Brought to you by Swisse

Have you ever dreamt of sipping an aperitivo garnished with a slice of blood orange on the Sicilian coast? Or imagined tucking into artichoke petals drizzled with melted butter for lunch in Spain? You wouldn’t be alone. But as tasty as they are, this fruit and veg is good for more than just flavour…



Two hours’ drive north-east of Amsterdam, there’s a cluster of quaint towns – Anerveen, Erica, Klazienaveen and Hardenberg – where you’ll find fields of valerian. The Drenthe and Overijssel provinces, where these towns are located, are a cyclist’s paradise; Drenthe alone has 1400 kilometres of cycling paths.

How valerian grows

The herb valerian needs a cool climate to grow and is best gathered when the days start to shorten. While mature valerian’s delicate flowers make for a pretty scene, the root of the plant contains beneficial valerenic acid. When the weather turns and the vegetative part of the plant dies, it’s easier to dig up the root. Each valerian root has a “heart” with many fine roots that require thorough yet gentle cleaning to remove the dirt and keep the root intact. The roots are then dried for three days and sent to Naturex to be extracted. 

How it may benefit you

Valerian is traditionally used in Western herbal medicine for its calmative and sedative properties. “Most people require seven to nine hours of sleep per night,” says Antoinette Barnardo, technical manager of innovations at Swisse. “Getting that sleep helps you to operate the following day.” Long hours at the office, shift work and stress can all contribute to a less-than-refreshing sleep.

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Why you should visit

Globe artichokes are sun worshippers; if the temperature drops below zero, they won’t survive. The region of Murcia, on Spain’s south-eastern coast, has 300 sunny days a year, making it the perfect place for them to thrive – and for you to thaw out during the Australian winter. The 252-kilometre coastline features scores of fishing villages, lively ports, bays and beaches, while the inland cities are full of historic monuments, such as the Fortress of the Sun, a 13th-century castle that overlooks the city of Lorca.

How the globe artichoke grows

Globe artichokes quickly develop a strong, deep root system so cut stems are planted directly into the fertile soil from September to May. Every two weeks, the fields are flooded with water from nearby reservoirs to ensure the plants receive nutrients from the soil. In October, the artichokes are harvested by hand by farmers who have worked the crops for decades. Then juice that is rich in the phytonutrient cynarin is extracted from the plants and spray-dried into a powder by Naturex, a global leader in botanical extracts. 

How it may benefit you

Artichokes have long been thought to assist with digestion. In traditional Western herbal medicine, the globe artichoke has been used to help relieve symptoms such as indigestion and abdominal discomfort. It has also been used in traditional Western herbal medicine for its choleretic properties, helping to increase the liver’s production of bile. “There are so many things in our daily life that can impact the liver, like alcohol and processed foods,” says Antoinette Barnardo, technical manager of innovations at Swisse.

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Why you should visit

Blood orange orchards thrive in the rich soil near Mount Etna, which is ideal for you, too, if you enjoy exploring medieval streets, climbing the craters of an active volcano or indulging in Sicilian food and wine. Stay in Taormina, on the east coast, and venture into the village of Castelmola for excellent views of Etna and the Strait of Messina before stopping for a glass of almond wine – made with almonds, orange blossom and spices – at Antico Caffè San Giorgio. 

How the blood orange grows

The Sicilian climate provides ideal conditions for blood oranges, which require a significant temperature drop between hot days and cool nights to develop their signature pigment (the hue can change, depending on the temperature as the fruit matures, with colder winters creating a deeper red). Farmers use specialised scissors – smaller than the hands that wield them – to collect the fruit, which is extracted by Bionap. Manual harvesting ensures only ripe fruit is picked and unripe oranges are left to mature. 

How it may benefit you

Blood orange extract contains antioxidants that help to reduce potential free radical damage. Free radical damage is believed to affect the proper functioning of cells. Antioxidants are thought to counteract its effects.

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Why you should visit

Dotted throughout farmland in north-western France are vast fields of lemon balm with some 40,000 plants per hectare. Brittany and Normandy are the most well-known regions in the area, both famed for their craggy coastlines, historic battle sites and unspoilt countryside. Spend time in both, taking in must-sees such as the Alignements de Carnac standing stones, the white cliffs of Étretat and Le Mont-Saint-Michel , a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in the bay where Brittany and Normandy meet.

How lemon balm grows

Lemon balm is a long-lasting crop of six years’ duration. The seedling is planted in autumn and the leaves are harvested up to three times a year between June and September from its second year of growth. Once picked, the plant material is sent to Naturex to be spray-dried, extracted and tested extensively to ensure it meets strict specifications before formulation.

How it may benefit you

Lemon balm is a multitasking member of the mint family. Here are just some of the ways it’s used in traditional Western herbal medicine: to help relieve mild symptoms of mental stress; to calm the mind during times of stress and support a restful sleep; to ease mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and flatulence; and to support normal, healthy digestion and soothe and settle the stomach. While this seems like a wideranging list of benefits, many processes in the body work in tandem. If you’re not sleeping well, things can be out of sync so it’s important that all these processes are working to support general health. 

Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare practitioner.

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