Written By Tanya Hollis
Half an hour south of Devonport, cradled by green hills that roll towards Tasmania’s craggy mountain ranges, lies a small farm doing big things.
At a distance, it seems a vast multi-colored quilt has been laid at the foot of the farm buildings. On closer inspection, the patchwork transforms into an expanse of medicinal plants that would have any herbalist rubbing their hands with glee.
Bringing their extensive knowledge of traditional remedies from the Netherlands to Australia seven years ago, Ronald and Marleen van de Winckel have created a herb farm that embodies the pristine qualities for which the island state is renowned.
Beginning with just 10 species of medicinal herbs, the 40-hectare farm now grows more than 110 organically certified varieties, with expansion plans afoot to keep pace with demand for their pure herbal products.
The health benefits of these fresh, pure and organic herbs are available to Aussies for the first time through the Herbanica range of fresh plant extracts.
Fresh herbal extracts are popular in Europe, comprising about half of the total herbal extract market. But until now Australians have only had access to extracts created with dry ingredients.
Herbanica’s Geoffrey Whitehead says that while dry herbs have their place, fresh herbal extracts have the potential to deliver an even greater complement of benefits. “When you dry a herb there’s a possibility some of the volatile elements will be lost,” Geoffrey says. “With these fresh tinctures, the extraction is done within four hours of harvest so all of the goodness and bioenergetics of the plant comes across as part of the cold percolation process.”
He says the fresh herb extracts also taste better than their dried counterparts, making it easier for people to stick to their treatment programs.
The purity of the herbs is central to each step from growing through to production.
The van de Winckels selected their farm site because of its ideal climate and clean, clay soil that is perfect for growing medicinal plants. Their methods avoid pesticide pollution, while a rotational green manure crop of alfalfa and clover enriches the soil naturally. Ronald works the fields on an ancient tractor that he gutted before fitting it with solar panels and batteries to ensure diesel fumes would not taint the crops.
Once harvested, herbs destined for fresh extraction are processed on site within four hours, in keeping with the farm’s organic certification, before being shipped to a TGA certified facility in Melbourne for bottling into Herbanica’s exclusive remedy range.
The remedies are single herb extracts covering nine common health issues. Herbanica also supplies fresh herb extracts to naturopaths and herbalists to blend into customised medicines for their patients.
Herbal medicines are drawn from traditional knowledge spanning hundreds – sometimes thousands – of years. Many modern pharmaceutical drugs are derived from the biological properties found in the seeds, berries, roots, leaves, and flowers of medicinal plants.
Geoffrey says the herbal remedies are not designed to replace prescription medication and are best taken in consultation with a doctor. He says while fresh extracts don’t offer a quick fix they are a popular way for people to take control of their wellbeing. “Folks want to go for a natural approach to a particular health problem they have and by taking control they feel they are not dependent on a heavy pharmacological approach,” he says.
“With these remedies, consumer know they are getting the freshest, purest 100 percent organic products that are grown and processed in Australia under the strictest quality standards.”
Popular herbs for common ailments:
A favourite for the treatment of fevers, colds, stomach aches and mild anxiety.
Central to Indian traditional medicine to treat liver complaints, with modern naturopaths using it to detoxify the liver.
In the frontline against colds and flu. The herb stimulates immune cells responsible for fighting infection.
Supports the circulatory system and helps treat angina, high blood pressure and early stage heart disease.
Used to regulate menstrual cycles and ease the pain of cramping.
A popular choice to soothe tension and gastrointestinal pain.
Have properties useful in treating sore throats and dry coughs. It also works on gut mucosa to ease the pain of stomach ulcers.
Passionflower leaves and roots
Traditionally used as a calming and sedative herb, helpful in treating mild anxiety and insomnia.
St John’s wort
An effective natural antidepressant believed to prevent reabsorption of serotonin, dopamine and noadrenaline by the brain’s nerve cells.