Eat the Rainbow — Chinese medicine has always shared this healthy eating practice as a way to get the vital nutrients our bodies need to keep our immune systems strong. Every hue of fruits and vegetables contain their own unique blend of nourishing phytonutrients that sustain our health so it’s important to incorporate a variety of different colors onto your plate.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lulu Ge, founder and CEO of Elix.
Lulu Ge is passionate about unlocking individual and organizational potential. She is Founder & CEO of Elix, the first company to personalize clinically-backed herbal remedies for women’s hormonal health.
Prior to founding Elix, Lulu led the Change and Transformation function at Saks Fifth Avenue and the parent company, Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). She also spent several years in Management Consulting, where she led diverse projects consulting for Fortune 100 organizations in the areas of business transformation, change and engagement, technology enablement and leadership effectiveness.
Lulu holds a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Art History from the University of California, San Diego. Lulu currently lives in New York City with her husband and numerous houseplants. She enjoys cooking plant-based recipes, practicing ashtanga-style yoga, traveling to different wine regions of the world and discovering new healing herbs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Lulu! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thanks so much for having me! My career took a pivot about 4 years ago when I went off birth control. I had always hated how it made me feel — nauseous, unsettled, and like my body was literally rejecting it. I also noticed more and more alarming headlines about the scary potential side effects (that we aren’t warned about) and decided it was finally time.
When my body stopped receiving the synthetic hormones, it responded with a roulette wheel of debilitating pain every month. For the first time, I experienced stab-me-in-the-uterus cramps, sharp headaches, bloating, unrelenting fatigue, and insomnia. I was not ‘myself.’ It got so bad that I actually had to call in sick to work — something I had never done before, let alone for my period.
Trying to find something to relieve my symptoms, I experimented with a cocktail of over-the-counter painkillers to no avail and my OBGYN ended up advising me to go back on synthetic hormones. I was really frustrated by the lack of safe, effective, and sustainable alternatives, so I reached out to my grandfather, who ran a hospital in China. He connected me with one of his close friends and colleagues, Dr. Xia Hongsheng, the former Chief Physician of the Shenzhen Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital and an incredibly well-revered figure in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Community, to discuss my symptoms.
I was really fascinated by Dr. Xia Hongsheng’s approach — I had my tongue examined and answered questions about thirst, headaches, and more. His questions went beyond my menstrual symptoms, covering my overall gynecological health, diet, and lifestyle. Dr. Xia shared that my menstrual symptoms were my body’s way of crying out for help alleviating an underlying imbalance. Dr. Xia (now part of Elix’s medical advisory board) created a personalized blend of herbs to lower inflammation and rebalance my hormones, and it ultimately quelled my symptoms during my first cycle that I drank the formula. After a few months, the debilitating pain was virtually gone! People in my circle began asking about my special herb blends, but Dr. Xia said that my blend was successful because it was tailored to my body’s particular pattern of symptoms.
This was my “aha moment” for Elix. Thanks to Traditional Chinese Medicine, I had finally found a holistic, hormone balancing remedy that worked — and I knew that so many women were looking for the same thing. I was excited about the idea of helping my friends discover their own herbal treatments to support overall hormonal health and wellbeing. I started developing what would become Elix’s experienced team of medical advisors with the goal of using modern science and research to make accessible, personalized, holistic solutions.
In the first year of R&D, our team led a review of246 clinical trials and studies and developed an in-depth health assessment while consulting with Dr. Xia. Our team perfected a method of blending organic, whole herbs into easy-to-consume, concentrated liquid tinctures (with no added chemicals or fillers) called Cycle Balance. In my initial market research, I heard from so many women who had tried virtually everything on the market and hadn’t found real relief.
