Notes on Stocking a Dispensary

This summer I went through the process of setting up a dispensary, and had to determine what I needed to buy. Earlier today, a question about setting up was asked on a herbal medicine questions forum. This is my answer. I’ve included it here because, in my usual verbose way, it is more of an essay than an answer…

“Here’s what I did: Look through all the prescriptions you wrote when you were training and consider why you used what you used. Even if you only used a herb once or twice, it’s a valid choice, and it’ll be there in your subconscious ‘pallet’ of herbs. Now, think about what each of the herbs you tend to use is indicated in and what other usages you can get out of it. The next step is to look at the herb suppliers catalogues, and work out if buying any other herbs will fill any gaps in your coverage of conditions/indications, etc. If they do, add them to your list. By now, you’ll have a large list of herbs, and think ‘god, do I really use so many?’ at which point the exercise becomes one of rationalisation: Can herb C do the job of herb A and herb B or do I need to buy both A and B? Or A, B and C? You’d be surprised just how flexible a dispensary of 50 well-chosen herbs can be.

A good starting point, and what I aimed for, was about 80 herbs in tincture form to start off with. Having spent almost a thousand pounds at this point, I worked out what dried herbs I needed (either home grown or bought in) to make tea blends: a digestive tea, a winter ills tea, a stress tea, a sleep tea, etc. This list came down to about 12 dried herbs… many of which (like Matricaria) can be used in several different blends. You can alter the ratios to suit individual patients anyway, but it gives you a good starting point to work from and know what capabilities you have.

The biggest thing I’d say is: Know your stocks, and know your prescribing habits. Spend time thinking about what you definitely use all the time, what you use rarely, and what you don’t use at all.
You’ll soon find out as you start seeing patients what you use most of! And you’ll also find that you get patients who need a specific tincture ordering in – it is annoying and you will kick yourself for not stocking it to begin with. But you can’t cover all eventualities and this is part of the process of setting up: For instance, I didn’t initially stock Fucus, because I had other herbs that would cover most eventualities. Until I saw a thyroid patient who really needed Fucus, so I had to order in.

These are the the things that they don’t teach you on the courses, and they’re specific to you and your habits – you basically have to pick it up as you go along. The point is, there is no right or wrong way to go about establishing a dispensary. But definitely DON’T just buy because it looks like a good idea at the time. Rationalise!”

Categories: Been there - Done that

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