Pharmaca Blog

  • Play up your best feature

    LipstickAll of us have a feature that makes us uniquely beautiful, be it eyes, lips, cheeks or skin…learn to celebrate it with targeted skin care treatments and natural, good-for-you makeup!

    Play up: Sparkling eyes
    Focus attention on your eyes with—believe it or not—navy blue mascara. ZuZu Luxe Mascara in Navy is surprisginly wearable and works with all eye colors, making the whites of your eyes appear brighter and your eye color more intense. B vitamins and sea fennel extract thicken and strengthen lashes, and its non-smudging lasting power makes it a customer favorite.

    Smoky shadows are another good way to showcase your eyes, says esthetician Tessa Wilson at our Berkeley store, who likes jane iredale Smoke Gets In Your Eyes Eyeshadow Kit with neutral, smoky dark and highlighting gold shadows that work for both day and night looks. Treat the delicate eye area with One Love Organics Vitamin E Active Moisture Eye Balm, Tessa adds; it’s an all-in-one cream that reduces puffiness, smooths fine lines and hydrates like crazy.

    Play up: Cheekbones
    If you’ve been graced with sculpted cheekbones, emphasize them with dual-purpose creams that highlight and moisturize your skin. Pacifica Radiant Shimmer Coconut Multiples Highlighting Creams is a do-it-all palate of light iridescent, shimmery pink and golden bronze colors. To use, apply the lightest cream at the top of your cheekbones, rosy pink on the apples of your cheeks and bronze for underneath the cheekbone. These coconut-based creams blend into each other easily for a natural, dewy look.

    For a more minimalist approach, Vapour Organic Beauty Aura Multi Use Classic is an all-purpose stick that highlights cheeks, eyes and lips in one easy swipe for a genuine-looking glow. It’s nourishing, soothing and full of organic botanicals like holy basil, myrrh and lotus leaf extracts.

    Play up: Luscious lips
    Does your smile light up a room? Play up lips with jane iredale’s PlayOn Lip Crayon in Luscious, a creamy rose brown that looks great on all skin tones, says Tessa. For on-trend red lips, try Dr. Hauschka Inner Glow Lipstick in Red Quartz—customers love its satin finish and staying power. And keep lips smooth with Jurlique Love Balm, which Tessa likes for its fresh tangerine scent and moisturizing olive oil.

    Play up: Luminous skin
    Hydration and protection are essential for showcasing skin and keeping it healthy. Get skin glowing with Juice Beauty SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer, Tessa’s recommendation for a lightweight lotion with a hint of color, sun protection and natural botanicals that provide age-defying benefits.

    If you prefer a mineral powder, try ZuZu Luxe Mosaic Illuminator to create a light-reflecting glow and infuse skin with natural moisture from avocado and jojoba extracts. And to keep your skin radiant even without makeup, Tessa likes DeVita Hyaluronic SeruGel used under moisturizer for extra hydration. This oil-free gel combines 65 percent hyaluronic acid with soothing aloe to draw water into the skin to make it plump, firmer and with less noticeable lines and wrinkles.

  • A Holistic Approach to Pain

    ShoulderPainReady to try a new way to treat pain? Pharmaca offers a variety of natural ways to help relieve backaches, joint pain, muscle strains and more.

    Good for: joint and back pain, digestive issues
    This yellow spice is a common staple in Indian and other Asian dishes, and with good reason—it has serious anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Case in point: Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has been clinically shown to be as effective as ibuprofen in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis.

    Good for: muscle sprains and strains
    Homeopathic medicines like arnica are great for helping bring circulation to the site of an injury, helping reduce bruising and swelling and speed healing. In addition to oral arnica, try a topical like Topricin—featuring homeopathic preparations of Arnica, Rhus Toxicodendron and Ruta Graveolens, which combine to relieve inflammation, sharp pains and bone injuries—rubbed liberally into the area three times a day.

