Before my coursework at IIN I had never heard of adaptogens or thought about consuming mushrooms for wellness. However, once I was immersed in the culture of holistic wellness, adaptogens became a mandatory part of my wellness ritual and something I recommend for EVERY client.
I have linked some references below in case this aspect of holistic wellness intrigues you, but if your question is "are adaptogens right for me?" I can unequivocally answer "yes" without even having met you.
Adaptogens regulate all functions of the body by bringing hormones back to stasis, meaning they are a cure-all for adrenal fatigue, insomnia, menopause, and many other chronic conditions related to hormones. Which most chronic conditions are because hormones regulate everything in the body.
Additionally, consuming mushrooms for wellness has TREMENDOUS health benefits including management of blood sugar, prevention of diabetes, prevention of obesity, longevity, and fighting cancer!
Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast and other hormone-related cancers particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms are one of the very few foods that inhibit aromatase (pomegranate is another). And several varieties of mushrooms, including the commonly eaten white button and portobello mushrooms, have strong anti-aromatase activity.
But consumption of mushrooms protects against more than hormone-dependent cancers. Mushrooms also contain specialized lectins that recognize cancer cells, and have been found to prevent cancer cells from growing and dividing. Whoa! Right??!
In doing my research in health, wellness and all things adaptogens, I came across Root & Bones and fell in love first with their packaging (I'm superficial, okay???), but then even more so with their mission to bring the highest quality mushrooms and adaptogens into mainstream wellness. I Insta-stalked them for months, and somehow convinced Root & Bones's founder Alyssa Melody - a Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture practitioner - not only to let me try the product which is OUTSTANDING - But also to let me interview her.
In interviewing Alyssa, I not only developed a deeper understanding of adaptogens, their importance for wellness, and why Root & Bones's product is a cut above, but also Alyssa is just cool AF, and a kick-ass entrepreneur/girl boss. And I also got the inside scoop into her personal wellness routine! I really hope you enjoy reading our interview here as much as I enjoyed speaking with her.
ALSO, I have a 15% discount code for you readers (RH15 at www.rootandbones.com). If you want some ideas around how to incorporate mushrooms and adaptogens into your wellness routine, make sure to follow Root & Bones on Instagram, and I have several recipes in my feed as well!
Thank you again so much for saying yes to this blog interview. I wanted to interview you a little bit about your brand and your product. From what I understand you are located out of Humbolt County.
Tell me a little bit about how you ended up in Arcata, CA and the roots of your company. I know that you have a background in, and are currently practicing, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and I’m really curious about what path lead you to this practice and also what inspired you to become a small business owner and start this product line.
I started acupuncture school 9 years ago, and it’s a 3.5 year Masters of Science program, so it’s a pretty intense endeavor. And I quickly realized I was not going to make it unless I took really excellent care of myself.
One of the ways that I did that is that – we get taught herbology classes throughout school. And of course that covers everything like how to get rid of colds, and phlegms, liver stuff, anything you can think of. I was really focused on what is going to keep my stress under control, what’s going to keep me sleeping well, what’s going to keep me from getting less colds and flus.
The category that the Root & Bones products fall under is called “longevity tonics” which I think is so cool.
In ancient China people were really obsessed with wanting to live forever. And of course, nobody will. But these are the herbs that keep you going longer, stronger, happier, more healthy. So I started taking them during acupuntcutre school and am obsessed with the. I really do think these are what kept me going.
And another reason I was interested in them was, growing up, my parents did the best they knew how to do. But I was C-section, I took a lot of antibiotics as a kid, I was raised vegetarian. So I just had these factors leading up to me not having the greatest foundation for health. I would get sick easily. I grew up super anemic. Just all of these things that led to my not feeling great. Which you should be feeling at 25 years old. You should be in the prime! So these herbs inspired me, and now I’ve been practicing acupuncture for five years, and these herbs continue to be what I consistently prescribe to my patients.
In Chinese medicine also, we do these traditional formulas. And that’s anywhere between five and twelve to twenty different herbs. And that’s usually very patient-specific. Like 10 people come in for a headache, and each of these 10 people get very specific formulas. So another thing I love about these herbs is that they are adaptogens. So they are safe for everybody, and they also HELP everybody as well.
So even when I graduated acupuncture school, I knew that I wanted to start some sort of herb business. And then I picked my favorites, and these are everyone else’s favorites too, and that’s where it came from. And then, it took probably a year and a half from start to finish to where we actually got our product – cause there’s so many things that go into it from finding the artwork to finding the herb supplier. Finding the herb supplier took a year of researching and doing testing on different stuff. So that’s the roots of it.
So you actually just answered two of my questions that I had prepared. One of which is – you have a limited prdocut line which I think is a good thing. Because obviously, quality over quantity. And one of my questions was, why THESE four products. So thank you for addressing that.
And then my other question was that I remember in our correspondence, I remember that you had mentioned that being that raised on a vegetarian diet resulted in some health issues. And I was really curious to learn more about that because especially nowdays, a meat-free plant-based diet is becoming more mainstream. So it sounds like, you faced some issues with anemia, and is it that you were a child and children shouldn’t be raised on vegetarian diets. Or was it like, there just wasn’t enough nutrition in the vegetarian diet you were eating? Do you mind touching on this a little bit?
Sure. One of the last times I visited my parents, it was interesting because I was always under the impression that they had just raised me that way. But they were like “No, you would just flat out refuse to eat meat.” So I guess they just did what I wanted. But I ended up being so anemic they thought I had leukemia. So I was taking iron pills, and then getting constipated. And then also, I just feel like my bone health isn’t as good as it could be. And then I was also eating tofu every night with a big glass of milk.
And so in Chinese medicine, they talk a lot about blood and yin. There’s the yin and yang of Chinese medicine, and yang is the “fire” and the yin is the “moisture” and the “essence.” And blood is a part of that yin essence. And there are so many things that can go wrong when someone is “blood deficient”. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re considered anemic. It can just be all of these other symptoms that go with that. And I had all of these symptoms like dryness, not feeling strong, periods were really light, and also really intense cramping. So all of these things that just didn’t feel right for me. And once I started eating meat, I just started feeling so much stronger. I’m not one of these people that’s like “I need meat at every meal.” Probably more like three times per week or so. But I just noticed such a difference when I started doing that. I did have this one couple bring their two year old child in to see me, and they are raising it a vegan, and I advised that my opinion was that this wasn’t a good idea.
I think that there are so many essential nutrients that eating a standard diet can give you in the younger years – especially the formative years – like brain health. It’s such a personal choice and of course.
I think that if you’re making good choices, I think there are a lot of options for good quality meat, and that’s what you should be eating if you eat meat. There are grass-fed options and pasture-raised, so there’s a right way to do it.
And what were you doing before you decided to practice Acupunture and Chinese medicine and then launch your own business?
I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I went to undergrad and got a degree in elementary education, and I never ended up teaching. I moved to Peru after undergrad and was supposed to teach English for 6 months to a year and I ended up teaching for 4 days.
I came back and I’ve always been interested in nutrition and health and natural ways of healing, but I didn’t know what would encompass all of that. I had started reading different books about Taoism which is intrinsically linked with Chinese medicine, and that led me to read more about Chinese medicine, and then I realized what an Acupuncture degree holds.
I love that it’s herbs, it’s needles, it’s nutrition, it’s lifestyle counseling. So it’s all of those things wrapped into a Masters of Science degree which I think is awesome. Because it was hard for me to figure out…like if I have a certificate in nutrition, then how do I learn about herbs too. How do I get that license to do this.
So I was living in Berkeley at the time, and there was a school right there, and I got a free student clinic acupuncture treatment, and I was like “I’m in, I’m hooked!”
What is the name of the school that you attended?
How was it the first time you had to poke a needle in somebody, hahaha?
It was great! They start you out – I think we started out with a grapefruit, and then a piece of silicone, and then of course you start needling other classmates before they let you loose in the student clinic. You have to get comfortable really quickly.
Once thing that I was curious to ask you since you’ve been practicing for several years now – have you seen the conditions that people are coming in to be treated for evolve over the past few years. Are you getting people now for like, adrenal fatigue and leaky gut – which are getting more attention in health news and in the general population in the last few years? Or have you seen the same conditions consistently throughout the years of your practice?
