Having come across natural medicine in her teens, Robyn Carruthers spent most of her adult life in natural medicine education. With a long and varied career in teaching, Carruthers, transitioned from the classroom to the CEO’s chair at the South Pacific College of Natural Medicine. Q & A with the expert in the field.
Why are more and more people veering towards holistic wellbeing?
I think people are starting to take on more responsibility for their own health. The whole area of wellness has just exploded in popularity. In the last few years we have all become much more aware of our immunity, our mental health and connections to our physical health. It is handy to be able to look after yourself and your family when you have minor illnesses. Not everyone is aware of the help available through professional naturopaths and herbalists though!
Can you name some of the ailments that naturopathy is particularly effective for?
Natural medicine can be effective for many ailments, particularly long-term chronic conditions: digestive problems, reproductive problems, stress, fatigue, mental health issues… but as natural medicine practitioners we are looking at the underlying cause of those ailments and how we might treat the whole body to improve health. We focus on the connections between lifestyle, diet, emotions and the environment, and the impact these can have on health. This is a little different from a simple approach of “you take xxx for yyy” and this is why a full consultation with a practitioner may take an hour or longer.
What do you enjoy most in your role as CEO of South Pacific College of Natural Medicine?
It would have to be the wonderful team here at the College – great teaching staff, wonderful admin, and the huge variety of people in our student body. I love watching students learn and develop into confident naturopaths. Not to mention our beautiful herb garden and watching it go through its seasonal changes. It’s great to work in an environment with others who share similar goals and beliefs.
Why is natural medicine considered complementary medicine?
The term complementary refers to using natural medicine alongside a biomedical approach. When someone consults a fully trained natural medicine professional, naturopathy and herbal medicine can work alongside many pharmaceutical medicines. Practitioners are well-trained in herb-drug and nutrient-drug interactions. I just see the huge potential that natural medicine could have within our health system and the difference it could make in some of the lifestyle diseases that we see now in New Zealand. I look forward to seeing more naturopaths and herbalists working inside our medical system alongside doctors, nurses, and others.
Give us a brief overview of the streams the college offers?
Our core programme is the Bachelor of Natural Medicine (3 years). We run a NZ Certificate in Study and Career Preparation for those who have not studied before (6 months). We are also developing a 2-year Diploma in Nutrition and a 1 year Diploma in Relaxation Massage which should launch later this year. We are currently taking enrolments for next semester (July). If people are interested in natural medicine but do not want formal study we have a range of community courses available.
What sets the South Pacific College of Natural Medicine apart from its competitors?
We are a small organisation and pride ourselves on running a quality programme, well regarded by the profession. We are the only NZQA Category One provider delivering a degree programme (the highest possible category). We deliver a great programme, and we look after our people!
Can anyone attend the Paua Clinic at the college?
Paua Clinic is our community naturopathic clinic run by our final year students doing the consultations and managing the admin while fully supervised by our clinic supervisors. Anyone from the public can attend and its great way to access natural medicine at reasonable prices. Our students are really committed to helping people to get the results they want. Paua Clinic has clients coming back year after year. It is a great win-win as well as trying out natural medicine, clients are helping our students to gain further experience and fine-tune their skills.
Is naturopathy the same as herbal medicine?
The main principle of naturopathy and herbal medicine is ‘vis medicatrix naturae’, or the healing power of nature. Graduates of South Pacific College can call themselves either naturopaths or medical herbalists. There are some differences between naturopathy and herbal medicine and with herbalists predominantly using herbal medicine, but practitioners vary in the way they work. Some might do a lot of functional testing, some might work more with dietary changes, others might recommend supplements.
How does one choose a naturopath?
Most people choose their naturopath or natural medicine practitioner by word of mouth, by personal recommendation. It is such a close relationship it is important you are seeing someone that you’re really comfortable with.