Pharmaca Blog

  • Coconut Oil’s Beauty Benefits

    coconutBake with it, take it by the spoonful or smear it on dry elbows: No matter how you use coconut oil, you’ll find that it’s chock full of healthy benefits, due in part to its high content of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs).

    What are MCTs? First, let’s talk about what they’re not—they’re not long chain triglycerides (LCTs), which are the most abundant fat found in nature and the source of 98 percent of our dietary fat. LCTs are digested slowly and stored in fat deposits; MCTs, on the other hand, are digested quickly and used for immediate energy. MCTs also contain fatty acids that benefit immunity.

    Coconut oil has the highest naturally occurring MCT content, making it a great source of MCTs for both internal and external benefits:

    • Coconut oil nourishes connective tissues, keeping skin healthy and smooth, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and promoting even skin tone.
    • Coconut fats are deeply moisturizing and reduce moisture loss through skin pores.
    • Coconut oil’s antioxidant-like activity provides protection from the aging effects of free radicals.
    • Coconut oil contains fatty acids (e.g. lauric acid) with strong disinfectant and anti-microbial properties, meaning it can help prevent infection when used internally or applied topically to wounds.
    • The lauric acid in coconut oil is also a great mouth disinfectant. Try swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil for 15 minutes (then spitting into the trash) for a brighter smile and enhanced oral health.
    • Coconut and palm kernel oils contain vitamin E—a powerful antioxidant that’s essential for skin growth and repair, protection from cracking, prevention of premature aging and wrinkling, and enhanced sun tolerance.
    • Proteins in coconut oil contribute to cellular health and tissue repair, providing relief for skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and acne.


    Our coconut oil and MCT-filled favorites:

    Barlean’s MCT Swirl – A daily liquid supplement that features the delicious taste and texture of a coconut smoothie—as well as important omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA.

    Coconut Oils from Nature’s Way and Jarrow Formulas – Choose from a number of multi-use products that are made from pure, organic coconuts. Great for daily supplementation, cooking, and skin and hair care!

    Pharmaca brand Organic Coconut & Vanilla Lip Balm Our very own delicious, nourishing and moisturizing lip balm made with certified organic coconut oil.

    Eminence’s Coconut Age Corrective MoisturizerThis ultra-hydrating, pH-balancing and toning organic face cream is made with coconut oil and coconut water, natural retinol, green apple stem cells and shea butter.

    MyChelle’s Sun Shield SPF 28 Coconut Nourishing broad-spectrum mineral sun protection featuring coconut and palm kernel oils, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

    Nubian Heritage’s Coconut Papaya Deodorant An effective natural deodorant with coconut oil to keep underarm skin moisturized and soft.

    Elemental Herbs’ All Good Organic Coconut Skin FoodOrganic, unrefined coconut oil for all-over moisturizing skin scents like lavender or lemongrass!

    Creative uses for coconut oil

    Use as an all-over moisturizer - Deep condition hair - Use as a cuticle soother to improve nail health - Try it as a shave oil - Run a small dab through wet hair to eliminate frizz - Remove makeup - Clear up cold sores with coconut’s anti-viral properties - Use as a massage oil - Combine with salt or sugar to make the perfect exfoliant - Use as diaper cream for baby’s bottom - Decrease stretch marks during pregnancy - Use as an after-sun soother - Use as a carrier base for essential oils (e.g. natural perfume or natural bug repellant) - Use in dips, spreads, sauces or add to food and smoothies - Swap it for butter or vegetable oil in baking and cooking

  • Ayurvedic Beauty: Let Your Dosha Guide You

    Face of a young womanAyurveda is an ancient natural healing system that teaches us how to maintain optimal health by balancing our mind, body, spirit and environment. To help achieve this balance we need to understand the three doshas, or fundamental energies, that are found in all of us. One dosha is usually prominent in each of us, and keeping that dosha in balance lets us look and feel our best—while dosha imbalance leads to troublesome skin conditions. Here’s more about how our doshas work.

    Determine your dosha

    To help figure out which of the three is your strongest dosha, take this simple Dosha Quiz. You’ll find out if your mind-body type is mostly Vata (air), Pitta (fire) or Kapha (earth). Your dosha determines what energy rules your body, inside and out.

