Ancient Wisdom for the Future: Interview with Steve Litvak.
Stephen and Kimberly Litvak
“We're fortunate in the United States to now have about 25% of regular medical doctors using alternative medicine full time, and that's increasing every year."
At a time when everyone seems to be debating the best medical practices, Steve Litvak and his family have had their answer for decades. Founded in 1944 by Litvak’s grandfather, the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy has become a Los Angeles staple and hub for alternative medicine, attracting clients from around the world. Medical doctors from all over the U.S. routinely refer their patients to the pharmacy. Customers who visit the pharmacy can receive a free consultation from a member of the staff, all of whom are well-trained professionals and draw from the wisdom of Homeopathy, Western Herbs, Chinese Herbs, and Acupuncture. Following the coronavirus pandemic, Litvak looks forward to a new medical era on the horizon, one that combines modern and alternative practices in a way that is healthy and beneficial for all. The Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy made the decision to stop carrying narcotics in the ’60s. What sparked that shift in the business? The pharmacy made the decision to stop carrying not only narcotics but also any other medications that we felt could be creating health problems or permanent side effects. My grandfather began receiving complaints from customers having side effects from their medication; first, they started weekly, then almost every other day. Some customers would have stopped taking their medication by choice and would still have the side effects left over; they thought when they got off it, their symptoms would go away. That prompted my grandfather to move towards homeopathic medicine; we still carry a few thyroid medications and antibiotics today. Homeopathics are actually outside of the realm of nutritional supplements. Homeopathics fall into the category of the Food and Drug Administration; they're very well regulated.
How did you get your start in working at the pharmacy? I was previously in the restaurant and nightclub industry. I had two businesses going at the same time, requiring myself and my partners to be there most of the time. After several years I began to feel the burnout from working so many hours. We finally sold and I decided to go on a long, six-month vacation, driving across the United States. I was passing through Orange County on my way to Santa Monica and dropped in on my grandparents just before I left L.A. I walked into the store, and they happened to be short-staffed that day. They asked me if I could jump on the register because that's all I knew how to do; I didn't know the business very well at the time. I came back the next day, which turned into three, and I never ended up going on vacation. How would you describe the experience of visiting the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy? It's similar to visiting a free clinic, but we don't make appointments. We do not have patients; we have customers who can come in for a consultation by a well-trained healthcare professional licensed in the State of California. Our customers can receive a short, free consultation about health problems they've not been able to resolve elsewhere. We also get a lot of people that can't take medication; they may have had bad reactions, or the medication doesn’t work for them. We have a lot of regular medical doctors from all over the United States who refer people to us. We're very specific about what we recommend to customers, which differs depending on their age, pre-existing conditions, and what they're there for. There are a lot of things we take into consideration before we recommend something. What are some common misconceptions that people have about using nutritional supplements? A lot of people think that all vitamins are created equal, which is a big misconception. Many think that vitamins are just preventative, or that they can just be used to increase energy or cognitive function. Actually, vitamins can be used to help maintain or reverse illness, depending on the disease. From my 30 years of experience, I can say that barring a real emergency, probably more than 70% of the time people do not need medication when they are ill. Alternative medicine goes back millions of years, as far back as plants have been growing from the ground. Almost every medication, whether it’s a drug, an alternative medication, or a supplement, was originally developed based on a natural source. Modern medicine has only been around for a short period of time, whereas alternatives have been around from the beginning of time. In the very near future, there will not be two forms of medicine; it will all be integrative, and one medicine. There are now major medical centers investing millions of dollars into alternative medicine, trying to understand it better to integrate it into modern medicine. How has your business changed since the onset of COVID in 2020? Do you feel that more people have turned towards homeopathic and natural medicine since then? A lot more people have turned from modern medicine. In March 2020, the pharmacy was overwhelmed. We had to bring on extra staff. It was nonstop; we had multiple lines going around the building with people wanting to purchase immune products, such as extra Vitamin C, D, and antivirals. When our customers started seeing the failure of modern medicine in dealing with this virus, many felt that the hospital wasn't the place to go if they fell ill. We had people coming to us asking how to address what they were dealing with; some had tested positive for the virus. We would advise them and they would purchase what was needed, take it home, and in three to five days most would be feeling better. The media also helped us out by heavily promoting Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc heavily. At one point, those products became unavailable because everybody wanted them. Now people are preparing, getting ready because they're hearing threats of new diseases coming our way.
What can people do to prepare for future viral outbreaks, COVID or otherwise? It's all based on the individual. If you're already dealing with a chronic health problem, whether it’s diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc., you have to focus on that first, because those issues can easily get out of control if you contract a virus. The actual virus itself, whether it’s a coronavirus or another type, is not what will probably take your life; it'll be the condition that is pre-existing. So while not everyone is a “one size fits all,” there are, of course, foundational protocols that will help everybody, such as improving diet. Taking the right type of Vitamin D is incredible for the immune system. Vitamin D is critical and should most often be taken with K2, as one pill bound together. A lot of food no longer contains much Vitamin D, and most people don't get enough sun. Vitamin C is also important; that's been known for at least 50 years, and it is incredibly beneficial for the immune system. Lastly, zinc is crucial to preventing viruses. Remember that not all vitamins are created equal, and some forms of C, D, and zinc are more beneficial than others. However, you can also take too much of all these vitamins. They should be taken, but people should also take one day off a week where the body can be allowed to return to its natural balance. Why do you think that people in the United States pay more than any other developed country for a healthcare system that is broken in so many ways? The United States is one of the only countries that doesn't have socialized healthcare, which I'm not saying is good or bad. At this point, it might be very difficult to turn the United States towards a socialized healthcare system because the current system is already overwhelmed. Also, the U.S., unfortunately, consumes more medication than any other country in the world. While it's an easy, quick fix for people to just run to their doctor and get a drug, they often don’t think about the long-term consequences. Very little goes into the
collective research of alternative medicine; there's independent work going on from individual companies, but they often don't share the information. The efficacy and potential of alternative medicine have always been simply word of mouth, and until now, many doctors and regular pharmacies were always telling people to avoid alternatives. What changes would you like to see made in our healthcare system? Doctors need to be open right at the start about the potential side effects of the drugs they are prescribing. They should also let patients know if there is a supplement that could be used in place of the drug. Doctors are often supporting a system instead of their patients, and that's really not treating the patient correctly. But that’s changing. A lot of doctors have realized this over the last several decades; we're fortunate in the United States to now have about 25% of regular medical doctors using alternative medicine full time, and that's increasing every year.
What do you envision for the future of the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy?
If things continue the way that they're going and the vitamin industry isn’t continually suppressed, the pharmacy is going to rapidly grow. More people are going to learn the limits of modern medicine and the benefits of alternatives; they’ll realize that there is a way to prevent getting sick, and mitigating illness. We're seeing people who have never taken vitamins doing so and using them preventatively. Regular medical doctors are coming into the picture now as well, learning more about alternative medicine and starting to prescribe it to patients. The industry will naturally grow; new stores will pop up, and competition will grow too. For more information, please visit https://www.smhomeopathic.com/store/about.html.
Steven and Robert Litvak (President)