We chat to the Master Herbsmith about the power of plants, fair business and the routines that keep him healthy and happy.
Sebastian Pole is passionate about running a business that brings benefit to people, plants and planet. As well as expertly formulating Pukka Herbs’ delicious organic tea, latte and supplement blends, Sebastian runs his own herbal practice in Bath. He is a registered member of the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association, Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine and the Unified Register of Herbal Practitioners, and a committed environmentalist, specialising in sustainable wild harvesting. We took time to ask him about the values and practices that shape his life and business.
Pukka began in 2001 when I met Tim Westwell – an ethical entrepreneur and my partner at Pukka.
I had been fascinated with plants, conservation and herbalism for many years. I saw Tim’s advert offering to help start-up ethical businesses, at the same time I had decided that I wanted to bring the magic of herbs into more people’s lives. The ad ran for two weeks and received one response…from me! Serendipity was on our side. We had different skillsets but shared a genuine desire to help people feel healthier though powerful plants.
A medical herbalist makes use of plants whose traditional uses are backed up by modern scientific research and clinical trials.
As a herbalist, I use my knowledge of plant medicines and their therapeutic applications to promote health and relieve illness. I take a holistic approach to illness, treating the underlying cause of a patient’s illness rather than the symptoms that they have. I still maintain my private practice in herbal medicine.
My passion for plant power started when I was 18 years old and taking time out to travel overland to China.
In the Indian Himalayas, I was struck by a tummy bug and consulted a herbalist who prescribed me a powdered mixture of liquorice, amla (also known as Indian gooseberry) and a marshmallow type plant. It worked perfectly and I was blown away that herbs could be so effective, yet I’d never been exposed to them.
I pretty much start every morning with a ginger tea.
When everything’s a bit sluggish and groggy ginger is good for the metabolism. It’s warming, wakes you up and tastes great. It gets me ready for my morning yoga and meditation which helps to put me in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. I often make myself a superfood smoothie with Pukka’s Clean Greens powder for a super-herbal boost. In the winter, porridge is my go-to breakfast and I usually mix it up with different toppings. Another part of my morning ritual is Ashwagandha. This is the herb I prescribe most in my clinic and probably the most well-used supplement in the Pukka office too. It’s the perfect tonic to help us cope in our own busy worlds. Ashwagandha is one of Ayurveda’s most prized herbs and is a modern-day ‘adaptogen’, meaning it adapts to the needs of our body.
Mid-morning, after breakfast, green tea is very brightening, it gives you clarity.
After lunch my tea blend usually contains a mix of seeds used to stimulate digestion and help the body absorb nutrients – fennel, aniseed, coriander, cardamom – and as the afternoon progresses and work gets busy, a liquorice and cinnamon tonic provides an energy lift and helps the body manage stress better. This might sound like a lot of tea but my colleagues in the office will testify that I’m never without one. A cup of herbal tea is a moment of mindfulness! Seeing, smelling, and tasting herbal tea awakens your senses and brings you into the present so that you see life afresh.
Meditation is an important part of my daily routine.
I meditate wherever I feel comfortable but I particularly love taking time out in my garden. My home is a refuge for me and provides me with lots of inspiration.
You can find one of Sebastian’s favourite breathing exercises at the bottom of the page. Keep an out for Sebastian’s mediations coming up on the blog as part of Make Time with Seasalt and Pukka.
I spent my early twenties, after getting my degree in Hindi and Religious studies, wandering around India, learning yoga, becoming a vegetarian, sleeping under the stars and walking for weeks in the Himalayas.
I was searching hard to find what my life was all about. These were wild and formative times.
At its heart, yoga is the epitome of rejuvenation as it uses the body and breath to seek peace of mind and fullness of spirit. As you practice it can bring you a greater awareness of your energy levels, your stress levels, how you breathe and how your digestion works.
The insights and inner connection that practising yoga have brought me over the last 20 years are integral with my thoughts about health, sustainability, ecology and what the perfect cup of tea is.
No two days are the same for me.
I continuously champion the power of plants, promoting organic and fair business and doing all we can to help make the world a better place, heading up a team of trained herbalists at Pukka.
I have had the privilege of blending all the Pukka teas myself and each one has a story: some have been influenced by my work in the herbal clinic, some are traditional classics, some are just pleasure. Making these teas for people to enjoy is one of the most important things I do.
I have visited hundreds of organic farms over the years and witnessed again and again how farming organically can bring immeasurable benefit to people, plants and planet.
Working with our growers across the world inspires me and I am regularly encouraged by some incredible farms, enthusiastic farmers and remarkable herbs.
I don’t feel a big separation between living and working as the two are integral in the sense that one feeds the other.
More specifically I am a long-standing and passionate vegetarian, yogi and gardener. I always try to spend as much time with my plants in my garden as I can. If I can nip into my garden after work, then I usually score the day as a 10/10.
Here’s one of Sebastian’s favourite breathing exercises – why not try it yourself?
- Relaxation is something so naturally human. When we are at our most relaxed, we are happy, calm and at ease. But we’re also built to respond to stressors with some forms of stress response making us alert, on the go and even tense. Because we are exposed to regular stresses, we have to re-learn how to relax every day.
- Cleaning our lungs is such an important way to good health yet few do it well. Best of all it’s free and can be done anywhere at any time. Imagine that first view of the beach, closing your eyes and breathing in the sea air. How good does it feel?
- This simple breathing technique will help to boost both your physical and emotional wellbeing:
- Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position. Allow your body to ground – straighten your back, close your mouth, lightly shut your eyes and gently settle your breathing. When ready, start to expel the air in your lungs forcefully through your nostrils keeping your mouth closed. Focus on contracting your stomach muscles. This moves your diaphragm upwards and inwards – pushing the stale air out of your lungs. When all breath is out, allow your stomach to relax. This draws your diaphragm down and like a sponge brings in fresh air.
- Breathe in and out quite quickly – a breath each second. Repeat 25-50 times and then draw a deep breath in and hold for a few moments before breathing out. Breathe normally for a few moments and when ready, repeat the whole sequence 3-5 times.
- Your lungs will now be cleansed, your blood rid of higher levels of carbon dioxide and replenished with fresh oxygen.
There’s lots more to come in our Make Time with & Pukka partnership, so sign up to Friends and we’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing.