Stepping through the doors of the new Oamaru Apothecary in Tees St is in itself a tonic – and that is before you meet owner Elly Toft.
Toft is a qualified naturopath and herbalist who has created her own range of natural, organic skin products, as well as treating people for a variety of ailments.
The business previously operated a few years ago, next door to the new premises, but had to close while Toft had surgery.
“When we bought [the building] in 2006, it was fairly derelict and had a roller garage door across the front. We’ve completely restored it to virtually its identical original, Forrester and Lemon original plan, from I think 1882.”
The work on the building took longer than anticipated, with a few hurdles along the way, but Toft and partner Richard Scott got there in the end and the store reopened last week .
“We’re absolutely thrilled with the final result,” she said.
Riverstone Castle architect Sarah Scott, from Condon Scott in Wanaka, is Scott’s sister, and also lent her skills to the project.
“We’ve added our own touch with the oval windows, rather than doing full glass on the recess, which we love, and, sort of, is in keeping with the Victorian theme,” Toft said.
The shop houses a “formulating room”, which is where the herbal dispensary is kept and also stocks Toft’s natural skincare products.
“I’ve just started up my clinical practice again, and I’m just building up now to new clients.
“Naturopathic medicine encompasses nutritional supplementation, in my case herbal medicine – not all naturopaths are herbalist, but I am a degree-trained herbalist – diertary and lifestyle advice and general mind/body medicine.
Generally, results were “fantastic”.
“With most people, it’s relatively simple to improve their health by small increments. And then if people are willing to commit to change, which is normally required on any health journey … you can see great results.
“The wonderful thing about naturopathic medicine is that, you know, you can really do no harm. If you’re working with a trained practitioner, it’s a very safe form of treatment.”
While dipping in and out of a career in the film industry, and having children, Toft was faced with her own ongoing health issues, and was drawn to natural health options after failing to find relief through more conventional medicine.
In her 50s, she completed a degree in Naturopathic and Herbal Medicine in Auckland.
After gaining her qualification, Toft and Scott returned to Oamaru, where they had lived previously.
Her skincare products had been a logical extension from her naturopathic work, and she trained with Kate Robertson, cosmetic formulation”.
“So when I got down here, and I was doing clinical practice, I started playing around with my own formulas, having no idea how they would be received … This is the result. People love them.
“I believe that what we put on to our skin is as important as what we put into our mouth. My products are as organic as they can possibly be. I use almost solely certified organic plant oils and essential oils, butters and waxes to make my emulsions and oils.”
Toft is continually working on more products and will also be releasing her own range of organic herbal teas in the next couple of weeks.
“I’m really passionate about what I do. I love formulating new products. And I love working with people and helping people improve their health.”