When we’re feeling depleted, stressed and overwhelmed, we can often think that we need something huge to put us right. But, actually, it’s the small, daily self-care practices that are transformational.

I loved chatting to Nikki Hill, founder of Nikki Hill Apothecary, for the latest episode of Wellness Unwrapped. Nikki is a fully qualified Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist and Medical Herbalist. Herbs are a huge part of my own life (I’ve been making my own herbal tinctures, teas and syrups for many years) and I simply wouldn’t be without them. They are such a gentle but powerful way to care for our health on every level.

Having battled hormone-related issues as a teenager (including severe acne), Nikki now loves to work with women who are struggling with their hormones and periods and are looking for a natural solution to help ease their symptoms and improve their overall health. In this conversation, she shared lots of accessible inspiration for caring for your own wellbeing – using simple, natural methods that require little money, time or energy.

We chatted about how you can tap into the hormone-balancing, restorative power of herbs – and introduce self-nurturing rituals into your life that will help you to better manage stress.

Here are three key takeaways from our conversation:

  • We can’t avoid stress – but we can manage it. Having self-care rituals in place buffers the stress. These can be as simple as sitting down and savouring a cup of herbal tea or enjoying a bath with Himalayan and Epsom salts (rich in calming magnesium) and essential oils, which will induce a feeling of calm and help us to get better sleep.
  • Health is so much more than what we eat. Embarking on a restrictive diet can cause anxiety which, in itself, is detrimental to our health. Rather than focusing on cutting things out, it’s helpful to focus on traditional ways of eating that human beings have always thrived on.  The simple, joyful act of snipping beautiful, fragrant fresh herbs to add to our dishes – such as rosemary, oregano and thyme – brings many health benefits, puts us in touch with nature and injects flavour and colour into our food.
  • It’s important for our wellbeing to regularly allow ourselves to get into a state of “flow”, where we lose track of time. This helps us to get out of our head, where all the repetitive thought patterns occur and which keep us locked in a state of stress. Flow can be achieved by doing something that you love – whether reading a book, listening to a podcast, gardening or knitting. Nikki advises creating your own private, serene “nook” in your home (it could simply be the corner of a room)  – somewhere peaceful where you can detach from the stresses of your day and take 5 minutes just for yourself, even if that is simply enjoying a cup of tea without any distractions.

I really like Nikki’s sunny, upbeat and relaxed approach to wellbeing. You’ll find the full transcript of our conversation below and can listen to this Wellness Unwrapped episode here.

You can also watch a video version of this episode here.

What little ritual can you introduce into your day that will help you to feel better?

[Please note: this is a computer generated transcription of this conversation]

SG: So welcome to the podcast, Nikki. It’s so lovely to have you because I’ve only met you once, and it was a couple of years ago. I came to your house actually for a calligraphy event which you hosted, and it was in the days when I thought I’m gonna get into calligraphy, which I did briefly for a week. I bought all the kit and decided this was going to be my new mindfulness activity that I would do and it kind of fizzled out quite rapidly.

But it was a gorgeous afternoon. I loved chatting to you and seeing where you produce all your beautiful products. And I had in my head then and this was a while ago, it was just before I think the pandemic hit, that I would get you on the podcast one day.

So I’ve had a really stressful morning, actually. And that’s why I think it’s really appropriate that we’re having this conversation today because it was just one of those days where I was thrown a curve ball. I didn’t get to do what I was meant to do, and then I got really stressed and like now I’ve got 15 things to do and I don’t know which to do first. And crikey, Nikki’s coming at midday. I haven’t done this, this and this. And I actually thought, Gosh, am I going to have to cancel and I thought, I’m not gonna do that. That’s really rude to cancel on the day, you know, just calm down and see what we can do. But I think so many of us find ourselves in that position regularly, don’t we?

NH: Yes. Like every day. I mean, I see this is a lot with clients. It is just that’s how we live now. I think the pandemic was good for a lot of things because it made us slow down. And, you know, we weren’t bombarded with having to be here there and everywhere, which I think was a welcome relief to a lot of people. But now that you know, we can get back out and stuff, I think it’s just we’ve easily fallen into the trap again of taking on too many things or, you know, just feeling on edge all the time and stressed out.

SG:  Yeah, life just throw stuff at you. I mean, this was something that I hadn’t foreseen. I was going to do this, this this, you know, and I had time to do it. But then something was chucked at me, and it just threw everything out. And then I immediately got stressed. Yeah, so I just started clanging around the kitchen because that seemed like something to do. Banging pans, putting them away. So I’m just so happy that I’m having this conversation with now.

So I’d like to start Nikki by you, telling our listeners how you got to be doing what you do now. What brought you to this?

NH: So I’m a naturopath, which is a nutritionist.  And I hadn’t even heard what a naturopath was at the time of even, Um, when I I suffered when I was a teenager, a whole lot of period issues. So I had I got my period and then maybe a couple of times, and then I didn’t get my period again. And being 14/15, I didn’t really care, just didn’t care at all. And we moved to Hong Kong at that stage from Australia and we moved to Hong Kong, and I think the change, there’s a whole lot of things that could have caused the lack of periods. But what the main concern was for me is I started breaking out with acne, and it just got worse and worse and worse. And I used to get facials, and I remember, um, the lady that was doing my facial said, Oh, you should go go on the pill. That will help clear up your acne. So anyway,  went to the doctor and said, you know, I haven’t had a period, and my acne was just so bad. I was 15/ 16. And I remember they took blood tests, but I don’t remember them saying anything to me. All they gave me was the pill, and I just took it, you know? And within about three months, I’d say my skin was a lot better. And actually, I started getting boobs. Everything. At the time, I was so skinny and, um so I loved it. I was like, this is great. This is great.

SG: I hated being skinny. Yeah, I remember writing to Jackie magazine. I don’t know if you had Jackie in Australia, but that was like the teen magazine. I remember writing this letter and it’s so sad now saying, What can I eat to, like, bulk me up? Because my ankles are so skinny and I’m like, I’m trying to pull my jumper over my arms because they’re just so scrawny.

NH: Isn’t it funny? I remember a guy saying chest of drawers to me because I had no boobs and like that memory is still there and it crushes. You know it does. But yes. And then I  gained the boobs and I was like, Yes, and then my skin cleared up. But then about a year on the pill, I noticed I just was getting bloated all the time and quite, I just felt I just felt swollen, so I was puffy in my face, puffy in my belly. Um and I just didn’t feel quite right on it. Then I went to boarding school, went back to Australia for boarding school, and then my first year out, I lived in Japan for a year. And I remember thinking, I’m going to stay on the pill because I wanted to come off it because I was gaining a lot of weight and this bloating. But I was so nervous about coming off the pill and the acne returning that I stayed on it while I was in Japan, and then I came back from Japan. I went to college at Melbourne University and I was studying art science. And again I remember thinking, I don’t want to come off the pill because of my skin. That’s all I was thinking about was my skin vanity. And but I knew that it wasn’t quite right. Um, and also just not absolutely having no understanding about my reproductive system at all. But I do remember thinking I want children. It was one thing I knew I wanted was a family. And I remember going to the doctor and I must have been talking about the pill. I can’t remember I had started natural medicine at this stage, but I’ll get to that. But I remember going to the doctor saying, I’m thinking, can I come off the pill, like will I be able to have babies? And I remember it was a male doctor and he said, Why would you come off the pill? Um, just come off it when you want to have babies and then, you know, if you don’t have babies, we’ve got we’ve got drugs for that as well.

And I remember just thinking, Oh, my God, like again not knowing what was going on with me anyway. My sister was still living in Hong Kong at that stage, and she had seen a naturopath in Hong Kong. And when she graduated from school, she said, I want to be a naturopath and I was like, What’s a naturopath? And she brought home the course guide for naturopathy, and it had things like nutrition, herbal medicine, anatomy and physiology. And I was just like I couldn’t put it down. I was thinking, I want to do this as well and we went to the open day and there was a lady who probably was in her thirties. Um, so I mean, I’m 20  at this time. She might have been here in mid thirties, um, at the open day and just the way she was talking. I mean, my sister and I just sat there, captivated by her, and I was just thinking, I want to be her. I want to be her.  Anyway, we then went home and said to my dad, We want to study natural medicine and my dad said, I will not have my daughters studying monkey business.

SG: Oh that was really damning.

NH: Oh, yeah. Um you know, I didn’t know any naturopaths. You know, it was out there. Everyone I knew was studying medicine, accountancy, you know, just business. Whatever. And lawyers. Bless my dad. He did say you can defer your degree at Melbourne University. You can give it a go, and if you love it, you can continue. And if you don’t, you then at least you can go back to, you know, studying outside Melbourne University and finishing off that course you deferred. So, yes, we absolutely loved it. And every lecture I was just sitting there, you know, absolutely loved it and ended up continuing it. And it was in a lecture on polycystic ovarian syndrome. She was putting up all the symptoms and all the signs. And I was thinking, I think that’s what I’ve got That’s me. And I went to the doctor with, like with asking, can you please test for all of these hormones that we were taught, um, and get an ultrasound? Because I think I’ve got PCOS and the doctor was a little bit reluctant to do it, but she said, Okay, I’ll do it. And indeed it came back confirmed that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it was so nice to hear it. I know we don’t want to talk about labels, but to finally know actually what was going on with me and then when we were studying PCOS, you obviously give protocols on how to help address it, and a lot of it is lifestyle and diet, and there’s lots of herbs that can help with it, too.

So I came off the pill and I did all the dietary changes, and I took the herbs and everything like that, and my periods within about nine months went from being completely regular to like I remember it being every six weeks for so long, and then it went to five weeks, and then it went to four weeks and it’s been four weeks regular ever since. And I’m 43. So my skin cleared up. I lost the weight naturally, like just everything. And it was so liberating to know what was going on with my cycle and what it meant and being in control of it. And it was the first time that I just thought, this is so powerful and we do not get taught anything at school about really, about our reproductive system, what we can do to help with our nutrition, food, lifestyle, all of these kinds of things. So, um yeah, I just I just loved it.

And so when we when I graduated, I knew I wanted to go down the hormone route and help other women in the similar situations to me. And so that’s what I’ve been doing Pretty much so. I graduated when I was 24, then, well, I then thought right, rather than going straight into practice, I’m going to go and do a three month trip around the UK and I never went back. Well, now I was in London. But my husband is from Wilmslow. So we moved up here again. We moved up here for six months because we’re going to move to Australia. We haven’t left. I’ve been in Wilmslow now for nearly 11 years. I’m just like what? How has this happened? Um but I mean, it’s been great.

SG: I was just so taken with your little room where you make these beautiful herbal remedies. In fact, I used one of them. Yes, about about a month ago, maybe less Even. It was I can’t remember when. Maybe it was about three weeks ago, but I was given a phial of your bath salts, the detox bath salts. And the funny thing is that I’m not a bath person. I’m a shower person. I know all about how good it is to have a bath, and I often preach it. But I just don’t have on myself because I always thought it was a bit of a waste of time. And by the time you run it and you hear about these people that sit in a bath for 40 minutes every night, an hour every night, and I just I think who’s got time to sit for an hour. But I was given this and it looked very beautiful, and I could tell this was a very nice thing. I was actually given it on a I went on a half day retreat and in the goodie bag there was this little phial of your detox salts, and I had it sitting in my bathroom for about maybe a month, and I would look at it like I really must use that one day, but like, I’m not a bath person. So yeah, yeah, and it just sat there and I kind of felt guilty looking at it because I knew that it was something that was probably very nice, and I was just ignoring it. And then what happened was I know when it was it was the was it the Equinox? Maybe it’s the equinox that we had just recently, something like that. It was something where it was a new something, and I suddenly thought, tonight’s the night. Tonight’s the night. I’m going to have a bath and actually announced to my family: everyone, I’m going to have a bath. I did the whole thing, the candles. There was actually a candle from you  And the most amazing thing happened. Okay,  I wasn’t in there for that long. Probably only about 20 minutes. Yeah, I felt something being sucked out of me. I know that’s really, really bizarre, but I felt lighter as if something had just been released. And this was Himalayan bath salts, which are very detoxifying, aren’t they?

But this was more of on, like a kind of an energetic level, because they do work on that level as well. And I felt it was like a kind of like a something being drawn out, if I could put it that way and I came out and I felt floaty, that would be the only word I could use it. I felt floaty and really really chilled. And I just did some stretching like yoga stretches, and went to bed all cosy with a book. Just lovely. The weird thing was, I still felt floaty the next morning and it was a busy morning like a midweek morning and I was like, 11 o’clock in the morning. I was thinking, I still feel like I’ve been in a spa in Thailand for a month. I was thinking, this is just bizarre and I attributed it to those Himalayan bath salts. And the funny thing, even funnier thing was that people here that we have heard this perhaps in a previous episode. But I had been on a magic mushroom retreat in Amsterdam a few weeks previously, had had a horrendous experience, horrendous. And while I was trying to kind of get myself back to me, one of the things the therapist recommended in a whole host of things to try and sort out my heart palpitations, which I got from the mushrooms, she said, a Himalayan salt bath. And I ignored it completely because I wasn’t a bath person after all. And then when I got in that bath, I wondered if something had shifted from the mushrooms about a month before.

NH: I love this about you, Suzy, by the way.

SG: Yes, it’s very unexpected. I don’t even drink. Hardly drink. So it was a big shock to everyone that I’ve gone to Amsterdam to take a psychedelic, but I did anyway. And I suspect that some residual something shifted in that bath because I’ve had subsequent baths with Himalayan salt and I didn’t have the same result. It was lovely, but there was something happened on that day in that bath, which I can’t quite explain.

NH: Well, it sounds amazing. It’s like, Yeah, I mean, it’s got Himalayan and it’s with Epsom salts as well, and they’re both. The Himalayan is very detoxifying, Um, but it’s so full of minerals, especially, the Epsom salts magnesium, so it draws everything out. It’s that detoxifying thing, but you’ve also got the magnesium, goes through the skin and helps you to relax so it kind of bypasses the digestive system rather than taking magnesium orally. Getting into an Epsom salt bath you can absorb magnesium that way, and that’s why it makes you feel relaxed. But also bath itself without anything in it will help that, too. It’s like hot water, so especially at night time, you want to drop your core body temperature to facilitate sleep. So that’s why when we’re really, really hot. Not that it gets that hot in this country. But you know, sometimes in the summer, and it’s so hot you can’t sleep when you get into a bath. It obviously your core body temperature rises because it’s a hot bath. But when you get out, it drops and it drops lower than what it was before you got in. That’s why a bath, or even a shower it will do the same thing, again is just is so therapeutic. The lovely thing is, you can add in the salts, and they’ve also got really lovely essential oils in there as well to help the process even more and then lighting a candle. It’s all just little rituals that you can start doing because the main thing with stress is we can’t avoid it. It’s all about how we manage it and how. And I just think if we have little systems in place set up throughout the day or even the evening, it buffers the stress.

So it’s just everything that can offset it. So, I mean I go on about tea but having like a nice cup of tea and actually just sitting there and enjoying it and slowing your breath down for five minutes in between. On a crazy day that just helps lower, like it helps get us into what we call the parasympathetic nervous system. So a lot of the time we’re in the sympathetic, which is that fight or flight and we’re doing doing doing doing, our blood is going to our muscles, our heart and our brain to kind of well, that fight or flight is that we need to be alert. Um, which is fine, short term. But long term can cause absolute havoc on our hormones, and we’re not equipped for it for long term. And so when we just get our body into a sort of slowing things down, like having a mindful moment with a cup of tea or having a bath or going for a walk in nature, listening to some music, it’s just little simple things. What it does, it tells our body that we’re under no threat because our body cannot distinguish between a life threatening threat, a thought of something bad happening or just physical mental stress. All our stress response happens, it’s the same anytime.

So our body is all about protecting ourselves for survival. So if we feel like we’re not under any type of threat, which is like when we slow our breath down, our bodies go, Oh, okay. No one’s coming to eat us. I can function properly. Our hormones can work how they’re meant to work, because they’re not in this. So usually it’s that adrenaline that takes over when we’re anxious when we’re stressing out and that that’s what has an effect on our hormonal system. So rather than progesterone getting produced rather than us ovulating every month properly, all of this kind of stuff we end up, we end up with this a lot of the time.

This discrepancy between oestrogen, progesterone and this is where it can cause a lot of hormonal issues, especially, um, too much oestrogen to progesterone, which a lot of people, the oestrogen, dominant things people have heard about. But that’s things like heavy bleeding, period pain, fibroids, um, PMS, anxiety, sleep all of these kind of things, and, um, and what we want to try and do is bring this balance back again and lifestyle. Things are the quickest way of doing that. No pill, no drug. It’s actually about these little lifestyle acts, and that’s what’s so powerful about, you know, and again. Sometimes, as you sort of said with the bath, sometimes we can put off things that we think are going to, you know, are non essentials.

