#PeriodPainFree Harnesses the Power of Traditional Chinese Herbs to Alleviate Menstrual PainBy Annie Forhan
#PeriodPainFree Harnesses the Power of Traditional Chinese Herbs to Alleviate Menstrual Pain
For women whose lives are disrupted once a month by the volatility of their menstrual cycle, #PeriodPainFree offers a personalized solution, combining modern science with over 2000 years of wisdom from Traditional Chinese Medicine to help all women feel #periodpainfree.
Painful Cycles Shouldn’t be the Norm
Period pain is real. Two years ago, after learning about the negative health effects of birth control, #PeriodPainFree’s co-founder, Lulu Ge, decided to go off the pill. What followed was a cycle of debilitating cramps, bloating, and intense migraines in the days leading up to her period each month. These dreaded episodes of pain became setbacks, preventing her from enjoying daily activities and keeping her from performing at her best. She consulted her doctor and was frustrated that the recommended solutions were limited to over-the-counter pain killers like Midol, Advil, and Motrin, or returning to birth control, something she was not interested in. Lulu even tried Livia, a device that uses vibration signals on the abdomen to block period pain, but quickly realized how uncomfortable and distracting the constant vibrating sensation was. There had to be a better solution.
When I looked at what women are doing today, I found it insane that 58% of women are on birth control to manage menstrual-related symptoms and 31% of women are specifically on birth control to alleviate cramps…Doctors are prescribing birth-control essentially off-label for these issues.
– Lulu Ge, #PeriodPainFree CEO and Co-Founder
Lulu’s period pain was not unique. In fact, up to 90% of American women experience dysmenorrhea, also known as period pains or premenstrual symptoms (PMS), at some point in their adult lives, and are faced with sub-optimal treatment options. Luckily for Lulu, family in China connected her with Dr. Xia Hongsheng, a nationally recognized expert of Traditional Chinese Medicine. After an initial consultation, Dr. Xia prescribed Lulu a personalized blend of Chinese herbs to address her symptoms and underlying state of health. Unlike Lulu’s doctors in the U.S., Dr. Xia stressed the importance of not just alleviating her pain, but also re-balancing her hormones to promote healthy reproductive system functions in the long term. And it worked! After taking the herbal solution, Lulu didn’t experience any of the typical painful warning signs before her next cycle. Inspired by this experience with Chinese herbs, and eager to bring similar all-natural and holistic period-pain solutions to women like her in the U.S., Lulu set out to start #PeriodPainFree.
Teaming Up with a Friend and Expert
Shortly after her experience in China, Lulu teamed up with college friend and sorority sister, Dr. Nicole Glathe, to start the business. Nicole is an acupuncturist and herbalist with a private clinic in Los Angeles, where she uses acupuncture and herbs to treat women for various hormonal imbalance and adrenal fatigue symptoms. Nicole recently completed her doctoral degree focusing on Chinese herbs and women’s health at California’s Emperor’s College, a top rated and highly selective program specializing in traditional oriental medicine. Enthusiastic about helping Lulu bring these solutions to the American market, Nicole decided to focus her doctoral thesis on the physiological mechanisms and efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine for dysmenorrhea (period pain).
After 7 months of research, Lulu and Nicole began building the business. The team knew that there was growing demand for herbal supplements and holistic medicine in the U.S. However, they noticed that many of the existing “holistic” products on the market were not effective. These products were beautifully branded but had very low quantities of active ingredient, and for Chinese herbal medicine to be effective, a certain level of active ingredients is necessary. Lulu and Nicole saw the deficiencies in existing holistic products and wanted to bring the market a product that was backed by science and research and that could deliver real results.
Personalized Chinese Herbal Remedies
Their solution, #PeriodPainFree, is a personalized blend of Chinese herbs that alleviates period pain. First-time users complete an initial online health assessment, and #PeriodPainFree determines which herbal blend is suitable their specific health needs. Customers can make a one-time purchase of the solution for $65 or sign up for a monthly subscription for $50 per month. The product is then shipped to the customer by mail.