I would say it definitely has evolved. And also I think the more that I know, the more I know to look out for things. Especially adrenal fatigue which can have such a host of symptoms. That if you just start looking at the symptoms, you might start thinking “I need to start addressing the immune system” or “ I might need to address the hormones”. But I would say yes to adrenal fatigue, and another root of that is straight up stress. People are so stressed out it’s crazy.
And definitely a lot more fertility and hormonal issues. People are still taking birth control pills prolifically, and it goes back to the meat you eat too. If you eat meat and consume other foods that are hormone-laced, that affects you. Plastics too. Definitely a lot of fertility issues. And also that’s been coming up in men too. I’ve seen a few 20-30 year olds with very low sperm count, and you ask “how did that happen!?”
So why is that happening? What’s going on there?
It could be so many things. It could be sports someone played when they were young. It could be sitting in hot tubs. Also, Chinese medicine is very big into this thing called “jing” which is “essence”. Think of it as the battery pack for the body. So they say that men loose their jing when they ejaculate. And women mostly lose their jing when they have a child. So even guys that have just been all over the place and having too much sex, their essence starts depleting.
So all of these man-whores on Tinder AREN’T actually benefitting?
I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about Taoist sexual practices, but it’s a lot of male orgasm, without ejaculate.
So, going back to your question. Seeing a lot of stress issues which relates to inflammation, adrenal fatigue, and fertility issues. But I would say the infertility issues are also linked…it’s hard to balance family and career these days, and so many women are waiting until after 35 to have kids, so that’s a piece of it too.
And I definitely see a lot of pain. That’s always a consistent issue.
Are you seeing more wristing issues since people are on their phones and computers 24/7?
Haha, yes. Yes! And even curving of the neck. Yah. There’s definitely a lot of that. And people getting distracted so easily too. People don’t know how to put the phone down, and calm down and be mindful. This leads to stress.
That was one of my next questions for you. Because obviously you’re balancing an Acupuncture practice and also a small business with Root & Bones. So how are you getting everything done. What are your steps to make sure you’re living a life in balance, and also ostensibly managing two careers now.
It’s definitely hard. I would say I am getting better at recognizing what my limits are. Like I stopped taking new patients for the Acupuncture practice, and I’m just focusing on the patients that I’ve had for many years now.
And as far as running Root & Bones, I just have to figure out how much can I do in a day, and what actually NEEDS to get done, and just doing what feels good for me. I know if I stopped doing Acupuncture altogether, I could get a lot more done for Root & Bones, but I’m definitely not ready to do that yet.
But we did just semi-hire someone in New York City to hopefully get into stores over there, just because there are so many little tasks that take up hours of time, just trying to email people or call people.
But at the end of the day, you just do it.
Also I put my phone on airplane mode, hahaha. Cause you know, you open the phone and an hour has gone by and you’re like “what happened!” Hahaha.
At the same time, I am the one on Instagram, replying to people, or commenting or liking stuff. Because that is a part of the business too. Being able to connect with people.
That actually brings me to my next question. You obviously don’t have a background in marketing. How did you figure out how to get your brand out there, and how to get recognition online and on social media. What were your steps? Very curious about that since you have so much buzz around your brand.
And as you know I’m such a fan of your packaging. And you have packaging that looks like you have a mass-market budget. But you’re actually a grass-roots brand. I LOVE that about your brand.
Thank you. I would say even just coming up with the label design we wanted and finding the artwork took a long time. I wanted to make something that represented me. Natural looking, feminine, and pleasant to look at, hahaha.
So once we had that and it was something we were really proud of. Just reaching out to bloggers has been the biggest marketing tool that we’ve used. Just getting on there and looking for people. Conversely, I do say no to people who reach out to me if it’s not a good fit for our brand. Finding people who are passionate about health, and working with them, and asking them to help promote us has been amazing.
I would honestly say Instagram has been the best tool that we ever could have found. It’s free marketing. We tried Google ad words, we were in British Vogue and that didn’t do anything. So we’re trying other stuff out. But this is all brand new to me, so we’re still just seeing what works.