I find a lot of the women I see that have never done yoga, and they’re very much into high intensity, exercise, HIIT training or running. You know, when I mention yoga to them, they freak out because they think boring, you’re not sweating, so your body is not doing anything, Um, and so it’s like, so what? I think a lot of people think, I’ve got to be working out really hard, intense. I’m gonna be sweating for it to be doing good for me where actually exercise is a stress on our body. So if you’re already stressed out and you go do more exercise on top of that, all your body is thinking is what am I running away from? And I’ve got to use up all of my reserves to keep functioning at that sort of height. And actually, when you step away and you understand how the body works, you don’t feel guilty about taking time off you.  You realise that actually, yoga is so beneficial then or sometimes you know going to bed a little bit earlier would be better than going and doing something high, intense for your body, for your overall health long term. But it is such a mindset. It’s what you’re taught as well, isn’t it?

SG: Yeah, I often get invited to very, very early even yoga stuff like meeting at five o’clock in the morning. I’m sure it’s lovely but there’s absolutely no way I’m sacrificing any sleep to go to it, and I know it would be a lovely thing and everyone will love it. But for me, I don’t want anything to get in the way of my sleep, and that’s just sacred.

But I love what you said about these little rituals because I think that’s what it was, I lit the candles and it felt like a beautiful self care ritual. And I instantly felt different and it was quite a remarkable shift to the point that it came to the end of the year and I do a list of things I want to do for the following year: 22 things for 2022 and I had a real emphasis this year on self care. So one of the things I put was that I would treat myself to a weekly Himalayan salt which I’ve kept up so far, and because for me, I totally get it now. I totally get the bath thing and it’s like, yes, you can afford to take out half an hour in an evening. And I really found that my thoughts slowed and I was able, I think, because it was the equinox, I was really thinking about affirmations and things, which I do anyway in the morning. But there was something about being in the water, which really amplified the whole effect. So it wasn’t just the physical effects of the heat etc etc. It was very much a mental thing as well, an emotional, calming resetting. And then, of course, once you’re out of there, you don’t feel like going to clean the oven, do you? Because you’re chilled. And that’s why I thought, Well, I’ll just do some gentle yoga stretches. When I say yoga. I probably spent a minute, doing the child’s pose, it wasn’t anything huge. But then it was nice to get under the covers and have my library book, I was reading a really nice novel, and it’s just a lovely way to end the day. As you say, it’s a buffer between the busyness of the day, the go go, go, go, go and let’s tick off the next thing – and sleep, because we can’t go to sleep when we’re in a state of stress. And most of us are trying to do that, aren’t we?  Trying to get into bed still checking the iPad and getting back to colleagues or whatever it is and then expect to put our head down and just drop off to sleep. It doesn’t happen.

NH: And you’re right. And I think, it is about again like the whole bath experience. And I think, like you’re saying with yoga I mean, I remember when I first did yoga, I never really liked it and it was only after a time and I then really got into it. And also, I do think it helps with your instructor when it comes to yoga, find someone that you gel with. If you’re someone that’s like, has tried yoga but didn’t like it, I just say find someone else because you’ll find an instructor that you’ll just click. But I came around making the products because, you know, obviously we know meditation is so important, but I knew myself that I would not just sit down and meditate for 10 minutes. It’s so challenging, and I still haven’t really mastered it. And I feel like, that’s why again, with yoga, for instance, because there’s always a meditation at the end. Um, but it’s a guided meditation. I can get into it there. Um, but I sort of thought, you know, when I was talking to my clients and sort of, you know, they all knew that they were too busy and they wanted to calm down, when I look at my products, a lot of them, a lot of the products is kind of, in a way, like the bath, like the phial that you had – to get people to slow down. So having that cup of tea, the whole getting them to have the ritual of having it, the lighting the candle, it is quite meditative anyway, because you are slowing everything down. It goes back to the breath, but it gets you set up to, if you then wanted to go on like that yoga, you would never have done a little bit of yoga, even though it was for one minute had you not had the bath.

SG:  One thing triggered the next.

NH: Yeah, and that’s what’s so wonderful about. Once you start with just a bit of self care, whether it’s the cup of tea or something, it then gives you the headspace. I think maybe I will go to bed 10 minutes earlier and just get a novel out. I think again, like it’s trying not to make things hard, you know, or a chore. You want to enjoy it. But that’s the thing, that’s trying not to think I’ve got to do half an hour of meditation today. It’s too much, and it’s not until you start something, and then all of a sudden you may then end up doing something for half an hour. But if you thought that you’d have to do it for half an hour to begin with, chances are no, it’s too overwhelming, isn’t it?

SG: Yeah, I was surprised myself with the bath thing and I’m definitely going to invest in more Himalayan bath salts and stuff like that. So tell us a little bit more about the tea. We understand the ritual of making it and taking that moment – that is very different from sticking a mug in the microwave because it’s gone cold.

NH: Oh, God. Yeah, absolutely. Um well, the nice thing about my tea as well is if it goes cold, it’s just as yummy. So you know, I would never drink a cold, milky tea. You just wouldn’t, would you? So it came about because obviously, I just love herbal medicine, I think because it changed my life. And, um, but with herbs, you’ve got the leaves and the flowers, so everything above ground, um, is you can get all the properties in a herbal infusion. Herbal teas mainly, are the leaves and the flowers of the plant and they’re usually the nicest tasting as well and the prettiest. But, um, so I make herbal teas like that using the leaf and the flowers of different plants with different properties. Um, and each tea has a different, like Female Harmony is very good for people with  PMS-type symptoms, irregular cycles, bloating, that type of thing. Um and then they usually accompany a tincture. So a herbal tincture is anything under the ground, like roots or bark, anything that’s really fibrous. You need alcohol to extract the properties out, so they’re very bitter. A lot of the tinctures I have are not very pleasant tasting, but you only take a little bit amount. You can take about half a teaspoon mixed in a little bit of water, and it’s usually twice a day again, depending on the herb, and what I tend to do with my hormone kits, I’ve created these kits online that you get a tea and you get a tincture because a lot of the roots are really beneficial. Say, for instance, um, if we look at my Period Comfort Kit that’s got a herbal tea, this will help with period pain and discomfort and things like that. You’ve got a tea that you can drink. That’s warming. That’s, um, really relaxing. Um, it’s got ginger in it, which helps with circulation to the pelvic area. Um, and it’s just a beautiful kind of nice tasting tea that you can enjoy when you’re feeling discomfort. And then it comes with a tincture called Cramp Bark. And you can take that acutely during the time of your month, where you’re getting the cramps instead of things like Ibuprofen or Paracetamol or anything like that,you can use instead of or with. So sometimes people can reduce the dose that they’re taking of any sort of pharmaceutical medication when they’re taking the tincture. But the that tincture in particular, you don’t take all month. You just take a couple of days before your period’s due and then throughout to help with the symptomatic relief. But something like the tea, I would say you want to drink every day. At least one cup a day, three cups is what we call therapeutic, like it’s actually a medicine. But one cup a day throughout your whole cycle helps. They all have sort of like an affinity to the reproductive system, so it’s just very beneficial. And yeah, and I just think the ritual making tea is again therapeutic in the sense that it calms everything down. And it’s sort of like people, you know, I get so many messages, people saying I just love making your tea like the whole ceremony behind it. You’ve got the herbs that have specific properties, depending on what symptoms that you have. Um, you would choose which would be best for you. Um, and you can mix and match. You can have, you know, Harmony then and then the Sleep one at night or things like that. Um, but again, any tea would do. It’s just because you’re still getting that benefit. Um, it’s just what I call this therapeutic tea and they’re powerful. T

SG: They’re really so powerful. And that’s what I really love about herbal medicine. In fact, about 10 years ago I did a short course at Neal’s Yard, one of my favourite ever shops. And it was with a herbalist who is wonderful. And we covered lots of things. We learned how to make tinctures and syrups. And it’s really not difficult once you know a few ground rules and you’re confident enough to try. And I’ve been making tinctures ever since. So every year I make like an elderberry tincture, which does taste nice, actually. I put in cinnamon and all sorts of things, and it’s really nice to take. And the kids know, we all know, that at the first sign of a sore throat, everyone just knows right, Where’s the elderberry tincture? And it really does work and Cramp Bark, you neglected to say that it stinks, and it tastes absolutely disgusting. Okay, you missed that.

NH: Yeah, it’s really one of the worse, but so effective.

SG: So effective. I bought some because my daughter was suffering a bit yeah, with cramps. Yeah, and I’ve taken it, and I would say, personally speaking, I think is as effective as a paracetamol. Like I don’t suffer too much, but it really does work. I mean, this is not just a bit of smelly stuff, and it’s like a placebo. This is really powerful and has been used for centuries.

NH: And there are there are studies now to show, like, you know, and randomised proper clinical studies to show the difference between paracetamol and Cramp Bark and how they work and how they can be more effective. Um, so you know, it’s just unfortunate that there’s not enough money behind natural medicine to have more research done in things. They’re so effective. The only downside is, as you said, the tinctures are quite I mean, you know, they’re quite intense, but you don’t take a lot and you can mix it with a bit of juice. And to tell you the truth, I find most people, adolescents, teenagers…if something is helping someone, they just get on with it.

SG:  And I just find it amazing. But most people don’t know about Cramp Bark or a lot of other herbal remedies, which is a shame, really, because they just think right. Okay,  pain, let me buy my Ibuprofen or Paracetamol or alternate them, whatever it is. And we just head straight for the chemist. And I think obviously that wasn’t the case if you go back, not that far back in history, it was very normal for people to make their own herbal remedies. It was just a skill like cooking, like any other. And we’ve really lost that.

NH: I mean, that’s the thing, there’s so many medicinal plants in everyone’s gardens and people wouldn’t even know that they’re there or what they do or what their actions are. But yeah, it’s just we just don’t get taught it. And then if your parents didn’t, you know, tell you about them, you know? I mean, I found that with me. I mean, I had no idea, like, no idea about herbs, herbal medicine, anything until I started studying it. Um, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what that plan was or anything like that at the beginning, you know. So we do. We have lost it all.

SG: We have definitely lost it all. Um, yeah, but I think even with a tiny bit of knowledge, because this is not something that you need to study to be a naturopath or you need to go on some extensive, expensive course. You don’t need any of that. You can just very easily acquire a little bit of knowledge and think Oh, okay. I have a lemon balm plant in my garden. Oh, I know that. I know what that does. It’s calming, and it’s like a hug in a mug, and I can pick some leaves and add some hot water and that will be calming. So I think it’s so empowering for people to know a few key plants, what they do and how to use them. And it can be something as simple as making a tea. Everyone can make a tea.

NH:  Well, that’s one of the best ways of taking lemon balm is having it fresh in boiling water. Peppermint the same. It’s very cooling. It’s great for digestive problems. Nettle is everywhere as well. So good for you. High in iron, it’s really cleansing. It’s great for people that suffer hay fever as well. Um, it’s Gosh, it’s in so many of my teas because it’s so full of nutrition. But you can make nettle tea. You can make nettle soup. There’s, like so many so many recipes you can find online using these using nettle. Um, you just want to make sure when you pick them you’re  wearing gloves and pick from above.

