Back to nature: the boom in pharmacies that treat gently – Elle

In 2019, an Ipsos survey for Arkopharma revealed that 41% of French people said they used natural treatments to treat themselves. Four years later, the need to take care of oneself as naturally as possible continues to be emulated. “During the pandemic, we saw customers totally refractory to traditional medicine seeking to revitalize their immune system with plants, confirms Léa Parsy, co-owner of the Cotinat pharmacy and herbalist, in Paris. Today, it is a reflex that has entered pre-winter routines. This explains the renewed interest in herbalism, boosted by the desire to reconnect with nature and better listen to one’s body, while reconnecting with ancestral know-how. “Pharmacists were first and foremost apothecaries,” recalls Caroline Gayet, phytotherapist dietician and founder of the Phyt&Sens herbalist, in Aulnay-sous-Bois (93). However, “conventional and traditional medicine still struggles to coexist in an intelligent and respectful way”, observes Léa Parsy.

New generation pharmacies


©Aglaé Bory

This is where a new kind of pharmacies come in, which, from Paris to Marseille, welcome a diverse clientele in search of more natural options and, above all, real advice. “When I go to a pharmacy, I seek above all to obtain clarification on what my doctor may have prescribed for me,” explains Alix, an advertising consultant. I’m also trying to find out what I can incorporate into my routine to feel better, like probiotics, for example. From now on, herbal teas, food supplements, essential oils and cosmetic products with an ultra-clean composition can be found alongside pills and cough syrups in stores that look like concept stores. With its elegant navy blue facade, its carefully stocked display windows, its period woodwork and its “library” of more than two hundred plants, Cotinat embodies this new generation of establishments rethinking the world of pharmacy. Established since 1898 in the 7th arrondissement of the capital, this listed family pharmacy was taken over in 2017 by Alexis Parsy, doctor of pharmacy, and Léa, his wife. “We wanted to have a nice shop, with somewhat alternative brands, allopathy, plants”, explains the one who looks at the benefits of nature at 24, when she is diagnosed with cancer of the stage 4, involving “a lot of chemistry”.

A return to nature?

Proposing a new way of treating oneself, caring for the patient as a whole… Methods to which doctors and pharmacists must now adapt. “We are moving towards improving the advice of professionals, notes Léa Parsy. Allopathic doctors are more inclined to offer plants to counter the side effects of heavy treatments. “However, if more and more pharmacies are putting botany in the spotlight, it is “less and less taught in faculty”, recalls Carole Sattler, doctor of pharmacy and professor of socio-anthropology of health at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), which adds: “This lack of training is in contradiction with the expectations of patients and their desire to return to nature. For Léa Parsy, the future of pharmacies depends on “hybrid places in which you feel good and where you can confide in yourself and get help”. A pharmacy like a refuge, where well-being is the key word.


The prescription from the Cotinat pharmacy to treat minor sores and other everyday ailments. Review of some natural solutions.

1. A food supplement with grapefruit seed extract, useful for all types of viral or bacterial infections, for young and old.

Grapefruit Seed Extract, CitroBiotic’, 100 ml, €22.80 on aroma-zen.

2. A balm with black propolis extract to have on you all the time, as a simple lip care or for all crevices, skin irritations…

Pyrenees Care Balm, Ballot-Flurin, 7 ml, €6.95 on

3. Tea Tree is the essential oil to always have in your kit! Small pimple, mouth ulcer, virus, bacteria… it cures absolutely everything.

Organic Tea Tree Essential Oil, Essenciagua, 5 ml, €6.70 on

4. Milk thistle, the plant that protects the liver. As a cure for a little detox, but milk thistle is also an anti-hangover remedy, to be taken at bedtime after a drunken evening or a slightly too rich dinner.

Milk thistle, 100 capsules (200 mg), €12.90, on sale at the Cotinat pharmacy.

5. Peppermint essential oil, really effective in case of migraine. To massage on the temples or to breathe slowly three times in a row to decongest the nose.

Organic Peppermint Essential Oil, Essenciagua, 5 ml, €11 on

3 homemade herbal teas


©Trinette Reed/Stocksy

The prescriptions of Caroline Gayet, phytotherapist dietitian: 100% natural herbal teas, to concoct at home to welcome spring in all lightness.

To fight against allergies: chamomile, desmodium and plantain

It is an herbal tea that can be drunk throughout the day – 1 liter maximum – where exposure to pollen and allergic manifestations are the strongest. Consume for prevention, then throughout the allergy season. Camomiles will soothe nerves set on edge by sneezing, red eyes and itchy skin. It also has a liver function, allowing it to drain the liver, just like desmodium, and thus reduce allergic reactions. The broncho-pulmonary action of plantain helps to reduce coughs that are a little queasy.


For 0.5 liters of herbal tea, count one level tablespoon for each plant. Immerse the plants in cold water, boil for 2 minutes covered, so that the vapors do not escape, then infuse for 10 minutes before filtering.

To lighten up before spring: linden sapwood, pungent nettle and hibiscus

Although the body “self-detoxes”, it is always good to drain the excesses of winter in the off-season. This requires drinking at least 1 liter of herbal tea per day, over three weeks, unless you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or if you suffer from kidney failure. Linden sapwood is a hepatorenal depurative whose rather pleasant taste makes it easy to consume. Stinging nettle is a remineralizing plant, which gently drains the kidneys and provides minerals, including iron, which ensures immunity and prevents anemia. Appreciated for its tangy taste, hibiscus offers a diuretic action.


Two tablespoons of linden sapwood, a tablespoon of nettle and a tablespoon of hibiscus in 1 liter of water. Immerse the plants in cold water, then let them boil together for 5 minutes. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then filter. Best enjoyed hot and before 7 p.m.

To get out of winter depression: lemon balm, orange blossom and passion flower

It is an herbal tea that can be drunk lukewarm, hot or cold, both during the day and in the evening since it is neither exciting nor sedative. Apart from pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as cases of hypothyroidism, there are no special precautions for use. A plant of joie de vivre, lemon balm harmonizes the gut-brain relationship. It will calm feelings of stress and depression, but also knotted bellies and loss of appetite. Orange bud and passionflower contribute to nervous relaxation: the first plays the role of psychological comfort, while the second, anxiolytic, can help with sleep disorders.


For 1 litre, mix two tablespoons of lemon balm, a tablespoon of passionflower and a teaspoon of orange blossom buds. Boil a liter of water, then pour it over the plants. Leave to infuse covered for 10 minutes before filtering.

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