    Good for: migraines, sore muscles
    This wonder mineral is helpful in relieving tension, flushing toxins, reducing inflammation and more. Research has also indicated that it can be helpful for reducing hot flashes and migraines. Try it in a bath, as a supplement or by mixing magnesium powder with water.

    Essential Fatty Acids
    Good for: joint pain
    A variety of oils are thought to have therapeutic effects for the joints, including borage, evening primrose, black currant and fish oils. “I typically receive good feedback from my patients on these oils,” says Dr. Tori Hudson, ND. “Some even say they just feel like their joints are ‘better lubricated.’”

    Essential Oils
    Good for: headaches, toothaches, muscle aches
    Next time you have a headache, try mixing a drop of peppermint oil into a carrier oil (like jojoba or almond) and dabbing it on your forehead and temples. Have a toothache? Conside a clove compress—it's another great pain reliever because of its active compound eugenol, which has analgesic and antibacterial properties. For muscle aches, try mixing 5 drops lavender, 4 drops marjoram and 3 drops rosemary with 30 ml of a carrier oil in a hot bath.

  • Ask Pharmaca: Why Does My Energy Crash Every Afternoon?

    SleepyQ. Every afternoon I seem to lose energy. What can I do to keep from crashing?

    A. I’ll answer your question with a few other questions.

    Are you eating the wrong things for lunch? A lunch date with pasta and bread or a bacon cheeseburger may sound enticing, but these foods are full of refined carbohydrates or saturated fats that require loads of energy to metabolize—and slow us down. Plus, refined carbs such as white bread, pasta, white rice and pastries offer no sustained energy, as they provide a quick sugar spike followed by a crash.

    A better plan is to eat smaller meals throughout the day that include solid sources of protein (eggs, turkey bacon, yogurt, white meat poultry), complex carbohydrates with good fiber content (oatmeal, sweet potato, beans, vegetables, quinoa, brown rice) and healthy fats (salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil). Smaller, more frequent meals are easier to digest and therefore won’t zap energy or slow your constitution. They also help to maintain steady blood sugar—which is key to sustained energy all day long.

    Are you drinking too much coffee? Many of us depend on coffee to get us through the day, but even coffee leads to an eventual energy crash. That’s because caffeine stimulates release of adrenaline and dopamine, which contribute to the initial good mood and energy, but these effects wear off, prompting the desire for more.

    Instead of another cup of joe, try nourishing your adrenals with adaptogenic herbs known to help the body adapt to stress. I like to drink Tulsi tea because it contains holy basil—a great adaptogen that assists with grounding energy (and tastes great, too)! Other adaptogenic herbs to try include ashwaganda, rhodiola, eleuthero and licorice. You can also find them in formulas such as Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health, Pharmaca Adrenal Support and MegaFood Adrenal Strength. I like to take my adrenal formula in the morning and again in the early to mid-afternoon to give a second boost to my day.

    Adequate B vitamins are also crucial for proper metabolism and sustained energy. Taking a B complex in the morning or early afternoon is a great way to perk up your day. Formulas I like are Thorne Research Stress B-Complex, Integrative Therapeutics Active B Complex and Jarrow Formulas B-Right.

    Finally, are you really drinking enough water? The importance of adequate water consumption is often overlooked—and drinking enough is easier said than done! Dehydration leads to sluggish metabolism and dull energy. One of the best things you can do for yourself when feeling sluggish? Drink copious amounts of water. Bottoms up!

    -Kate Tackett, ND
    Kate received her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in 2005. Kate has been helping Pharmaca clientele for more than 9 years by offering personalized advice on a variety of health concerns. A regular contributor to Pharmaca's Project Wellness blog, Kate holds a wealth of knowledge in natural health. She also sees clients in private practice.

  • Make Your Own Aromatherapy

    FloralOilsEssential oils have a variety of uses in relaxation, pain relief, mood elevation…Here are a few recipes to help you get started creating your own essential oil-infused health and beauty care.

    Relaxing Before-Bed Bath
    2 drops Ylang Ylang
    5 drops Lavender
    2 tsp Carrier Oil (Grapeseed, Almond or Jojoba)
    Combine and add to running water.

