‘Ancient Future Medicine: Reimagining Traditional Medicines with Modern Science’ – Presented by Professor Marc Cohen

Dr Marc is a medical doctor, university professor, author, poet, entrepreneur, wellness trailblazer and perpetual student of life, trying to co-create a culture of wellness. Dr Marc has been researching and practicing integrative medicine for more than 30 years and has spent more than half his career as a university professor teaching and researching wellness and contributing to the fields of nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, health retreats, fermentation, detoxification, bathing, water quality, saunas, hot springs, elite athletic performance and flow states.  


Dr Marc has published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and many books and technical texts on wellness and natural medicine including ‘Understanding the Global Spa Industry’ and the landmark text ‘Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide’ along with the illustrated children’s books Bing & Bang Begin” and  “The Beautiful Mare and the Boy Who Gave Thanks 

 Dr Marc is a Past Board Member of the Global Wellness Summit, past President of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association, founder of the Extreme Wellness Institute, Beautiful Water, and Pronoia Press, co-owner of Extremely Alive Wellness Tonics and Maruia Hot Springs and the Medical Director of the Peninsula Hot Springs Group, and Director of Research, Education and Product Development for Gather By. You can find him at www.drmarc.co. 



Opening Keynote Synopsis

Our Stone Age ancestors used natural waters, contrast bathing, honey and herbs before they ever used fire. Honey is often considered the basis of all medicine and it is likely the first stone tools were used to gather nature’s most energy dense food. Electuaries (herb-infused honeys) and oxymels (honey-vinegar syrups) have been used in every traditional health system and endorsed by every religion and these ancient medicines are seen to be highly effective when examined through the lens of modern science. This presentation will review the research behind ancient therapies and how polyphenol-rich plants and ferments can have therapeutic effects that amplify the benefits of herbal preparations and positively impact our microbiome, metabolism and mental health.  It will also outline how ancient medicine can be easily added to other interventions and guide us towards prevention based-lifestyles.

‘Herbs for Hope: Stories of Community Herbalism’ – Presented by Kerrie Oakes

Kerrie Oakes has been a practising herbalist since 2017.  She was chapter co-ordinator for the South-East Qld chapter of Herbalists without Borders, and a member of the NHAA, the American Herbalists Guild, the International Society for traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicine Research, the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine, and Integrative Medicine for the Underserved.

Her interests are in equitable and affordable access to natural medicine, the place of herbal medicine within the primary healthcare sector, and the role of community in service provision.


She Holds graduate and post-graduate qualifications in Western Herbal Medicine, Health, Education and Community Welfare.  She has local, state and federal experience in community development, youthwork, child protection, eDemocracy, policy making and disaster management.  Currently she manages the Somerset Community Supported Herb Clinics in Southeast Queensland and is an inaugural board member of the Somerset Health Hubs Cooperative.  She is undertaking a PhD at the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine examining the concept of community-supported herbalism and cooperative models of healthcare.


Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

Herbal medicine is the second-most used form of Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) amongst member states of the World Health Organisation. Herbalists are using their skills and knowledge in a range of situations – including recovery from disasters, supporting displaced people, and promoting restorative justice. The key principles of herbal medicine, and the integral part herbalists play in their communities give practitioners a strong base for facilitating community-based, and managed, healthcare.

Community based healthcare provides affordability, equality and healthcare justice and an avenue for people to participate in planning and implementing healthcare. Community-focused models of practice are consistent with the holistic philosophy of herbal medicine. However, little is known about the extent to which herbal medicine is included within community models of healthcare.

Kerrie will share stories of models of community herbalism from across the globe to draw out characteristics of community herbal medicine practice common regardless of the location or situation.

Key Take-Aways

  •  Considerations for establishing a community herbal practice
  • Examples of community herbal practice
  • The benefits of community in herbal medicine practice
  • Looking for unexpected collaborators and partners

‘Translational Medicine for Natural Products’ – Presented by Dr Michael Thomsen

Dr Michael Thomsen is a herbalist and naturopath.  He has a Master of Science, Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Swinburne University, and a PhD from the Department of Medical Sciences, Sydney University Medical School.

Michael has extensive industry experience as past technical manager of leading herbal medicine companies in Australia.



He is the author of the popular Phytotherapy Reference Des, now in its fifth edition having sold 16,000 copies worldwide, and the recently launched companion web app featuring herb-drug interactions and clinical research of all herbal medicines used in Australia

His company Eusano Healthcare, has pioneered whole body and local hyperthermia, photobiomodulation and infrared healing in Australia, importing and distributing ARTG listed medical infrared and hyperthermia devices made in Germany.


Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

In this session, Michael will review the challenges facing the application of translational medicine to natural product research and clinical practice.

Translational medicine connects basic medical research with clinical treatment.  It breaks the barrier between basic research and clinical medical problems and shortens the distance from laboratory to clinical use.

The compartmentalisation within scientific disciplines and the extensive use of modern scientific methods in natural product research have led to a significant disconnect between preclinical research, human studies, and clinical practice.  This includes areas such as authentication, quality control, pharmacology, and manufacturing of natural products. Translational medicine may also include the interpretation and reappraisal of traditional herbal medicines and practices.

In this practical presentation Michael will provide practitioners with a method of translating preclinical and clinical research into clinical practice and provide specific examples that illustrates the importance of understanding translational medicine for natural products.

Key Take-Aways

  • Understand the concept of translational medicine
  • Learn how to apply translational medicine principles when reviewing published studies
  • Learn how to apply this learning to your prescriptions


‘Sounds from the Ground – A Herbal Soundscape’ – Presented by Amy Sartorel

Amy is a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy) completed in 2022 at Torrens University, and the winner of NHAA Student of the Year 2023. She is a part of the SydHerbs NHAA Chapter organising committee and has written a peer-reviewed journal article together with Torrens academics on Vitex agnus-castus and its positive effects for women experiencing premenstrual syndrome.



Amy has presented her research on Vitex agnus-castus at the NHAA Naturopathic Symposium in May 2023, and the AIMA (Australasian Integrative Medicine Association) conference December 2023.

Her future research endeavours include Naturopathic dermatology, healthy ageing, and plant sound therapy.

Amy has recently been accepted into the Master of Advanced Naturopathic Medicine at Southern Cross University and is currently running her Naturopathic clinic in the Inner West suburbs of Sydney.


Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

In this presentation, participants to listen to the sound frequencies of 5 common medicinal herbs via a live bio-sonification device, a nonintrusive technology that translates the natural biorhythms of living herbs into sound. Through sensors placed on the herb’s leaves, flowers, stems, and roots, we can detect micro fluctuations in conductivity, and turn these events into data, which is then translated and played through a synthesizer.

The plants are playing the music in real time, like a pianist performing on piano, the herbs are the virtuoso. The presentation will feature photos, short videos, and soundscapes of the processes involved in harvesting the herbal sounds.

Guests will have the opportunity to hear plants playing live during the presentation and are invited to participate in a 5-minute meditation at the end of the presentation curated and produced by sound artist Neal Sutherland. Join us for an immersive and sensory experience as the herbs we prescribe as Naturopaths speak to us in their language via the gift of sound.

Key Take-Aways

  • All living things, including medicinal plants vibrate at a certain frequency, creating an energetic resonance
  • Sound frequencies are as ancient as the Earth itself, and as sensory beings, we can use sound frequencies to help clear energetic blockages, re-harmonise our bodies, and bring a state of ease
  • Plant medicine could theoretically enhance healing via sound wave therapy
  • Are the sounds we hear the plants communicating to us through language?  Is this a way humans can collaborate with non-human organisms and beings to gain the perspective of the ‘other’.

‘Evolution of Practice, Maintenance of Tradition: the CITE Framework to support evaluation and integration of traditional knowledge with evidence-based practice’ – Presented by Dr Hope Foley

Hope is a postdoctoral research fellow at UTS:ARCCIM, where she previously completed her PhD investigating person-centred chronic illness care in complementary and integrative medicine. She has worked on a number of research projects relating to naturopathy, and traditional, complementary and integrative medicine more broadly.



Her work explores the role of holism, traditional knowledge and health promotion in contemporary health care settings. Hope also teaches at the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (Southern Cross University), and is co-chair of the World Naturopathic Federation Environmental Health Committee. Her current interests extend to health promotion, planetary health, and the importance of the healing relationship between humans and the natural environment.


Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

Traditional medicine systems are living – evolving in response to changing needs and contexts – which sustains the continued relevance and value of herbal medicine and naturopathy. Traditional knowledge provides a rich evidence source within these evolving professions, despite its absence from dominant models of evidence-based practice. While traditional knowledge remains integral to herbal medicine, naturopathy and health care more broadly, there are few resources supporting the use of traditional knowledge in contemporary settings.

