Pharmacist also offers herbal, dietary remedies

NEIGHBORS

April 22, 2004|By Carole McShane | Carole McShane,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AN ILLNESS prompted Smita Patel, a registered pharmacist, to seek an alternative route to good health. After a surgery in 1990, the Highland resident said she struggled with poor health.

"My mother wanted me to go back to my roots and apply Indian medicine," Patel said.

She began Ayurvedic treatment with herbs and supplements sent to her from her doctor in India. Eventually, her health returned, and in 1996, Patel went on to study Ayurvedic healing -- an Eastern system based on lifestyle, diet and herbal remedies -- in India and the United States.

Now, at Smeeta's Integrative Pharmacy and Compounding Center in Highland, she fills prescriptions for medications prescribed for customers by their doctors. And she offers Ayurvedic herbal and dietary remedies. (Smeeta is a phonetic spelling of Patel's first name.)

Patel said health problems arise when a person's body is out of balance. Emotions, stress and diet all contribute to the problem. The purpose of Ayurvedic healing is to restore balance.

"The body is born with certain intelligence and has a sense of a balanced system," Patel said. "It is the outside environment, our predisposition to stress that causes an imbalance, which is the root cause of disease. You were born with health. You can live with good health."

When a client comes to Patel with a health issue, she does an in-depth assessment. She starts with a history of the individual's childhood nutrition and diseases, which, she says, affect 80 percent of a person's health status.

Taking into consideration a client's medications, Patel explains how diet is affecting health. She might modify the diet, giving the client alternatives to favorite but harmful foods -- a cup of dandelion tea, for example, instead of morning coffee.

For a sleeping problem, Patel might recommend an almond milkshake with nutmeg.

"I tell clients to eat right, but they do not know what `right' is, so I have cooking classes, discuss recipes and have taken field trips to natural food markets, like Roots in Clarksville and Indian grocery stores," Patel said.

Many of Patel's recipes include ginger, garlic and onions, which neutralize toxins in meat and poultry, she said.

"American food has become bland," Patel said. "We need to incorporate the use of herbs ... and return to the more robust American cooking we once did."

Patel believes that fast-food and soda industries capitalize on their customers' weaknesses.

"There are so many ads and fads out there," she said. "We are overwhelmed. We have all the intuitive qualities within ourselves to tell us what is right, but we have become victims."

Americans are victimized by lifestyle, as well as advertising.

"People are hurried and tired, so they use these foods for energy to get going," Patel said. "This creates an ongoing imbalance."

Customers at the Smeeta pharmacy enjoy the guidance and support they receive.

Janet Furman, who grew up in the house across the street from Patel's pharmacy, has worked there for 8 1/2 years.

"People in Highland like to come to Smeeta's to have prescriptions filled," Furman said. "They don't like waiting in line, and they also do like talking to people. Smita ... will tell people if the long-term use of a certain prescription has unusual side effects."

"She always has time for you to explain things," said Clarksville resident Suzanne Green.

After a heart attack, when Green was told to she had to bring her cholesterol down, she consulted Patel. Using the supplements that Patel recommended in addition to her prescription drug, she was successful.

"Compassion is my trademark, and I am always there as a support system," said Patel, who regards her pharmacy as a family business and an outreach to the community.

"My husband, Pankaj Patel, is the backbone of my business," she said. "He supported my dream."

In the fall, Patel will again be a mentor for students from River Hill High School who want to pursue a career in pharmacy. It will be her second year as a volunteer mentor. The couple's daughter, Janushe Patel, 15, is a student at the school.

Their son, Chintan Patel, 20, who studies computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park, hopes to go to medical school.

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