The woman was a ragged mess, her nerves jangled, her guts in a knot. She was having problems with one of her grown children and it left her frantic. Unsettled. Paralyzed at times with gnawing fears of the creeping unknown.

A few years beyond 80, she went in desperation to her local pharmacist, in search of anything that would soothe the nerves and quiet her racing thoughts.

Please, she asked the pharmacist. Is there anything over the counter that can help with this hell of anxiety?

The pharmacist looked at her, smiled sadly and said, nope. There is nothing like that at all. Sorry we couldn’t be of more assistance today.

As a fib, the white-coated pharmacist couldn’t have told a bigger one.

Nothing for anxiety outside a prescription, you say?

A few days after I heard that story I was at Axis Natural Foods in Auburn on other business. Oh, look, a bottle of Kava Kava sitting there on a shelf. A root from the South Pacific, Kava has been known for hundreds of years to provide a calming effect and to relieve anxiety, restlessness and other stress-related symptoms.

And what have we here? It’s a bottle of 5-HTP, a naturally occurring precursor of serotonin said to ease depression and anxiety.

Around the corner is a pleasing variety of passionflower, a simple wild plant said to quiet anxiety by provoking feelings of relaxation within the brain.

The 80-something with the family problems might have asked about the potential of ashwagandha, an ancient herb related to the tomato and said to reduce anxiety without causing drowsiness.

Had she gone someplace other than the pharmacy, she might have been told about Valerian, L-theanine, lavender or chamomile.

There are roots and leaves, oils and seeds from all over the world that do remarkable things and you don’t need to go begging for government permission to get them.

A few years ago, it was suggested to me that I might quite like the benefits of slurping down a teaspoon of simple coconut oil once a day. I scoffed. I roared laughter. Then I took the coconut oil just to shut that person up and I swear to Valerian, within a couple of hours, I was bouncing off the walls with a weird, clean energy I’d never felt before.

I laughed at the dark green pond scum known as spirulina, too, until I’d been taking it a couple of days and suddenly felt like Popeye on a primo batch of spinach.

For the common cold, there is black elderberry. Inflammation? Try turmeric. For stress, listlessness and man problems (I’ve heard), there is the wonder root known as Maca. Don’t get me started on the multitude of things apple cider vinegar can do for you. Don’t get me started on the marijuana issue: Why in God’s name anyone would be in favor of government blacklisting of natural substances is beyond me.

Maybe the pharmacist who sent the 80-something woman away empty-handed didn’t know any better. Maybe the industry she works for has effectively brainwashed her into believing that the only good medicine is the stuff produced in labs by billion-dollar companies.

And frankly, I’d rather believe that than believe that the pharmacist knew of all these natural wonders available out there yet chose to keep them from a woman in agony.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer who swears he was an apothecary in a former life. Email him at [email protected]

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