Article and Photos - Claire van Ryn
“Nature is still providing all the health remedies we need, we’ve just stopped sharing them.”
The comment is made by naturopath Kathryn Simpson who moved to Tasmania from Lennox Head 18 months ago to work specifically at Goulds Apothecary and Natural Medicine Clinic in Hobart, which is supported by a biodynamic, organic herb farm at Allen’s Rivulet. Goulds is something of an institution in Hobart, established w-a-a-a-y back in 1881.
“I’m really passionate about common-sense health that I think we’ve lost because of drug company driven health.”
I first meet Kathryn at the Sandfly petrol station. It would be easier, she said, than trying to give directions to the farm. Google maps doesn’t register the rough, winding dirt roads that eventually arrive at a 20-hectare property where 80 different species of herbs are grown and cultivated by six farmers year-round.
“I came down here to consolidate my strong analytical side of naturopathy but really strengthen my herbal knowledge. I don’t see my two university degrees as polar opposites, I see them both as problem solving driven: What’s the next step in getting people heading towards optimal health?” Kathryn says over the whirr of the car engine and while navigating potholes.
The second degree she hints at? We’ll get to that later. It’s probably not what you’re thinking.
Kathryn goes on to outline the six principles of natural medicine that undergird her own motivations, and the ethos of Goulds also: first do no harm; the body’s inherent healing power; treating cause not symptoms; doctor as teacher; treat the whole person; and prevention.
We have arrived. The sky is vast and blue, shimmering in the heat and holding four Wedge-tailed eagles in its currents overhead. One of Goulds’ five owners, Greg Whitten, greets us at a gate to some of the farm’s herbs that march in rows and rows of spritely foliage. As we amble down the aisles, Greg and Kathryn call out the species. Calendula. Burdock. Chamomile. Echinacea. Marshmallow. Motherwort. Licorice root. Goats Rue. Lady’s Mantle.
Each has unique healing properties. They will be hand-picked or succumb to Greg’s scythe. Some are dried and bagged up as teas. Goulds produces about 50kg of camomile each year, for example. All products are sold in the Hobart clinic or by mail order, delivered worldwide.
But many of the herbs will end up as fresh or dried herb tinctures. Which brings us to the tincture shed.
Shoes are removed at the door, and all electronic devices must be left outside too. We are entering a building filled with volatile substances.
Ethanol or glycerol are used to produce a highly concentrated extract of the herbs which can then be taken in small doses. We are in a room with shelves to the ceiling, heaving with jars of macerating herbs. Elsewhere, there are contraptions for making dried herb tinctures, the equivalent of “herbal coffee”, I’m told, produced in a method akin to drip percolation.
Kathryn guides me through the farm’s various processes with ease, demonstrating a balanced understanding of how each herb is treated as well as how it is dispensed at the natural medicine clinic in town. That’s where she’s in her groove, listening to the ailments of customers and recommending a remedy straight from nature’s storeroom.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Kathryn was born on a cattle station in Alice Springs, or at least that’s where her parents and three brothers were living at the time. Spending her childhood between there and later in Cairns, she went on to studies in mechanical engineering, and travels throughout England, Europe and Central America where she also obtained her dive masters.
“I wouldn’t say I have a short attention span but I’m not able to settle for the straight, narrow career path,” she laughs.
Kathryn found her sweet spot in a naturopathy degree, which led her to a six-month internship working at the Goulds farm and apothecary.
“It’s an experience like no other!” she says.
“Working along the whole scale, from farming to dispensing to research, and with people who are excited about what’s new is so good.
“Naturopaths like myself happily move to Tasmania to be part of such a highly ethical, passionate and intelligent team. It is a relief to be a part of a business that truly aligns with what you want to contribute to this society and this environment of ours.”