When Lulu Ge, founder of herbal health brand Elix, stopped taking birth control a few years ago, she soon started experiencing debilitating period pains. Although her gynecologist suggested various types of over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, she found them ineffective or fraught with side effects. In search of any other remedy, Ge mentioned his symptoms to his grandfather, who once ran a hospital in southern China. He connected her with a family friend, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor Xia Hongsheng, MD, who finally sent her with a list of healing herbs — which, to her delight, proved to be ultra-soothing. But the process of getting the ingredients and preparing them for use was confusing and complicated. Suggestion: Ge’s idea of launching a wellness brand that would simplify this dimension of TCM so that anyone could reap its benefits.
A similar goal has also spawned a handful of other TCM-inspired wellness brands in recent years, each using elements of holistic practice to alleviate health concerns like stress, skin problems, and sleep problems in an affordable way. “I remember going to herb stores in Chinatown in New York with Dr. Xia, and I speak Chinese, and it was still so difficult to find the right ones and determine where they were sourced from and if they were organic,” says Ge. From there, consuming the herbs would also require “boiling a smelly concoction that smells like your kitchen for months and drinking it with a tight nose,” says Danielle Chang, co-founder of herbal medicine brand The Hao Life. Both Elix and The Hao Life encapsulate all the richness of classic Chinese botanicals – from astragalus to angelica root and licorice root – in tinctures and supplements, respectively.
Figuring out exactly which of these herbs to include in which formulations is one of the main ways new MTC-based brands are taking the guesswork out and reducing the legwork. “Mixing and combining herbs can be complex and daunting for most, especially since there is a ton of information out there,” says Stephanie Tan, founder of Nooci, a line of herbal-infused beverage powders and supplements. Like Ge and Chang, she worked with TCM practitioners to decide on ingredient combinations in Nooci products — like, say, reishi mushroom and mint in the immunity-focused Noo Air, and ginger and cinnamon in Noo Moon, which was designed to relieve menstrual cramps and bloating.
“When we make our old wellness philosophies culturally relevant to our daily lives, we are spreading love.” —Danielle Chang, co-founder of wellness brand The Hao Life
Much of this wisdom is also a result of generational knowledge, rooting this new list of wellness brands in a foundation of Chinese heritage. “I used to watch my grandma make masks out of ingredients she found in our kitchen, like egg whites, ginger, ginseng and goji berries, and give my mom mini-facials,” says Tina Chow Rudolf, founder of Strange Bird, a line of herbal-infused beauty products designed to soothe the skin and spirit. And there’s a certain beauty in keeping these rituals going, whether they’re 10 years old or 10,000.
“When we make our old wellness philosophies culturally relevant to our daily lives, we are spreading love,” says Chang, who identifies as Chinese and American. “It’s about bringing two cultures together in the most meaningful way possible, through well-being.”
7 Chinese-owned wellness brands working to modernize Traditional Chinese Medicine
Elix Daily Harmony – $38.00
Elix’s original product is a tincture of herbs, personalized through a online health assessment (designed to mimic the initial Ge intake session with Dr. Xia) to address specific period-related symptoms. But when customers started asking for something they could also take every day – a similar herbal remedy but for life’s daily stressors – Ge launched Daily Harmony, a decoction of herbs including licorice, angelica sinensis and white peony that you You can drop it in any drink.
To make this blend (like all Elix blends), Ge and his team source “whole, dried organic herbs; cut them; and boil them in individual sealed containers designed to capture the vapor from the herbs’ essential oils,” says Ge. Each herb in the formulation is backed by millennia of TCM knowledge and clinical studies identified by Elix’s medical advisory board. “For example, angelica sinensis, in particular, is a star ingredient in this blend because it is both an ingredient known adaptogen– which means it can regulate stress – and it has hormone-balancing qualities,” she says.
The Hao Life Mind Unwind – $88.00
Chang’s original inspiration for creating The Hao Life products was the daily wellness she experienced when visiting her home country. “I realized that whenever I spent a lot of time in China and across Asia, I felt better because the food I was eating was really medicinal, not just sustenance,” she says. “There were a lot of Cordyceps mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, dates, goji berries, lotus nuts and things of that nature.” So she worked with TCM practitioner David Melladew, LAc, DipOMto bottle your favorites as optimized supplements for the body’s critical systems.
Mind Unwind is especially aimed at the nervous system and contains ingredients such as reishi, licorice root and jujube that have naturally anti-stress qualities. “This is a traditional Chinese formula that dates back to the Han Dynasty, but we’ve also overloaded it with other functional herbs,” says Chang.