The Contemporary Implementation of Traditional knowledge and Evidence in health (CITE) framework arose in response to calls from practitioners for greater recognition and integration of traditional knowledge. Developed with practitioners and other experts from traditional medicine and health care contexts, CITE explores what is important during the translation and use of traditional knowledge. The framework outlines guiding principles to bridge tradition with evidence-based health care, appropriate approaches to critical appraisal of traditional knowledge sources, and criteria to consider when applying traditional knowledge in contemporary settings.

CITE offers an accessible tool to enhance the impact of traditional knowledge from herbal and naturopathic medicine on practice, education, research and policy-development, ensuring health care remains relevant to our communities while maintaining the integrity of philosophy, ethics and traditional roots.

Key Take-Aways

  • Traditional knowledge continues to play an integral role in the narrative and practice of herbal and naturopathic medicine as they evolve over time
  • Traditional knowledge sources can be integrated with evidence-based practice in appropriate ways that uphold the integrity of both systems
  • The CITE framework provides a novel tool to guide the evaluation and application of traditional knowledge in contemporary settings
  • CITE was developed in collaboration with practitioners and other experts in traditional medicine and health settings, ensuring relevance and value to users of traditional knowledge.
  • Conscious and critical engagement with traditional knowledge when translating to contemporary settings is important to ensure optimal outcomes in practice, education, research and policy

‘Plant Sustainability: Future Challenges for Herbal Medicine’ – Presented by Phil Rasmussen

Phil is a practicing Medical Herbalist, pharmacist and researcher with 30 years of broad-ranging experience in clinical practice as well as industry. His career has included founding, managing and building a GMP-certified herbal medicine manufacturing company, and he is a regular presenter to practitioner and industry audiences in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas.



Phil is an Honorary Lecturer in Pharmacy at the University of Auckland, and a founding director of the industry body, Natural Health Products New Zealand. He is also a longstanding advocate for statutory regulation of natural health practitioners, and established and ran a herbal detoxification service for the Auckland Regional Alcohol and Drug Services, from 1993 to 1997. Phil served as President of the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalists from 2018 to 2021.

Phil’s interests include native plants, medicinal ‘weeds’, the human connection with the natural world, and plant sustainability. In recent years he has been involved with trying to facilitate increased patient access to phytotherapy services, and establishing a stronger commercial medicinal plant growing sector, in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

The world’s population is growing and demand for medicines derived from plants continues to increase, while at the same time the effects of Climate Change are becoming more apparent. Together with geopolitical tensions, viral pandemics and other human impacts, these are contributing to mounting supply chain pressures for many of our medicinal plants.

Medicinal plant sustainability is highly relevant to natural health practitioners, as the health of our plants, their growing habitats and those who harvest and supply them, all impact on our ability to provide effective and safe treatments for our patients.

As is integral to all forms of Traditional Medicine, naturopaths and medical herbalists should ensure a long term, transparent and intergenerational approach to sustainability is incorporated within our clinical practice and usage of plant derived medicines.

In this presentation Phil will explore key challenges facing our ability to continue to access healthy medicinal plants, and provide some insights and perspectives from growers, wildcrafters and manufacturers. He will also discuss the situation for several at risk species, and attempt to provide some useful tools to enable each of us to help maintain a reliable and healthy supply chain in the future.

Key Take-Aways

  • An enhanced understanding of the different ways in which the majority of the plants used in herbal medicine manufacturing are sourced
  • An updated summary of the current status of several medicinal plants whose survival is deemed to be At Risk
  • Information and confidence to use certain endemic introduced plants as substitutes for various potentially At Risk species imported from overseas
  • Barriers and opportunities for greater cultivation of medicinal plants, within Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand
  • The interconnectedness of multiple human activities and the natural world, and the need to conserve, replenish and sustain our environment as possible guardians, to protect our precious plants and safeguard our future access to them


Dawn Whitten (L) & Rachel Arthur (R)

‘Thoughts on Brokenness versus Resilience’ – Presented by Dawn Whitten and Rachel Arthur

Dawn Whitten is a clinician, educator and researcher.  She has a broad-base of clinical experience with a focus on women’s health through pregnancy and beyond, and infant and toddler health, and has been in clinical practice for twenty years.

Rachel Arthur has over 20 years experience in the clinic and the ‘classroom’ as one of the top practitioners and educators in integrative nutrition and health.  She has attracted a large following of clinicians who value her outstanding independent, unbiased education and leadership.



Dawn Whitten continued …

Dawn is published in the peer-reviewed literature and has contributed to textbook chapters in the area of breastfeeding and infant health. She regularly presents at both National and International Conferences and Online Events.

Dawn is part of Goulds Natural Medicine, a busy apothecary, clinic and associated herb farm in Tasmania. She teaches two units on Evidence-based Complementary Medicine at the University of Tasmania. Alongside Dr Jason Hawrelak she is co-founder of the Microbiome Restoration Center, an organisation dedicated to providing unbiased continuing professional education to clinicians relating to gastrointestinal and microbiome health. She is the Early Life Health Lead at the Center.


Rachel Arthur continued …

With a particular interest and highly developed skill-set in diagnostics, Rachel is particularly known for developing this in others – from scratch or by rapidly growing their existing knowledge base. Rather than always reaching for expensive, pay out of pocket functional testing, Rachel opens up a new world for many, by maximising the insights and understanding practitioners can obtain from mainstream pathology results for each patient.

In this way, she endeavours to truly build the bridge we can all walk across that connects mainstream medicine and naturopathy, nutrition and integrative health.

Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

Does the current application and practice of naturopathic medicine pit one of our underpinning principles unnecessarily against the others? It may be argued, that, ‘to identify and treat the cause’, has come to excessively dominate over others such as, ‘Vis medicatrix naturae’ and ‘Support the body’s vital force’. What ensues is a model of medicine that pursues the ‘root cause’ of patients’ current presentations at all costs. Accordingly, under that banner, this may motivate infinite investigations in pursuit of ‘answers’ that elude both practitioner and patient and ultimately communicate, either implicitly or explicitly, that they are primarily defined by their ‘brokenness’.

While the original principle remains sound, when not balanced by the other underpinning tenets as described, is it possible that it has the potential to, at worst, cause harm, & at best, limit the full potential of naturopathic medicine? In our holistic workup are we giving adequate consideration to patients’ strengths, all the evidence in support of an innate biological resilience and, in turn, their vital force? And how might we as a profession move towards taking care to notice and elevate these principles to restore balance.

Key Take-Aways

  • Consider how our contemporary practice method of seeking ‘the cause’ may at times perpetuate patient fears and a perception of ‘brokenness’ that negatively impacts wellbeing and health-related choices they may make.
  • Examine the science of the added therapeutic value of ‘learned hopefulness’ or ‘cognitive hope’
  • Outline common illustrations of patient biological resilience that we can bring to the front for both practitioner and patient
  • Consideration for how our core Naturopathic principles, in particular ‘find the cause’, ‘first do no harm’ and ‘Vis medicatrix naturae‘, offer us an anchor point that then requires translation into a contemporary context
  • Reflections on how we can strike the balance when identifying ’cause’ without setting the patient up to be focussed on their ‘brokenness’ with examples that occur commonly in practice

‘Understanding Contemporary Herbal Medicine for Hormonal Health’ – Presented by Rhiannon Hardingham

Rhiannon is an experienced fertility naturopath, presenter, practitioner educator, mentor and author.  As a practitioner Rhiannon is committed to the successful integration of natural and conventional medicine, regularly working alongside Melbourne’s top fertility doctors to achieve the best outcomes for her patients.


As testament to this, Rhiannon is routinely invited to present on the topic of collaborative patient care to medical specialists and naturopaths alike. After over 18 years clinical experience in the area of reproductive health, Rhiannon provides professional mentoring and education in both group and individual settings. Her education style is approachable yet thorough, attracting practitioners from all areas of functional medicine, as she assists them to best understand hormone, fertility and pregnancy cases through expertise in nuanced pathology interpretation and herbal and nutritional medicine prescription.

Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

Herbal medicines have long been used to optimise hormones, fertility and pregnancy outcomes. Whilst the contemporary herbal medicine practitioner has a deeper understanding of the pathophysiology of various conditions than their forbears, and access to herbs from all around the world, many are left feeling overwhelmed by the potential of the dispensary at hand.


In this presentation Rhiannon discusses her approach to clinical herbal medicine prescription and education, bringing a nuanced understanding of specific indications, and sometimes more importantly contraindications, helping practitioners to achieve reliable results for their patients in the reproductive medicine space.

Key Take-Aways

  • Understanding a patient’s individual hormone profile as opposed to their diagnosis is essential for effective use of herbal medicines
  • The key role of understanding the mechanism of action and synergistic potential of herbal medicines
  • The benefit of nuanced herbal medicine prescription for hormonal conditions
  • The potential risks of inappropriate herbal prescriptions for some conditions

‘Rewilding – The relationship between environmental biodiversity microbial richness, and human health” – Presented by Jessica Bush

Jessica is a naturopath working in Hobart, Tasmania. She was first attracted to naturopathy by its principles, treating the whole person, and prevention is better than cure. With the growing scientific understanding of the role microbiota play with human physiology, she has expanded her view on what makes up a whole person and pursued a deeper understanding of its impact and potential for disease prevention within individuals, and the population as a whole.



