When you hear the word "apothecary," does it make you think of old-school pharmacies?

Or does it make you think of alternative medicine like yarrow root and acupuncture?

Well the latter is true, at least for citizens of Boulder, as we are home to many alternative medicine stores.

Shop around

A few of Boulder's local apothecaries and herbal outlets:

Rebecca's Herbal Apothecary and Supply

Where: 1227 Spruce St, Boulder

Phone: 303-443-8878

Web: rebeccasherbs.com

Six Persimmons

Where: 840 Pearl St., Boulder

Phone: 303 583-0179

Web: sixpersimmons.com

Pharmaca

Where: 2700 Broadway, 1647 Pearl St., 645 S. Broadway, Boulder

Phone: 303-442-0589

Web: pharmaca.com

Essential Being Health

Where: 75 Manhattan Drive, Suite 103, Boulder

Phone: 303-499-1965

Web: www.essentialbeing

health.com

Now there's no need to be afraid of alternative medicine -- it's not going to convert you into a hippie or take your soul or anything.

In fact, it could possibly be better and cheaper for you than Western or "regular" medicine.

But again, no one is saying you need to stock up on a bunch of herbs and never take Advil ever again, either. It just has the possibility of making a difference in your medical routine.

Tristan Hobson decided to try alternative medicine for a cut on his palm last year. He used tea tree oil on the cut, which ultimately led to an infection rising to the surface, so he had to go see a Western doctor. Although he had a negative experience, he said that he'd still be willing to try alternative medicine again, depending on the situation and what he knew about the remedy.

"I discovered homeopathic medicine after I moved out to Lake Tahoe when I was 18," CU graduate student Amye Woodcock said. "I was still on my parents' insurance, but when I would get sick or hurt I couldn't afford the co-pay to go see the doctor. Homeopathic medicine is much cheaper for the small stuff like colds, congestion, headaches and muscle strains and sprains than going to see a doctor and paying for a prescription."

Although not having certification within a homeopathic program, Woodcock is self educated in a "large extent of the simple homeopathic remedies," she said. "I've been helped along the road by those who I have in my life who do this for a living and love every minute of it."

'Root cause'

Kathy Thorpe is a certified homeopath and works at Six Persimmons Apothecary on the west end of Pearl Street. She said that "alternative medicine seeks the root cause rather than just treating symptoms, so the results are much deeper and a higher level of health is regained."

If you're getting interested in this whole alternative medicine thing you don't have to "go it alone" -- you can go into Six Persimmons and they'll tell you anything you want to know about all sorts of alternative medicine, not just homeopathy.

"We are staffed with experienced health care practitioners, so people can come in and ask any question and they will get the best information available. If they want to read up on a particular topic, we can guide them to good resources," Thorpe said.

Six Persimmons' services and specialties range from acupuncture (yes those little needle things) to reflexology and massage, with a full Chinese medicine and homeopathy pharmacy as well.

As this is Boulder and the citizens range in all sorts of "alternative," Six Persimmons seems to be pretty popular with students and other people of all ages. According to Thorpe, students come into the apothecary for all sorts of reasons, but "most popular with students are our organic facials and we also have a natural acne protocol that is very successful. Students know that there are very serious side effects from common acne medications, so they want to find natural alternatives that really work."

The one thing with alternative medicine is that it is not a "cure-all." There are definitely some illnesses and cases in which Westernized medicine should be sought. Broken bones, severe and persistent illnesses, etc.

"I like the idea of only using prescription drugs in cases where there are no alternatives. I do not want to be developing resistance to prescription drugs because when I need them, I want to be able to use them effectively," Woodcock said.

Going Western

She also said she has a limit to when she'll go see a Western doctor, "but it depends on the illness," and that she'll usually check in with her massage therapist, acupuncturist and herbologist beforehand.

Thorpe basically has the same opinion of Western medicine, and said if a high fever or extreme sickness is present to go to a Western doctor first.

"This is important to getting an accurate diagnosis," she said. "If it is viral, however (such as flu, mono, many types of bronchitis), alternative medicine has effective support."

Six Persimmons offers products such as "Cold Nip," which is a Chinese herbal remedy that is said to cure a cold at its first signs. Also, they sell "Higher Mind," a product that can help with focus and clarity before tests, and all-natural skin and hair products seem to be the most popular with students in Boulder.

If all this "new fangled" medicine interests you, stop into your local apothecary, or go see Thorpe and her co-workers on Pearl Street. You may be surprised at what you can cure or prevent with just some simple herbs and oils.

Apothecary vocab

When you walk into one of these places, some of the words you see and hear around you may be really confusing and sound like a completely different language.

You can always ask someone what a "tincture" or a "moxa stick" is, but here's some of what they'll be talking about, courtesy of Merriam-Webster.com:

Homeopathy: "A system of medical practice that treats a disease, especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in larger amounts produce symptoms in healthy persons."

Tincture: "A solution of a medicinal substance in an alcoholic solvent."

Moxa: A soft woolly mass prepared from the ground young leaves of a Eurasian artemisia."

Mugwort/Moxa: "A Eurasian perennial herb (Artemisia vulgaris) that is naturalized in North America and has aromatic leaves used in folk medicine and to flavor beverages."

Chakra: "Any of several points of physical or spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy."