The first thing you’ll notice about NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing professor Joyce Anastasi’s classroom is the smell—a pleasing blend of lavender and peppermint, on the day we visited. During that particular session of her Herbs, Nutraceuticals, and Supplements (HNS) class, students were getting hands-on experience working with herbs to make products such as throat spray, hand salve, and sports liniment.
The purpose of the course is to introduce undergraduate and graduate students to the scientific and regulatory issues related to HNS, building a foundation for students to advise patients on their appropriate use.
Assignments include writing a summary of a popular herb for a consumer education newsletter and a food-as-medicine project—complete with tastings—that explores the healing properties of various ingredients.
Herbs, nutraceuticals, and supplements present unique safety challenges for both consumers and practitioners, in part because their use is often self-initiated, rather than prescribed by health care providers, Anastasi explains. It’s important that students learn to communicate about complementary and alternative medicine in an evidence-based and culturally sensitive manner.
“Students entering into the nursing field need to maintain a sense of the bigger picture—that health means different things to different people,” Anastasi says.
“This course offers an opportunity to think creatively about medicine and what health means to patients according to culture, history, and personal perspectives.”