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Pharmaca Offers Cornucopia of Healthy Choices

From Chinese herbs to flower essences to the usual allopathic prescriptions, the holistic pharmacy helps customers stay well.

Weight loss aids and immunity boosters are among the hot items lately at Sonoma's integrative pharmacy.

"Everyone's wanting to carry out New Year's resolutions or avoid the flu," Michael Stowe, manager of Pharmaca told Patch recently.

The store on West Napa Street offers a broad range of support from a variety of healing modalities, as well as the usual allopathic prescription service at the back counter.

Visiting the store isn't like shopping at the average pharmacy. Customers are greeted by staff in green vests at the front sales counter or among the shelves, and these people are health practitioners in their own right, such as licensed naturopathic doctors, herbologists and nutritionists. The shelves are lined with flower essences, Chinese herbal extracts, herbal teas, fragrant natural soaps and lotions, natural baby products and gifts.

It's a soothing environment.

"Everyone must have clinical experience and be licensed," Shizandra Fox, the lead practitioner said of the sales staff. She's a certified nutrition educator who studied at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts at Penngrove. She's also a certified herbalist from California School of Herbal Studies in Sonoma County. Fox spent 21 years working at a health food store, California Organics, before coming to work at Adobe Drugs, which was in the store before Pharmaca.

"Adobe Drugs was here for four years. I integrated it in 2004 and it became Pharmaca," she said.

At Pharmaca, the pharmacists at the prescription counter have an interest in working in an integrative environment when they apply, she said. They can do custom compounding for some prescriptions and can provide bioidentical hormones, for example, for hormone replacement therapy. Everyone on staff is trained to advise customers on any contraindications between the various types of herbal extracts, supplements and drugs sold in the store.

"In addition, all the supplements must go through a medical review board for validation of where the companies source their raw materials," Fox said, " so we can make sure we get the best products."

Patch asked what most Sonomans need help with when they walk through Pharmaca's door.

"Stress management, sleep and acid reflux," Stowe said. "Everyone can improve their health if they simply focus on reducing stress and getting more sleep."

"Americans need to restructure their thinking about illness toward prevention," Fox said, nodding in agreement.

One easy step to take in wine country—a small glass of red wine every night, Stowe said.

"Then we can work on the rest," he chuckled.

"And that's one small glass!" he repeated.

Pharmaca holds monthly events. The next one is called Healthy Heart, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 31. There'll be cholesterol screening and product samples and customers will be able to get mini facials too.

Pharmaca is a privately owned chain based in Boulder, CO. There are 24 stores in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico.

"The original owners were progressive Canadians," Stowe said. "The CEO has a strong history in natural health."

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