    Muscle Soothing Massage Oil
    4 drops Juniper
    3 drops Lavender
    1 drop Ylang Ylang
    2 tsp Carrier Oil (Grapeseed, Almond or Jojoba)
    Combine and massage into sore muscles.

    Revitalizing Eye Compress
    1 drop Chamomile or Lavender
    4 cups Cold Water
    Saturate cotton balls with mixture, wring out excess liquid and place on closed eyes for 10 minutes.  

    Deodorizing Room Spray
    6 drops Bergamot
    1 drop Tea Tree
    2 drops Lemon
    1 cup Water
    Combine all ingredients in a spray mist bottle. Shake well before spraying anywhere that needs freshening.

    Love Potion Mist
    6 drops Ylang Ylang
    5 drops Rose Absolute
    1 drop Clove Bud
    Combine all ingredients in a spray mist bottle. Shake well before spritzing.  

    Thanks to our friends at Aura Cacia for inspiration!

  • FAQs Regarding Supplement Purity and Quality at Pharmaca

    Folic AcidIn response to a recent investigation by Frontline and the NY Times calling into question the purity and safety of dietary supplements, Pharmaca has developed the following to help answer common customer questions.

    Should I be taking supplements?
    We believe that dietary and herbal supplements can be an integral part of a good health regimen, but they must be of the highest quality and purity in order to serve their purpose. That’s why Pharmaca adheres to stringent quality standards when selecting supplements for sale.

    Why should I trust the purity of supplements on Pharmaca’s shelves?
    We have deep expertise in the field of herbal supplements and understand there is a wide range in quality of products in the marketplace. It is for that reason that we have put in place a Vendor Quality Assurance Program (VQAP) designed specifically to vet our suppliers and their products. This program follows guidelines outlined in the FDA Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act, FDA 21 CFR 111 cGMP guidelines and USDA Organic standards.

    What is the Vendor Quality Assurance Program?
    We want to be the trusted editor for our customers when it comes to the quality of our vitamins and supplements, and the VQAP offers a framework for us to do so.

    Through the VQAP, all of the herbal and dietary supplement brands that Pharmaca carries are evaluated for their use of current Good Manufacturing Practice standards, for the purity and potency of ingredients, and for their formulations and efficacy.

    We also perform periodic verification of our vendors’ quality practices via on-site audits and self-audit questionnaires, which forces our supplement manufacturers to be completely transparent about their processes.

    The VQAP self-audit questionnaires are reviewed using a graded approach to determine the level of quality practices the supplier has in place. Missing answers to the critical questions show potential adulteration and/or contamination problems with materials/products supplied. These questions deal with information about the vendor’s quality control personnel, specifications and related testing of raw materials/finished products, possible contamination of materials/products due to inadequate sanitation practices, inability to substantiate label information, and non-compliance with current food labeling regulations for potential allergens. If the vendor’s answers indicate possible contamination/adulteration issues with materials/products, the use of the vendor will be rejected.

    Are there any other factors that go into your product selection?
    In choosing our supplements, we also rely heavily on the expertise of our in-store practitioners and Integrative Health Advisory Board—made up of both medical and naturopathic doctors—who are well-versed in the use and efficacy of different supplements and brands.

    Pharmaca also partners with brands of like mind, those that have a demonstrated history of using pure, efficacious ingredients. Some of these also qualify as “professional brands” that have been developed—and are in use—in doctors’ clinical practices.

    Does it make a difference that Pharmaca’s staff includes licensed practitioners?
    Yes. Our licensed pharmacists, naturopaths, herbalist and nutritionists are responsible for offering our customers sound counseling on the proper use of dietary supplements, and that they remain compliant with the government’s DSHEA regulations as they do so. Practitioners also undergo rigorous ongoing training to ensure they are up to date on the latest research concerning our brands and ingredients. The presence of all types of practitioners—both conventional and alternative—also allows us to provide a balanced, “integrative” approach that is not found in other vitamin and supplement retailers.

  • Quick Treatments for Damaged Hair

    Brown hairHas your hair lost its bounce? Shine? Thickness? Tackle the problem with some serious hair repair treatments that work fast. Here’s what you need to know about the anatomy of your hair and what to do when things go awry.

    It’s all about follicles and cuticles
    Hair grows from hair follicles in our scalp, and the hair shaft is made up almost completely of a protein called keratin. Each shaft is comprised of three layers: the inner most medulla, which determines the thickness of the hair, the middle cortex, which gives hair its color, and the outer cuticle, which forms a protective barrier. By keeping our scalp healthy, our follicles can produce hair that’s stronger, and by nourishing the exposed cuticle (it’s semi-permeable so products can penetrate), we protect the hair shaft from damage.

    Help for: Processed or color-treated hair
    Chemicals like hydrogen peroxide used in permanent coloring and highlighting products, glycolic acid in straightening products and even formaldehyde by-products that are present in certain salon Brazilian straighteners, open the cuticle and allow color or a relaxing agent to be deposited into your hair’s cortex.

    These chemicals also make your hair strands weaker, drier and lackluster. That’s where a serious conditioning treatment comes in, like Earth Science Olive & Avocado Deep Conditioning Hair Mask. It penetrates and smooths hair cuticles with moisturizing coconut, avocado and olive oils, while silk proteins form a protective barrier on strands to improve elasticity and shine. Plus it works on both fine and thick hair. Another one to try: Alba Botanica Hawaiian Deep Conditioning Minute Mask, which restores hair with super nourishing argan oil and cocoa butter, and smooths with plant-sourced keratin.

    Help for: Sun and wind damaged hair
    Outdoor enthusiasts know that the elements can take a toll on our hair, leaving it dry and brittle. That’s because the sun’s UVA and UVB rays break down the keratin proteins and pigment in our hair, and wind can cause tangles and split ends. Treat your hair to Peter Lamas Youth Revival 5 Oil Hair Treatment Mask, a blend of five botanical oils that remoisturize hair, smooth cuticles, increase elasticity and protect the hair shaft from UV rays.

    Help for: Thin or slow-growing hair
    Thinning hair is often the result of heredity, hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause, or even certain hairstyles that pull hair too tight. A healthy scalp can keep your follicles functioning optimally and help encourage hair growth. Peter Lamas Chinese Herbs Regenerating Scalp Serum massaged in to the scalp twice daily invigorates hair follicles and detoxifies the scalp with herbal swertia extract and apple stem cells.

    You can work on thinning hair from the inside out, too: Try incorporating supplements rich in the B vitamin biotin—like Pharmaca Biotin Capsules—to strengthen hair and help it grow faster.

    Help for: Flaky, itchy scalp
    Itchy scalp and dandruff can be caused by several factors; the most common are dry skin, seborrheic dermatitis or a yeast-like fungus. But embarrassing flakes and itchiness can be treated with products that restore your scalp to health. John Masters Lavender & Avocado Intensive Conditioner blends organic arnica and white tea to detoxify your scalp, while lavender oil hydrates and calms skin to relieve symptoms of eczema or dermatitis. Badger Organic Jojoba Hair Oil for Dry Scalp is another effective treatment, quelling itchiness and dandruff with nourishing plant oils, scalp-stimulating rosemary and peppermint essential oils, and antibacterial and anti-fungal tea tree oil.

  • 5 Tips for Naturally Beautiful Winter Hands

    WinterHandsStruggling to maintain soft skin and strong nails in winter? Don’t fret—pretty hands are a possibility even in the driest season with these expert tips.

    Get rid of dull, flaky skin.
    The best and fastest path to supple hands is to exfoliate once a week with a product that sloughs away rough skin and primes our skin for treatments, says esthetician Shannon Fultz at our Greenwood Village store. We love the tropical-inspired SpaRitual Instinctual Sand Scrub that blends smoothing Bora Bora white sand and volcanic black sand with restorative argan oil to gently exfoliate and tone skin. Sugar is another great exfoliator, especially for sensitive skin; try it in Saavy Tahitian Vanilla & Kukui Sugar Scrub with nourishing Hawaiian kukui oil and soothing marshmallow extract.

    Apply hand cream day and night.
    Moisturizing skin throughout the day keeps our hands and nails hydrated and prevents chapping, especially in dry winter weather. During the day, reach for easily absorbed lotions, especially ones that last through multiple hand washings, like Avene Cold Cream that nourishes with slow release micro-capsules of glycerin and thermal spring water. At night, turn to rich creams that heal skin cracks and lock in moisture, like those with shea butter, says Shannon. Shea Terra Organics Nilotik Shea Butter is 100 percent pure shea butter from northern Uganda, and is rich and creamy, and full of skin-healing vitamins E and A.

    Dab on cuticle oils.
    Cuticles need extra attention in the winter, and cuticle oils target the nail bed and cuticle with intensive nourishment that prevents and repairs annoying hangnails. Argan oil is a particularly effective treatment since it absorbs well; Shannon recommends rubbing a few drops of Acure Moroccan Argan Oil on your nails and cuticles every night before applying your moisturizer. Or, for a super easy application (and perfect for travel), try Dr. Hauschka Neem Nail & Cuticle Oil Pen featuring neem oil that strengthens soft or brittle nails, and keeps cuticles soft and healthy.

    Avoid moisture-robbing ingredients.
    Be aware of ingredients that can dry skin and nails, like alcohol in hand sanitizers or sulfates in soap. Instead, look for natural botanical products that clean, sanitize and nourish skin. Cleanwell Foaming Antibacterial Hand Soap and Hand Sanitizer Spray neutralize germs with thyme oil while softening skin with aloe vera and coconut oil. Nourish Organic Ultra-Moisturizing Hand Wash is another good winter choice, as it gently cleans and soothes hands with quinoa proteins, aloe and shea butter.

    Get a biotin boost.
    Biotin, a water-soluble B complex vitamin, is an ideal supplement (with proven scientific results) for repairing brittle and splitting nails, and stimulating nail and hair growth. Neocell Biotin Bursts Soft Chews are a (tasty!) customer and practitioner favorite, says Shannon. Or simply add a Pharmaca Biotin Vegetarian Capsule to your daily vitamin regimen to support healthy nails. You can also incorporate biotin-rich foods—like liver, egg yolks and salmon—into your diet for extra support.

  • New Tools for Healthy Weight Management

    Woman stretchingDid you know? Maintaining a healthy weight is about more than diet or exercise. We spoke with nutritionist Julie McGinnis at our south Boulder store about other things to keep in mind on the quest to shed a few pounds.

    Get more (and better) sleep. Recent studies have suggested that too little (5 or less hours) or too much (9+ hours) sleep can increase the likelihood of weight gain, since the duration of our sleep can affect the hormones regulating hunger or stimulate the appetite. Plus, the more tired you are, the less likely you are to be active!

    Consider a winding down process in the evening to lower your stress hormones. Take a nice hot shower or bath. Turn off computer screens. And speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about supplements that can help—like melatonin, herbs such as valerian, hops and passionflower, and cortisol-lowering supplements like phosphatidylserine.

    Don’t just count calories. A healthy diet is more about getting the right distribution of food groups than it is about calories. Divide your plate into thirds, and fill one-third with protein, one-third with vegetables and one-third with a whole grain starch. Other nutritious ideas:

    • Prep food with healthy fats like olive or coconut oil
    • Aim for 8-10 servings of veggies daily—that’s 1 cup of leafy greens, or ½ cup of other veggies
    • Keep fruit intake to 2 servings/day of fruit with a lower glycemic index, like berries, to keep blood sugar balanced—and in turn allow your body to burn more fat

    Exercise is a must! Some form of exercise is better than none, so if you have to start with walking, do it. Combining regular activity with a balanced diet will allow for much better fat burning.

    Don't be too hard on yourself. Stress can keep the body from losing weight because it elevates your cortisol levels, which in turn elevates insulin levels that result in fat being stored—not burned. So rest when you need to rest. And make sure you integrate rest days into your regular exercise regimen, too.

  • Don't forget to use your FSA funds before December 31


    If you enrolled in a flexible spending account (FSA) as part of your health coverage in 2015, now’s the time to use up that savings—before December 31!

    By purchasing eligible products with your pre-tax dollars, you can save approximately 20 to 40 percent on out-of-pocket health expenses. However, the "use it or lose it" principle applies to these savings plans. For most, FSA-qualified purchases and expenses must take place before the end of the year, but patients are given a grace period—until March 15 of the following year—during which they can submit their request for reimbursements. (Note: Some providers now offer 15-month FSA cycles; check with your provider to see if you may be able to continue using your funds past the end of of the year.)

    Here are a few common ways to spend FSA dollars:

    • Prescriptions
    • Co-pays for doctor’s visits
    • X-rays and lab tests
    • Dental and orthodontic work
    • Contact lenses and reading glasses
    • Physical therapy, acupuncture and psychologist fees

    By now you probably know that many over-the-counter drugs require a prescription to be eligible for FSA reimbursement. That means if you're used to using your FSA to purchase common allergy meds such as Claritin, acid controllers like Pepcid AC or even common cold and flu remedies like Robitussin, you'll need a prescription.

    That also means that FSA debit cards will not work at the register for purchases of prescription-required items (even if you have a prescription). Just talk to your doctor ahead of time, pay for these items out of pocket and submit a reimbursement claim.

    Read more about eligible expenses, or contact your benefits administrator to learn more about the FSA specifications under your insurance plans. And as always, feel free to ask a Pharmaca practitioner for health advice or product recommendations.

    Creative Commons License, photo credit: bibliojojo

  • Practitioner Spotlight: What's in a Nutritionist’s Medicine Cabinet?

    group shotOur health and beauty practitioners are pros at recommending natural skin care remedies for customers. But what are the essentials they always keep on hand? We asked Sabrina Magno, certified nutritionist at our Pacific Palisades, about the Pharmaca products she can’t live without.

    Nature's Way Raw Coconut
    I love educating customers on the benefits of organic, whole-food sources of healthy fats, and coconut oil is a great source of minerals, vitamins and fiber. It's packed with medium chain fatty (MCT) acids that provide quick energy, and is a great natural source of lauric acid, which offers additional antimicrobial properties. It can be easily added to smoothies, used as a healthy alternative to butter or added to millet breakfast porridge or tea.”

    Thorne Research Stress B-Complex
    In my practice I’ve found that a good percentage of my clients don’t have adequate levels of B vitamins. B vitamins often work together in the body, play a crucial role in cell metabolism and are responsible for numerous processes including synthesis of DNA and RNA, and methylation of DNA. At Pharmaca we offer high-quality products like Thorne’s Stress B-Complex, which has active forms of all eight B vitamins, along with extra pantothenic acids.” 

    Inner-Eco Fresh Coconut Water Probiotic and GT’s & Synergy Kombucha
    “I am a big proponent of creating a healthy microbiome. In addition to fermenting my own vegetables at home, I am always in search of good sources of probiotics. These coconut water and kombucha options are a great way to help replenish and inoculate gut flora with healthy bacteria and beneficial yeast such as saccharomyces boulardii.”

    Aura Cacia Peppermint Essential Oil
    “If you’ve met with me at Pharmaca, you probably noticed my passion for promoting aromatherapy! Essential oils stimulate the brain and neural activity by crossing the blood-brain barrier. Peppermint oil is great for headaches, digestives issues and as a decongestant.

    John Masters Organics Pomegranate Facial Nourishing Oil 
    “The skin is our largest organ and we have to feed it well! This organic blend of oils is a great source of antioxidants, ideal for creating healthy skin, and is an excellent tool to fight skin dryness during cold weather. Plus it has the safest rating in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics database.”

21-30 of 507