Wednesday 30 September 2015

Kai Folk 2: The Herbal Dispensary

When I first moved to Raglan for a year in 2010, I spent my days off from volunteering at Solscape Hostel to explore the little town, nestled in among the hills and black sand. It wasn't long before I came across the Dispensary and even though it was a small little shop at the time, it pulled me in and filled me with curiosity. There were veggie boxes prepped and waiting for customers, fridges filled with an array of local dairy products, herbal remedies and teas on solid wooden shelving and staff calmly moving around talking to customers like best friends would.

To say I was intrigued or inspired would be an understatement. This is what local food and medicine should be about, I thought. At the tail end of my year there, the dispensary moved from it's little nook on the main street to the end of Wallis Street, a calm corner of town by the river. When I left, they had just moved the stock but I couldn't have imagined what would materialize.

Over four years later, I returned to that little town and made my way down to the dispensary to say hello to old friends and see how the new premises was working out. I walked into a fully formed version of that little shop on the main street. The veggie boxes were more varied, with local producers featuring prominently. Local cheese, yoghurt, butter, bread and even oyster mushrooms graced the shelves in multicolored glory. There was a hum of a juicer out the back and the gentle whoosh of the sliding door to the garden out back. The solid shelves were lined with more stock than I knew was possible and the four of five steps up to the medical herbalist section of the shop carried me into a caring space where the scent of freshly whipped lavendar and calendula lotions filled the air and brown paper bags baring windowed sleeves of dried herbal teas filled the shelving along the walls. 

It was the garden that really pulled me in. Past the sliding door, sounds of bees and gentle chatter of customers moving around the garden's raised beds of herbs, was such a fantastic surprise. Chamomile, plantain, dandelion, lemon verbena, white sage, parsley, wild seed mixes and peach trees, it had it all and more. It was all down to Bronwyn Lowe, the creative mind behind the Herbal Dispensary. 

Bronwyn is a medical herbalist who, with a team of equally amazing individuals, runs the Herbal Dispensary in Raglan, New Zealand. Last year, I was given the incredible opportunity to volunteer in the Dispensary's medicinal herbal garden. When I lived in Raglan four years previously, Bronwyn and her partner Geoff, were regulars at the cafe I worked at. I loved greeting them every morning. Not just that but they were akin to an honorary aunt and uncle from far across the seas. They looked out for me, listened, supported and helped me along the way. Staying with them, looking after their boisterous chocolate labrador, Milo, and learning about the plants as I tended, pruned and harvested them at the end of a glorious summer, was magic. 

I learned so much about the plants simply by interacting with them and caring for them and having Bronwyn calmly explain their uses with her understated and loving enthusiasm. Near the end of my trip, I was inspired to find a tripod and with my simple point and shoot camera, make a video where I interview Brownyn about the dispensary and the journey she has taken to get to where she is now as a medical herbalist, shop owner and prominent community member. In creating the dispensary, Brownyn and her staff have succeeded in starting something that doesn't exist anywhere else. It's a place to learn about your health and the power of herbal medicine in facilitating that. I hope that by watching this video, it inspires you to think about your health, to have a look at the Herbal Dispensary's website and to think about the everyday choices you can make with your health. 



  1. So much fun to watch that Grace, we had a good time, it reminds me how lovely it was to have you in Raglan. Thanks so much for putting this video up about The Herbal Dispensary, our journey and the wonderful world of herbs!

    1. It was honestly the best volunteer experience I could have asked for. Yey for the wonderful world of herbs! X

  2. So beautiful pictures. I really like your post, keep posting like this.
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