What are “practitioner-only-products”?


It can be confusing. Some “practitioner-only” brands are only available through qualified health care practitioners. Others are more easily available.

The idea behind the “practitioner-only” designation is simple. The majority of “practitioner-only” brands focus on producing higher quality, more potent products. Such products are manufactured to maximise impact and effectiveness, and therefore should only be accessed under the supervision of a qualified health professional.

Naturopaths and nutritionists for example, are trained in herbs and nutrients. They understand how the ingredients will affect you. Taking advice from a health professional on what products to take ensures safety risks are minimised and products are appropriate for your individual health needs.

This is not to say all “retail” products are inferior.



What does this mean? Practitioner products are generally of a higher quality, and more potent, but how is this defined? Within both the broad retail and “practitioner only” categories, quality can vary significantly due to many factors including active ingredients, encapsulation, dosage, molecular weight, excipients used, conditions a plant is cultivated in and supporting evidence (1). To keep things simple we’re going to focus on 3 key areas:

  • Ingredients
  • Bioavailability
  • Excipients



Along with the importance of co-factors and ingredients being at a therapeutic dose, mineral absorption and bioavailability may be enhanced by the form the mineral comes in. Chelated minerals are minerals bound to a chelating agent which is designed to enhance their absorption in your body. An amino acid chelated mineral is a mineral (like calcium) that has been molecularly attached to an amino acid. Common amino acids used to make mineral chelates include aspartic acid, lysine and glycine. In general, animal studies indicate that chelated minerals are absorbed more effectively (2).



Bioavailability is influenced by many factors from both the host (human) and from the supplement itself. Bioavailability refers to how efficiently your body can use a nutrient.  The commonly accepted definition of bioavailability is the proportion of the nutrient that is digested, absorbed and metabolised through normal pathways.

It has also long been recognised that gut microbes contribute to the biosynthesis and bioavailability of vitamins and nutrients.  Maintaining a healthy gut is vitally important for proper nutrient synthesis and absorption as the gut microbiota synthesises certain vitamins and nutrients (1).

Bioavailability is also influenced by other factors including diet, nutrient concentration, nutritional status, health, and life-stage (3).



Excipients selected for product formulation vary across the pharmaceutical and complementary medicine industries. The role of the excipient should not be underestimated, particularly when it comes to generic pharmaceuticals. A number of pharmaceutical excipients are known to have side effects or contraindications. For example, excipients may make up to 90% of a product formulation and may be synthetic or sourced from plants or animals (4).

Depending on the medication/supplement type, excipients may be nil to low. Powders and capsules generally require fewer excipients than tablets due to binding and coating ingredients required for a tablet.

Each excipient serves a specific purpose for the proper performance of the supplement dose and form, i.e. capsule, tablet, powder or liquid.


Effectiveness and accessibility 

As practitioner products are generally more potent, this lends itself to supervised use under the instruction of a qualified health professional. As such, practitioner only products are not as accessible to the general public. Indeed practitioner only products are designed specifically for dispensing by a healthcare professional in accordance with section 42AA of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (5).


How can I access “practitioner only products”? 

If you are not currently working with a healthcare professional, you can find a practitioner here via vital.ly platform.



1Pressman P, Clemens RA, Hayes AW. Bioavailability of micronutrients obtained from supplements and food: A survey and case study of the polyphenols. Toxicology Research and Application. January 2017.
2Goff JP. Invited review: Mineral absorption mechanisms, mineral interactions that affect acid-base and antioxidant status, and diet considerations to improve mineral status. J Dairy Sci. 2018 Apr;101(4):2763-2813. doi: 10.3168/jds.2017-13112. Epub 2018 Feb 4.
3Michael, Hambidge. (2010). Micronutrient Bioavailability: Dietary Reference Intakes and a Future Perspective. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 91. 1430S-1432S. 10.3945/ajcn.2010.28674B.
4Haywood, A., & Glass, B. (2011). Pharmaceutical excipients – where do we begin? Australian Prescriber, 34(4), 112–114.
5Australian Government. Department of Health. Therapeutic Goods Administration. Australian regulatory guidelines for complementary medicines ARGCM. Version 7.2, February 2018.[Internet] [ cited 2021. September 12th]. Available from:https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/australian-regulatory-guidelines-complementary-medicines-argcm.pdf


Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)


Lemon Balm has a special place in my garden and in my heart. Energetically she is soothing and cooling yet has a certain warmth about her in a calming way. Due to her cooling and soothing effect this herb is wonderful for times of irritability, anger and tension.

Lemon Balm can gently calm the nerves and can help to strengthen and rebuild a burnt out nervous system, due to the nervine action. She is known to be helpful in alleviating the effects of anxiety due to the anxiolytic action. Lemon Balm can also calm the digestive system in times of cramping and spasm from gas or other factors, due to the carminative and anti-spasmodic action. Sometimes I think that this plant should be called Lemon Calm instead of balm, though balm is still appropriate as she can be like a balm for the heart, mind and soul. This herb should be growing in every garden and is a pleasure to brush past so plant it on the borders. Even just sitting in her presence can be so uplifting and relaxing.

This is not the first herb that I would turn to for an internal anti-viral but she has an unrivalled topical anti-viral action upon the herpes simplex virus (cold sores). Take this beautiful herb if you are feeling stressed, scattered, strung out and experiencing a racing mind or cluttered thoughts and having difficult focusing.  Lemon Balm is also traditionally used for insomnia, to improve cognitive function and also for the antioxidant properties.