    In terms of your skin, these characteristics are typical for each dosha.

    Vata: Ruled by air. Skin: dry, thin, bruises easily, prone to premature aging

    Pitta: Ruled by fire. Skin: sensitive, reactive, prone to redness and inflammation

    Kapha: Ruled by Earth and water. Skin: oily, plump, soft, large pores, prone to pimples and blackheads


    Dosha do’s

    For your skin to look its best, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend caring for it in a way that balances the energy of your dosha. We asked Kathryn Fairbanks, esthetician and Ayurvedic expert in our Berkeley store, about the best ways to enhance natural beauty and prevent dosha imbalance.

    First off, Kathryn says, it’s important to understand that while our skin type is usually a reflection of our primary dosha, sometimes another dosha comes into play—so ask a practitioner to help guide you toward products that can help maintain balance between the two.


    These lively, restless souls need to keep skin nourished and moisturized, and take steps to treat premature wrinkles and lines. Cleansing skin without drying it out is key; Kathryn recommends Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular Cleansing Oil for the job. Fruit stem cells brighten skin tone and resveratrol-rich grape seed oil balances skin’s natural moisture, and nutrient-dense and collagen-building products help strengthen Vata’s thin skin. Derma E’s Deep Wrinkle Reverse Moisturizer with Peptides Plus uses two powerful peptides to build collagen along with antioxidant green tea and vitamin C to keep further damage in check.


    Keeping cool is the goal for Pittas to avoid redness, inflammation or rashes. To treat reactive skin, Kathryn recommends oil-based vitamin C serums like Sanitas’ Vita C Serum. With a whopping 25 percent lipophilic (i.e. oil attracting) vitamin C concentration, this powerful antioxidant penetrates the skin to repair damage without irritation. Cooling mists and plant hydrosols used throughout the day will ease redness and calm Pitta skin, too. Try Jurlique’s Calendula Redness Rescue Calming Mist with soothing calendula and chamomile, or evanhealy’s Lavender Facial Tonic Hydrosol for sensitive skin.


    Detoxing is the key to healthy Kapha skin, flushing toxins that tend to accumulate in this dosha’s thick, oily skin. Evanhealy’s Lemongrass Facial Polish with Moroccan clay and natural astringent lemongrass is perfect for decongesting skin and deep cleaning pores, says Kathryn. Keep oiliness and blemishes in check with Astara’s Blue Flame Purifying Treatment that clarifies the skin with bacteria-fighting totara tree essence and tea tree oil. Evanhealy’s Lemon Thyme Facial Tonic Hydrosol is another good choice to spritz on after cleansing and throughout the day to balance and tone skin.

  • A Naturopath’s Guide to Treating Anxiety

    RedheadAnxiety, in all its forms, is a common condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. It can manifest as excessive worry or unwarranted fear, or even nervousness, shortness of breath or a racing heart. If you experience any of these symptoms, read on to learn more about anxiety and how you can treat it, naturally.

    What is anxiety?

    Anxiety is a normal, albeit unpleasant, human emotion that all people experience, ranging from mild unease to intense debilitating fear. But anxiety is different fromfear; fear is a rational response to real danger, whereas anxiety usually lacks a clear or realistic cause.

    Feeling anxious about a work presentation, preparing for a test or anxiousness over meeting a blind date constitutes normal anxiety. Abnormal anxiety happens consistently and at higher levels that interfere with normal life. For people with anxiety disorders, life can be overwhelming, and their symptoms can manifest into physical disorders such as adrenal fatigue, compromised immunity and heart disease.

    Common symptoms of general anxiety include the following:

    • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
    • Problems sleeping
    • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
    • Shortness of breath
    • Heart palpitations
    • Inability to be still and calm
    • Dry mouth
    • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
    • Nausea and gastric upset
    • Muscle tension
    • Dizziness

    What causes anxiety?

