Karen Saunders, Women Specific Naturopath
Karen Saunders is Noema’s in-house Naturopath, with a strong interest and focus on women’s health. Karen’s mission is to assist women in the healing of their own bodies – providing informed insight, holistic treatment and practical tools to help women care for and nurture themselves to their full potential. Her connection to the female entity forms her passion to heal through nature – restoring the natural relationship between human and earth amongst the stresses of modern-day life.
Where are you from and where do you now call home?
I now call Melbourne my home – working in the inner north but living in the magical Dandenong Ranges. I originate from Zimbabwe via long stints in South Africa and the UK. I’ve now firmly planted my wandering feet in Melbourne, in love the vibrant creativity and sense of progressive culture and community of Melbourne. Now about the weather…
Do you have a calling in life? What is your mission?
My mission – for now anyway – is to connect. To connect to myself so that I can live from an authentic space. To help people connect with themselves and to their bodies, and to life as a whole. I think that when we are truly able to love and respect ourselves, we are able to love the planet and nature around us. I guess then my personal mission is to learn to do this in balance, in flow, in a way that honours myself and all those around me.
What was the catalyst for your work in holistic health and wellness?
I discovered Ayurvedic medicine in India, having travelled there in search of answers in my restless 20s. I remember falling over my shoelaces during a trek in the Himalayas, ending up with painful scrapes and bruises on my hands and knees. Having hobbled to our next stop, one of the local villages saw my state and went to forage a local plant. He crushed the plant to make a paste and placed in on my bleeding cuts. He said, “this will hurt but don’t take it off”. It burnt like hell, but I managed to sleep.
Upon waking in the morning I peeled off the plant material and my cuts were miraculously clean with a thin layer of fresh new skin grown over. I was amazed! I had no idea there was another option other than conventional medicine, and was hooked. I found Naturopathy in Australia and have lived with that purpose ever since. Naturopathy should be taught in schools – it’s a degree in how to be healthy, how to use nature as medicine – it’s knowledge that every human body should know!
You provide healing and holistic naturopathy treatment specifically to women… Why do you feel women’s health is so significant within functional medicine?
I think everyone’s health is important but I choose to work mainly with women due to the fact that I am a woman. I connect deeply with women. It comes from knowing the cultural conditionings, responsibilities and inner worlds of modern women, coupled with my own personal physical and emotional experiences. With the welcome rise of equality, the shadow side of the women’s empowerment movement means that we take on a lot of responsibilities, thinking we can do it all. Women are more stressed than ever and I love to work with women to overcome this.
What key learnings from your comprehensive experience as a herbalist, nutritionist, yoga and meditation practitioner affect your daily life? Do you have any enduring habits or daily routines?
Learn what it is for you to be healthy. Everybody is different. Know your vulnerable points and listen to your body when it tells you information. Symptoms are messages.
I think moderation when it comes to health is important. For example, I know all the things and have all the tools to be healthy and happy but if I get too dogmatic with any of them they become stressful. I try to be gentle with myself. A constant practice for me personally is asking how can I simplify my life? How can I be joyful? And how can I spend more time in a space of flow rather than struggle. Work in progress of course…
Do you have any self-care practices?
Yes! Where to start.
Routine! This does not mean being boring. I love change and I adapt fast but this makes me scattered. I try to have a morning routine that sets up my day.
Solitude. As an introvert/extrovert I love people but have realised that what recharges me is alone time. It can be as simple as spending a half-hour reading in the park or taking myself on a movie date.
Yoga / Self-reflection – A long term Yoga practice has taught me how to be self aware, well ish. I’m human, and therefore stuff up all the time, but if I’m able to reflect and observe the reasons I can learn and grow from the experience.
Are there any wellness products you’ve come across that have become a steadfast part of your daily routine?
Ooh…so many. Often times it comes down to the basics: Sunshine, nature, hugs, good food and clean water.
But the actual products I couldn’t live without?
Magnesium for my busy mind
B vitamins for energy
Argan Oil – nature’s best moisturiser
Epsom salt baths to relax
Richmond by Nature Body Lotion – I love to slather myself head to toe in this
How do you feel towards the social and environmental state of the world?
… How do you think Melbourne compares?
Big question! At the risk of sounding optimistically biased or having my head in the sand, I try to think positively about the state of the planet. I think on a mass scale humanity is at a tipping point, a crucial ‘make or break’ time for the survival of the species and the environment. Thinking about the social and environmental state of the planet can really start to piss me off, so I try to channel that energy into my work and do what I can to make positive change that way.
How can sustainability be considered in the choice of foods you consume or products you use?
Food wise – I try to buy local and seasonal, paying attention to where my food comes from, how it was grown as well as its environmental impact. I do not buy over-packaged goods, no matter how convenient. Do you mean beauty products? Mostly I make my own except for make up, its super easy and affordable and therefore I’m conscious of what’s in it and where it’s come from.
What does community mean for you?
Community means togetherness. I am an idealist and independent soul, so community for me means a group of individuals coming together, each adding value to the community in their own unique way. This way individuality contribution to a community is valued and celebrated. The best way to keep a group of people cohesive is to create a common goal – So my idea of a community is ‘a group that bring their unique talents work together to achieve something’. That’s why I love Melbourne – it has a great sense of community.
What does a balanced society look like?
A balance society is one where asking for help is normal. It’s less separate, less ageist. Old look after young and young look after old, society should be a place where individualism is accepted and celebrated, and our environment is respected and nurtured. It’s a place where each adult capable takes 100% responsibility.
Reflecting on your life, what is one thing, person or moment that have mattered to you most, or punctuated the course of your life thus far?
The passing of my sister suddenly when I was 28 was the event that punctuated the course of my life. Looking back now in her death she gave me the gift of life. She taught me to value this brief, beautiful, challenging stint on earth and to experience it fully. I’m so ever grateful to her x
To connect with Karen, take a look at her website:
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Here at Noéma, we’re busy researching the best ingredients - so that we can make the best activated essentials for you, with you. We’re taking a radically new direction in skincare; we use you as the key ingredient.
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✎ Sophie Van der Drift
Contributing writer, marketing & strategy