#PeriodPainFree’s method of personalization is based on Nicole’s survey of 138 clinical trials demonstrating effective diagnosis and treatment strategies of Chinese herbal medicine. The #PeriodPainFree formula and selection of herbs used to treat specific conditions are based on ~40 clinical trials proving traditional medicine is effective for primary dysmenorrhea that isn’t a result of a different condition. In these 40 clinical trials, Chinese herbal medicine was effective in resolving 87%-100% cases of primary dysmenorrhea. The research cites that Chinese herbal medicine is more effective than over-the-counter pain killers and that the results lasted post-treatment for the length of the three-month studies when the medicine was personalized.
#PeriodPainFree comes in concentrated liquid form in a dropper bottle and can be consumed as a shot or mixed into a beverage of choice. The herbs are currently sourced from a Taiwanese company and grown in China. #PeriodPainFree places a high emphasis on quality and transparency, and all of its herbs are tested at the source and tested again after their arrival in the U.S. The company also tests every batch of final product using a three step process to guarantee quality, potency, and safety.
For optimal results, women are instructed to finish the entire bottle the week before their period begins to help lower inflammation and balance their hormones. For women with irregular cycles who may have difficulty with the timing, the formulas can also be taken once bleeding begins.
Bringing Chinese Herbs to the American Market
There are 75+ million menstruating women in the United States, 23%, (17+ million) of whom have reported menstrual pain severe enough to cause absenteeism. Because 46% of women report feeling uncomfortable discussing their menstrual pain to their employers, Lulu believes the number is even higher than 17+ million. While Chinese herbs can be effective for any woman seeking alleviation from period pain or hormonal imbalance, #PeriodPainFree’s target market focuses more specifically on college educated, urban, coastal women with an openness to alternative and eastern health approaches like yoga, meditation, and eating organic foods, a population estimated at more than 6 million. Aside from demographics, Lulu also stressed the psycho-graphic component of the market they hope to reach – women who can’t afford to miss out on valuable time in their lives.
Initial sales have indicated ~90% of women who have purchased the product reported improvements after just one month, and no customers have returned the product. Because herbal medicine takes time to be absorbed into the body, results are known to improve as usage continues over time, and the company encourages women to trial the product for at least three months to see real results.
Overcoming Challenges in the D2C Women’s Health Space
Breaking into the women’s natural health space has come with its fair share of challenges. For one, as female co-founders addressing an issue often seen as taboo, Lulu and Nicole have had to find ways to resonate with male audiences who are not aware of the extent of the issue, have trouble relating to female menstrual pain, and have often questioned, challenged, and minimized the issue they are tackling. Getting the taste of the product right was also a challenge. The company has addressed this by encouraging women to mix the herbs with beverages like lemon water or kombucha to improve flavor. Finally, introducing a new brand into an already crowded D2C space is costly, and the co-founders are exploring ways to build community around their brand in order to more easily reach their target market. Their current community-building strategy includes a health blog hosted on their website and future plans to develop ambassador programs, including one for college women.
There is so much shame around this topic. As much as incredible brands like Thinx and Lola have brought innovation to helping women bleed better, discussing our period pains and discomforts is still so taboo.
– Lulu Ge, #PeriodPainFree CEO and Co-Founder
#PeriodPainFree is still in beta testing and will launch with its official name and updated website in winter 2019. In an effort to begin attracting younger women to its product, the company has launched a student discount program with code student-20, and will soon be launching a college ambassador program. As part of their longer-term strategy, the co-founders have identified a few sites in China where indigenous farming communities wild-harvest some of the highest quality and most potent herbs – a method that yields better results than farm-grown herbs. They hope to bring a social impact element to the business while creating more transparency in the supply chain by partnering with these communities to ethically and sustainably source herbs.
Lulu and Nicole are tackling a very real, yet taboo topic head-on. As #PeriodPainFree gains traction with its launch in the coming year, I am interested to see the evolution of their target market. Even with a discount off of the monthly $65 price point, it may be challenging to attract younger women when alternative options to managing period pain are inexpensive or covered by insurance plans. I think their deep expertise, extensive research, and approach to communicating the statistics around the issue provides a compelling strategy for gaining buy-in from investors who are not as familiar with women’s health issues and generating a much-needed dialogue around women’s health.
If you are a student and are interested becoming a #PeriodPainFree campus ambassador, reach out to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.