It was important to me that we developed something holistic yet rooted in science that actually works. That’s why we piloted the health assessment and personalized herbal tinctures for nearly a year with 300+ women. We were proud that 93% reported an improvement in menstrual symptoms within 3 months. Nearly 40% of beta customers were based in non-coastal regions, indicating that the appetite for effective, holistic solutions to menstrual discomfort spans many demographics and we were proud to expand access to these solutions!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I first started telling my former coworkers at Saks about the new herbal formulas I discovered and opening up about my menstrual issues, I learned so much more about my coworkers’ hormonal health.
My friend Heather, for example, experienced awful hormonal migraines and consistently called in sick several days a month, while my friend Allison suffered painful digestive upset around the time of her cycle. I also learned that another one of my friends endured postpartum depression and volatile cycles. Through conversations like these, I discovered that so many women suffer in private because these topics are still taboo to discuss. It taught me that we need to have more conversations around menstrual health in order to destigmatize our individual experiences, bring these private pains public, and finally help each other discover real relief.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We developed the Elix online health assessment with the goal of replicating a visit to an herbal medicine practitioner online. As a result, the assessment is incredibly thorough — about 50–60 questions. When we started piloting the assessment, experts with decades of experience in UI/UX told us that people would not take the time to fill out the assessment because they have “short attention spans.” One advisor warned us that if we did not dramatically shorten the survey, we would see — at best — 20–30% completion rates.
We felt that shortening the assessment would hurt the integrity of our results and our corresponding method of pattern diagnosis, so we stuck with our instincts and kept the assessment the same length. Today, the completion rate for the assessment is 81% — many times higher than the benchmark. The lesson we are learning is to “trust your gut” and test everything.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother and grandmother have been such inspirations for me. They were the first people to introduce me to herbal healing and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Growing up, they always had herbs around the house to keep everyone well and heal various ailments — from headaches to PMS — so from that, I’ve always tried to keep various types of medicinal herbs on hand. I grew up eating soup based in a Traditional Chinese Medicine recipe, using herbs like astragalus, reishi, ginseng, goji berries, ginger, scallion and black Silkie Chickens, a special variety of chicken that is lean and rich in blood-replenishing properties and antioxidants (they’re used commonly in Traditional Chinese Medicine for their benefits to women’s health). I hold these memories and the power of herbal healing they taught me close to my heart as I continue to grow Elix.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Elix is the first menstrual wellness brand to deliver personalized, clinically-backed, holistic healing with a digital platform. In our first few months, 93% of women reported an improvement in menstrual symptoms, with efficacy improving over time. Our mission is to build a community of naturopathic doctors, herbalists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and other healers to provide women with the tools and knowledge needed to be their own best advocates in the doctor’s office — and in life. We’re also striving to democratize holistic healing for women with accessible products, our online platform and health assessment, and a hands-on approach from our medical advisory board. We’re here to build a future in which we can all feel and do our best every day of the month, starting with a holistic approach to balancing our cycles.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Eat the Rainbow — Chinese medicine has always shared this healthy eating practice as a way to get the vital nutrients our bodies need to keep our immune systems strong. Every hue of fruits and vegetables contain their own unique blend of nourishing phytonutrients that sustain our health so it’s important to incorporate a variety of different colors onto your plate.
- Incorporating herbs into your everyday life — I firmly believe that herbs are the gateway to a healthier lifestyle. As you incorporate more herbs into your life, you’re more likely to make better, plant-based lifestyle changes that will promote overall wellness.
- Meditation — I was certified in Vedic meditation by Ellie Burrows (the founder of MNDFL) and I have since committed to meditating at least twice daily. For me, meditation is my time to disconnect from work and be present with myself. To ensure I get my meditations in, I block them off on my calendar, which is shared with my team, to keep myself accountable.
- Forest Bathing — I’ve been sheltering in place with my family on the West Coast near hundreds of miles of Redwood forests and hiking trails. I’ve used this newfound access to nature as an opportunity to further set boundaries and practice forest bathing — a ritual where you simply go out in the world and take in the benefits of nature (sights, sounds, smells, etc). It’s such an unbelievably grounding experience.
