Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

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Essential Wellness Pharmacy: New Life for the Apothecary


By Alexander Germanis

Apothecaries, or pharmacies as they are now known, were once standalone landmarks in most communities. Now it is all too common for them to be no more than closets inside big box stores.

Thankfully, there are still some places that hold to the notion of the old apothecaries—maintaining their place in the community and subscribing to the tried and true methods of days most think are long gone.

Essential Wellness Pharmacy in Peoria still follows the forgotten arts of the apothecary: pharmaceutical compounding, personal consultations, and wellness education. And like those apothecaries of old, they stand as a landmark of wellness in the community.

The traditional symbols of the pharmacy are the mortar and pestle. These tools were used to grind ingredients down into powders or pastes in order to make them usable and combinable into individualized medications.

That art and science of preparing these medications is what is known as pharmacy compounding and it is still done at Essential Wellness for both human and veterinary uses. Prepared based on the order of a practitioner’s prescription, individual ingredients are mixed together in specific quantities to get the strength, flavor, and proper dosage for that patient.

“When Apothecaries and the first pharmacies came into existence, compounding was the basis of the profession,” explains Bill Kalman, RPh, owner and operator of Essential Wellness Pharmacy. “With changes in the industry and the start of drug manufacturing by large pharmaceutical companies, the need for compounding decreased.”

“Compounding still had its place but was reduced to a pharmacist possibly only compounding one prescription out of thousands or tens of thousands of prescriptions,” Bill continues. This decline is partially due to the time compounding demands — something a pharmacist in a big box store is simply not given. “Another reason is a lack of proper equipment and an inability to purchase the components to make the compounds,” he adds.

With all the difficulties associated with this art, some may question why continue to practice it at all. “Compounding offers many advantages to a patient and a practitioner,” Bill answers. “It allows a prescriber to order a medication in the exact strength, dosing schedule, and form that is appropriate for their patient. These are typically strengths or forms that are not available commercially or have been discontinued by the manufacturers.”

Furthermore, compounding can produce medicines that will not affect allergies or sensitivities of a patient, like those associated with gluten, corn, soy, artificial dyes, or other allergens.

Anyone with sick children or who can remember taking medicine as a child will also be grateful for compounding. Compounding can mean making a medicine in a liquid form when such may not be available at a big box pharmacy or improving the flavor to make the dose more palatable.

The taste of medicine is also a major issue with animals. “For animals, we can compound into strengths, doses, and flavors not available with the veterinary medications. If it is difficult to get your pet to take its medication or they spit it out, the treatment can’t work right and the owner can get frustrated,” Bill sympathizes. “Often putting it into a form the pet will take can make all the difference. Often this is using a route of application not available commercially for these products, such as a flavored suspension when it is only a tablet form or a transdermal gel for application on the ear.”

Personal consultation
A personal concern for your wellness is nearly as much a lost art as compounding. This is not always the fault of the individual pharmacists, however. Bill explains what happens when a pharmacy can get a little too big for its breeches: “In today’s big business pharmacy model used by the big chain drug stores, more prescriptions are filled with fewer pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This leads to a decrease in customer service and decreased access to consultation with a pharmacist,” he says. “Pharmacy laws in Illinois were changed in 2018 to require a pharmacist to personally counsel all new patients, any new prescriptions for an existing patient, and any dose or strength changes for a patient’s current medications.”

“I have personal experience of pharmacies not following this law and having a technician simply ask if there are any questions for the pharmacist,” he continues. “That does not comply with the law as it currently reads.”

Being understaffed in order to cut overhead is not an issue at Essential Wellness. Having enough staff to personally consult with each patient who needs direction is especially important with compounded medications, particularly in regard to dosing or application.

Having more on-duty pharmacists also means patients can schedule one-on-one consultations with one of the pharmacists to discuss other areas of their health and wellness. “This may include information and natural treatment options for various conditions, lifestyle, and nutritional changes, or reviewing a patient’s medications or supplements,” Bill elucidates. “Together with the patient, a plan can be made to implement changes for the improvement of the patient’s health.”

Depending on the complexity of the issue at hand, consultation times may vary, with the cost being $60 for each half hour. “When compared to the fee for physicians whom you might see for only 15 minutes, it can be well worth it,” Bill points out. “Some of the more common consultations involve hormone replacement therapy, mood disorders, auto-immune conditions, or digestion or other GI problems.”

Although many people may follow the advice of their general medical practitioner, they still may not see the improvements they were hoping for or perhaps they still suffer from side effects. For these reasons and others, more and more people are searching for a more natural approach to wellness, Bill says.

“Often when diseases or conditions start, conventional Western medicine may not search for the cause. Modern medicine typically does little to ‘cure’ most diseases, only to treat the symptoms of the condition with medications,” Bill states. “If the condition didn’t exist at birth, there had to have been a change or breakdown in the body. Through our experience, conditions may often stem from areas not even considered by practitioners. A consultation may help shed light on the causes and help set a plan to improve the condition.”  

Wellness lectures
Knowledge is power. That axiom is true regarding every aspect of life, including one’s own health. That is why Essential Wellness Pharmacy provides Wellness Lectures every month of the year except December.

They are held at either Unity Point-North—the building off of North Allen Road, or at the Nobel Center—formerly the site of the Lakeview Museum. The location depends on the subject matter that month as well as the expected attendance. All Wellness Lectures are free to attend.

The subjects of the lectures can vary greatly, covering current health and wellness trends, as well as answering common health questions and societal conditions. “Topics can cover subjects from particular conditions such as diabetes or fibromyalgia to information on gluten’s effects on the body, CBD, stress and adrenal fatigue, immune system boosting, digestive health, allergies, reasons for an inability to lose weight, drug-induced nutritional deficiencies which lead to other conditions and more,” Bill shares.

Wellness Lectures have been scheduled through the month of July. The dates, topics, and locations are as follows: April 25th — The Truth About Gluten and Its Effects on the Body at the Nobel Center, May 23 — The Gut-Brain Connection at Unity Point-North, June 27 — Natural Treatments for Mood Disorders at Unity Point-North, and July 23 — I’m Doing Everything Right, So Why Can’t I Lose Weight at Unity Point-North.

Landmark of wellness
As small, independent pharmacies disappear and pharmaceutical corporations keep getting bigger, it’s more common than ever to get medicine dispensed while you’re buying a new TV or groceries. It is good to know then there are still some people who take a personal interest in your health and wellness.

Many may fear the old-fashioned days of the apothecary have disappeared along with the mom-and-pop grocery store or the clothing boutique. But, Bill and his staff are reminders those good old days are not dead. They have simply been given new life in the form of Essential Wellness Pharmacy.

Essential Wellness Pharmacy is located at 4625 N. University in Peoria. To schedule a personal consultation appointment, call (309) 681-8850 or visit their website at