SG:  But once you know, once you know to not go where the dogs, wee, and you just take the top two sort of leaves and you’ve got gloves on. It’s really easy, and I’ve put them in a juice with apple. Yeah, and it’s delicious. Yeah, it’s a really nice tasting. Beautiful in soup. Beautiful in pesto. So many uses, and it’s free, and it grows everywhere. And elderberries, you can pick elderberries, make your own syrups, which is really easy to do as well because it sounds like that would be very complicated. A medicine you buy, it’s got a tonne of ingredients. You think how on earth am I going to replicate a cough syrup in my kitchen? But it really is simple. I would say it’s much easier than baking a cake. I’m a terrible baker but even I can make a syrup. It’s really very straightforward.

NH: Yeah, yeah, and I think when you start to grow your own herbs and even if you don’t have a garden, just having some herbs in a pot on your kitchen. It’s just, I think, as much as you can start adding things into your diet because they’re full of nutrition. Um, it just broadens your taste buds as well, because it tastes lovely. And I just think it just gets you back into nature. And again, it’s another bit of self care. And once you start making things, you know, it’s all of a sudden you go, Oh, I made this and it’s like it’s good for me, and if you know why, it adds to the whole experience. It really does, because you feel, you know, you put that love into it and, um, and again, you know, going out into your garden and picking some herbs. Um, it brings that kind of sense of well being, you know, adding it to food and making teas and things like that. It’s just little things you can start adding into your diet day to day. So for dinner at night, just start adding some fresh herbs on top. You know, instead of, I always say with caffeine I mean, I love coffee, I have to admit, so I will always drink coffee, but after midday, I try not to drink any because it does affect your sleep because it takes so long to break down caffeine. And that’s why it can affect sleep at night. So after midday, especially with clients I’m like, switch to herbal tea and I’d have to say a lot of people think herbal teas like the fruit tea that you get from the supermarket that has no taste. It might smell amazing, but it doesn’t taste very nice or even some herbal teas that you get in the tea bag. And when I do get my teas people are like, Wow, I love the taste of this. This is amazing. Um, but rather than having a caffeinated beverage in the afternoon, just switching to maybe a herbal tea instead, or even it doesn’t have to be tea – even something like a miso soup  which I absolutely adore or a probiotic drink or something. But just making little changes. Like I would never say to anyone, you can’t have chocolate or you can’t have caffeine or you’ve got to stop this, because if someone said to me, I can’t have chocolate it’s the only thing I’d be thinking about until I had it. And I know that like, um, it’s the cycle of psychology, isn’t it? Whereas if I say right, okay, instead of instead of having that, why don’t you try this tea or do this or something? And people go Okay, that’s because they think OK,  I could do that because I’m not losing my hot drink. I’m not drinking one of them after midday or something like that.

SG: And I think that’s what’s so appealing about this approach. It’s so different from saying right, you need to cut out this, this, this, this this and you need to start doing this number of minutes high intensity work and all of that. What we’re talking about here is get yourself a basil plant from the supermarket or something like that, or rosemary plant and just snip some leaves, which is beautiful in itself. Because you get the fragrance on your fingers, which is calming in itself, and it puts you in touch with nature. Even if you don’t have a garden, you’re still back in touch with nature. And then this is going to make your food look beautiful and taste beautiful. It brings so much flavour with these aromatics. And the medicinal qualities are astonishing. You take something like rosemary, so powerful and tastes so good. Yeah, yeah, it smells so good.

NH: I know. And especially, I think, in the winter months. You know, all of these herbs like rosemary um, oregano, thyme, they’re all antibacterial. Antimicrobial, so adding them into stews and casseroles and all of that, you’re getting the benefit of your immune support. So, yeah, so many benefits.

SG: And in fact, I think there’s been some research done. For example, I think it’s Morocco or somewhere where they have very meat-heavy, stew type, slow cooked dishes. And they add a lot of these herbs and spices, and that’s been shown to kind of mitigate or offset any effects of the meat. Because when you cook meat with herbs and spices, it just changes the whole chemistry. And so they really are medicinal, and I think they’re so often overlooked. People think of the kale and the broccoli, putting the greens in the shopping basket, but they totally under appreciate that these beautiful herbs, which are going to bring their food to life are also medicine.

NH: Absolutely. And I also think like again when people think of healthy, they think of raw, raw juice diet. They think of just green vegetables. Um, it’s very much like no meat, no sugar, no wheat, and it’s quite a restrictive diet. But that’s what people think when they think they’ve got to be healthy. That’s how they sort of think, really –  that sounds punishing and in a way, it is funny, because, I mean, diet isn’t everything again. When it comes to health, diet is part of it, but it’s not everything, and actually the more obsessed you are with your diet, I actually think that can cause more anxiety and everything as well. But again, a lot of it is, is going back to wholesome food. Um, but how it’s prepared. So kale is not meant to be juiced. You know, we’re meant to cook kale. It’s much better cooked because it breaks down the phytonutrients. The cooking process actually makes it easier for our bodies to digest. And then, if you pair that with a good quality fat like butter or coconut oil, ghee or olive oil, anything that’s fat soluble, which is usually vitamin A and K, B vitamins, minerals and they need a fat to be absorbed. So if you had kale and you had a bit of butter on it, and then you had it with some protein, you’ve got a balanced meal there, and you’re going to absorb the nutrients from the kale because you’ve got some fat. If you just had a raw kale juice, you’re not actually going to benefit from it as much as you would if you cooked and had it with a proper meal. I think people think to be really healthy, it’s restrictive and you’ve got to be really disciplined and it’s just not the case, you know, it’s about the quality of the food. To me, it’s about the quality and also how you prepare it. And I always go back to traditions on preparations. So take soybean, for instance, I mean, that is massive in Asia. But they ferment soy, so they know that a soybean is so hard to digest. It’s high in phytic acid, so it binds to all vitamins and minerals. It’s like grains are really hard to digest, whereas if you ferment it like you would to make miso soup or soy sauce, tempeh, a fermented soy, as you would like with wheat grain, you would make sourdough culture and make sourdough bread in that process of fermenting or cooking. Um, you basically help digest the food. They become more digestible so the phytic acid starts to dissipate. So when you eat fermented soy, which is how they traditionally eat it because they know that it’s not good to eat it raw, um, it becomes beneficial. Whereas unfermented soy milk, soy cheese, soy yoghourt is so hard for our bodies to digest, it’s not a healthy alternative to I mean, that’s a whole other discussion. It’s funny because when I studied natural medicine, it was we were taught. Dairy is mucus forming. It’s so bad for you. And it was all about soy. So this was in the early 2000ss. And, you know, I was like, dairy is bad and I’d only be having soy everything. And then it was only over time where more research came out about actually, no, you don’t want to have unfermented soy. Um, and that dairy is not as evil as people make out to be, you know, for certain people potentially. But it’s not the devil. And and I just realised early on that there is so much misinformation. It’s called confirmation bias where you read, and if it agrees with what you think at the time, you will believe it. And there’s so much of that in just the health world anyway. So if you’re on the understanding that dairy is evil, um, you will look up things that will confirm that that is the issue. And I just know after being in the industry for over 20 years that nothing is good or bad, you know. But it does go back to again. I go back to the traditional way of how, over years how people consume certain foods and, um, again, it’s  more for me to do about stress and attitude to your life than it is about your food choices, because you could be eating the most organic amazing diet. But if you are stressed out and anxious all day, you are not going to benefit from that. And, um and yeah, so it’s sort of I think when I see clients as well, it’s sort of a lot of it is that sort of education. I do believe in balancing your meals and making sure you’re getting quality protein in there. Good vegetables and carbohydrates not being fearful of carbohydrates because, I mean, do you remember the whole low carb phase? At one point where there was, like, you know, every sort of decade, something’s being demonised, like fats was really bad or carbohydrates or protein and things like that, whereas actually we do need a little bit of everything, but it’s again, it’s choosing quality and where you’re getting it from.

SG: And I love what you described earlier with the vegetables with butter on top, because it is so delicious, especially if you get really nice salted butter. And yet with so many of my clients, when I go through what they’re eating and this is after years of brainwashing by the time that they come to me and they’ll  have their bit of lettuce and tomato but, wow, do I have to struggle to get them to put a bit of olive oil on that. Because, like, Oh, no, no, no, no oil. And I try to explain that actually, you do need that good fact to actually absorb vitamins. Yes, the olive oil is really good for you. Extra virgin yeah, it’s medicinal.

NH: It’s years of that brainwashing. And, um, you know, vegetable oils being low in cholesterol and butter and tallow and all of that being really bad for you and saturated fat. I mean, even that was like, massive. When I was studying natural medicine about saturated fat was really bad for you. And we got taught that. And then it’s only over time in research that I’ve done from that that you realised, gosh, actually, that’s not the enemy. Um, and why it’s so important – our hormones are made up from saturated fat. Cholesterol is what we need to make hormones and having been too low cholesterol’s not healthy, either. Y

SG: It’s all these misconceptions are so ingrained, though so ingrained. I was chatting to a super bright client the other day and he was telling me that he makes sure to have Ribina in his water because then he knows that he’s had his full quota of Vitamin C. I used to work for the food industry, that’s what they have done is pull the wool over people’s eyes and say, Well, you know, we’re selling you a really crappy sugary, either sugary or with loads of artificial sweeteners, that makes people ill. But we’ve added, here’s your vitamin C quota, and he was going out of his way to make sure. And yet, of course, you can get these vitamins so easily with the most the most beautiful food in a natural, delicious, accessible way rather than trying to get it from the food industry with that nonsense that they push at us.

NH:  Well, that’s the other thing is that they fortify everything milk, dairies, everything. But it’s like the bio-availability of that nutrient is like foreign to us, like we’re not going to get the benefit from it. And oh, I mean, it’s confusing enough being in the industry to not have actually studied it.

SG: People have been bamboozled by the food industry. Because, like, look at this. Look at this. We’ve added vitamin K and vitamin, you know, and we’ve got a nice picture of a ball on the front of the cereal packet. So don’t look at the back with a little tiny thing with ingredients that you have to get a magnifying glass to read. No, It’s like shaking a shiny rattle at you, isn’t it? And people fall for it, and it’s not because they’re stupid or uninformed, but it’s very persuasive. And unless you’ve actually educated yourself, it’s very, very difficult.

NH: It is marketing. It’s just crazy how that can fool us and also like even supermarkets, they pay people big money to manipulate us as we shop around, you know putting offers on in certain areas next to certain things. It’s done on science. It’s not done, you know random so we can buy more than what we thought. And it’s just what you can write on labels. So it could say, low in sugar. But then there’s a certain amount of sugar you can put in before you have to. It’s so confusing.

SG: Absolutely. I remember once back when I worked in food PR I was managing a new product launch, and it was a modified starch where I don’t know how they modified it, but it meant that you could put on the front of the packet, homestyle or natural, which was a complete fabrication, and there’s nothing natural about these products. But it was a modified in a particular way that they could get away with that and, of course, increase their sales because people want to buy something for the kids that says Homestyle, because we’re too busy, everyone’s too busy, so this is very convenient and it plays on people’s emotions, like you want the best for your children. Well, get this because it’s homestyle, like mama made back in Italy. It’s all nonsense.

NH: It’s like now put a photo of people on the farm or something. It all plays with your emotions.

