Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Born in China, raised in California, and based in NYC, Lulu Ge is the Chinese-American founder of Elix: a space democratizing access to the ancient wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine to improve the future of women’s health.
Lulu spent a decade in consulting, which left her chronically burnt out. This unsustainable lifestyle showed up in her periods, around the same time she went off the pill. Laying on the bathroom floor one morning while she was supposed to be presenting at a board meeting, Lulu felt like someone had just repeatedly stabbed her in the uterus. She eventually found her way back to Chinese herbal medicine. Below, Lulu shares her journey of launching Elix only 2 years ago, rediscovering the healing power of plants by creating a platform that creates Cycle Balance formulas ($48) and wellness-oriented products, like Daily Harmony ($38), Ginger Aide ($20) and Immunity Support ($58/duo).
What led you to want to create a space where people who bleed can have access to Chinese herbal & traditional medicine?
LG: “I was going back and forth to so many different gynecologists to try to help with chronic pain, and it seemed that every one of them offered me the same solution: birth control. 60% of people on the pill in the U.S. are prescribed it to manage a menstrual symptom. But, the pill made me feel nauseous, anxious, and gave me migraines.
My grandfather, who ran a hospital in Hunan, connected me with Dr. Xia Hongshen, a leading Chinese medicine practitioner. When I went to go see him in Shenzhen, he read my pulse and asked me to stick out my tongue. The first question he asked me was: how are your periods? My jaw dropped. He could see it on my tongue: symptoms of heat and dampness which could be causing the fatigue, and some redness in my heart organ which could point to stress and inflammation.
He went on to ask me many other questions, such as: what's the color of my menstrual blood? Do I have menstrual clotting? How are my bowel movements and my urine cycles? At Elix, we essentially productized that experience online through a health assessment to expand access to Traditional Chinese Medicine.”
“Dr. Xia prescribed a list of herbs that treat my underlying imbalances, because Chinese medicine works on pattern diagnosis. The herbs treat the root cause based on the Chinese medicine concept called ‘branch and route theory’: all of your symptoms are manifestations of the root cause of the imbalance. In Western medicine, you typically treat the symptoms, not the root.
When I came back to the U.S., it was impossible for me to organically sourced all the herbs that he had prescribed. All I could find were pills and powders, which tend to contain fillers and other synthetic materials. My frustration shifted from how do I find someone who can tell me what’s going on with my body to how do I actually find these herbs that are changing my life in clean and bioavailable form? That’s how Elix was born.”
How was Chinese herbal medicine introduced to you growing up?
LG: “When I wasn't feeling well as a kid, I never took Tylenol, Advil, or Pepto Bismol. Instead, my grandma would make a bone broth, adding in herbs like ginseng or medicinal mushrooms to give me energy or to help with inflammation. When I was studying for an exam, she made a tea made with Rhodiola, which is an adaptogen that's grown at China's border with Tibet. Many adaptogens are often grown in high elevation, arid, desert-like conditions – because this herb can withstand such harsh conditions and still thrive and bloom, it helps you build resilience within yourself.
As a Chinese immigrant, I was really embarrassed to be that kid who brought smelly soup to school. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to keep bringing that bone broth to school rather than Lunchables or bologna sandwiches. Starting Elix has been a homecoming and a way to rediscover the beauty and the healing that’s been passed down for countless generations within my culture.”
Do you feel that Elix has become a home for you and your community?
LG: “Definitely. It's been so special to learn alongside our community. 55% of women in the U.S. report feeling gaslit at some point by a medical provider. So much of Chinese medicine is learning to tune in to the intuition you have within you, because all of these symptoms of pain, anxiety and imbalance point to something that needs care and attention. The whole idea is to start a more holistic, East meets West, science meets naturalist, conversation because there is no one size fits all approach to health.
The unfortunate reality of the world that we live in is that a lot of people who hold power in terms of access to resources or overseeing institutions, may not ever experience some of the pain or the conditions that we, as women and people who bleed, undergo. That is why part of Elix’s mission is not only to empower you to become your own best healer, but also your own best health advocate. We’ve definitely seen that we are supporting those who feel marginalized and underserved by the current healthcare system.”
Could you give any advice on the phrase: “just listen to your body”? It's really so simple, yet so many people seem to struggle with it.
LG: “Society has taught us to put a bandaid on our wounds or overmedicate ourselves, so we’ve never been taught this skill of listening to our bodies. Fundamentally, Chinese medicine is based on this concept of yin and yang, which is about living in tune with nature and the natural cycles of our environment. It begins on a daily level – when the sun comes up, that's the yang time of the day: that’s when you're supposed to be the most vibrant, have the most energy, the ability to create, the most movement, work, exertion, etc. So if you wake up and you're exhausted and depleted, then something is off with the alignment of your body and the yang time of the day. When the sun goes down, that's the yin time of day, the time for rest and relaxation.
When you think about people with periods on a monthly cycle, our ovulation is considered the yang of the month with the most energy and exertion. I love practicing hormone hacking – if you could align your calendar to the monthly rhythms of your hormones, schedule your big meetings, presentations, dates around that time, you're essentially taking advantage of that natural boost.
Society has taught us: you're PMSing, you’re so sensitive, like it’s a bad thing. But Chinese medicine actually says: that's a great thing, because when you're most sensitive is actually when you're most intuitive. If you could spend time during the yin phase, before and during your period, journaling more, reflecting, paying more attention to the things that are really bothering you, those realizations point to where in your body and in your life support or change can occur.”
What are your hopes, dreams and visions for the future of Elix?
LG: I really want Elix to be a trusting friend and an advisor, from your first periods, to your last hot flash and everything in between – to both help us discover the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbal healing, but also to help feel more confident, alive and empowered in our own bodies. To trust ourselves more. So much of Chinese medicine is this mind-body-spirit bond; unless we’re tuning in to the stuff that's going on within, it's impossible to heal sustainably.
Want to know more about Elix’s holistic, traditional take on women’s health? Discover the brand’s latest herbal-medicine-inspired products here.
Have a founder you’d like us to interview next? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.