Arcana Empothecary offers alternatives in healing

Dr. James Mattioda, Ben Mattioda with Allison Liu, Christi Worthington and Alden Domini at Arcana Empothecary.  Photo: Kathy Day
Dr. James Mattioda, Ben Mattioda with Allison Liu, Christi Worthington and Alden Domini at Arcana Empothecary. Photo: Kathy Day

By Kathy Day

Take the roots of alchemy and empathy and you get Arcana Empothecary, pharmacist James Mattioda’s business that opened recently in Carmel Valley.

By combining traditional pharmaceutical science with knowledge of biochemistry, plant medicine and homeopathy, he said, he strives to provide alternatives to patients as well as vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements and estrogen-free beauty supplies.

He’s quick to note, though, that “there’s nothing alternative about alternative therapies. It’s just dependent on the culture you’re in.”

He explained the reasoning behind the choice of the name.

“As we were looking to evolve our name, we wanted to move away from ‘Pharmacy’ and we realized that apothecary wasn’t a good fit, as its root ‘apathy’ means apart or separate,” he said. “That is contrary to our philosophy of health.”

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Since empathy is at the core of their work, they consider each client holistically and sense their individual needs, he added. “Our real value to our customers is that we can work with them in a manner most suitable to them and help them through their healing journey. Just as important was the concept of empowerment of our customers, so the term ‘empothecary’ was created.”

With a doctorate in integral health, a license as a registered pharmacist and a diplomat of homeopathy, he said he has known since he was 16 that he was made to be a pharmacist.

His career just took a different turn as he became more and more fascinated with the historical and cultural studies of plant medicine, he said in a recent interview.

From the time he walked into a drug store for his first day on the job in a small Illinois town, he said he knew he was where he should be.

“I was supposed to be a stock boy, but within five minutes I was in the pharmacy,” he said, sitting in his business at 12250 El Camino Real, Suite 108. “I felt like I was home.”

With grandparents from Europe who introduced him to home remedies to studying with a specialist in pharmacognosy – the study of plant medicines – the inspiration was there that eventually led him down his current path.

But it was not until the 1990s when managed care and the move to chain store pharmacies turned him toward what he calls “a more patient friendly” business model where knowing a person’s name and listening to their needs is a key part of dispensing medicine.

He said as he learned more about homeopathy and its healing potential, he decided to study at what is now the California Medical Institute for Human Science in Encinitas. The school’s website notes its focus is on “mind-body-spirit interconnections” and the fields of energy healing, integral studies and consciousness expansion research, all of which expanded Mattioda’s interest in holistic health.

He opened his first pharmacy on Fay Avenue in La Jolla in 1996, where he “integrated homeopathy with modern medicine” and later joined the Scripps Center for Integrated Medicine with which he still has a contractual relationship.

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