SG: And a nice picture of a chicken gambling about the field when in reality it’s like, they’ve probably never seen the light of day. Oh, no, it’s horrendous. And I could talk for hours about it. We’ll have to meet up again where we can get mutually angry about it all. But just to leave listeners with something where they could start Nikki. So if people are listening thinking, I do feel stressed and I do feel like I need something in my day regularly, which is some sort of ritual. What would be your advice to people where to start?

NH: Um, well, I would look at what you do, look at things that you love. Like some people, um, love a cup of tea, and that’s something they do already. When you have your cup of tea, it might not be the herbal tea, but even if it’s in the morning, and it’s like you love your English breakfast tea or whatever it is, just the whole process of doing it, like making the tea, sitting down. The other thing I do get, um, is to create, like, a really cosy nook in your house. It doesn’t have to be the whole house. You can get that stage by stage, but just somewhere that you can sit, that’s your space, that you can keep tidy, the kids, the husband or whoever or whatever are not allowed in that space. And you can go there, like a haven. Yeah, and I say nook because it could just be a corner of a room. Um, and yeah, you can sit there and read a book, listen to some music, light a candle, have a cup of tea. And that’s something that again, um, can be quite easy. And like even things like buying a little pots of herbs or a cactus or some fresh flowers, or even something from your garden. You just pop it in like a milk bottle jar on the table. I mean, to me, I love things like that. Bringing a little bit of nature inside into the home already creates, I think feeling of like, you know, I think it uplifts the mood. Um, but creating something maybe in your house that could be your zone, where you can just take five minutes and sit there in between your days. If you work from home in your office, I’d say getting out. So maybe, um, rather than sitting at your desk for lunch, maybe going to the local park or, um, walking around the block. Getting outside is really good for us to just to get fresh air, especially before midday. Getting any light on your retina helps with sleep at night. So it helps the circadian rhythm. Um, listening to a podcast. I love listening to podcasts and either going for a walk or if I’m making things, listening to things like that really helps me zone out, because what you want to do, basically, is get out of your head because it’s your head that’s causing all of these thinking of the 100 million things that you have to do. And this is where you know, with calligraphy, it doesn’t have to be calligraphy, but something that it’s called gets you in the flow. And funnily enough for me, last year I started ladies cricket, and it’s great. It happened from my youngest was playing rugby and a couple of the mums were off to then go to cricket practise and they said, Oh, you should come and I sort of thought, Yeah, I wouldn’t mind like I love team sports And I thought I wouldn’t mind playing some cricket. I mean, I used to play a little bit at home, but more like, you know, on the beach, nothing at school or anything. And I had not thought about work. I had not thought about my to do list. I had not thought about just any stresses that usually would come into my head. Nothing. All I thought about was the game. Um, I enjoyed it so much that I just went, Wow, It was like, um, it just took me to a whole new different area. I’m with different people, the energy. So I turned up every week, and I absolutely loved it. I can’t wait for it to start again because it gets me in the flow. I completely zone out and switch out. And then we played on Sundays again. You’re away for 3 hours. But again, it’s not a waste of time for me. It’s the learning, a new skill, Um, which helps and but it’s something that gets you out of your head, and that’s what you want to try and find things that and do more of it. So things that you do that completely takes you out of your to do list, um, and gets you, you know. And you know, that’s where you know knitting can do that for people, painting, reading can as well. Obviously, when you read, you’re into the story, aren’t you? And your mind goes away from all of the stresses, so it’s just like listening to a podcast again.  I’m just listening to the people talking. I’m not thinking about anything else, and that’s where I think you know you don’t have to be climbing a mountain or meditating, you know, on a mountain. That’s not health. And that’s not reality in this world. It’s just little snippets of that going for a walk with a friend rather than meeting for a coffee, saying, Why don’t we walk or something? Yeah. Um, so again, it doesn’t have to be hard. So have that bath. And I remember a lot of clients would say, Oh, God, it’s such a treat to have a bath like it was naughty, almost. And I just thought, isn’t that sad like this should be something that if you enjoy it and it helps you, you should just do it, like this should just be part of your routine. And, um, so and again that time, guilt. As you said at the beginning, like I don’t have time to do any of this like I am feeling guilty for taking some time out again. It’s I think when you realised that actually, this is beneficial and this is calming my nervous system down and this is me time, um, you, you know, I think that guilt kind of starts to dissipate a bit as well. Um and yeah, I think that’s a does that answer your question?

SG:  Absolutely. Firstly, I think it’s amazing that you’ve started women’s cricket. And I think it’s very empowering for people to hear of someone starting something new and being brave enough to have a go and then getting into it. And that state of flow that you described that’s actually been shown to be very a important part of our happiness –  very, very underrated. But we need to get ourselves regularly in that state of flow. However we get it, whether it’s gardening, whether it’s listening to music or playing music or art or whatever. But it is very, very important. And the other thing I loved about where you mentioned just bring you in any plant from outside, put it in a milk bottle. That’s something that’s so cheap, accessible, quick, and you’re not saying go and grow the most beautiful, exquisite, difficult, expensive flowers. It could be a bit of any random foliage that you can stick in a milk bottle and feel better for it. It’s a really important message that okay, there are these fabulous retreats that you can go to in Thailand and pay an arm and a leg, you know, for a week, once a year, whatever, if you are able to afford that. But I think we need to bring the focus back into our daily life. Because what’s going to make the biggest difference to our health and happiness and level of well-being is these very small acts that we work into our actual life, where we live, not going to a retreat in Bali – and wonderful, if you can do that, fabulous. But the reality is we’re here, and we have lots of things to do.

NH: But these tiny, tiny things that take a minute or two minutes really elevate us.

SG: Yeah, and that’s what I think I’ve taken away from this discussion today, so thank you so much. It’s been a delight Nikki.

NH: Thank you for having me.

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