    Many factors can contribute to a person’s likelihood of experiencing anxiety. Here are a few common causes:

    • Biochemical problems, including substance abuse [e.g. alcohol, drugs (recreational or prescribed), caffeine or tobacco], stress hormones and neurotransmitter deficiencies (e.g. low GABA or serotonin levels)
    • Genetic abnormalities, or errors with neurotransmitter receptors
    • Environmental factors such as trauma, life stress, toxicities or fungal exposure
    • Psychological factors, including daily stress

    Conversely, the effects of long-term anxiety on the body and overall health can be significant. The stress hormone cortisol is elevated during periods of stress and anxiety, and chronic cortisol elevation can lead to poor learning and memory, low immune function, low bone density, weight gain, increased blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, and more.

    Treating anxiety naturally

    The two divisions of the autonomic nervous system—the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems--are heavily involved in our anxiety response. When we’re anxious, we go into sympathetic overdrive, also known as the fight-or-flight response. On the opposite end, the parasympathetic nervous system works to regulate repair, maintenance and restoration of the body.

    The below treatments are focused on supporting the work of the parasympathetic system by addressing nutritional factors that can immediately help bring the body back into balance and reduce anxiety symptoms.

    1. Avoid alcohol
    2. Avoid caffeine
    3. Avoid sugar
    4. Address B vitamin deficiency (particularly B1, B3, B6)
    5. Address calcium or magnesium deficiencies
    6. Address and eliminate food sensitivities and allergens

    Adopting a healthy lifestyle is pivotal to managing anxiety. Here are a few vital lifestyle changes that can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

    1. Exercise regularly. It can help reduce tension, anxiety and mild depression, and improve mental outlook, self-esteem and our ability to handle stress.
    2. Get 7-8 hours sleep. Sleep deprivation disables mental and physical function, and makes anxiety worse.
    3. Eat a whole-food and plant-based diet that includes a rainbow of fruits and veggies and complex carbohydrates, balanced protein and good fats. This will also help reduce exposure to toxins (pesticides, heavy metals and food additives) and support blood sugar.

    And remember, stress management is critical in managing anxiety. Efforts to calm the mind and body can help generate a physiological relaxation response. To achieve this response, try deep breathing or progressive relaxation (whereby one compares muscle tension with muscle relaxation to bring awareness to tension throughout the body and thereby consciously change tension to relaxation). Joyful, relaxing activities—such as a walk on the beach, a hot bubble bath, a cup of tea by the fireplace or yoga—along with quality sleep, can evoke a relaxation response.

    Supplements for anxiety

    Fish oil. Anxiety sufferers tend to be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. DHA, a fatty acid found in fish oil, nourishes the brain and nervous system. Try Nordic Naturals or Pharmax brands for superior quality and absorption.

    Pharma-GABA. GABA is an important neurotransmitter that slows down the firing between the synapses in the brain. People with low GABA are prone to anxiety and depression, so supplementing with GABA can help to slow down the rapid-fire worry. Try Thorne Research’s PharmaGABA, Natural Factors’ Pharma GABA or Jarrow Formulas’ GABA Soothe (also featuring a blend of relaxing herbs).

    L-theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that helps promote alpha waves in the brain; alpha waves are calming brain waves that promote a relaxed physical and mental condition. Theanine also increases GABA. Try Natural Factors’ Suntheanine L-Theanine or Jarrow Formulas’ Theanine 100.

    Kava Kava. Kava has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, heart palpitations, chest pains, headache, dizziness and gastric irritation. Kava is effective for anxiety in peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women. Note: Do not use kava if you have liver problems or regularly consume alcohol. Try Herb Pharm’s Kava or Pharmaca brand Kava.

    Magnesium. Magnesium relaxes small muscles throughout the body and aids in metabolism; deficiency has been known to exacerbate anxiety. Try Pharmaca brand Magnesium Citrate, Natural Vitality’s Calm powdered magnesium or Pure Encapsulations’ Magnesium (glycinate).

    B Complex. B vitamin deficiency also exacerbates anxiety, since B vitamins are critical to many functions in the body including calming the nervous system. Try New Chapter’s Coenzyme B Food Complex, Thorne Research’s Basic B Complex or Pharmaca brand B Complex.

    Multivitamin. Take a quality multi everyday to ensure you’re receiving adequate vitamins and minerals, since deficiencies can aggravate anxiety. Try food-based and readily absorbed multis from New Chapter or MegaFood.

    WishGarden Herbs’ Emotional Ally is a specialized combination of emotionally supportive herbs such as St. Johns wort, skullcap and passionflower that can help you ground and re-center.