When I make Lemon Balm tincture, I harvest the herb in the early morning once the dew has dried but before she is in direct sunlight. I harvest the top third of the stems which is where the volatile content is the highest. I also find that the darker leaves hold more of the volatile oils which is where much of her potency lies. I make sure to do this process promptly and get her steeping in the Australian organic 70% brandy within an hour of harvesting because many of Lemon Balm’s medicinal properties degrade remarkably quickly, so this must be captured whilst the power is still active in the plant. Making an infusion from the fresh plant can be much quicker yet still effective way to bring Lemon Balm into your daily life.  Just be sure to have a lid on your pot so as not to lose those delicious volatile oils.

Lemon Balm has no known side effects or proven contraindications and is regarded as safe to use with children. Though of course always check with your qualified health practitioner to ensure that this beautiful herb does not have any known interactions with prescribed medication. Her delicious and lemony fragrance is a winner with the children and a wonderful way for them to wind down after a big day at learn and play!

This information is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consider having a consultation with a naturopath or herbalist to see if this herb is right for you.

Please get in touch if you would like more details on growing, harvesting and making herbal preparations from this beautiful calming, cooling, soothing and motherly plant.

Aromatherapy – Lymphatic Massage Treatments

Selection of oils and herbs

The essential oils used in Aromatherapy are distilled from plants which are specifically selected for their medicinal properties.  These essential oils carry a variety of health benefits ranging from assisting with headaches, respiratory ailments, skin disorders, muscular and join pain, insomnia and poor sleep quality and mood are just a few.

Studies have shown that Aromatherapy promotes the release of our four Neurotransmitter chemicals – Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Endorphins, better known a our ‘happy/feel good chemicals’.  Serotonin is our natural mood stabilizer as well as the chemical that helps our sleeping and digestion.  Dopamine is released when a pleasurable event is happening, such as eating desired foods or receiving a massage.  Oxytocin is released by touch. Several studies have shown that though touch, as in massage,  not only increases Oxytocin but can also reduce cardiovascular stress and improve the immune system.  Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body and they can relieve pain and stress.

Aromatherapy works through the sense of smell and skin absorption using products such as diffusers, inhalers, clays and masks.  The most effective and beneficial is through skin absorption by way of massage using carrier oils, balms, salves and creams all of which incorporate Essential Oils.

Aromatherapy blends can be designed based on the season. Currently with the Autumn chill I am incorporating a blend of Star Anise, Peru Balsam, Ginger and Buckthorn essential oils to support the immune system. Each element adds to the overall blend. Star Anise is a warm spiced oil which contains Thymol, Terrpineol and Anethole which are often used medicinally for colds and flu. Peru Balsam has a sweet and warm vanilla like aroma with a subtle hint of cinnamon, it helps to calm nervous tension and promotes a tranquil environment. Ginger adds a warm and spicy element and is invaluable in Lymphatic Massage for its anti-inflammatory effect. Buckthorn Berry is rich in Omega three, six and nine and assists the skin by promoting smoothness and radiancy.

I have a passion for Aromatherapy and have used it for almost 3 decades. Beginning in 1991 when I started my Skin Care and Cosmetics business to 6 years ago when I incorporated Aromatherapy in my massage treatments.

By using the combined techniques of Lymphatic Drainage with Aromatherapy and Remedial Massage as required, it is possible to stimulate the vital functions of the skin tissue and internal organs as well as also eliminating cellular waste and toxins.

Insights from a Natural Medicine Practitioner

Woman closing eyes with face in the sunlight

Meet Deborah Shepherd, Gratitude™ and organiser of the Embrace Life Festivals

Deborah Shepherd ran her own clinic for 2.5 years before creating Gratitude™, a co-operative movement focused on raising the profile of the wellness industry and facilitating connections between businesses and their customers. Deborah also holds diplomas in aromatherapy and energetic healing, and certification in astrology, numerology and reiki which she uses in her own individual practice.

Why did you get into Natural Medicine?

The transition into Natural Medicine was part of a personal journey for me, I was in a high pressure corporate job which put me under immense stress. I realised I needed to find balance in my life which ultimately led me to explore different ways to cope and improve my health.

I started off studying whilst still working and realised pretty quickly that it was making a big difference in my life. I wanted to use that to help other people who may also be struggling to cope. I decided to create my own healing clinic and ran this successfully for 2.5 years until I realised based on my background, I had more to give the industry as a whole.

Tell us about your modality?

During my time as a Natural Medicine Practitioner, I developed sessions incorporating ways to engage all of the physical senses. Providing wellbeing support through combining energy healing, colour, sound, massage, touch and flower essences.

My coaching style aligned with an understanding of astrology and numerology, also supported people through their many stages of their wellbeing journey, as we were able to view circumstances from many angles giving confidence and clarity to move forward.

Why are you passionate about Natural Medicine?

It enables us all to be proactive in our health, and the quality of our life. The days of being in the corporate world were stressful both physically and emotionally. Natural medicine empowered me to take my life back into my own hands, make changes and improve my health.

Natural Medicine can change a person’s outlook on health and wellbeing. I want people who experience stress or are looking for answers for their wellbeing concerns, to know they have this available to them. Invest time looking after your total wellbeing, explore and find the source of your concerns while engaging with the natural medicine and ultimately play an active role in your own health and wellbeing.

Visit the Gratitude™ website: www.gratitudeonline.com.au