With a bachelor's degree in chemistry and an additional one in nutrition, one could say I am very interested in how plants help our bodies grow, heal and flourish. I have a long standing obsession with these magical and scientific phenomena. So, while graduating college, I worked two part time jobs - the university greenhouses and a local pharmacy
My favorite place to be is surrounded by a wonderland of plants, flowers and herbs. Nature has truly given us the ability to grow, nourish and heal ourselves. That is, if we choose to learn more about the scientific information and capabilities they provide.
Most people are familiar with western medicine and big pharma. I am even willing to bet a majority of us have been given vaccines, vitamin supplements or an antibiotic when needed. This branch of medicine is equally as fascinating to me, and understanding new chemical processes or even elements, is undeniably fascinating.
I've chosen to explore herbal apothecary because most of our common ailments or conditions do not need advance chemical manipulation to be cured or solved. Some of them only need the right plant, and most of them are able to be prevented with a vitamin and mineral rich diet.
What is an apothecary (/əˈpäTHəˌkerē/) ?
According to the The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them, herbal apothecary is, "Incorporating traditional wisdom and scientific information... includ[ing] advice on growing and foraging for healing plants and recommendations for plant-based formulations to fight common ailments, like muscle strain, anxiety, and insomnia."
Both western medicine and traditional (eastern) medicine uses the term apothecary to define someone or a place that prepares or sells materials to be used for healing purposes. They might even be connected through their common goal when western medicine starts to incorporate traditional herbal medicine in their new drugs, compounds or pills.
What is the difference between a pharmacy and an apothecary?
A pharmacy and apothecary are not the same though. A pharmacy has a pharmacist with the role of dispensing drugs. There are some pharmacies that do compound work (making drug combinations), but they are not using the raw materials from the earth. Instead they have different ingredients pre-made for their work. Examples of a products which can be compounded in a pharmacy are antibiotic washes and steroid ointments. Most pharmacies are in hospitals or retailers like Walgreens or CVS.
An apothecary shop is open to the public in most cases and its own greenhouse. Since the herbs, oils and other remedies are from the earth, they need to be able to grow fresh materials. They may sell these materials to pharmacies or to the individual wanting to make their own remedy. Some apothecaries offer classes in which they teach the public about herbal medicine and its benefits. We do offer classes both online and in person for anyone interested. You can click here to see them.
What education is needed for a pharmacist or apothecary?
Both pharmacies and apothecaries require a lot of education. At minimum you need a college degree. To become a pharmacist, one would go to pharmacy school afterwards. Some states require a medical degree as well. To become an apothecary, one would need a college degree in chemistry, herbology, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine, or nutrition. Some states require licensure as well. Both require continuation education credits to stay licensed.The conclusion here is that you need to be highly educated with continuing education for either.
What will you find in an apothecary shop?
When you walk into an apothecary shop, it can be easily overwhelming. Imagine walking into a library, but instead of books you see hundreds of plants and herbal medicines. Most of the time, there are walls lined with shelves of herbs, oils, butters, incense, wellness books, crafting tools like mortars and pestles, tinctures, and much more. Toward the back their may be access to a greenhouse or even a teaching room. Do not let yourself become too overwhelmed, because their is always an herbalist or someone willing to help you find your way around.
What are some different apothecary variations?
We've discussed the differences and how western pharmacies work with local apothecaries. In addition to that there are different types of apothecary practices. Some apothecaries will mix in acupuncture into their business or practice. This is most popular when the apothecary themselves has an oriental medicine approach from Asia.
Apothecaries with Celtic roots, are often connected to old witchcraft medicine and the witch trials. These green kitchen witches mostly were not witches or wicca at all. They were just educated men and women in herbology. Since science had not caught up with how the body functions or reacts to medicine and since most were women, they criticized and even killed them for helping others. Kitchen witches and green witches are mostly popular in Europe and Australia. This is because many herbs and medicinal plants are native to those areas. For example, eucalyptus is native to Australia. The word apothecary actually has its roots in old french language.
Final notes and conclusion
An apothecary is a good solution for someone wanting the purest materials from the earth to help heal or enhance their bodies. With some offering classes, greenhouses and acupuncture, it is a valuable resource.
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