Pharmaca Blog

  • FDA announces new sunscreen labeling rules

    The Food & Drug Administration revised its 33-year-old rules on sunscreen labeling this week, mandating that sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB radiation before they can be labeled "broad spectrum."

    The new regulations also state that only sunblocks with an SPF rating of 15 or higher can claim that they help prevent sunburn or skin cancer. Finally, sunscreens can no longer be labeled waterproof or sweatproof, and instead will need to state the minutes for which the product is "water-resistant."

    A New York Times article about the new rules explained that the FDA is also undertaking further testing of the safety of current sunscreen ingredients and seeking further comment about the necessity and efficacy of SPFs over 50.

    Want more important information about the dos and don'ts of sunscreen? Join our Practice Safe Sun Campaign on Facebook.

  • Video: Managing Your Cholesterol Naturally

    Need to lower your cholesterol? Here, Dr. Brad Jacobs talks about natural ways to maintain healthy cholesterol levels through diet, exercise and supplementation.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we'll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Practitioner of the Month: Erik A., Naturopathic Doctor

    Because Pharmaca stores are staffed with such unique practitioners--from acupuncturists to herbalists to naturopaths, every month we like to highlight one who is particularly great at their job. Our June practitioner of the month is Dr. Erik A., naturopathic doctor at our store Madison Park, Seattle, store.

    Dr. Erik graduated in 2002 from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., and has been in private practice since 2003. His treatment modalities include herbal medicine, clinical nutrient therapy, diet and lifestyle counseling, homeopathy and craniosacral therapy.

    "Dr. Erik is at once an especially knowledgeable practitioner and a humble student, vigorously continuing to learn, research, and grow as a healer," says John, store manager at Madison Park. "Dr. Erik’s sincere concern with the wellbeing of our community, combined with his quite dry sense of humor, make him the perfect 'go-to' physician and source for wellness here in Madison Park."

    Thanks for all of your hard work, Erik!

    If you have a practitioner you'd like to recognize, email us with your recommendation.

  • Have you heard about Meatless Monday?

    A new movement is gaining momentum around the world: It's called Meatless Monday, and the goal is to bring awareness to our tendency to overconsume animal products. Ultimately, it serves as a way to improve our health and lessen our impact on the environment.

    According to the campaign: "On average, Americans consume 8 ounces of meat per day – 45% more than the USDA recommends. Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help limit your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel."

    If you've ever talked to a Pharmaca practitioner, they've probably recommended a diet full of leafy greens and whole grains--and low in foods high in saturated fat like red meat. Meatless Mondays are the perfect way to pay more attention to your diet, to try healthy new recipes and to feel good about eating food that isn't so taxing on the environment.

    Want to join the Meatless Monday movement? Sign the pledge at, find delicious recipes on Whole Living's blog every Monday and encourage your friends and family to consider going meatless just one day a week. Doesn't that feel better?

  • Men's Supplement All-Stars

    Every man is unique, but there are a few common concerns that span lifestyles and generations. Sarah Cook, naturopathic doctor at our Los Gatos, Calif., store explores some universal issues--and offers some helpful suggestions--to help keep you or the man in your life on track.

    Men's Supplement All-Stars

    Can help.* Zinc Fish Oils L-Arginine Saw Palmetto CoQ10
    Improve athletic performance
    Support fertility
    Combat inflammation
    Lower cholesterol
    Lower blood pressure
    Reduce risk of heart disease
    Prevent prostate problems
    Improve immune function

    About the All-Stars


    Zinc is an antioxidant mineral that concentrates in the male prostate. Zinc supports male fertility by improving sperm count and quality, improving immune function and increasing a man's resistance to urinary tract infections and prostatitis. Zinc also improves muscle strength and athletic performance.

    One to try: Pharmaca Zinc Citrate

    Fish Oils

    Fish oils provide essential omega-3 fatty acids that both combat inflammation and reduce risk factors for heart disease. Fish oils, especially from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring, may be helpful in lowering triglyceride levels, blood pressure and improving glucose tolerance.