Strange Bird Inner Balance Serum – $88.00
The concept behind Strange Bird is as much about the plant-based, MTC-inspired ingredients in each product as it is the intent with which you use them. “The way I’ve always interpreted TCM is that, at its core, it’s about balancing your energy or qi, which is a term for your life force,” says Rudolf. In that sense, each product is inscribed with a grounding mantra and comes with a spiritual warning suggesting how you can use it.
Inner Balance Serum contains the brand’s Chinese power trio of ginger, ginseng and goji berry, along with skin soothing. niacinamide. And it’s also infused with amethyst and oak essence, reflecting another signature of Strange Bird. “We love to combine TCM ingredients with modern energy medicine, like flower essences and gemstones,” says Rudolf. “We think the two together create a certain harmony within the physical and emotional body.”
Essentials Gua Sha Rose Quartz Mount Lai Illuminator Set — $92.00
gua sha it may be a trending beauty practice lately, but its roots lie in Traditional Chinese Medicine — which is where TCM-inspired Mount Lai founder Stephanie Zheng first encountered it. Growing up, she watched her grandmother practice jade-rolling and gua sha regularly. And in becoming a holistic beautician, Zheng was inspired to honor her heritage with a line of gua sha crystal tools, jade rollers and herbal beauty products.
“As a healing modality in TCM, the practice of gua sha is based on the act of scraping,” says Zheng. “This works to remove stagnation and restore the flow of qi, which can increase the absorption of nutrients in the skin.” This is also why the practice pairs so well with the nutrient-rich products in the Mount Lai skin care range. In particular, Brightening Berry Vitamin C Facial Oil is packed with antioxidant-rich botanicals like goji berry and elderberry, along with its namesake vitamin.
Yina Anti-Pollution Mask – $65.00
Having been immersed in the TCM ideals of mind-body balance from an early age, Yina’s founders, Angela Chau Gray, LAc, and Ervina Wu, PhD, designed the beauty and wellness brand around creating intentional habits. “Staying healthy takes time, patience and work,” says Gray, referring to TCM’s preventive rather than treatment-oriented approach. “We are here to support and guide you with helpful best practices. For example, if we can inspire you to pick up a gua sha tool for a daily self-massage, we’ve done our job.”
Like the other skin care products in the collection, Yina’s Anti-Pollution Mask is infused with MTC herbs – in this case, skullcap root, pearl and white chrysanthemum. The moringa and coconut carbon that completes the formulation help clear away the buildup of bacteria over the course of 10 to 20 minutes, during which time you’re encouraged to simply rest, enjoying the mask’s botanical scent. Energetically, the result is designed to be both a spirit cleanse and a face cleanse.
ReNoo – $45.00
While certain elements of TCM have become fully mainstream, Tan suspects that “TMC herbs in particular have yet to have their moment, mainly because herbology is complex and often relies on research that is not so straightforward,” she says. . That’s why, to create Nooci, she brought together a Scientific Advisory Board of integrative health practitioners and TCM practitioners who could filter the research and identify the specific herbs with the most potent health benefits.
Specifically, she was focused on women’s health; Nooci means “female energy” in Mandarin, as a nod to “the strong women in my life who have shown me the importance of Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and practices,” says Tan. The brand’s hero product, ReNoo, is a granulated powder made from concentrated herbal extracts (from fermented soybeans, fermented coconut seed, and cinnamon, to name a few) that you mix in water. “Our process turns these strong-tasting and often bitter Chinese herbs into a light drink that tastes like barley and green tea,” says Tan.
Rose Moon Rose Quartz Gua Sha Facial Tool — $35.00
Having inherited classic TCM techniques like gua sha and acupressure from your parents and resorting to them regularly to strengthen your resilience against stress, Lin Chen co-founded Pink Moon as a way to share that with others. “One of the reasons I created the Pink Moon Rose Quartz Gua Sha tool in particular was not only to honor my heritage and help me feel closer to my culture, but also to give to other people – and specifically, other women – access to a tool that can improve their holistic health,” says Chen.
Overall, Pink Moon is a marketplace for women-founded and AAPI brands dedicated to self-love and self-care. And to further embody that mission, Chen frequently uses the platform to host virtual workshops led by licensed professionals in TCM nutrition, gua sha, acupressure, Reiki and other traditional Asian wellness practices.
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