Monday, 01 February 2010 00:00    E-mail
The Wise Women of Aotearoa

By Kimberley Paterson Download this article: 18-EO-Wise_Women_of_Aotearoa.pdf

They are three wise women of Aotearoa, New Zealand ...  skilled in healing, working with plants, food and natural remedies to teach people who travel across the world to train with them. Barbara Allpress, Franchelle Ofsoské-Wyber and Maria Middlestead each have spent decades honing and refining their craft. Each works with the pristine nature energy of New Zealand to help people heal. I share their stories with you.

Barbara Allpress

BarbaraAllpress-web3Allpress is steeped in the wisdom of aromatherapy, using the essential plant extracts from flowers, roots, seeds and bark to give comfort and assistance.

She carries her “magic box of tricks” of essential oils on her trips around the Pacific—most recently to help survivors of the Samoa tsunami. She has also used them in outback Australia and in the high deserts of Arizona, where they helped a Hopi Indian baby in an adobe home cool a fever and deal with swollen gums.

Allpress used lavender to help calm and cool the Hopi child and a drop of Roman Chamomile on his tummy and jaw line to aid teething and colic.

“The next day the mother called to say her baby was fixed, and could I now come and see the grandmother,” Allpress said.  “These families were poor, relying on their corn crops for food and income. A bad weather year can be a disaster for them.

“When I got to the house I was completely overwhelmed to find eight people sitting on the floor waiting to see me—uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters—all with some aliment they wanted me to look at. I spent three hours mixing aromatherapy potions, giving general advice and referring some to their doctor.”

Allpress has worked with people from East Timor to help lift depression, flown to teach aromatherapy in Japan, worked with people in Bali and Tonga and spoken about the importance of traditional medicine at a Pacific health conference.  Mother-of-six Allpress followed a long and circuitous route to her current role.

With Ofsoské-Wyber and Middlestead, Allpress teaches at Wellpark College of Natural Therapies, which educates students from across the world.

One of her earliest jobs was running a screen printing business, next came a highly successful business selling jeans,then her own marketing company. Later she trained as an aromatherapist, set up her own clinic and was an early promoter of essential oil use.

“Plants have been used for thousands of years to heal: throughout the Pacific and the rest of the world people havebeen going out to their gardens for eonsand using what nature provided to help heal themselves and their families,” said Allpress, one of seven sisters herself.

“This kind of healing is about a self determination that allows people to remember what their own culture once used to teach them. What we teach now at Wellpark allows people to integrate that old wisdom alongside modern scientific evidence as to the efficacy of essential oils.”

Allpress loves the cross-cultural pollinationthat takes place in her classeswith students from around the world sharing knowledge about how their cultures work with plant remedies.

“Herbs, particularly sage, are still used in ceremony and ritual for cleansing and purification, but almost never for medicinal purposes,” Allpress said. “Sadly, this situation exists in many areas of the globe where missionaries have forbidden the use of old ways, disregarding them as magicand myth ... yet we were given natural medicine plants to use by nature itself.”

Franchelle Ofsoské-Wyber

 Franchelle Ofsoske-Wyber-web3Ofsoské-Wyber is a shaman and healer dedicated to working with the plant intelligence of New Zealand,  which she says can lift emotions, heal wounded spirits, give hope and restore physical vitality and well-being.

She is descended from a long line of healers: On her father’s side, she comes from a line of Cherokee medicine men; on her mother’s side, a lineage of Russian healers and shamans. Both her greatgrandmother and great-grandfather were involved in healing and psychic work.

Ofsoské-Wyber began to learn about Rongoa Maori, or traditional Maori plant medicine, at age 7. By then, she could already see the patupaiarehe, the mysterious fairy people of Aotearoa—elemental nature spirits. “What most people do not realize is that flower essences are a very ancientform of indigenous medicine that have been in use for many thousands of yearsand recognise the powerful spiritual link between plants, humankind and holisticwell-being,” Ofsoské-Wyber said.

Flower essences carry the healing energy or vibration of plants—the specific electromagnetic keynote of the plant or flower.

Essences are made by infusing the flower with sunshine into pure fresh water and then preserved.

“Flower essences are liquid energetic remedies that are a concentrated energetic infusion of flower or plant material in water,” Ofsoské-Wyber said. “They are liquid energy in the form of vibrationalmedicine or energy medicine.”

Hawaiiki Tautau (the ancient name for Aotearoa ) has long been recognized for its unique flora and pristine energy, she said.

Part of her work includes the invocation of ancient chants prior to gathering the herbs needed to make sacred plant medicine.

“In this way we formally honour the native plant as being a divine child of the land of Aotearoa,” Ofsoské-Wyber said.

“The native flora of Aotearoa is some of the most ancient on the planet; we have some of the oldest forests on earth.”

The nature power of New Zealand is to provide people of the world with the healing necessary for the many physical, emotional, mental and spiritual challenges to be faced by them and the planet in the 21st century, she said.

“To Maori elders, this age is known as Te-wa-o-nga-wai-ahuru or ‘Age of  Cherishing Waters’ and to the Native American as ‘The Age of Floral Waters’ or ‘The Age of the Mother’ where humankind will once again remember that we are all one and how to work in dynamic co-operation with nature,” Ofsoské-Wyber said.

Maria Middlestead

Thirty years have seen Middlestead go from an early voicein the wilderness talking about natural health to one of New Zealand’sbest-loved nutritionists.

In 1979, Middlestead (who grew up in Canada) opened one of Auckland’s early health food stores.

Today, she is the author of seven books on food and well-being, has hosted four TV series, sees people in private practice and tutors a new generation of naturopaths and nutritionists as the senior nutrition lecturer at Wellpark College.

Every week she sees people who have been referred to her by doctors, psychologists and medical specialists.

Now, a number of Auckland schools are employing Middlestead to assist them with pupils who have behavioral problems. Middlestead works with pupils to examine and change their nutritional status. The results have been changed attitudes at school and better learning outcomes for students.

“Motivating people—and particularly teenagers—to change their diet can be a challenge but everyone has a leverage point,” Middlestead said. “I’ll explain how people can change self-sabotaging habits for improved vitality, better moods, sleep, skin and weight loss.”

Middlestead said certain foods can cause morphine-like reactions on the opiate receptors in the brain, which result in mood and behavioral problems; two such foods are dairy products and gluten-containing grains such as wheat.

Other food issues affecting behavior include too much highly processed food; poor enzyme and nutrient levels; unaddressed food sensitivities that lower immunity and chronic stress impeding digestion and absorption.

“Poor digestion and undegraded proteins have been associated with numerous neurological, developmental and behavioral problems in both children and adults, including autism, ADD, poor motor control and depression,” Middlestead said.

“Several studies have found peptides with opiate activity in the urine of a high percentage of autistic children.” For more information about Wellpark College of Natural Therapies and the courses taught there, see