Getting Advice

The following article was first published in the Connections magazine (Scotland’s Complementary Health Magazine) and explains how to get the best advice from a health store. It provides some indications that are equally applicable when having an appointment with a health care professional such as a medical herbalist or even a conventional Doctor. As always most of this advice is common sense.

Getting the best Over the Counter Advice – from Connections Spring 2003

The number of complementary medicine shops is ever increasing, as is the number of people using them. Staff in these shops are normally trained, either by being complementary therapists themselves, or by attending training courses. How can you get the best from these places?

Based on our experiences the guide below should help anyone seeking over the counter advice to get the best from a complementary medicine shop. Woodland Herbs Top Tips for getting the best over the counter advice on supplements, therapies or herbal remedies. The choices available for herbal, homeopathic or nutritional supplements is truly immense. Seeking advice means increasing your knowledge to help you to select the right one for you.

The following are key points to getting over the counter advice:

  • Think of your symptoms and possible causes prior to going in, also some idea of what you would like to achieve may be helpful.
  • Know your own current medication. Everything you take may be relevant from supplements, to both short (such as antibiotics) and long term medication (such as the contraceptive pill or heart medication).
  • Be open to suggestions; new knowledge and products are becoming available all the time. Don’t assume that the herb or remedy that your friend used will be relevant to you.
  • Be aware of your own choices and preferences, for instance:
  • If you want vegetarian friendly, organic medication then point this out.
  • If you find pills and capsules difficult to take or cannot drink alcohol then highlight this.
  • If you believe in the least processing of herbal medicines then look for non-standardised whole herbs.
  • If cost is very important then you may want to avoid heavily advertised brands, to drink herbal teas rather than take capsules, or to look for natural dietary sources.
  • Try to visit at a shop’s quiet time – the assistant should be able to offer you more time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if you are not sure of a word. Medicine, both orthodox and complementary, is full of terminology based on Latin, making the names of conditions and their treatments sound more complex than they are. Everyone that uses the terminology has learnt it at some point, even experts need to refer to books sometimes.
  • Don’t be embarrassed by your condition or symptoms, staff deal every day with a diverse range of conditions.
  • Whilst the internet is a good source of information be aware of the following:
    • The same products are not available throughout the world, for instance many products mentioned on American websites are only available in the USA. This may be due to distribution problems or differences in the law (even within Europe there are differing restrictions).
    • If looking for a product you have found on the internet, get as much information as you can about it. Information such as manufacturer, ingredients and uses may help the product to be found or a suitable replacement to be suggested.
    • Some advice is written to sell products.
    • Supplements that have been useful to one person with a specific condition, may not be appropriate for everyone with that condition.
  • Expect to be asked some questions! Although a “conversation” over the counter cannot be as detailed as a private “consultation” with a complementary medicine practitioner, factors such as diet, fitness or stress levels may be relevant factors in finding the right remedy for you.

What we have found working behind the counter, is that not only do you gain knowledge through your training, but daily people come in and give their own top tips for treating different conditions. It is great to be able to share the knowledge we have learnt from training, books and our customers, but don’t expect an instant solution to a life-long problem. Asking for advice over the counter is not a consultation; buying over the counter, even with advice, is ultimately you treating yourself. There are a large number of highly trained therapists available, and it is important to know when you can help yourself (with the help of friends, books, magazine columns, the internet and shop staff) and when you need to consult with a professional therapist. Most of this advice is common sense.

Contact Us if you would like some advice or come see us in our shop at 100 Woodlands Road, Glasgow.