    One to try: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega


    L-arginine is a semi-essential amino acid that's used by the body to make creatine, an energy source for muscles-one reason it may improve athletic performance. The body also uses L-arginine to make nitric oxide, causing blood vessels to dilate and aiding conditions such as chest pain, clogged arteries, heart disease, erectile dysfunction and headaches. (A word of caution: L-arginine may reactivate the herpes virus in those already affected.)

    One to try: Bluebonnet L-Arginine

    Saw Palmetto

    Saw palmetto is the leading natural treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate gland that puts pressure on the urethra and therefore increases the need to urinate. Saw Palmetto works by reducing the size of the prostate, and can be taken by any man interested in supporting prostate health. Look for saw palmetto supplements that contain 80-95% fatty acids.

    One to try: Gaia Herbs Liquid Phyto-Caps Saw Palmetto Berry

    Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

    There's evidence that CoQ10, a powerful antioxidant, may improve athletic performance, decrease blood pressure, improve male fertility and reduce PSA levels, a marker for prostate cancer. Also, it's important to know that statins deplete CoQ10, so any man on cholesterol-lowering medications should consider taking extra CoQ10.

    One to try: Jarrow's Q-Absorb

  • New reasons to keep your sunblock natural

    According to a new article in Women’s Health magazine, some common ingredients found in chemical sunscreens could be not only dangerous to your skin, but also to the bodies of water you’re swimming in.

    “Twenty thousand tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers, divers, and surfers into the oceans every year, eventually affecting marine life, according to a 2008 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives,” says the article.

    The offending chemicals? Octinoxate, oxybenzone, parabens, or camphor derivatives, commonly found in sunscreens, can kill hard corals, eventually disrupting the biodiversity of the ecosystems in which they live. If you want to steer clear of these chems (for coral's sake!), Women’s Health recommends Alba’s Mineral Sunblock, a Pharmaca favorite.

    Other interesting tidbits from the article:

    Replace your sunblock often. While most products are made to last up to three years, if they’re baking in the sun or in a hot car, there’s a good chance they’ve lost some efficacy. Our estheticians often recommend replacing your sun care every year no matter what.

    Certain nutrition can actually increase your natural sun protection. The article cites a study in the British Journal of Dermatology that researched the power of the antioxidant lycopene (found in fruits like watermelon and tomatoes).  Women whose diet included 16 mg of lycopene every day for 12 weeks showed a reduction in the damage created by UVA and UVB rays. So keep eating your fruits and veggies--and keep slathering on that good sunblock.

  • Whooping cough vaccinations now available

    If you live in California, you probably know that cases of whooping cough have dramatically increased over the last 50 years. Also know as pertussis, whooping cough now affects an estimated 7,800 people in California alone (via Huffington Post).

    As a result, last year the California legislature enacted a law that requires students in grades 7-12 to prove that they've been vaccinated before the next school year.

    All of Pharmaca's California locations are now offering walk-in immunizations for whooping cough. The immunizations are just $49, far lower than most other pharmacies.

    To find out more about immunizations at your local Pharmaca, call your local store.

  • Just say no to white legs

    A few months ago, jane iredale came out with a new self-tanner that works to make skin tanner in just a few days: Tantasia. We here at the Pharmaca offices have fallen in love with this good-smelling, non-streaky bronzer that really does add a few shades to our skin (that's still pale from covering up during this long spring).

    Grab a tube, then follow directions straight from iredale's youtube channel:

  • Balance Your Skin With Oils from Nature

    For most of us with oily, sensitive or acne-prone skin, oil has long been a no-no in our skin care regimens. Turns out that school of thought may have been wrong. Natural oils can actually help maintain our skin's all-important moisture balance, and keep us from drying out or feeling too oily.

    "Your skin's natural moisture factor is water and oil," says Leticia Domingo, esthetician at our Los Gatos store. "If either is lacking, the skin becomes imbalanced." Leticia says that imbalance can be especially problematic for people prone to acne, because too little moisture can make breakouts worse and impede the healing process. She adds that oil is an important vehicle for our skin to absorb water, and can be essential for boosting the efficacy of common water-based moisturizers.

    Several Pharmaca products are geared specifically for aiding in this process. Jurlique's Skin Balancing Face Oil, for instance, is filled with rich botanicals that not only feel good, but smell good. Primavera also carries a number of oil-based serums and capsules that can boost hydration levels.

    Here's how to use them: After cleansing, Leticia recommends warming a small amount (the size of a dime or nickel, depending on how much your skin can handle) in your palm, then patting on to the face. But, she says, don't go overboard. "Less is more! Don't slather it on."

    If you have too much oil, simply pat onto your neck or décolleté, where it can also be very beneficial. "The oil is basically going to assist your moisturizer in nourishing the skin," says Leticia, so you really want to use both.

    Start using the oil in the evening, to judge how your skin will react. In extremely dry situations, go ahead and use it in the morning, too. Once your skin's oil is back in balance, even acneic skin will begin to heal, and your skin will be softer and more radiant. This balance is also vital in an anti-aging regimen, where, as Leticia says, "the most important step is preventing dehydration."

    For extra-dry skin, look for rich oils from nut sources such as almond. For oilier skin, try a lighter version such as grapeseed or apricot kernel oil. Leticia also likes squalane, a plant-based oil that is engineered to mimic our skin's natural oil content. "In serums, squalane restores hydration and penetrates fast so it doesn't sit on the surface of the skin and oxidize," says Leticia. "Then the other active ingredients are pulled into the skin more quickly and deeply." Find squalane in Sanitas' Vita C Serum, and other treatment serums.

    Speak with a Pharmaca esthetician about how natural oils can help get your skin back in balance.

  • Proper prescription drug disposal

    Still confused about what to do with your unused prescriptions? Experts recommend different disposal methods for different meds, depending on their danger to humans or pets in the household.

    The best option: Find a drug take-back program in your area. Start by contacting the trash and recycling program of your city or county government, or find local listings on the website of The Drug Take-Back Network.

    If no take-back program exists in your area, the FDA recommends the following disposal method for most medications (see below for medications that should be flushed instead).

    Most common disposal procedure

    • Remove drugs from original container. Conceal or remove personal information, including Rx number, from container.
    • Mix drugs with a substance such as cat litter or coffee grounds.
    • Place mixture in a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub or a resealable plastic bag. Dispose in trash along with empty containers.

    When to flush
    According to the FDA, it’s more important to ensure that potent narcotics (e.g. painkillers) stay out of reach of people and pets. For this reason, the FDA advises flushing the following medications:

    Actiq, oral transmucosal lozenge *
    Avinza, capsules (extended release)
    Daytrana, transdermal patch system
    Demerol, tablets *
    Demerol, oral solution *
    Diastat/Diastat AcuDial, rectal gel
    Dilaudid, tablets *
    Dilaudid, oral liquid *
    Dolophine Hydrochloride, tablets *
    Duragesic, patch (extended release) *
    Embeda, capsules (extended release)
    Exalgo, tablets (extended release)
    Fentora, tablets (buccal)
    Kadian, capsules (extended release)
    Methadone Hydrochloride, oral solution *
    Methadose, tablets *
    Morphine Sulfate, tablets (immediate release) *
    Morphine Sulfate, oral solution *
    MS Contin, tablets (extended release) *
    Onsolis, soluble film (buccal)
    Opana, tablets (immediate release)
    Opana ER, tablets (extended release)
    Oramorph SR, tablets (sustained release)
    Oxycontin, tablets (extended release) *
    Percocet, tablets *
    Percodan, tablets *
    Xyrem, oral solution

    Consider reducing your excess medications
    While bulk discounts may seem attractive, make sure that you’re actually going to use all that medication you’re purchasing. The less we waste, the cleaner our waters.

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