Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

The Elephant in the Pharmacy

Elephant Pharmacy was an exciting discovery to a holistic immigrant to Berkeley. I bought my herbs in bulk and made up my own favorite (and affordable) herbal formulas. We often bought gifts there, able to find unique, cool, and environmentally friendly gifts.

Life moves on. Shattuck Avenue ain’t what it used to be and Gourmet Ghetto is a rare night out for many of us as we need to watch our wallets if we are to see out the month.

What is tough to accept is that the site of Elephant Pharmacy will be replaced by a Walgreens. Now let me confess that I shop at Walgreens and I understand why it is a more useful addition in these troubled economic times. I don’t even think that it is the fact that we have at least three Walgreens along Shattuck Avenue, and a couple of CVS’s to boot.

It is the fact that we have lost another local business and one that was so…Berkeley. It is the fact that you could have an introductory lesson in Tai Chi, yoga, or any other of a number of disciplines that help improve one’s health. It is the free lectures, the comfortable seating while you peruse their books, and the knowledgeable staff that were there to help. They also, by the way, sold allopathic medicines as well.

The US economy is reeling for a number of reasons. One is the $1 trillion+ sickness industry (please don’t call it health – no one who is healthy uses it). People are not just sick, they are bankrupting themselves when they get sick, and there is a direct correlation between sickness and economic production and innovation.

If this country is ever going to create a sustainable economy, it will need to get healthy. For this reason, we need more Elephant Pharmacies and less Walgreens.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com




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3 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Pharmacy

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