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A Note from a White Co-Founder of a Chinese Herbal Brand

Elise is sitting a table, with there left elbow resting on the table. Elise is resting her chin on her left hand, while her right hand lays in her lap. Elise is looking directly at the camera. Elise is not smiling and looks relaxed.

This week, someone asked me, “What are your thoughts on being a white woman running a company that sells Chinese herbs?” 

I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me this question for a while, and I’m honestly always hoping that more people will question my role with Chica. 

I started Chica with Cassidy Lam, my longtime best friend. Cassidy’s father, Marco Lam, is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, so Cassidy grew up taking Chinese herbs and learning about Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

I was spending a lot of time at Cassidy’s house, when Marco started mixing herbs with raw chocolate to help ease periods. Naturally, this inspiration kept coming back up in conversations with Cassidy, and when we found out about an entrepreneurial competition at her college, we decided to write a business plan together. 

When we started Chica, Cassidy was the voice and the storyteller. I preferred to stay behind the scenes. Earlier this year, Cassidy and I decided together that she would begin to take a step away from this role. This means that I, Elise, a white woman, have taken a more visible role in Chica’s messaging, including social media, newsletters, pitching, and networking. This is a great responsibility for Chica, and one I do not take lightly.

There are two reasons why showing up as solo white woman running Chica is uncomfortable. The first is that I always saw this business as something I did with my best friend, and now I am not as much, and that is a painful feeling that sits in my chest on some difficult days. The second is that I do recognize the prevalence, especially in wellness, of brands run by white people that capitalize on the creations of other cultures. I may not want to see myself as that white person, but I recognize that yes, I am benefitting from the Chinese legacy of Chica, alongside both Cassidy and Marco.

As awkward as it feels, I couldn’t see those as a reason to walk away from Chica because I love it too much. I love the power of the herbs, and the stories we hear from customers on how much better Chica helps them feel. I love the branding that Cassidy created, and I love the amazing truffles she makes. I don’t want to walk away from running Chica while I am momentarily taking a front seat, because I want to see Chica thrive.

Cassidy and Marco both have significant ownership in Chica. Our goal has always been for Chica to be employee owned, whenever we get around to having employees.

If anything Chica says, or I say, feels uncomfortable or hurtful for you; please let me know. I would like to believe that I do not commit harm because I do not intend to, but I know that will not always be true.

Elise

Poria

Fungus & Root

Scierotium Poriae Cocos / Fu Ling / 茯苓 Scierotium Pararadicis Poriae Cocos / Fu Shen / 茯神

Poria calms the heart and soothes nerves, helping with anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, Poria drains dampness, an excess of moisture that the body collects in the wrong places and makes us feel heavy and fatigued (hello moodiness).

Chinese Salvia

Root

Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae / Dan Shen / 丹參

Salvia root nourishes the blood and heart, and calms the spirit. Salvia works with Schisandra and Zizyphus in Chica Chill to help relieve insomnia.

Rehmannia

Root

Radix Rehmanniae Preparata / Sheng Di Huang / 熟地黄

Rehmannia root is your Yin nourisher, supporting calm and cold in your system. With its additional ability to help cool blood, increase fluids, and clear heart fire; Rehmannia is a star herb for soothing and preventing heat flashes.

Polygala / Thin-Leaf Milkwort

Root

Radix Polygalae Tenuifoliae / Yuan Zhi / 元志

Polygala root nourishes the Heart, and helps soothe nerves and restlessness.

Schisandra / Chinese Magnolia

Berry

Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis / Wu Wei Zi / 五味子

Schisandra berry is famous for featuring all five flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, hot. This means that Schisandra is completely energetically balanced, promoting overall health and vitality. Schisandra helps relieve night sweats, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances. Schisandra is also rich in antioxidants that are thought to protect from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage. 

Platycodon / Balloon Flower

Root

Radix Platycodi / Jie Geng / 桔梗

Platycodon root is a neutral balancing herb, meaning it is not especially Yin or Yang. Platycodon is nourishing for the lungs, which in TCM, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Scrophularia / Figwort

Root

Radix Scrophulariae / Xuan Shen / 玄參

Scrophularia root nourishes Yin, drains fire, and cools the blood. Scrophularia is particularly soothing for irritability.

Ophiopogon / Dwarf Lilyturf

Tuber

Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici / Mai Men Dong / 麦门冬

Ophiopogon tuber works with Asparagus to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.

Stemona

Root

Radix Stemonae / Bai Bu / 百部

Stemona root is a balancing herb in the Chica Chill formula. Stemona is nourishing for the lungs, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Licorice

Root

Radix Glycyrrhizae / Gan Cao / 甘草

Licorice acts as a unifier, balancing the formula and amplifying the properties of the other herbs.

Zizyphus / Sour Jujube

Seed

Semen Zizyphi Spinosae / Suan Zao Ren / 酸枣仁

Zizyphus seed nourishes the heart and calms the spirit. Zizyphus helps relieve insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.

Ginseng

Root

Radix Ginseng / Ren Shen / 人参

Ginseng root, one of the most famous herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is known for its ability to strengthen Qi and support life vitality. Ginseng nourishes the Heart and calms the spirit, helping reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acorus / Grassleaf Sweetflag

Rhizome

Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii / Shi Chang Pu / 石菖蒲

Acorus helps relieve internal heat and is a favorite herb for reducing frequent insomnia.

Eucommia / Chinese Rubber Tree

Bark

Cortex Eucommiae Ulmoidis / Du Zhong / 杜仲

Eucommia bark balances the Chica Chill formula by offering Yang properties. Eucommia is also nourishing for the heart, and has been featured in research in Western medicine for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Angelica / Dong Quai

Root

Radix Angelicae Sinensis / Dong Quai / 当归

Angelica root is sometimes described as the “female ginseng,” due to its fame for supporting a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Angelica root strengthens blood and energizes circulation. In Chica Chill, Angelica root balances the herbal formula with its Yang properties.

Biota / Arborvitae

Seed

Semen Platycladi / Bai Zi Ren / 柏子仁

Biota seed benefits memory and promotes restful sleep by nourishing the heart and calming the spirit.

Chinese Asparagus

Tuber

Tuber Asparagi Cochinensis / Tian Men Dong / 天门冬

Asparagus root works with Ophiopogon to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.

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