Growing up in Eastern Europe, Jana Brunclikova developed a deep connection to nature and the healing properties of plants at a young age. This led her to formally study health science upon arriving in Australia and launch a career in naturopathy. Practicing out of the Orchard Street dispensary and clinic in Bronte (as well as once per month from the Nimbus Co wellness space in Byron Bay), Brunclikova has carved out a reputation in Sydney and beyond for the wisdom and care she offers her clients.
In late 2018 Brunclikova released her first book, a hand-stitched publication full of recipes, poetry, personal anecdotes, photography, and folk remedies from her childhood in the Czech Republic. The Secret Kitchen Book: Intuitive Eating challenges socially-enforced notions of rule-based eating and encourages a shift to intuitive eating by tuning both inwards to the body and outwards towards nature. The book sold out, but the good news is that it’s going to print again—and you can pre-order a copy here (for February delivery).
We caught up with Brunclikova to find out more about her interest in healing and beautiful book project.
You grew up in Eastern Europe. What was your childhood like?
I grew up under communism; there was no influence from the outside world. There was no TV. We played in fields of flowers and the forest; we worked on potato fields at home before playing with other kids. It was very simple, beautiful, and somehow naïve. Picking herbs and foraging were part of what we did each season. And although my parents had it difficult with three kids and not much money, I’m so grateful for the lifestyle they provided for us. We were taught integrity, values, and the importance of modesty.
Why did you want to get into naturopathy?
I’ve been in this industry for over 15 years, but herbal medicine, folklore, nutrition, and food as medicine have been a part of my life since I can remember (before I even labelled them as ‘naturopathy’). My grandma taught us about plant and herb magic. She used folk remedies in healing and taught us about gardens and growing our own produce in order to save money. In a country with a poor economy, naturopathy was just a way of life.
What do you most love about your career?
The constant learning about natural ingredients, botanicals, and their power in human healing. Making a difference in someone’s life, health, lifestyle, and spirituality. As naturopathic physicians, we are taught and mandated to treat the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Our training, however, has, and continues to be, almost exclusively focused on the physical and emotional aspects of a person. There is a growing belief and understanding that spiritual crises—defined as significant dissonance between the life one is leading and his/her values, beliefs, identity, and sense of purpose—can contribute to both physical and mental imbalance. If, philosophically, we are physicians who instruct and guide patients toward a healthier life, we have both a responsibility and a unique opportunity to pave the way for a meaningful integration of medicine and spirituality. This is why my practise combines metaphysics, bioresonance, and laws of nature rather than being solely focused on clinical nutrition.
Tell us a bit about The Secret Kitchen Book: Intuitive Eating.
The book is an art passion project representing senses: touch, smell, sight, and so on. Nature, sustainability, community, and food as a medicine were the inspirations. The photos in the book are a collection of memories and self-taken film photographs from many years of travels around the globe across Europe, India, New Zealand, and Australia. The recipes are inspired by the people and jobs I have had on my journey as a plant-based chef. It’s self-published as I didn’t want to compromise on the sustainably of the final product, which uses recycled paper and is locally manufactured to support the value of ‘quality over quantity’.
What is intuitive eating and why are you so fascinated by it?
As a health practitioner, I have come across many people who suffer from eating disorders. They somehow lost the ability to be in tune with their instinctive knowledge and became blinded by trends, fads, weight lost diets. To simply use folklore, local plants, naturopathic tips, and cooking with the weather and moon cycles, I thought it would be the best way to show people how to tap back into what they already know but may have somehow forgotten.
Why should we cook and eat in accordance with the weather?
Changes in the weather ask us to shift and adjust. Our bodies, the microcosm, are moving within a greater macrocosm, the environment. Often when there is a sudden shift in weather, like an unexpected snowstorm in late spring, the body will manifest signs of adjusting to this change. You may notice sudden congestion, fatigue, headaches, or flu-like symptoms. Your body is responding to the shift in balance. No need to panic. Think back about how you have been eating and living, look at the changes, and adjust yourself accordingly. I made the book to understand how our body clocks work with moon cycles and nature cycles.
How long did it take to make the book?
It took one year full-time, alongside a full-time job. The support of the community, the belief in the project, and the help of friends and co-workers was something I would not have been able to do without. The book was made by crowdfunding, which was an absolute learning curve about myself, my boundaries, and trust in something that had a higher meaning than making a profit.