Many of you might not equate natural medicine with pharmacy, but fortunately there are more and more pharmacists “going back to their roots.” Of course we still have much further to go, but the signs are encouraging.
I think it’s natural for anyone to question the career they have chosen; did they make the right decision, or should they have chosen a different path?
In 1995, a year after I graduated pharmacy school, I made a pact to myself that I would be out of the profession of pharmacy by the year 2000. I was tired of the limited options that I thought my profession offered, as well as the merry-go-round of treating side-effects of medications with more medications.
As you can see, I broke that pact, and I am happy that I did.
The thing that saved me was history- when I realized that I could incorporate natural medicine into my everyday pharmacy practice, just how the practice of pharmacy was originally created.
Medicine has been a central factor to all cultures and societies; from mud and leaf poultices back in the caveman days to the evolution of standardized herbal medicine which we practice today; some form of the “town pharmacy” has always been a central hub of medicine.
I recognize all of the incredible modern day advancements medicine has made, although I do believe natural medicine is too often over-looked in favor of chemical based drugs. There needs to be more of a balance, our educational and medical system needs to evolve to be more integrative and open to all forms of medicine.
Medicine and pharmacy have evolved together from the beginning. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which dates back to 2000 BC brought to us many of the ingredients we know today in both natural medicine and the practice of pharmacy including; cinnamon, ginseng, podophyllum, and ephedra.
Theophrastus, the Father of Botany, further enhanced botanical medicine around 300 BC, as he brought us the teachings of medications and natural ingredients well known today including belladonna, pomegranate, and senna.
The fifth to twelfth centuries was the time of monastery pharmacy, which still exists today. Monk’s preserved the knowledge of natural medicine from all around the world. They grew and cultivated herbs and prepared them according to the art and science of pharmacy as it was mentioned in the texts.
In 1784, Samuel Hahnemann, both a pharmacist and physician, became known as the father of homeopathy. He created homeopathy as a worthy system of medical treatment out of his dissatisfaction of the state of medicine and practices such as bloodletting.
In the late 1800’s, Park Davis and Company, sent Dr. Henry Rusby, their botanist and pharmacognocist to South America. After trekking through the Andes and the Amazon, Dr. Rusby returned with over 45,000 botanical specimens. This is recognized as the starting point for many pipelines of the pharmaceutical industry, as many known prescription drugs have been, and still are derived from plant medicine.
As you can see, natural medicine has always been part of pharmacy, and rightfully so. A balanced approach, providing the best of what all modalities have to offer is just good medicine.