Truly Instagram has been such a blessing.
Can you tell me how you came up with the name of your brand? Besides the obvious. Did you always know? Go through some iterations? Would love to know about that process.
Honestly a lot of brain-storming - as you might guess - getting to the 'root' of the issue is what chinese medicine is all about, as well as the basis of these herbs. And bones represent the deepest core of the human body, so we put them together. When we went to register it, 'Roots and Bones' (with an s on Roots) was taken. It's a Southern restaurant in NYC that accidentally gets us tagged in fried chicken pictures sometimes, so we just took the 's' off. Some people tell us they love the name and other people are like "huh, are there bones in there too?" (insert face palm emoji).
Hahaha! So it sounds like you had also spent quite a lot of time sourcing your products. What was the process of sourcing and then testing? Your products are of the highest quality. How did you know where to start? How did it all come together for you? And what is your testing process?
There are different huge herb companies in china that you can contact and try their stuff out. And first of all, we do choose China because that’s where the Chaga and He Shou Wu grow naturally. And they also have a system down for growing organic Reishi and Cordyceps. If we chose an American-based provider, everything would be so much more expensive for our consumers, because everything is privately owned, private land, growing wild on peoples’ property. So that’s why we go into China.
And just reaching out to these companies. There’s a language barriers sometimes so that can get tricky, but I was really looking for people who could answer all of my questions because I had so many questions for their companies. And if they were able to answer every question to our satisfaction that was a start. And then we would have them send us samples, which we tried out ourselves. And then we would send to a 3rd party testing facility in the United States.
So we’re looking for a few things. Of course we are testing for heavy metals and molds and pesticides, especially for the wild-crafted items. Because that’s always a concern. Because yes, it’s wild-crafted but is that on a roadside and next to traffic or something.
And another thing we’re looking at is – you’ll probably see on the Reishi it says “4-1”, so that’s a ratio of four pounds of Reishi down to 1 pound of powder. But then for example on the Chaga, it says “30% polysaccharides”. Polysaccharides are an active constituent that we’re trying to get out of the mushrooms (note: these are the component proven to fight cancer, diabetes, and obesity, and have antibiotic properties). It’s like a 10 to 1, sometimes it’s a 12 to 1 to get that 30%. So then we would take the powder and test it to ensure that it’s at least 30% since that’s what we are claiming that it is.
There were at least two companies that we tested and they weren’t up to par. The one that we found, we LOVE, and we are really happy that we have them.
And actually we just re-ordered our Reishi, and we got it, and this next round that we have instead of being a 4 to 1, it’s also a 30% polysaccharized, which means it’s a 10 to 1 powder instead of a 4 to 1, which means it’s an even more concentrated dose of it for the same price. So we’re really stoked about that.
The Cordyceps, the most recent we had, everything WAS done organically, but we just didn’t have time to go through all of the paperwork to have it certified, but we just re-ordered it. So this next batch will be CERTIFIED organic, within the next month.
Who do you work with? Who else is part of your brand? When you say “we”?
So my boyfriend is my partner in this. I’m the face, and he’s behind the scenes, hahaha. We’ve been together 4 years, so I’ve been shoving mushrooms down his throat the whole time. He’s the one who started taking photos for us. He’s a videographer, so I urged him to figure out how to take great photos. He does our graphic design if we need pamphlets or flyers, or even putting together the label for the product. He does all of that. I basically do everything elese.
That’s so great that you have someone in your life who supports your vision.
Definitely. It’s nice. It does take up so much of my time, it would be hard to just be focusing on that and not have him be part of it at all.
Plus our living room is basically boxes now, hahaha.
I love it. I love that it’s straight out of your living room to everyone’s front door.
Yah so if there’s a kitten paw-print on the outside of the packaging, you know why.
So lastly, I would love to know what’s a typical day for you. What time do you wake up? What are you consuming? How are you getting down time and/or exercise. What are you eating? Obviously with you working full time and also being an entrepreneur, I’m sure no two days are the same, but I’m guessing that your wellness rituals are pretty set in stone, and I would love to hear about that.
I do acupuncture three to four days per week. I try to set aside a few full days just to focus on Root & Bones. I never wake up to an alarm which is such a blessing. I wake up around 7:30-ish. First thing I do is a warm glass of lemon water with chlorophyll in it. And then I start brewing my mushroom drink. Which is usually coffee or sometimes a matcha. I feel like I have my adrenals under control enough that I can do that.
And then we usually have this crock pot of Reishi and Chaga brewing so that means I take the raw herbs and simmer them down so I have this liquid of it as well. So I use the liquid to make my coffee or tea water.
So I have coffee usually with all 4 powders. But if I’m looking for a more specific effect, then for example, I’ll specifically have Reishi and Cordyceps in the morning. And then I usually blend it with coconut cream, cinnamon, almond extract, and also Doterra wild orange oil (for a free sample of this oil, click here and DM Jessica).
This sounds SO good I want to come up to Arcata and have you make me one!
Yes! It’s so good. I don’t know how I ended up doing this orange oil with almond extract, but it’s such a nice flavor. And then I also add Pine Pollen in there, which is an herb we’ll have in about six weeks (end of August).
I keep hearing about Pine Pollen, I don’t want to get off track, can you tell me quickly, what are the benefits?
It’s another adaptogen that does EVERYTHING. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and contains a lot of the B vitamins, and it also contains vitamin D which is rare for a plant. It also contains vitamin C. It increases energy, mood and vitality. So we are going to do the powder, and that can help adjust hormone levels. But if someone was to tincture the powder, that does help to increase testosterone. Sometimes people think that you can do that with the powder, but you won’t get a huge increase in testosterone if you just take the powder. People refer to the tincture as a sexual libido tonic. And it is a yellow fluffy powder that smells like you are in a pine forest. And it also makes things a little bit creamier too.
And it’s great for allergies, immune system, histamine reaction, so even if people get those springtime allergies when pollen is blooming, the only person who would have an allergic reaction to this is someone who can’t eat pine nuts.
So that’s something that you incorporate into the coffee?
Yes, exactly. And then for breakfast I’ll usually have some eggs and veggies. Probably in the colder months I do more cooked veggies, and right now I’ll do a big arugula salad with eggs, and kraut and sautéed mushrooms or something similar.
I take probiotics every day. And I drink a lot of water. Maybe even too much, I pee all the time, hahaha.
After I eat breakfast, I like to work out in the morning. So sometimes that’s just a walk – an hour walk or something – or I’ll do some weight lifting . I love feeling strong.
Acupuncture days I’ll go to my office and see five to six patients. And then there’s day a week I do what I call a community-style clinic. That means I have a bigger room and multiple chairs in the room. It’s nice because a private session is $85, but this community session is $25 which means patients can come more often, and don’t have to break the bank to experience the health benefit.
That is SO awesome. I love that you do that.
There is nothing better than when a patient comes in and tells me “I had the best week!” And you’re like “Ah, I love that!”
So you do a workout, have that great breakfast, you go into clinic, what else?
I usually bring leftovers or I’ll go to the local grocery store. Being in Humbolt we are so lucky, there are so many local farms and produce. Sometimes I get another salad, with olives or avocado, some chicken. And then sometimes I’ll also have a cup of bone broth. Sometimes I’ll have bliss balls, or a mash-up of nuts and mushrooms and coconut oil.
Diner is some sort of veggies, and a couple of nights per week a protein. I wouldn’t say I have a sweet tooth, but in the evenings, sometimes I love to have a hot chocolate using the Chaga/Reishi water with cacao, ginger, and cinnamon, and some collagen, coconut cream. All sorts of good things.
That’s my day. And I tend to have sleeping issues, so definitely in the evenings I like to use Reishi a little bit more. And then I also sometimes in the hot chocolate use a CBD tincture.
I’m in bed probably by 10:00pm. Grandma kind of schedule, hahaha.
Well you have two businesses to run, so we’ll give you a free pass.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22796203 (lung tissue rejuvenation)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110835/ (exercise performance)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92758/ (claims on immune system)
He Shou Wu:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28427938 (reishi for breast cancer)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28183232 (antioxidant activity, and reversal of fatty liver in healthy individuals)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28094744 (protecting against DNA damage)
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27912745 (immune modulator)