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Ruth Vaughan Co-founder and Managing Director of Wild Dispensary
We're a natural health company with a difference. Success to us is providing a benefit not only to our customers but also to our staff, our community and the environment. As a small, family-run and female-led team, we do this in multiple ways. We knew we wanted to bring plants to the people; not only with our products but also by running workshops, educating people, and making plant medicine more accessible. The wild herbs we forage for our formulas are from our backyard here in Otago. This means that they're grown naturally with no harmful processes or chemicals, they don't have to be shipped to us, nor do they come in any packaging, resulting in a smaller environmental footprint. We prioritise organic, locally grown herbs; we are a Living Wage Employer, as well as supporting the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital and we are continually improving our sustainability because that's how we believe business should be done.
What is "holistic health”?
Connection to people, community and nature is a fundamental part of holistic health and is not acknowledged enough. If you're unwell, usually one product isn't going to solve the problem. You need to address all aspects of health, including physical, mental, family and spiritual, and this is an ongoing juggle. Herbal medicine is part of a toolbox of practices and options we have to keep ourselves well. Herbal medicine is complementary health rather than alternative. Both herbal medicine and modern medicine have important strengths in supporting our health as a whole.
How beneficial are our native and traditional plants?
We strongly believe that our medicine is around us - locally. New Zealand has a wealth of unique, potent medicinal plants. We think it's pretty cool that science is slowly uncovering the active constituents in traditional Māori rōngoa. Many of Aotearoa's native plants have been used successfully to treat illnesses for centuries. And this is now being backed by a more clinical approach. We would also like to acknowledge our original scientists and plant advocates– the Māori who, on arrival to Aotearoa, discovered and worked with the native plants that resided here. They are the ones we look to and thank for finding, documenting and using the amazing indigenous plants we have today. We are so grateful to be able to build upon this foundation.
How do you manage your own wellness with a demanding job?
I try to be kind to myself. When I'm not managing, which happens occasionally, giving myself some grace is important. Aiming for balance in life and not striving for perfection helps. I also prioritise good nutrition and moving my body whenever I can- this is less than I need or would like- but, again, it's all about balance. I love bush laps with my doggo. Ross Creek Reservoir and Signal Hill are both local favourites. It's also one of the reasons I love living in Dunedin - you're always close to a green space to go for a walk and clear your head. I head to a spin class once or twice a week, and adding a yin yoga class at Hot Yoga Dunedin or a Barre Base session when I can is the icing on the cake. Prioritising movement throughout the week gives me a scheduled break and helps immensely with my overall wellbeing. Being kind to myself sometimes entails good food and a cocktail at Woof with friends as well.
Do you think you maintain a good work/life balance?
Yes, as much as I can. My family still comes first, so this sometimes puts pressure on work time and projects. Running my own business means having the flexibility to be there for those special family moments, but that time still needs to be made up somewhere. Balancing a business, personal life, and family is a big learning curve, but I've learnt to take each day as it comes. I still prioritise getting into the wild for adventures as this fills my cup. It's also something I love sharing with my family. Sometimes, however, I'd like more windows for rest and reflection.
How would you describe your diet?
Local, fresh and quick. You'll catch us at the Otago Farmers Market most Saturdays. It's such an asset to the community, and I love shopping there. We get staples like fresh fruit and veggies as well as some delicious treats. Shopping local often means keeping things seasonal, but I love that we're supporting local businesses and reducing our footprint by keeping things close to home. Because the ingredients are local, they're also super fresh. I prioritise organic where possible as there are some great organic vendors at the market, but I also love Taste Nature. Quick meals are always ideal after a busy day with hungry kids. I think most parents can relate to this. But it doesn't mean we compromise on nutritional value. Some of our go-to weeknight meals include dahl - a great vegetarian option, packed with veggies and perfect to warm a cold Dunedin night. Another favourite is nachos!