Kirsten Shanks On The Power Of Plant Medicines

In Get Glowing With..., we talk to the women catching our eye about what they’re doing, eating and loving right now. 

A naturopath, herbalist and nutritionist, Orchard St. founder Kirsten Shanks oversees a network that spans three Sydney stores, herbal medicines, lifestyle products and a thriving community of wellness practitioners. We visited her sunny family home in January—handily situated behind the Bondi outpost—to talk tea ceremonies, face rollers and the secret to a good night’s sleep. 

Orchard St. exists as… a conduit to connect us to the natural world through plant medicines. I’m a Naturopath with a deep reverence for the plant kingdom, endeavouring to weave botanical medicines through every one of our creations so that they may become part of a lifestyle; a daily ritual that honors health and connects us to Mother Nature! Day to day I’m the creative director and CEO of Orchard St.; working to steer us ever closer towards our vision, researching and developing products, managing projects, overseeing business and supporting an incredible team. 

Mornings have always been... a sacred time for me, one that anchors me, connects me to spirit before the day sweeps my attention away. These days with a little one, some mornings are simply snuggling in a sleep deprived haze, but Sonny is almost four now and typically sleeping until the sun rises so I often have an hour or so for myself before he wakes. On rising, I cleanse my teeth and tongue, splash and oil my face, then settle outside with incense or a candle on darker mornings and some music. I sit for tea and meditate for about 30mins. Then I have a short 20min yoga/chi gong movement practise. Once Sonny wakes we have cuddles and morning songs, then on with breakfast and the day…. 

My go-to breakfast is… always an elixir, but the flavour and plant medicines within vary based on my body’s needs for the day. I do tend to spend the last 5 minutes of my morning meditation concocting the day’s blend! At the moment I'm in a cacao flow, it's just so beautifully uplifting. One of my daily go-to's is a cacao mushroom elixir with The Beauty Chef vanilla protein powder and our Seven Shrooms. It's an easy and nourishing base, perfectly delicious as is or I’ll add some avocado, hemp seeds and our Bliss Elixir Powder to amp up the nourishment and support. 

When it comes to skincare, I… splash my face with cold water upon waking, before applying MV Skincare Rose Plus oil. It’s the most heavenly scented and gentle yet deeply hydrating face oil. Weleda Skin Food has been my moisturiser for almost 20 years now. It’s incredibly rich but I find my skin craves it, almost in the same way my body craves high-fat avocados, coconut cream and nut butters! At nights I cleanse with the MV cream cleanser and a warm muslin cloth, tone with PROBIOTIC SKIN REFINER, then apply my beloved MV rose plus oil again. 

The most important skincare lesson I’ve learned is... sleep. Only after having a little one did I fully recognise the impact of rest on our skin, that beauty sleep is not a myth! Puffy eyes aside, deep sleep is the time our growth hormone is released and skin cells regenerate. Avoiding the elevated cortisol that comes with sleep deprivation is also so essential to our skin health, stress can age us so very quickly on a cellular level.

I feel most glowy… the day after a 3 day juice cleanse! No matter how many times I do them, I'm continuously surprised at the ability of a few days of these deeply nourishing, cleansing beverages along with digestive rest to reduce puffiness, bring a sparkle to my eyes and remind me of my natural state of vitality, clarity and radiance!  

The foundation of my approach to self care is… my spiritual practise. The more grounded I am in my connection to spirit, the better I take care of myself, others and the world around me. The ritual of a Tea Ceremony is a beautiful moving meditation, a zen practise I have found to be almost a ‘missing part’ in fostering a connection to the natural world, a gentle space for reflection, quietude,and a beautiful reverence for the mundane.

I manage stress with… meditation, pranayama and plant medicines, respectively. At stressful times my meditation practise is paramount to maintaining an objective, detached perspective of the source of the stress, the reminder that it ebbs and flows but does not affect our true self. I enlist particular pranayama practises to calm me; those with slower, deeper rhythmic belly breaths. Plant medicines are powerful allies in times of stress and nervous system need—I use our Bliss Powder and Adapto Drops for adaptogenic support and sip on our Calm Tea throughout the day when my nerves are a bit frazzled.  

My favorite workout is… dance!! There’s nothing my body loves more than intuitive, wildly free movement to music. Yoga has been a part of my life for over 20 years now—my asana practise serves as a daily conduit to tap into my body, breath and spirit. In recent years I’ve been weaving elements of qigong into my practise which has brought a beautiful shift in awareness, an altered perspective on my energetic body and the profound benefits of honouring and harnessing this qi, this life force energy.

I feel most nourished with… macrobiotics and Ayurvedic approaches. While I often love a complexity of flavours, spices and textures in many meals I cook and seek when out, I find I turn to a simple, easily assimilated meal when I need to calm, balance and restore. My go-to is a bed of slow cooked brown rice with a fresh wakame or arame seaweed salad, an avocado, some lightly steamed broccoli and kale, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of hemp oil, a dusting of gomasio and some umeboshi paste. 

In my fridge, you’ll always find... Chilli: a childhood spent in Borneo has left me with a fairly serious chilli addiction! Barely a meal goes by without a liberal sprinkling of the hot stuff, unless it’s a calming macro bowl. You’ll always find a selection of fresh chillis along with several jars of chilli sauce, chilli oil, chilli paste, chilli powder… luckily they pack a powerful antioxidant punch. 

Probiotics: the systemic difference I feel when I take probiotics daily is huge, most notably in my immunity and mood. I rotate between practitioner-grade probiotics from our Bronte Dispensary. 

Jade face roller: the soothing, cooling touch of a cold face roller around puffy morning eyes is magic. I like to apply my face oil first, then gently roll. This not only helps the oil to distribute and penetrate, but the roller just slides so beautifully over oil. 

I can’t leave home without… a notepad and pen, my crystal water bottle and a The Beauty Chef balm—it’s a staple in my handbag for daily application to lips, brows, cuticles, nappy rash… you name it! 

On my bedside table, there’s… an ever-growing tower of books. I’m currently reading The Overstory by Richard Powers, which is such a phenomenal novel that I find myself longing for bed each night to return to it. Also in the middle of Deep Time Dreaming by Billy Griffiths and flicking through The Naked Mind by Annie Grace. Other books that have a semi-permanent place beside my bed include I Am That, The Secret Language of Plants, Tao Te Ching, Maps to Ecstasy, You Are Your Child's First Teacher and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.

The secret to a good night’s sleep is… managing stress levels throughout the day by drawing upon support from meditation, movement, nourishment and herbal support. Plus, our gently sedating Dream Drops—I’ve been having such incredible results with these! I love ending the night with a warm coconut-based turmeric elixir with The Beauty Chef SLEEP powder and a generous dose of these drops. Creating a quiet, calm, screen-free bedtime routine to decompress from the day is also essential—a bath, tea, journaling, cuddles—or even simply a few moments of gentle breath awareness before you collapse. Little ones that sleep through the night always help, too!

To me, beauty is… being human. Our potential for connection, for wonder, for love, for kindness is so very beautiful. 

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