By Jenna O’Donnell |
Jenn, a mother of four from Holmdel, had been feeling lousy for a long time. She tried modifying her lifestyle and eating habits, but continued to struggle with severe anxiety and an irregular menstrual cycle. Wary of the side effects of prescription drugs, she decided to forgo traditional medicine and try something different. She went to an apothecary.
After consulting with Tami Bronstein, a medical herbalist based in Gladstone, Jenn started taking herbal remedies made from a specialized combination of plant extracts tailored to her specific needs and history. The chemical-free organic liquid concoctions didn’t taste great, but she started to see results.
“It helped fairly quickly,” Jenn said. Nine years later, she has continued to consult Bronstein for herbal solutions whenever issues arise with her health. The results have kept her coming back. “It’s just a comprehensive look at who you are. Tami takes into account your lifestyle, body type, blood work. That’s a big deal.”
The terms for what she does have evolved since Bronstein first started working in wellcare in the late ‘80s. But whether it’s called alternative, complementary or restorative medicine, it all boils down to a common message, according to Bronstein.
“We’re looking to provide options as a healthy or alternative option to prescriptions,” she said. Rather than look to supplements or the treatment of symptoms alone, she tries to understand what hormones or other factors might be at work in the body. “Where my approach stands apart is that I try to look at the causative factors. We do want symptom relief, but we’re looking at the cause of the imbalance itself.”
The concept of “wellcare” was still a new one when Bronstein went to Europe to pursue a clinical education in the use of herbal medicine. She is accredited as a medical herbalist by the U.K.’s National Institute of Medical Herbalists and has been working in the field for more than 30 years, helping patients all over the country with ailments that range from fertility issues to thyroid problems to Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Her website contains testimonials from rock stars and recording artists, but also from numerous Monmouth County residents who have sought her out to either provide an alternative or a complement to traditional forms of medicine.
Often Bronstein works hand in hand with surgeons and physicians who will refer patients to her. By focusing on the hormones at the root of certain issues, she says she can give patients options. “Sometimes you can’t avoid a medication but sometimes you can,” she said.
Bronstein stresses that herbal solutions are as diverse and unique as the people who seek them and each of her patients will receive a different blend of plant extracts by necessity.
“I’ve been asked why not make something general that all people can take,” she said. “I can argue that plants might not be effective for two different people because their backgrounds are not the same. Ultimately even if you share a diagnosis with someone else, you are unique. It’s like a fingerprint. You and your friend might have the same problem but you won’t share the same formulation.”
To make those formulations, Bronstein follows a deeper line of questioning than many doctors might. Either by phone or in person, she’ll delve into sleep patterns, menstrual cycles, diet and mood to try to gain an understanding for what herbal remedy cocktail might be effective. In follow-ups, she might modify the formula based on effectiveness.
That level of customization is appealing to her patients. Jenn from Holmdel finds value in knowing where the ingredients come from and that her formulation has been made just for her. She also has found that through nine years of consulting with Bronstein, she understands the workings of her body in a way that she didn’t before.
“Life happens,” Jenn said. “Things happen that affect you and Tami is able to adjust with it. She explains to you why different things are happening in your body. I love understanding what’s happening rather than just having a pill to take.”
There’s a certain satisfaction not seeing a patient again, said Bronstein. She sees it as a sign that the herbal medicine helped bring back balance and that patient was able to move on with his or her life, restored.
“I’ve used Tami’s services to speed up recovery in my patients,” said Nima Shemirani, M.D., a facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills who has worked with Bronstein.
Shemirani explains there’s a significant amount of swelling after procedures such as fat injection or eyelid surgery. “Most people do not have downtime to take more than two or three weeks.”
“Tami does a consultation, gets the medical history and creates this customized tea that they take for a couple of weeks before the procedure to prepare the body and after.” The result can be improved blood flow and a quicker recovery time.
Bronstein, whose Medical Herbalist Apothecary site contains further reading for potential patients, says often those hard-to-treat cases eventually reach a point where they no longer need her support.
“For many individuals, we can just recalibrate the body and adjust the lifestyle,” she said, “then I won’t see them again.”
This article was first published in the June 7-June 14, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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