In 2018, she moved to Hobart to work with Dr Jason Hawrelak as a part of his Gastrointestinal Fellowship, where she spent four and a half years assisting clients with gastrointestinal and microbiome related conditions. Seeing first hand the impact of the microbiome on human health and disease, she grew increasingly passionate about protecting and supporting microbial health.

Jessica now understands that the health of the body is not separate to the health of the planet, and has branched out to create her own business, Nacelium, which combines clinical naturopathy, health education and environmental protection.

Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

Environmental destruction, urban sprawl and loss of biodiversity are changing the environmental microbiome. Humans have developed in symbiosis with environmental microbes for millenia, however the loss of biodiversity in the natural world, and fewer interactions between humans and biodiverse environments is fracturing the environmental-microbiome-health relationship, leaving our population, community and individual health at risk.


Microbes are key to the health of the planet. The ecological impact of the microbiota spans from water purification, nutrient recycling, and carbon sequestration to supporting plant and mammalian growth.

Biodiverse ecosystems offer a rich composition of beneficial microbes needed to assemble and support human microbial communities.

Alteration to the land and ocean’s environment by human development has led to a significant loss of the world’s plant and mammal biomass. Urban sprawl, monocrop farming, indoor living and deforestation all have significant consequences on environmental microbial communities.

The impact of urbanisation and city living has encouraged a lack of exposure to diverse beneficial microbes in the environment, resulting in poor health and immune outcomes within these populations.

Incorporating biodiverse green space in urban development for communities and increasing individual exposure to natural biodiverse environments are strategies to improve environmental-microbiome-health outcomes.

Supporting microbial health and diversity for human health and wellbeing is not separate to preserving biodiverse environments.

Key Take-Aways

  • Individual and community health is impacted by he microbial worlds in which they live
  • Why we need to support microbial diversity and richness, especially in urban environments
  • Aerobiomes and their impacts on human health
  • Where to start building exposure to biodiverse environments

‘Cannabis ethnopharmacology: From the Neolithic to Now’- Presented by Justin Sinclair

Justin has been involved in researching and exploring herbal medicines from both a scientific and traditional perspective for over 20 years.  He has taught herbal medicine subjects at various colleges since 2002, and has been very active in lobbying and advocating for the return of cannabis as a medicine in Australia since 2014.

Justin sits on the board for the Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association, is on the steering committee for Cannabis Clinicians Australia, leads the scientific committee for United in Compassion (Medicinal Cannabis advocacy & support group) and is on the advisory group for the Psychae Institute.



He was also an Executive Director and Examiner with the NHAA, and was part of the original Board Member Advisory Committee.  Justin currently works as Chief Scientific Officer for the Australian Natural Therapeutics Groups, a vertically-integrated medicinal cannabis company, and prior to this, was a research fellow at NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University.  Justin is currently finishing his doctoral studies investigating the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for the pain and associated symptoms of endometriosis, and has published 2 book chapters and 24 journal articles on the topic of cannabis.

Presentation Synopsis and Key Take-away points

Join Justin Sinclair for a journey that starts in the neolithic period and ends in the present day, and tells a story of the use of cannabis as a medicine across numerous cultures.  Our earliest evidence talks of the use of cannabis as an analgesic, hypnotic, anxiolytic and anti-epileptic – all pharmacological actions that are still in use today, but with more robust evidence to support it.


From the Tomes of ancient China, India, Greece and Persia, all the way through to cannabis being introduced to Western medicine by Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy in 1841, together we will examine this unique herbal medicine’s therapeutic actions and highlight the may challenges that still face it to this day (patient access, stigma, drug driving laws).  Lastly, we will cover off on some important clinical information for herbalists and naturopaths that may be seeing patients utilising medicinal cannabis in practice, including current regulations, the various access pathways and patient numbers, potential drug interactions and side-effects.

Key Take-Aways

  • Cannabis has a long, diverse and rich history as a medicine
  • Whilst legal in Australia since 2016, medicinal cannabis still faces several challenges including stigma, product costs, and outdated drug driving laws
  • Medicinal cannabis can only be prescribed by medical practitioners in Australia
  • Clinicians need to be cognisant of the potential side-effects and interactions of medicinal cannabis, both with pharmaceutical medicines and our own herbal medicines.