have a good cleanse from time to time.

As a purifying tonic, Wormwood has the following actions within human physiology:

Anthelmintic… Expelling pathogenic parasites, fungi and bacteria

Bitter… Strengthens digestion by increasing secretions of gastic acids, pancreatic enzymes and liver bile. Regulates bowel motions and aids in general removal of toxins through the bowel

Tonic… Calming and uplifting to the nervous system. Activates vagus nerve – the parasympathetic nervous system – in order to fully rest and digest

Anti-inflammatory… Reduces arthritic pain

Caution: Wormwood is powerful and contains constituents that are toxic in high doses, or when taken long term. Wormwood should only be taken for limited period of time – 3 to 6 weeks – at a safe therapeutic dose. Contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Talk to your local Herbalist for tailored advice.


Absinthe & Vincent Van Gogh 

Wormwood essential oil was used in the liquor absinthe, which had a narcotic and hallucinogenic effect on those who consumed it, including Vincent Van Gogh. This effect was attributed to the content of thujone, which is relaxing and restorative to the nervous system in small doses, however at high doses (or as an isolated constituent) is neurotoxic. It has been thought that Vincent Van Gogh’s psychosis was a result of over-use of absinthe. Although this may be due to thujone toxicity, it is also very likely that the combination of thujone and high strength alcohol (as well as whatever other colours and flavours were added to the recipe) were enough to damage the central nervous system.



Ironically Intoxicating

Wormwood is soft to touch and if you rub it gently in your fingers to will be left with an intoxicating, silky resinous scent. It smells like perfume and it smells like medicine. Wormwood is balsamic, sweet, woody and sharp, soothing, uplifting and invigorating. It may be used as an insect repellent. And may also be used to purify the air, or living space, by smouldering it as you would with White Sage, it even smells similar.



Powerful and humble

A brutally honest friend

Growing strong out in the wild

Blends in with a crowd

And yet shines uniquely at the same time

Embracing and embodying contradiction


An enigma.


Holy Basil

Holy Basil | Ocimum tenuiflorum

Sacred Basil | Ocimum sanctum

Tulsi | The Incomparable One


Holy Basil is a highly revered Ayurvedic herb, traditionally planted around Indian temples to purify the air and create a sacred space within. It is used within herbal medicine for a similar effect. Holy Basil has a seemingly endless list of medicinal qualities, however to put it simply, it purifies, oxygenates, and invigorates the body and mind.


In more detail this means that Holy Basil supports the following:


Detoxification and protection of the liver, enhancing elimination of toxins


Circulation and oxygenation of the blood and tissues, enhancing cellular energy and reducing free-radical/radiation damage


Immunity regulation, resilience to colds and flus, and reduction in inflammatory processes


Decongestion of the mucous membranes including the lungs, sinuses and bowel, assisting chronic sluggish digestion or chronic respiratory congestion


Mental clarity by enhancing blood circulation to and from the brain, Holy Basil enhances the capacity to learn new pathways with ease and let go of old limiting ways of thinking. For this quality Holy Basil may be used to assist those who feel stagnant or stuck, heavy or held back, and need assistance in transitioning from one phase in life to the next.


Herbs that enhance adaptability in times of transition are called Adaptogens, this means that it supports the myriad of processes that the body performs consistently throughout the day and night in order for you to maintain equilibrium in your internal environment especially when your external environment is in constant flux.

Adaptogen herbs are invaluable for the state of flux that can occur during stressful transitions such as change in career, end of a relationship, moving house, loss of a loved one. However, in everyday life we may find that we are in constant flux and reacting with a stress response accordingly.

Therefore, adaptogen herbs such as Holy Basil can enhance our ability to function to our best ability from day to day, and may also allow us the clarity of mind to notice what areas in our lives are not working for us any longer, giving us the energy to change it for the better.

Formidable Fennel

The fennel growing in my garden is formidable. With the early sunny summer we had the fennel had grown to be taller than me, although I am short, just over 5 feet, I was impressed by its vigor.

One day I came home to a pile of ‘weeds’ that my flat mate had so kindly, with such good intentions, culled from the garden. The entire fennel had been hacked right back to its roots! It was a sad sight seeing all of the beautiful feathery leaves and starburst flowers that were once so alive now lying dead on the foot path.

To my delight, only 2 weeks later we witnessed fresh new feathery growth from where the roots had been left. And within a month we had a lively bushy fennel plant reveling in the sun once more! Formidable.



Fennel is aromatic and spicy, it has a fresh aniseed flavour. Both the seeds and the feathery filiform leaves are used for their potent medicinal qualities, traditionally with food as a soothing digestive tonic, easing flatulence, intestinal cramps, bloating or indigestion. Fennel contains active constituents of volatile oils, flavonoids, coumarins and phenolic acids, as well as micronutrients such as potassium, calcium, sulphur and sodium. It is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actions, easing gastro-intestinal discomfort, as mentioned above, and easing coughs by decongesting the respiratory tract. Fennel is also known to effect the hormonal system, easing menstrual pain and increasing milk flow in lactating mothers.



I caress its delicate feathery bundle of leaves and I pinch a sprig to chew on as I walk. Over half an hour, I chew piece by piece to experience the taste, the smell, the sensation in my whole body, and the effect on my mind. What qualities does fennel have to offer and what lessons fennel has to teach? Herbs are much more than simply physical plants with constituent parts. Just as humans are much more than simply physical people with constituent parts, each person is unique and has a unique quality to bring into the world. Each plant brings unique qualities into the world, a particular kind of personality which supports a particular kind of life lesson.

Fennel teaches us how to be both delicate and formidable, with particular reference to who we allow into our  lives and how we allow them to effect us. This is both a lesson in yielding to a challenge that must be faced, but also fiercely protecting yourself at the same time. Fennel counsels that life does not need to be a constant struggle, so do not let yourself become victim to every challenge that the wind blows. Choose your battles wisely and accept them into your life with courage and grace.



Plant Immersion

High summer, I found myself in what seemed like the middle of a desert. At the base of the Southern Alps near Wanaka where it had not rained for months. I was on my way to a Plant Immersion course for 5 days and 5 nights but I could not see many plants growing other than cultivated grapevines and pines.


I became immersed in a world that reveals that it is fully alive only when you take the time to observe it up close and personal. More than alive, the world around me that had at first seemed like a barren desert was actually a community of plants, insects and animals that were all thriving. Bell birds! Bumble bees! And billions of baby Kanuka trees!


What does it mean to be immersed with plants?

Open up your senses… What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you touch? How do you feel? Where do you feel it? What pictures or words come to mind?

You are connecting with the mauri, the life essence, of the plant, the land and yourself. You are accessing areas of your mind and heart that are usually shut off or shut down due to the fast paced lifestyle that we are all subject to. Being immersed is to perceive the subtleties in everything and everyone around you. It is also a technique to cultivate mindfulness.


Practicing plant immersion reconnects the mind with the body, and the mind and body with the earth. It helps us to recognise that separating the parts of the self causes an imbalance within our wellbeing, just as separating the self from the rest of the world causes an imbalance within our collective wellbeing. Wellness requires interconnection and balance, and this includes a balanced perception of reality. We are gifted with a body and mind to think and feel with, we are also gifted with a body and mind to sense and intuit with.

How would we perceive a plant if we allowed ourselves to think, feel, sense and intuit its existence?

My experience is that the plant takes on a whole new life, it becomes a unique creature with a personality, and not simply an object composed of constituents. Just as you are not defined, nor should you be perceived, as a body of tissue programmed by DNA, with the same function as every other human being. You are a unique creature too.

How would we perceive our world if we allowed ourselves to think, feel, sense and intuit our way through each moment of the day?

My experience is that the whole world is full of remedies… a single glance from a friend, a conversation with a stranger, a moment observing a child’s behaviour, a plant growing formidably along the pavement, or an insect that keeps reappearing in your home. Take the time to really absorb, assimilate and appreciate these experiences.


What sense can we make of this way of being? And how can we slow down when the pace around us is forever increasing? Retreat. Go bush. Remove yourself from your current situation, not as an escape, but as a way to gain perspective. And reconnect. Perceiving everything around us as a remedy comes quite naturally when we allow ourselves the time. Perceiving everything within us as a remedy comes quite naturally too. What are your gut feelings telling you? Take the time to listen. Reconnect with yourself, the plants around you and the land beneath your feet. It makes sense, we are an interconnected part of the natural world, made of the same stuff.


What does it mean to be immersed with plants? My experience is that plants have a natural affinity with our biology, our psychology and our whole being. Plants are our ancestors, they have existed on this planet that we call home long before we evolved. As our elders they have something to teach us, and they offer themselves to us as food, as medicine, as guides and as friends. More than this, they offer us an experience of a fresh and new yet ancient perspective, a way of being in the world that reinforces a sense of support, fulfilment and purpose.


“…pulling back is a form of disengagement and is a first important act of creating separation between ourselves and the rest of the world. With this separation the world becomes a riddle for human consciousness. We ask questions, we ponder and think about our relationships to things. These activities are both symptoms of our disconnection and at the same time ways of trying to bridge it”

– Craig Holdrege ‘Thinking Like A Plant’





Our Collective Health

I know that from here on until the end of the year things can get pretty mad, but I find this a very interesting time of year to take a step back and observe who we are collectively within our culture. At this time of year, more than any other, we become involuntary contesters in a race towards the finish line… into the sweet release of summer holidays.


A sweet release from what? From a socially constructed time of madness when we all race around, distracted by deadlines and consumer obligations. I call it madness because actually this is a magical time of year and it seems a shame that we miss a lot of it as we run on through to the finish line. Lets take a moment to breathe into the belly, smell the roses and wild jasmine and pohutukawa, listen to the cicadas, cultivate friendships old and new, and acknowledge our peaceful natural environment.


We could make an endless list of all the ways that our culture and country is prosperous, and yet we still suffer. How can we be happy if we are not healthy? What is health in our individual body and mind if we are lacking health in our collective culture?


“The World Health Organization (WHO) characterized health as complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and the capability to function in the face of challenging circumstances… Can people be healthy when others suffer from inequality and lack of resources? What about emotional, spiritual, moral, and metaphysical effects on one’s sense of wellbeing? What about one’s sense of ill health from environmental circumstances, war, injustice, and violence? …Others’ pain can be our own”.

Michael Winkelman – Culture and Health: Applying Medical Anthropology  


If you are suffering or you know of someone who is suffering, stop before you brush it off as simply a physiological imbalance that requires a pill to fix it. Stop blaming yourself for doing too much of the bad things and not enough of the good things. Your suffering is uniquely yours but it is also universal, reach out, have a conversation, be honest and be vulnerable. Make new connections, create a community that can catch you when you fall. The chances are that whoever is there will care and will be able to relate by sharing their own story. Stories dissolve barriers, breakdown walls and open up doors. Stories can lift you up and become your guiding light.


Underneath the madness we are all compassionate creatures simply doing our best at living our lives independently yet together. If only we would give ourselves the time to stop, step away from the cultural rip tide and simply allow ourselves to feel the precious gift of living within the small community of beautiful Aotearoa.


“Communal generosity might seem incompatible with the process of evolution, which invokes the imperative of individual survival. But we make a grave error if we try to separate individual well-being from the health of the whole”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.