When Lulu Ge, founder of herbal-health brand Elix, stopped taking birth control a few years ago, she soon began to experience debilitating menstrual pain. Though her gynecologist suggested various kinds of over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, she found them either ineffective or riddled with side effects. In search of any other remedy, Ge mentioned her symptoms to her grandfather, who once ran a hospital in southern China. He connected her with a family friend, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Xia Hongsheng, MD, who ultimately sent her off with a list of healing herbs—which, to her delight, proved ultra-soothing. But the process of sourcing the ingredients and preparing them for use was both confusing and cumbersome. Cue: Ge’s idea to launch a wellness brand that would streamline this dimension of TCM so 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 the holistic practice to alleviate health concerns like stress, skin conditions, and sleep issues in an accessible way. “I remember going to herb shops in Chinatown in New York with Dr. Xia’s list of herbs, and I speak Chinese, and it was still so difficult to find the right ones and determine where they were sourced and whether they were organic,” says Ge. From there, consuming the herbs would also require “boiling a stinky concoction that smells up your kitchen for months and drinking it with a pinched nose,” says Danielle Chang, cofounder 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.
Scouting out exactly which of those herbs to include in what formulations is a major way that new TCM-based brands are erasing the guesswork and reducing the legwork. “The mixing and matching of herbs can be complex and daunting to most, especially because there’s a ton of information out there,” says Stephanie Tan, founder of Nooci, a line of herb-infused drink powders and supplements. Like Ge and Chang, she worked with TCM practitioners to decide on the combinations of ingredients 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 ease menstrual cramps and bloating.
“When we make our ancient wellness philosophies culturally relevant to our daily lives, we’re spreading love.” —Danielle Chang, cofounder of wellness brand The Hao Life
Much of that wisdom is also the result of generational knowledge, rooting this new slate of wellness brands in a foundation of Chinese heritage. “I used to watch my grandmother make masks from ingredients she'd find in our kitchen, like egg whites, ginger, ginseng, and goji berry, and give my mother mini-facials,” says Tina Chow Rudolf, founder of Strange Bird, a line of herb-infused beauty products designed to soothe both skin and spirit. And there’s a certain beauty to holding onto those rituals, whether they’re 10 years old or 10,000.
“When we make our ancient wellness philosophies culturally relevant to our daily lives, we’re spreading love,” says Chang, who identifies as both Chinese and American. “It’s about bridging two cultures in the most meaningful way we can, through wellness.”
7 Chinese-owned wellness brands working to modernize Traditional Chinese Medicine
Elix’s original product is an herbal tincture, personalized through an online health assessment (designed to mimic Ge’s initial intake session with Dr. Xia) to address specific period-related symptoms. But when customers started to request something that they could take every day, too—a similar herbal remedy but for the daily stressors of life—Ge launched Daily Harmony, a decoction of herbs including licorice, angelica sinensis, and white peony that you can drop into any drink.
To make this blend (like all Elix blends), Ge and her team source “whole, dried, organic herbs; slice them up; and boil them in individual enclosed containers designed to capture the steam from the herbs’ essential oils,” says Ge. Each herb in the formulation is backed up by both millennia of TCM knowledge and clinical studies identified by Elix’s medical advisory board. “For instance, angelica sinensis, in particular, is a star ingredient in this blend because it’s both a known adaptogen—which means it can regulate stress—and it has hormone-balancing qualities,” she says.
Chang’s original inspiration to create The Hao Life products was the everyday kind of wellness that she experienced when she would visit her home country. “I realized that whenever I would spend considerable amounts of time in China and throughout Asia, I would just feel better because the food I was eating really was medicinal, not just sustenance,” she says. “It was 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, DipOM, to bottle her favorites as supplements optimized for the critical body systems.
Mind Unwind is especially geared toward the nervous system and contains ingredients like reishi, licorice root, and jujube fruit that have naturally de-stressing qualities. “This is a traditional Chinese formula dating back to the Han Dynasty, but then we’ve also supercharged it with other functional herbs,” says Chang.
The concept behind Strange Bird is as much about the herbal, TCM-inspired ingredients within each product as it is the intention 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 vital life force,” says Rudolf. In that vein, each product is inscribed with a grounding mantra and comes along with a spiritual prompt suggesting how you might use it.
The 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 centering amethyst and oak essence, reflecting another Strange Bird signature. “We love combining TCM ingredients with modern energy medicine like flower and gem essences,” says Rudolf. “We think that the two together create a certain harmony within the physical and emotional body.”
Gua sha may be a trending beauty practice as of late, but its roots are in Traditional Chinese Medicine—which is where the founder of TCM-inspired Mount Lai, Stephanie Zheng, first came upon it. Growing up, she’d watch her grandmother practice jade-rolling and gua sha on a regular basis. And upon becoming a holistic esthetician, Zheng was inspired to honor her heritage with a line of crystal gua sha 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 stagnations and restore the flow of qi, which can then increase nutrient absorption into the skin.” That’s also why the practice pairs so well with the nutrient-dense products in the Mount Lai skin-care lineup. In particular, the Brightening Berry Vitamin C Facial Oil is packed with antioxidant-rich botanicals like goji berry and elderberry, alongside its namesake vitamin.
Having been immersed in the TCM ideals of mind-body balance from a young age, the founders of Yina, 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, referencing the preventative, rather than treatment-oriented approach of TCM. “We are here to support and guide you with useful best practices. For example, if we can inspire you to pick up a gua sha tool to take part in daily self-massage, then we’ve done our job.”
Like the other skin-care products in the collection, Yina’s Anti-Pollution Mask is infused with TCM herbs—in this case, skullcap root, pearl, and white chrysanthemum. The moringa and coconut carbon rounding out the formulation help clear bacterial buildup over the course of 10 to 20 minutes, during which time you’re encouraged to simply rest, basking in the mask’s botanical scent. Energetically, the result is designed to be as much a spirit cleanse as it is a face cleanse.
While certain elements of TCM have gone totally mainstream, Tan suspects that “TCM herbs, in particular, haven’t had their moment yet, mostly because herbology is complex and often relies on research that isn’t so straightforward,” she says. That’s why, to create Nooci, she pulled together a Scientific Advisory Board of both integrative-health doctors and TCM practitioners who could sift through the research and identify the particular herbs with the most potent health benefits.
Specifically, she was focused on women’s health; Nooci means “women energy” in Mandarin, as a nod to “the strong women in my life who showed 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 herb extracts (from fermented soybean, fermented coix seed, and cinnamon, to name a few) that you stir into water. “Our process transforms these strong-tasting, often-bitter Chinese herbs into a light drink that tastes like barley-meets-green-tea,” says Tan.
Having inherited classic TCM techniques like gua sha and acupressure from her parents and turned to them regularly to strengthen her resilience against stress, Lin Chen co-founded Pink Moon as a way to share these 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 other people—and specifically, other women—access to a tool that can enhance their holistic health,” says Chen.
On the whole, Pink Moon is a marketplace of women- and AAPI-founded brands dedicated to self-love and self-care. And to further embody that mission, Chen uses the platform frequently to host virtual workshops led by licensed practitioners in TCM nutrition, gua sha, acupressure, Reiki, and other traditional Asian wellness practices.
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