Pharmaca Blog

  • Pharmaca's model and the future of integrative medicine

    In a recent Huffington Post article by Marc Stoiber entitled "Who will own the brand of integrative medicine?", Pharmaca CEO Mark Panzer talked about Pharmaca's integrative approach to the pharmacy:

    “The common US model is one pharmacist, and a bunch of clerks stocking shelves. In our case, we have the highly trained pharmacist, but also highly skilled practitioners with homeopathic or naturopathic backgrounds. No one expert has the full answer. Instead, we collaborate to offer our customers a more holistic approach to managing their health.“

    Other experts talk about the ways in which conventional and alternative medicines are increasingly coming together in various health care settings, a necessary shift given our currently overburdened health care system.

    The article, also published on Stoiber's personal website, garnered some interesting feedback from a reader, who worries that the integrative concept won't work "until the FDA steps in and regulates the quality and potency of each product."

    Here's what Don Summerfield, Pharmaca's vice president of integrative medicine, had to say:

    "Guaranteeing dietary supplement product quality is becoming easier as the natural products industry matures. The FDA has instituted its long-awaited good manufacturing practices (GMP) guidelines, which will go a long way towards ensuring quality dietary supplements are manufactured under FDA regulations.

    Pharmaca has gone a step further by developing our own Quality Assurance Program that certifies our dietary supplement vendors. The program was developed in partnership with our Integrative Health Advisory Board members, who are leading medical doctors in the field of integrative medicine. We’re proud to say that even in the absence of significant FDA regulation, Pharmaca helps to take to worry out of shopping for natural medicine products."

    As always, Pharmaca is happy to provide guidance and products that our customers can trust.

  • The Link Between Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

    The adrenals are a key player in our stress responses, kicking into high gear when we get stressed out. To find out more about ways to support your adrenal glands, we spoke with Cari-Lynn Debie, herbalist at Mill Valley, and Paul Clark, herbalist from our Sonoma store, about the best herbs for helping to rejuvenate your adrenals.

    “Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s part of the fight or flight response,” says Paul. The adrenal glands continue to produce cortisol while we’re in panic mode, which effectively puts a damper on the rest of our bodily processes, impacting all of our organ functions.

    Cari-Lynn says people suffering from adrenal fatigue are usually very run down, have difficulty sleeping, wake up with panic and can be overly emotional. “I like to think of the adrenals like a bank account,” she says. “You have funds in there, but stress drains those funds, pulling from other parts of your body. Your immune system starts being affected, allergies can be heightened, it basically can impact everything.”

    As we age, our ability to slow down our stress response changes. “If a child gets scolded, his cortisol will spike, but then come back down within hours,” says Paul. “For someone in their 50s, it could take days, or even weeks, to bring that back down.” Meanwhile, our adrenals are working overtime to keep the cortisol pumping.

    Paul says deep sleep is the most effective remedy for banishing cortisol. “When someone isn’t sleeping well, has too many toxins in their body or has nutritional deficiencies, cortisol remains elevated,” he says.

    Your body then needs help to calm the stress response and rejuvenate your adrenals. That’s where herbs called adaptogens come in. “Adaptogens are defined by their ability to help the body adapt to stress, whether environmental, physical or emotional,” says Paul. “Adrenals and adaptogens work hand in hand.”

    Adaptogens like rhodiola, ashwaganda, eleuthero and holy basil can gently work together to replenish your adrenals. Both Paul and Cari-Lynn recommend Vital Nutrients Adrenal Support, which combines ashwaganda and eleuthero with a bovine-based adrenal extract that helps replace what your adrenals are missing.

    Another great adaptogenic option, Vital Adapt by Natura, an herbal formula that contains eleuthero, schisandra, ginseng and ashwaganda, as well as green tea and reishi mushrooms. Cari-Lynn also recommends B vitamins, and will often suggest an individual eleuthero formula, like Gaia Herbs Eleuthero. “Rhodiola can be too much for some people, so eleuthero works well as an adaptogen that’s very mild yet very effective.”

    Of course, reducing stress and sleeping better are always the best options for adrenal health. To support your adrenals in the long term, make time for yoga, meditation and breathing deeper.