- Establishing a morning and nighttime routine — For me, my morning routine consists of daily matcha herbal lattes, which I boost with spirulina, rhodiola (adaptogenic herb for mental clarity and energy), astragalus (my favorite immune-boosting adaptogenic herb), turmeric, moringa and collagen. I blend it all together in a frother and top it with a ginger extract. It’s so delicious and my favorite way to start my morning. At night, I commit to having time to unwind and going to bed around the same time each night. Having good sleep hygiene is essential to your wellbeing.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d really like to continue opening up an intersectional dialogue about women’s health — specifically, their reproductive health. Most of the conversations today around our periods revolve around how awful they are rather than viewing them as a vital sign for our overall health. While we are certainly starting to see people think about menstrual health in a more holistic way, there is still a lot of work to be done.
I want to continue to grow a diverse community of women — so far Elix users have shared hundreds of stories about how they were dismissed when they identified and tried to treat their pain — and they’re not alone. In today’s health care system, only 4% of research and development addresses women’s health issues, which leaves massive gaps in access to proven solutions. Also, the biggest misconception is that pain with our periods is ‘normal’ and that we just have to ‘suck it up’. For far too long, society has made periods an embarrassing topic and keeping our pain private has hindered us from finding more natural and side-effect-free solutions. I think it’s wild that 58% of women are essentially prescribed hormonal birth control off-label for menstrual related symptoms, when it was created to be a contraceptive. More, the same sex hormones which affect many of our worst menstrual symptoms are also linked to immune health. Hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, seem to affect how our immune system functions, so as part of our overall health routine, it’s even more important than ever before to pay close attention to our hormone health.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Remember your “why” — This journey is all consuming, but beautiful. It’s the sense of greater purpose that will help pull you through all of the difficulties you may encounter!
- Build a support system — Build a strong foundation of friends, family, and people with positive energy to support you!
- Ask for help — Get comfortable asking for help and build a personal and professional board of advisors that you can call upon — especially in areas critical to the venture that you’re not an expert in.
- Establish a routine — Create routines that help you stay sharp and healthy — things like getting proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise sound simple, but will go a long way in helping you show up as your most energized self!
- Prioritize progress over perfection — Everyone’s journey looks different. What’s most important is that you continue moving in the right direction, listen to your users and persevere through the challenges! Don’t fall into the trap of comparison.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
I’m really passionate about sustainability — both with Elix and personally.
Elix uses whole, sustainably and ethically sourced herbs that are individually processed through a low and slow extraction to yield the highlight percentage of nutrients — some of our medicinal roots are boiled at low temperatures for up to three weeks to ensure that we extract all the potent plant phytonutrients and limit the amount of waste.The little bit of plant matter that we have leftover is then turned into compost. Our medicinal blends of herbs are 5–10 times more potent than when herbs are consumed on their own and are free of harsh chemicals, solvents and alcohol. We bottle our formulas in a reusable blue glass and ship all products in eco-natural packaging made from recycled paper that is 100% biodegradable, compostable and recyclable.
In my personal life, I try to live a low waste lifestyle. Growing up, my family was always really passionate about sustainability so I love reusing materials/ingredients and growing my own herbs like scallions, bamboo, and pineapples. Regrowing your own plants and herbs is a great way to live a low-waste lifestyle! Growing my own herbs at home helps me to stay connected to this process and continue to learn about the power of these plants!
That said, I’m also incredibly passionate about mental health. With Elix, it is my goal to raise awareness about the connection between mental health and menstrual health. The hormones that control and regulate our cycle are the same ones that control our mental health. There’s a delicate balance of our symphony of hormones rising and falling throughout the month. PMS interrupts and upsets that balance, often triggering symptoms like increased anxiety and feelings of depression. Through our online health assessment, Cycle Balance is personalized for your flow to help regulate your cycle and heal menstrual symptoms, including anxiety, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, and more.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights!