By Sharol Tilgner, ND
Starting a botanical based practice is exhilarating and rewarding for a new practitioner. Launching a new practice can also have its overwhelming moments. There are endless amounts of decisions to make and the start-up cost on a new practice can seem exorbitant. I am going to address some of these concerns and give you practical ides to help make this endeavor successful.
There are several basic practical aspects of a botanical dispensary start-up that should be taken into account. Based on my 35 years of experience as an herbalist and a Naturopathic physician, I find the three most important facets to consider are your patient base, space available in the clinic, and available funds. As you set up your botanical dispensary, Wise Woman Herbals can offer you choices that will conserve space and save you money.
The type of patients you serve can make a difference as to which herbs you will need to have on hand, as well as the form of preparation of these herbs. For example, if your patient base is largely a geriatric community, you will use different types of herbs than if you focus on gynecology or pediatrics. The form of the herbal product will also change. Children and elders may do better with glycerites, while some adults may prefer a tea, a capsule, or a tincture.
Once you decide if you are serving the general population, or you are focusing on a defined segment of the population, you can pick out the types of herbs and the product form that would most likely be used for those individuals. Identifying conditions that are relevant to your patient population will allow you to save space and money by choosing premade compound formulas that meet many of those patient’s needs. However, if you are a general practitioner you have to be ready for just about anything that can and will walk through your door. General practice is a situation that does well with a variety of single plant, herbal tinctures, that can be easily mixed and matched at the drop of a hat for the individual before you. To keep this economically viable and to save space takes a little bit of planning.
Single plant liquid extracts allow you to mix and match herbs together easily in your dispensary, creating unique formulas for each individual patient. Many clinicians who use herbs as a foundation of their practice gravitate towards single plant liquid extracts, as it gives them greater flexibility and specificity for their patient. However, if you have a general practice, this can involve purchasing a lot of liquid extracts and may take some practitioners over their budget. An economical solution is to use some carefully chosen, premade compound formulas in addition to single plant extracts, and to decrease the size of some products. This will decrease the cost, save space and decrease your time in coming up with formula ideas. This is often appealing to the new clinician. My advice is to start out with formulas that cover the most common conditions you expect to see in your practice. Think about the seasonal conditions that will be coming up at the time of year when you first start your practice. Those should be part of your focus.
Both the specialist and the general practitioner mention concern that compound formulas may decrease their ability to individualize formulas for patients. However, you can customize premade formulas when needed for a given patient, by mixing the pre-made formula with one, or two other herbs, that you feel will best benefit that individual, thereby allowing for that person’s needs to be met. Ordering the compounded formulas in larger amounts and the single herbs in smaller amounts is a choice some new clinicians find helpful.
Wise Woman Herbals Liquid Extract Compounds and Liquid Extract Singles both offer various choices of size to fit your space and budget. Herbs used in small amounts can be purchased in 1, 2, or 4 ounce bottles. Those used in larger amounts can be purchased in 8, 16, and 32 ounce and larger bottles.
Another piece of advice I would give you is to always have herbs and supplies available for acute conditions. Chronic conditions will give you the flexibility to order a product to be sent to your patient if necessary, but acute conditions need to be treated immediately. Don’t forget to have supplies on hand to dispense the herbs. This can include everything from tincture bottles, lids and droppers to bowls and measuring devices.
At first glance the common issues of dispensary space and a tight budget might seem daunting, but as you can see these common issues can be resolved. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Wise Woman Herbals is available to serve you and make your job easier.