    If you’re feeling run down and are wondering how stress may be affecting your adrenals, talk with a Pharmaca practitioner today for customized solutions.

  • Tired of Being Tired? Fall Asleep with All-Natural Sleep Aids

    There's nothing more refreshing and invigorating than waking from a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, sleeping soundly and regularly doesn't come easily for many people. If you suffer from bouts of insomnia or have trouble staying asleep, you may be one of the millions of people who turn to medications to induce sleep. Unfortunately, there are some risks that go along with taking prescription and over-the-counter sleeping pills, one of which is feeling groggy the next day. All natural sleep aids produce no side effects the morning after.

    You may have heard of benzodiazepines—a class of drugs prescribed for many conditions including anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms and difficulty sleeping. While benzodiazepines may put you to sleep, they can be extremely habit forming. If used long enough on a nightly basis, they will often cause tolerance, dependence, withdrawal and rebound insomnia.

    If you need better sleep but aren't excited about prescription drugs, Pharmaca carries healthy, safe alternatives that actually work. All natural sleep aids, also referred to as “herbal” sleep aids, have become an extremely popular choice for treating insomnia without dangerous side effects.

    Some herbs contain natural sleep aids that help you get to sleep naturally. Herbal sleep remedies produce the same calming effects as prescription medications, but with no harmful side effects. If you have struggled with sleep and want a natural but effective solution, ask a Pharmaca practitioner about these very popular, highly effective herbal remedies for sleep:

    If you're having trouble sleeping, check out Pharmaca's full line of safe, natural and effective all natural sleep aids that won’t leave you feeling groggy and won't create dependence or tolerance.

  • Andalou Naturals: A Force of Nature

    Andalou Naturals embodies beauty in action. Their effective skin care, hair care and body care products are made thoughtfully and beautifully, blending Advanced Fruit Stem Cell Science with natural and fair-trade ingredients. All of Andalou's products feature a minimum 70 percent certified organic content for visible age-defying, brightening and clarifying results.

    So why fruit stem cells?
    Stem cells are present in small numbers in almost every tissue, including our skin. Epidermal stem cells work to renew older cells and repair skin tissue damage by dividing and regenerating new skin cells. But as we age, the number of stem cells decreases and the epidermis takes longer to renew, which instigates the formation ofwrinkles.

    Phytocelltec studies have shown that the use of fruit stem cells in topical products encourages the epidermal stem cells to divide, stimulating the production of proteins, carbohydrates and lipids to help renew firmness and elasticity, repair fine lines and wrinkles, and regenerate healthy cells for younger-looking skin.

    A force of nature
    Andalou Naturals' Advanced Fruit Stem Cell Science combines two important discoveries: Solar Vitis and Malus Domestica fruit stem cells. Together they work as "universal" cells that increase the longevity of skin's stem cells, defend against key aging factors (including UV and oxidative stress) and repair skin's DNA to combat the visible signs of aging.

    Together with the benefits of Andalou Naturals' BioActive 8 Berry Complex, each formula provides a potent portfolio of super antioxidants to combat environmental stressors, support cell turnover and strengthen dermal immunity. Top it off with Certified Organic Aloe Vera to soothe, oxygenate and replenish, and you've got the optimal dermal delivery system for the bioactive ingredients to renew, repair and regenerate healthy, vibrant skin.

  • Fish Oil During Pregnancy May Keep Babies Healthier

    A study conducted by a researcher in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University has found that women who take fish oil supplements during pregnancy may boost their baby's immune system and help protect them against colds during the first few months of their lives.

    Mothers who were given DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, had infants who got sick less often and for shorter periods of time than babies whose mothers were given no fish oil. Cod fish oil--something Pharmaca practitioners regularly recommend--is also believed to help lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve brain function in children.

    The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed 851 women from the second trimester of pregnancy through the birth of their babies, and until the babies were six months old. Half of the women were given 400 mg of DHA daily starting in the second trimester, and the rest were given placebos. The women were asked whether their babies had experienced various respiratory problems (cough, phlegm, etc.)  in the previous 15 days. They were also asked if their baby caught a cold in that same time period. At one month old, the babies whose mothers took DHA experienced far fewer respiratory problems and were sick for shorter periods of time.

    Find cod fish oil supplements at Pharmaca. (Note: Please consult a doctor or Pharmaca practitioner before taking fish oil during pregnancy.)

  • Vitamin D and Skin Cancer: What's the Link?

    It seems as though vitamin d and skin have been getting lots of press lately and for good reason. Vitamin D is known to have a variety of health benefits. Here are a few:


    • Helps the intestine absorb nutrients such as calcium; good absorption of nutrients builds strong bones and a strong immune system.
    • Helps to prevent osteoporosis and arthritis
    • Regulates blood pressure
    • Relieves body aches
    • Helps fight depression
    • Reduces the chance for respiratory infections
    • Reduces wrinkles and makes skin soft and smooth
    • Provides a protective lining for blood vessels, thus improving cardiovascular function


    Now, we can add another health benefit of vitamin D to the list: it can reduce the risk of skin cancer in women by as much as 50 percent! Dr. Jean Tang, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, has been studying the link between vitamin D and skin cancer in women in a high-risk group: those who have had prior non-melanoma forms of skin cancer. Dr. Tang found that taking only 400 IUs (international units) of vitamin D daily could help prevent skin cancer. (Source)


    This is exciting news about vitamin d and skin cancer because, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. In 2007 alone, more than 8,400 people died from melanomas of the skin.


    If you would like to learn more about the benefits of vitamin D supplements, ask your doctor or Pharmaca practitioner today.

  • How to Catch More Zzzzs

    Everyone’s got advice on how to fall asleep quicker. But what if you’ve tried the warm milk, the boring book and the comfy mattress? When sleep problems are keeping you from waking up fresh faced, take comfort in sleep solutions from Pharmaca. Here are a few common sleep problems, addressed by Kate Brainard, ND.

    I fall asleep fine, but wake up at 2am sharp. Is there a supplement to help me stay asleep all night?

    My first recommendation would be to take melatonin before bed-it’s a natural sleep hormone that we make in our bodies, so supplementing what we do make can help us stay asleep longer. You can take it either in its individual form like in Source Naturals Melatonin, which is timed-release to keep it working throughout the night, or in combination with other herbal formulas. One product I like is Pharmaca Sleep, which includes 3 mg of melatonin and a blend of relaxing and calming herbs. One thing with melatonin, if you take too much, it can be hard to snap out of it the next day. Start with a lower dose and work your way up.

    For a completely herbal approach, I would try Deep Sleep by Herbs, Etc. It’s a blend of California poppy, valerian, passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, oat seed and orange peel, all of which promote restful sleep. But you do have to take it for a few days before you’ll see the right effects.

    Sometimes my mind just won’t stop racing. What can I take to calm my thoughts so I can fall asleep more quickly?

    Skullcap is a great herb for calming ruminating thoughts. Herb Pharm and Gaia Herbs both offer Skullcap Extract, but you can find blends that include skullcap and other stress-reducing herbs that can be really beneficial.

    GABA is another supplement commonly used for people who can’t get their brain to slow down. It’s a neurotransmitter inhibitor—it slows down the synapses that keep firing, usually because you have too much stress. Again, GABA can be taken on its own or in combination, like in the formula NightRest by Source Naturals that includes GABA, melatonin, skullcap and other relaxing herbs.

    I seem to sleep fine most of the night, but I usually wake up around 4 or 5am and just lay there until I have to get up. Anything I can take to fall back asleep for just a little while without causing a “sleep hangover”?

    My suggestions would be more gentle, I would never recommend melatonin at this time. Instead, I like Calms Forte Sleep Aid, a non-drowsy homeopathic remedy that’s also non-habit forming, which is important to a lot of people. It has a blend of different homeopathics, ingredients that you’ll see in a lot of sleep remedies. For example, passionflower helps with restlessness from exhaustion, and oat seed is good for stress and nervousness.

    Another good one is Bach’s Rescue Sleep. You can just spritz a few sprays in your mouth and it should be enough to get you back to sleep for just a little while.

  • Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night

    Getting your little one to sleep can be one of the biggest challenges of parenting, but there are a few ways to tackle those challenges. We caught up with Jamie Doughty, a naturopathic doctor and midwife at Pharmaca in Portland, to discuss some common sleep issues and solutions.

    Maintaining healthy sleep patterns is one of the most important things for a baby’s development. Jamie explains that on average, babies should be sleeping 14-18 hours a day. “That’s so they can process everything that went on while they were awake—they’re figuring out their place in the world,” says Jamie. “And of course, the nervous system is developing while they’re sleeping too.”

    Sticking to a routine is key. She asks parents to think about how they feel when they’re off schedule, whether it’s waking up late or eating at unusual times. “It’s like that, but worse, for babies. Their schedule is simple: eat, check out the world, go to sleep. Repeat. But when one of those three pieces doesn’t happen, it leads to issues in the other areas.”

    In fact, nightwaking is very often simply the result of a glitch in the routine. Jamie says it can stem from babies not being able to nap during the day. Similarly, parents may not understand how long it takes for a baby to get into a deeper sleep. “That’s because adults can go from light to REM sleep in just five minutes, whereas for babies, that cycle can take up to 20 minutes.” She advises parents to look for signs of deep sleep, which is indicated by the stillness that comes after the twitchy muscles, fluttering eyes and facial expressions come to an end. (Parents often think of those as signs of dreaming, but it’s actually a precursor of deep sleep.)

    Once you’ve got a solid routine, you can tackle issues as they arise—like the common ones below.

    Colic: Every baby’s experience with colic is different, so Jamie likes to give parents several tools. “Some days something works wonders, others not at all, but there are a few key things you can do.” She advises examining your baby’s diet and eliminating any potential food allergens or irritants. And don’t forget about breast milk—what mom consumes can affect baby’s health, especially dairy, legumes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale, as well as caffeine and alcohol.

    Jamie also recommends trying physical manipulation: Do bicycle legs with baby on his or her back for a fun way to get the abdomen engaged and get things moving.

    Herbal remedies that can help include Wellements Organic Gripe Water, made with fennel, ginger and chamomile to soothe gas and stomach discomfort. Jamie also likes Boiron Cocyntal, a homeopathic liquid that is specifically formulated to soothe the irritability and pain of colic.

    Gastroesophageal reflux (GER): This disorder can afflict infants as well as adults, but symptoms vary and may be hard to detect. They range from coughing and other respiratory issues to belching and food refusal. Jamie has noticed that reflux seems to occur more often with premature babies, whose digestive organs did not reach full development before birth. She suggests taking a look at the diet first. “Keep mom on a hypoallergenic diet,” she says. “If you use formula, be very particular with the choice.” She also says probiotics may help. Try Jarrow Formulas Baby Jarro-Dophilus, a probiotic powder that supports healthy intestines from infancy through four years.

    Stuffy nose/cold: First off, Jamie says, try a good old-fashioned blow syringe to clear things out, along with saline solution. Little Noses Saline Spray/Drops can help fight the infectious process by killing off microbes in the bacterial virus, actually breaking open the cells of whatever is causing cold symptoms.

    Depending on whether the issue is respiratory or nasal, a Pharmaca practitioner can suggest different herbal formulas for infants over 6 months. Formulas often include concentrations of herbs like licorice, echinacea or elderberry/elderflower, which help support the immune system.

    Teething: Jamie says there are several herbal formulas that work wonders, as well as homeopathic remedies. She’s seen a lot of success in applying topical oil directly onto the child’s gums, so look for herbal formulas that include clove and white willow bark that can help numb the gum tissue and ease pain. Chamomile teething tablets, such as Boiron Camilia, also work really well.

    Creating a good sleep environment

    Parents should try to control as many environmental and behavioral factors as they can to create an ideal peaceful setting for the baby. Jamie’s top tips: No TV or computer, as little disruptive noise as possible and darkness—keep those blinds closed.

    If baby is too wired up from the day and can’t seem to relax, Jamie recommends Wishgarden’s Sleepy Night for Kids, which includes both passionflower to help them fall asleep, and milky oak seed to help the muscles and brain relax. And if you don’t mind pacifiers, they can be helpful: “Babies need to self soothe. They also do it with nursing, but if that’s the only outlet, it can lead to problems like overfeeding…so giving a pacifier may be a healthier alternative.” Try Green Sprouts Silicone Orthodontic Pacifiers, which are BPA- and PVC-free (and on sale in August!).

    Ultimately, If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean something is wrong. As baby’s nervous system matures, he or she will begin to sleep through cycles and eventually through the night. Often a baby’s sleep pattern changes throughout the first year of life. As Jamie says, “every infant is different. The most important thing is to take care of yourself so you can be there for the baby.”

    For more advice about baby’s sleep patterns, speak with your doctor or a practitioner at Pharmaca.

  • "Natural" vs. "Organic" vs. "Homeopathic" Health and Beauty Products

    You will often see the words "natural" and "organic" used on a variety of health and beauty products, and some people believe these words are interchangeable. Here's how they're different.


    Let's first explain what "homeopathic" means when it comes to medicine or products. Simply put, homeopathic remedies come from natural substances such as minerals, botanical substances or other sources that are not man-made. The goal of homeopathy is to put the body back into homeostasis (its naturally balanced state) without using harsh chemicals or man-made drugs.


    Homeopathic medicines and remedies stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms. Practicing homeopaths believe that all physical disease has an emotional component, and take the whole being into account--a holistic approach to healing that has gained popularity in recent years.


    Health and beauty products like those in the Dr. Hauschka line are created on the homeopathic principle of "like cures like." This philosophy takes a wide range of natural substances and notes the symptoms they bring about in healthy people. Matching these substances to the individual and the symptoms they are experiencing encourages their own healing energy to return them to good health.


    Now let's discuss "natural" and "organic." While these words are often used synonymously, there are significant differences between organic products and natural products. If a product has "natural" on the label, it was produced by nature but is not necessarily "organic." Natural beauty products may contain ingredients that are not 100% organic, and there are no regulations regarding use of the word "natural" as there are with the word "organic." Natural products can contain chemicals, while organic products cannot. Organic strictly refers to product ingredients grown without pesticides, chemicals or artificial fertilizers.


    An organic product must have between 95-100% chemical-free ingredients, while a natural product usually is 50-70% chemical free. A label that reads "certified organic" means 95% of ingredients are organic while "made with organic ingredients" means at least 70% of ingredients are organic. (Read more about organic certifications from our friends at Juice Beauty.) If you have questions regarding natural products vs. organic products, a Pharmaca representative will be happy to help you find exactly what you're looking for.


    Pharmaca carries a full line of homeopathic remedies and natural and organic personal care products. From dental care to hair removal, Pharmaca has the natural and organic products you need to maintain optimal health and wellbeing.

  • ZuZu Luxe: Creating a simple summer look

    Our friends at ZuZu Luxe love to offer tips for creating unique looks using their makeup. And we love that their cosmetics blend soothing, all-natural ingredients such as spring water, herbs, vitamins and exotic essential oils with sophisticated, fresh colors.

    Here's a few simple steps to creating the perfect summer look for daytime:

    Start with a neutral tone color all over the lid.

     Casino for fair skin  Eternity for medium skin  Chameleon for dark skin

    For a thicker lash line, line the eyes with a Tobacco eyeliner (for all skin tones) and follow up with your favorite ZuZu Luxe mascara.

    Summer look for night:

    It’s all in the eyes (of the beholder)! A top summer trend is brightly colored eyes.

    To create this look, use the following ZuZu Luxe eyeshadows:

    Absinthe (olive green
    with gold shimmer)
    Angel (lavender purple
    with gold shimmer)
    Skylar (sky blue
    with platinum shimmer)

    Speak with a Pharmaca esthetician to find out more about what ZuZu Luxe cosmetics can do for your summer look! Plus, they're 20% off this month! (Sale prices valid through August 30, 2011)

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