We Meet Elly Toft, Founder of the Oamaru Apothecary & Hoheria Botanicals

Hoheria Botanicals is a range of natural skincare products hand crafted in small batches, using the finest plant oils, plant extracts and essential oils. Where possible organic ingredients are sourced and only the finest therapeutic grade essential oils are blended to maximise the products healing benefits. These are products handmade with love at the Oamaru Apothecary, in Oamaru, North Otago, New Zealand. We spoke to Elly Toft – Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Apothecary founder – to find out a little more about how she got started. 

What was your inspiration for creating Hoheria Botanicals?
I have always had a passion for plants, especially those with the ability to enhance health and wellbeing. I started studying aromatherapy in the 1980s when my two sons were young. Aromatherapy hadn’t really reached New Zealand, so I enrolled with a college in Australia and completed a couple of short courses. I was working in the Film Industry at the time, so this was just a hobby.

At the end of 1988 we moved to Tauranga, converting a rundown orchard to organics, including a large and productive herb garden. In 1993 I completed a diploma in Therapeutic Massage, during which I became pregnant with our beautiful daughter, Miria. Practising massage while looking after a young baby and two older boys was not an option so I decided to concentrate on my aromatherapy and started a small home-based business, blending oils for other massage therapists as well as for clients and family. I was amazed at the response to the essential oils and the profound impact that they had on general wellbeing, as well as more specific health issues.

In 1997 the film industry beckoned and we moved to Auckland where I took up the role of Executive Producer at Flying Fish. After many years coming and going from the film industry, and with our children grown and independent, I decided to get back to my passion. In 2012 I started a Bachelor degree in Naturopathic and Herbal Medicine at Wellpark College, graduating with an Academic Excellence Award three years later. During the degree program we did some very basic skincare manufacturing through which I was introduced to Kate Robertson, an extremely talented and knowledgeable natural skincare formulator. Once I had finished my degree I did some further study with Kate, realising that I could incorporate my knowledge of aromatherapy into my own range of personalised skincare products.

We moved to Oamaru in 2015 where I opened the Oamaru Apothecary and established my naturopathic practice. I then developed my Hoheria Botanicals skincare range and started selling my products at the Apothecary, alongside my medicinal Apothecary range of teas, balms, creams and liquid herbs. I started with the Hoheria Botanical Mother and Baby range, basing it on my formulas from the 1990s, which I used throughout my pregnancy and Miria’s early years. I had always felt great using products that I knew were 100% natural for my precious baby and I could see the benefits. I used to massage Miria after every bath and she was always so relaxed in the evening. I felt that it created a strong bond between us. Miria, now 23, used the Hoheria Botanicals Pregnancy Massage oil throughout her pregnancy and uses the Baby Massage Oil and Baby Balm on her daughter Cleo who is now 6 months old.

Where does the name Hoheria Botanicals come from?
Hoheria is the botanical name of the native Houhere or Lacebark. This tree is so beautiful and totally underutilised. The leaves and inner bark contain polysaccharides, which form mucilage when they are crushed and soaked in cold water. This substance can be used to treat inflammatory conditions in the digestive and respiratory systems. These same constituents give Hoheria a demulcent action when applied to the skin, so it is softening, soothing and healing.

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