    Hyland's Calms Forte is a simple, non-toxic homeopathic blend to aid nervous tension and sleeplessness. A great product to partner with other herbal anxiety remedies or try alone!
  • Buyer Spotlight: What's in our Supplement Buyer's Medicine Cabinet?

    Don'sSuppsOur health care practitioners are pros at recommending natural remedies for customers. But what are the essentials they always keep on hand? We asked Don Summerfield, Pharmaca's vice president of integrative medicine (and manager of our supplements category), to tell us about his Pharmaca favorites.

    Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health
    “I take this for general overall stress support. It nourishes my adrenal glands, boosts my adrenal function and provides relief from fatigue—without having to resort to caffeinated beverages.”

    Host Defense Reishi Mushroom
    “I am a huge fan of medicinal mushroom supplements and take them every day. My favorite species is the reishi mushroom, referred to respectfully as the ‘Mushroom of Immortality;’ it’s well known for supporting general wellness and vitality.”

    Garden of Life mykind Organics Men’s Multi
    “I take the mykind Organics Men’s Multi because it offers comprehensive nutritional support. I love that this supplement is made from real whole foods: fruits, veggies and herbs such as lemons, apples, basil, red cabbage, celery, tomatoes. Plus it’s Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified.”

    Pharmaca Coenzyme Q10
    “CoQ10 would be on my desert island top 10 list. I take 200 mg of CoQ10 daily to support healthy heart function and prevent gum disease. CoQ10 plays a vital role in energy production within cells, and protects cholesterol from oxidation.”

    Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega
    “A high-quality fish oil is always a part of my daily supplement program. I take three capsules of Ultimate Omega daily to support my heart, improve joint flexibility and mobility, and to help prevent overall inflammatory conditions.”

    Megafood Turmeric Booster
    “Each morning I make a fresh coconut milk smoothie with mixed berries, kale, cilantro and a heaping scoop of Megafood Turmeric Booster. Turmeric is the queen of herbs from the Ayurvedic medical system, renowned for its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity.”

    New Chapter Cinnamon Force
    “Cinnamon Force is a fabulous supplement to help normalize blood sugar levels and create immediate cellular energy. I love to bite into a Cinnamon Force capsule after each meal to release that burst of fresh cinnamon flavor.”

  • Parenthood 101: Our “Love-It” List

    Mother with babyA new baby brings so much joy and happiness—and often, a serious learning curve. With so much information awaiting new parents, we wanted to provide a few can’t-live-without necessities and tips from the new mothers among our friends and family here at Pharmaca, from helpful toys to homeopathic remedies.

    Safe, entertaining toys

    Toys need to be safe, fun and keep them entertained for long periods of time! For napping or bedtime, marketing manager Cathy turns to Cloud B’s Twilight Turtle. “It’s one of his favorite toys, and also helps my baby sleep!” This plush turtle projects constellations on the ceiling, providing a focal point that relaxes babies and offers a nightlight effect to ease fear of the dark.

    For bath time, choose toys that can’t trap water. “Squirty toys are fun, but they can hold in water and tend to grow mold,” says Tess, mom to 9-month old Hagen. “I like to make sure my little guy’s bath toys are soft and squishy yet sealed, so I don’t have to worry when they inevitably end up in his mouth.” We love Green Sprouts' adorable Stacking Duck Set for bathtime.

    And for on-the-go entertainment, Water WOW! books are inexpensive and mess-free, and feed kids’ creativity anywhere—in the car, on a plane or at the kitchen table. These travel activity books will keep kids occupied for hours with reusable pages and a refillable pen—when your child is done with a page, just erase and start over!

    The daily diaper grind

    In those first months, be prepared to change a LOT of diapers, so think about what kinds of diapers you want to use. If you’re looking for disposables, Seventh Generation offers a convenient solution without fragrances, latex, petroleum-based lotions or chlorine processing. And while the idea of cloth diapers can be intimidating, “It’s easier than you think!” one of our moms insisted. “Try GroVia’s reusable diapers—we’d throw dirty diapers into a bucket with a secure lid and just wash.” A word of warning when going reusable: be sure not to use diaper rash ointments with talc, which creates buildup in the diaper and reduces absorbency. For more on the ins and outs of GroVia’s diapers, check out this handy guide.

    Finally, make sure you’re ready to conquer diaper rash. There are several effective products that our moms recommend to quickly eliminate this uncomfortable skin condition, caused by wetness trapped under diapers. GroVia’s Magic Stick Diaper Ointment works immediately to sooth and clear any irritation caused by diaper rash. And when it comes to cleansing delicate skin, Cathy, mom to 2-year-old Rhone, recommends the Mustela line, in particular their naturally formulated Stelatopia Cream Cleanser.

    On the go

    Traveling with infants can be a challenge, but with a few convenient and packable products, it can be a stress-free experience. Whitney, mom to Avery, made a habit of taking a portable tent from PeaPod with her when leaving the house. The tent provides a comfy and contained environment for picnics in the park and backyard barbeques, allowing your baby to feel nested anywhere. It’s also a great portable sun shade for beach days and sporting events.

    Another key element of travel with children is, of course, snacks. Make sure you’ve always got nutrition in hand by packing it up in Kids Konserve’s stainless steel food containers that are leak proof, insulated and keep food hot or cold for hours. Convenient and durable, these containers ensure you’re always ready to nip hunger pains in the bud!

    Keeping them healthy

    When your little one gets sick, you want access to effective remedies—that are safe and don’t come with side effects. Herbal and homeopathic remedies can be great for just this time in your little ones life. Here are the most popular supplements recommended by our expert parenting panel .

    Gaia Herbs' Sniffle Support, a natural blend of herbs known to support and soothe ear, nose and throat inflammation, is especially helpful for croup, an airway infection that often results in a dry cough.

    Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets work fast to relieve the pain of teething

    Nordic Naturals’ Baby’s DHA encourages healthy eye, brain and heart development, are thought to have calming effects, and come in a convenient dropper

    Speak with a Pharmaca practitioner about other recommendations for newborn necessities.

  • Stress Supplements 101

    Young woman drinking tea at homeWe can all feel overwhelmed by stress sometimes—the last thing we need is to be overwhelmed by the number of stress relief options available. Here’s a short list of popular practitioner recommendations for stress relief, and what they’re good for.

    Racing mind: L-Theanine
    This unique amino acid, found in green tea, supports mental calmness by increasing dopamine and GABA in the brain; it also assists the alpha brainwaves associated with relaxation, without any drowsiness.

    Tense muscles: Magnesium
    Identified in more than 300 bodily processes, magnesium relaxes small muscles and is also a key player in mental relaxation, neuromuscular transmission and energy—serving double duty both rebuilding the body, and giving a sense of wellbeing.

    Anxiety: L-tryptophan/5-HTP
    In the body L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which can then be converted to serotonin; serotonin deficiency has been linked to poor sleep, loss of appetite, as well as depression and anxiety.

    Long-term stress: B Complex
    “B vitamins are also hugely important regarding stress,” says Cassy Dymond, naturopath at our Wallingford store in Seattle. B vitamin deficiency can exacerbate stress and anxiety, since B vitamins are critical to many functions in the body including calming the nervous system. “When we’re stressed, we burn through B5 and B6 more quickly.”

    Irritability: GABA
    GABA is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter that works to calm over-excitement in the nervous system that can lead to irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness and spasmodic movements. GABA increases the production of calming alpha waves and decreases stress-related beta waves in the brain.

    In-the-moment stress: Flower Essences
    Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a combination of five flower essences, is designed for immediate relief from stress or some kind of trauma,” says Lindsay Fontana, homeopath at our Santa Fe store. “Sometimes when you can just get a little distance from things, you can find more peace.” The formula includes essences of rock rose, clematis, impatiens, cherry plum and star of Bethlehem.

    Chronic Stress: Adaptogenic Herbs
    Our adrenal glands produce stress hormones (such as cortisol), and can quickly become imbalanced with chronic stress. That’s where adaptogens come in—they help improve adrenal gland function and boost your body’s natural stress response. Our practitioners often recommend rhodiola, eleuthero, astragalus and ashwaganda—in single extracts or combinations.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for other stress-busting supplement recommendations.

  • Celebrity-Approved Beauty

    Celebrities depend on a bevy of skin care solutions and prettifying products to ensure they get the glow required to keep them camera ready—products that can be found right here at Pharmaca. Whether you’re looking to get Gwyneth’s glow, Natalie’s natural radiance or Cameron’s easygoing surfer girl look, these natural beauty skin care brands are not only good for you, but also good enough for the red carpet.

    512px-Barack_and_Michelle_Obama_at_the_Home_States_Ball NEXT UP: THE SKIN CARE LINE MICHELLE OBAMA LOVES











    Ahava receives plenty of press, and for good reason. Ahava’s rejuvenating Dead Sea mineral actives help Natalie Portman get her glow. Portman is a fan of Ahava’s Dead Sea Mud Exfoliator, and their powerful mineral products are also enjoyed by First Lady Michelle Obama and actress Kristin Davis.

    Dr. Hauschka

    Supergoop co-owner Maria Sharapova

    This natural skin care company creates chemical-free, botanically based products with garden-fresh, ultra-pure ingredients, so it’s no surprise that this pure line has quite the celebrity following. Vermont-bred Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter told Glamour magazine her post-snowboarding ritual is to “load on Dr. Hauschka Arnica Energizing Body Oil all over my body and face.” And model Kate Upton enjoys the brand’s gently exfoliating Cleansing Cream, telling InStyle “My skin feels so soft after I use it.”


    Supergoop co-owner Maria SharapovaThis natural sun care line is co-owned by tennis star Maria Sharapova, and is another favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow's beauty editors. Their Daily Correct CC Cream does double duty as a primer and foundation, while smoothing fine lines, hydrating skin and providing SPF 35 sun protection.

    jane iredale

    Anna Kendrick

    Recently, the New York Times ran an interview with Anna Kendrick, in which the actress stated “I’m not big on lip color, but I like to have a little bit of something. I just ordered a jane iredale’s Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain. It doesn’t just give you that bee-stung thing for two seconds; it lasts for hours.” Original supermodel Cindy Crawford also told that she chooses jane iredale’s mineral powder for both herself and her teenage daughter. “I feel like you can’t mess it up. It doesn’t streak; it’s not like a liquid foundation that you can put on too thick, or you can forget a spot. I feel like that’s really easy for her to use.” Jessica Alba credits jane iredale’s 24-Karat Gold Dust for her helping with her red-carpet glamour, using a tiny bit to give shine to her hair, clavicles and décolletage.

    Juice Beauty

    Cameron Diaz

    In her health and wellness tome, The Body Book, Cameron Diaz lists Juice Beauty as one of her favorite skin care lines, touting its commitment to pure, organic ingredients. Juice Beauty’s Green Apple Peel popularity helped the brand to gain quick momentum, garnering celebrity mentions and rave reviews. Juice Beauty has since enjoyed partnerships with celebrities such as actress, vegan and The Kind Life blogger Alicia Silverstone, and its Organic Lip Moisturizer is mentioned as a clean beauty must-have on Gwyneth’s Paltrow’s blog, Did we mention that Gwyneth was just named Juice Beauty's creative director? Talk about celeb cache.


    Lauren Conrad

    This ingenious beauty tool has enjoyed a swift rise to fame, with promises to remove 60 percent more dirt and oil with its gentle scrubbing brush head. Celebrities have been quick to jump on the Clarisonic bandwagon, including fashion and lifestyle guru Lauren Conrad and country music star Faith Hill—who claimed the Mia as one of her must-have beauty items in InStyle Magazine.

    Dr. Bronner’s


    DrB LiqSoap_lavcroppedDr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps are universally appealing to natural skin care devotees. The company’s long-standing commitment to Fair Trade, organic ingredients has not gone unnoticed by stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Lea Michele. Paltrow—who aims to keep readers of her lifestyle blog,, informed of handmade, healthy products—has listed Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Liquid Soap as a favorite, while Glee’s Michele keeps Eucalyptus Liquid Soap in her shower.

    The Honest Company


    HC Healing BalmcroppedJessica Alba defied naysayers when she launched The Honest Company back in 2012 with a mission to provide safe, healthy products for families. The Honest Company has since grown to be a trusted name in natural products, and includes a line of award-winning body lotions and balms—the Organic Healing Balm has been spotted spilling out of several celebrity handbags, while their Honest Wipes are among actress Lena Headey’s on-the-go must haves.

    Deborah Lippmann

    Deborah Lippmann

    With too many celebrity clients to count, manicurist Deborah Lippman founded her own line of 5-free nail color in 1999. Now her natural polishes and lacquers are seen on the runway, magazine covers and the red carpet, adorning the hands of A-list celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Lady Gaga, Gisele Bundchen, Alison Williams and Shailene Woodley. We even spotted it on Mindy Kaling's Instagram page the other day!

  • Biodynamic Beauty Basics

    Happy motherWe check skin care labels for parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes and fragrances. But how often do we check the quality of the active ingredients themselves? If you choose products with biodynamically farmed botanicals you can rest assured they’re organic, grown in harmony with nature and of the highest potency.

    Why biodynamic ingredients are better

    The essence of biodynamic farming is based on the premise that healthy soil, sustainable planting and a connection with nature’s cycles will yield the best crops. Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolph Steiner developed this notion in the 1920s when he conceptualized the farm as part of a greater whole. Today, biodynamic farmers around the world believe that farms should be seen as holistic, self-sustaining ecosystems, following these principles:

    -Healthy, fertile soil is the foundation. Prepared with fermented herbs and minerals, the soil is kept vital with rotating crops and plant diversity.
    -Planting and harvesting is done in sync with the subtle rhythms of the sun, moon and planets. Seedlings planted during the part of the lunar cycle when tides are high receive more moisture to the roots and absorb more nutrients from the soil. And then when the moon is in a descending cycle, farmers revitalize and re-compost the soil.
    -Great consideration is given to sustaining local natural resources.
    -Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) plants and seeds are prohibited.
    -Certification of farms is rigorous; Demeter International ensures biodynamic standards are followed with farm visits and mandatory yearly renewals.Organic practices rule. There are no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Crop rotation and plant diversity keep disease at bay, and provide home to diverse bird and insect populations that naturally promote pest control.

    Biodynamic beauty

    Using these methods to produce powerful active botanical ingredients is the mission of several premier skin care lines found at Pharmaca. Weleda, for example, was founded by Rudolph Steiner, the very father of biodynamics, and the company now grows more than 300 healing plants and flowers on their farms throughout Europe. In their biodynamic Medicinal Plant Garden, Weleda farmers cultivate calendula flowers and carefully harvest them by hand. Known for its comforting, soothing and antibacterial properties, calendula is the perfect botanical to use on sensitive baby skin. Parents love the gentle moisture from Weleda’s Calendula Baby Oil and the irritation-free, no-tear ingredients in their Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash.

    Eminence is a favorite of spa directors and holistic skin care practitioners, and their Bearberry Eye Repair Cream is a potent treatment. Hand-blended biodynamic ingredients include bearberry extract—a powerful antioxidant that prevents and repairs fine lines around the eyes—and collagen-boosting hops extract.

    Last but not least, Jurlique’s sources its pure, biodynamic flowers and herbs—including customer favorites rose and lavender—from its certified biodynamic Adelaide Hills herb farm in South Australia. Try their incredible smelling Rosewater Balancing Mist, combining skin-calming natural essential rose oil with super hydrating marshmallow root. For superior hydration, their Lavender Hand Cream is a rich moisturizer with natural lavender oil that promotes relaxation and calmness, perfect for stress-free travel.

  • Medicine Cabinet Spotlight: An Herbalist’s Supplement Essentials

    HannahsPicksOur health care practitioners are pros at recommending natural remedies for customers. But what are the essentials they always keep on hand? We asked Hannah Miles, clinical herbalist and nutrition counselor at our store in Pacific Palisades, Calif. to give us her Pharmaca favorites.

    Host Defense MycoShield Spray
    “This product is fabulous for everyday use. I also always have it on hand when travelling. Just two sprays to the back of the throat 2-3 times a day will keep you protected throughout cold season!”

    Host Defense MyCommunity
    “If on the off chance I do succumb to an illness, the first thing I grab is MyCommunity. At the first sign of a scratchy throat, fatigue or aches I’ll take 2 MyCommunity every 3 hours for the first day, then drop down to 2 pills 3x a day for the next 2-3 days, then 1 pill 3x a day for the remaining few days. This will either protect me from coming down with an illness, or if I do actually fall victim, this will significantly cut down on symptom severity and down time.”

    Boiron Oscillococcinum
    “This is specific to the flu, and is something that needs to be taken BEFORE you actually get sick. But it’s fantastic for reducing symptoms and symptom severity.”

    Garden of Life MyKind Organics Vitamins
    “I take their Women’s Once daily, and their D3 and B12 spray. The sprays are delicious and convenient, and it makes it so I don’t have to take a giant handful of pills.”

    Natural Factors CurcuminRich Theracurmin 300 mg
    “I take this for just general all over health support. The research on Theracurmin is compelling regarding its wide reaching anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Curcumin is also a fantastic herb for liver support."

    Peter Lamas Rice Protein Volumizing Shampoo
    “This shampoo/conditioner gives my hair incredible volume without leaving any build-up! I can't live without it!”

    Acure Lemongrass & Argan Oil Firming Lotion
    “I love all the Acure lotions, but this is my favorite. I love the fresh scent and its long-lasting moisturizing action!”

    Acure Argan Cell Stimulating Body Wash
    “Features a super-light scent and moisturizing feel without leaving any residue on your skin.”

    Anything from W3LL PEOPLE
    “A fantastic makeup line. I love the fun eyeshadow shades and that it’s one of the cleanest makeup lines on the market!”

  • Meditation: Bringing Mindfulness to Your Life

    MeditationIt’s been an essential part of religion and spiritualism for centuries, but only recently has meditation become mainstream (doctor recommended, even!). Celebrities, business executives and school children are now setting aside 20 minutes a day to simply practice stillness. Why? Fans of meditation swear it lets you focus your thoughts, make better decisions, improves your health and increases happiness.

    Meditation 101: Mantras, Guides or Movement?

    One of the most simple, pure ways to meditate is to find a quiet space, sit down, relax your breathing and clear your mind for 15 or 20 minutes. Mantra meditation uses a repeated word or significant phrase (like “om” or “I am relaxed”) and concentrated breathing to eliminate jumbled thoughts and create stillness in your mind. Although it sounds easy, it does take practice. The book How to Meditate, by Pema Chodron, available in Pharmaca stores, is a good step-by-step guide to help you get started.

    You can meditate interactively, too. Guided meditation walks you through a meditation with a coach or trainer, and you can find many guided recordings like those from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Resource Center on the web. Or pick up the easy-to-follow Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a DVD/book combo at Pharmaca stores. Some find meditation combined with deliberate physical movements beneficial, and Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Yoga (especially Hatha Yoga) incorporate both movement and mindfulness.

    Clear mind, healthy body
    Devotees of the practice know that relaxation and stress relief are some of the greatest benefits of daily meditation. It can help you gain perspective on difficult situations, focus your thoughts on the present instead of future worries or past regrets, and generally make you feel more positive. Physically, scientists studying mind-body medicine say that meditation not only lowers blood pressure but also can amp up your immune system. Meditation has also been shown to significantly help those with chronic conditions manage pain, especially back pain, headaches and gastrointestinal woes. Those who are facing surgery or a hospital stay can benefit, too. The free recording Guided Imagery and Relaxation for Surgery can help you focus your body’s healing response and experience less pain, according to the staff at California Pacific Medical Center.

    Setting the stage for tranquility
    While all you really need to meditate is a quiet place to focus your thoughts, sometimes setting the mood with a calming ritual can help center your intentions. Essential oils, for example, can be a trigger for your brain to be open to stillness. SpaRoom Essentials’ AromaMist Diffuser fills the air with customized essential oil scents. If your intention is to relax, Pharmaca Essential Oil of French Lavender is a good choice. Need grounding? Choose sandalwood or patchouli oil. And frankincense is said to enhance enlightenment.
    Salt lamps release negative ions that can help clear the air and create a tranquil environment. The soft, warm glow from a Himalayan Crystal Salt Lamp can enhance your meditation experience. Or combine both light and aromatherapy scents with a Himalayan Salt Aromatherapy Diffuser Lamp.

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