How One Pharmacist Became a Holistic Health Coach and Herbalist

When she was in pharmacy school at St. John’s University in Queens, Marina Buksov was very happy with her studies and excited to become a pharmacist. Then, something changed.

As she was considering her options after pharmacy school graduation, she started to feel nervous because none of them appealed to her.

After deciding not to pursue several fellowships, Marina accepted a full-time offer from a small, local pharmacy where she already worked. Unfortunately, that offer fell through because the owners decided to sell the pharmacy.

She started looking for random jobs and eventually ended up at a natural pharmacy. She had always been interested in herbal and holistic medicine, so this job was a good fit for her.

“My philosophy is to do no harm and start with the least harmful treatment and go up from there,” she said. “I use lifestyle, diet and herbal remedies whenever possible.”

An Early Interest

Marina said that she has been interested in holistic medicine ever since high school. When she went to the doctor for her own medical issues, she was shocked by how many medications her doctors wanted to prescribe.

But it wasn’t until her pediatrician took the time to counsel her about her diet that all her issues finally went away.

After taking alternative medicine courses as part of obtaining her pharmacy degree, Marina decided that she wanted to obtain additional training in using natural remedies and nutrition to help her patients.

She took a course at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in clinical nutrition and began studying at Arbor Vitae Traditional School of Herbalism in New York.

She also started her own health and wellness business, Raw Fork, to help her share her knowledge through blogging, offering health coaching services and selling holistic health products. On the site, she offers some of her own herbal tea blends to treat conditions including low-functioning immune system, sleep problems, cough and stress.

Promoting Wellness

Although Marina believes in promoting wellness through the use of natural and holistic remedies, her pharmacy school training has taught her that pharmaceutical medications can save lives, especially in emergency situations.

However, she believes that many chronic conditions don’t have to be treated with medication. Allergies and autoimmune disorders are a few examples of conditions that can be treated safely and holistically.

After all, herbs have been used to treat medical problems for centuries, Marina said. In fact, she noted that 70 percent of today’s medications—or the ideas for them—come from herbal remedies.

But perhaps most importantly, Marina said she helps her patients get in touch with their bodies and find a connection to their own healing.

“Patients can listen to doctors, pharmacists, health coaches and herbalists, but healing really starts with self-care,” she said.

Herbal medicine also is about connecting to the land, she said, and is much more intricate than finding one solution for an individual health problem. When it comes to using herbal remedies, her advice is always “start low, go slow.”

Many health problems can be traced to harmful behaviors or foods that people in our society routinely consume—and they can’t be solved with capsules that come from strange places, she said.

“People need to get to know their medicine,” Marina said. “In herbalism, the taste, texture and feel are very important.”

Making the Transition

In order to make time to pursue her passion of holistic healing, Marina had to transition from full-time to part-time pharmacy work. And because Marina lives in Brooklyn, earning enough to keep pace with the high cost of living was a big factor to consider.

Thanks to the many self-improvement books and tapes Marina has read and listened to over the years, she said she didn’t hear the fear of failure; instead, she made a plan.

She calculated her expenses and figured that she could try working part-time for six months or a year. If things weren’t working out, she could always pick up an extra pharmacy shift or two and fall back on her savings in an emergency.

Although Marina knew she was choosing a non-traditional pharmacy path, she found inspiration in her close friend and fellow St. John’s pharmacy graduate, Christina Tarantola.

Christina, along with pharmacist Adam Martin, created The Fit Pharmacists, which offers holistic and lifestyle coaching for clients and teaches pharmacists how to include nutrition and alternative medicine into their practice.

With Christina leading the way, Marina knew that she could make a difference for her patients by providing holistic pharmacy services.

Making a Difference

Marina went from feeling frustrated with her pharmacy career options to feeling like she could really make a difference for her patients.

Before finding her niche in holistic pharmacy, Marina said she felt like her actions were dictated by the prescriptions doctors wrote and the medications that insurance covered. And she often didn’t agree with either.

Now, Marina feels like she can make a difference for her clients because they actually listen to her—not their doctor or insurance company. She said that her pharmacy degree combined with her knowledge of herbs and education in nutrition helps her to understand the full spectrum of health.

She plans to continue making a difference by working on her business website, cultivating her list of online followers, teaching online and local courses, and reaching out to more people to promote the benefits of herbal medicine.

She also plans to explore herbalism as it relates to female health and fertility. She has met many women in the field of holistic medicine and is considering the possibly of opening a birthing and nutrition center in upstate New York for women and babies.

For more inspiring stories about pharmacists who are creating the careers and lives that they want, visit our success stories here.

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Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.

How One Pharmacist Became a Holistic Health Coach and Herbalist