Last Updated: January 11, 2021
Can we talk about the time NASA wanted to send 100 tampons to Astronaut Sally Ride for a week in space “just to be safe”? I know, even the greatest minds on the planet found periods baffling.
I have to admit, even as a 25-year old there was still quite a bit I have yet to learn about Aunt Flow and podcasts like Something Private have certainly helped with that. If you are a person that experiences periods, you’ll know that it’s somewhat of a ride that you desperately want to get off. The mood swings, tiredness, backaches, breakouts and cravings are just the tip of the iceberg.
So, when I found out about Ying Yi Wellness, a wellness brand using Traditional Chinese Medicine practices to alleviate these bothersome symptoms in the form of tea. A double-win for me.
After all, Traditional Chinese Medicine is having a real moment right now. Like TILY Tea who makes use of traditional Chinese herbal roots as part of their tea blends, Ying Yi Wellness take it a step further. By using traditional Chinese medicine principles, their teas are designed to alleviate and at different stages of your cycle.
We caught up with founders, Felicia Liu and Maria Rau, to find out how TCM can allow for better periods.
Nicole Lam: What prompted the creation of Ying Yi Wellness?
Maria: We started Ying Yi Wellness because we faced similar challenges when we were living in a foreign country away from home. Felicia and I met while we were working in Singapore, and we discovered that many of Singapore’s medicine halls offered limited information on the herbs prescribed. If you want customised concoctions, you would have to visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor, but frequent visits proved quite costly and unsustainable as a lifestyle.
Before we had Ying Yi Wellness, I drank herbal tea for my period too, but the formula was from Japan, a colder country compared to Singapore. Then, I found out that the herbs’ attributes differ significantly by climate, environment, and species. And I couldn’t find one formula suitable for the warm and tropical climate of Southeast Asia.
Soon after, I started my journey to find out more on TCM history and the knowledge of different recipes and herbs, which eventually led me to start Ying Yi Wellness together with Felicia.
What is the biggest misconception people have about Traditional Chinese Medicine and, by extension, periods?
Felicia: Looking from both East and West cultures, there are many misconceptions and stigma around TCM. If you grew up in Asian culture, chances are you are more familiar with TCM, and it’s pretty easy to understand its holistic approach. But most people in Asia probably have the notion that TCM might only be for the elderly. The truth is it has gained wide acceptance in the younger generation, and many are using TCM or herbal products for its health benefits.
From a western perspective, sceptics question TCM’s validity in practice, or many people see it as an “alternative” medicine only for the “new age” people. The truth is TCM has been serving well as an integrative medicine for many years. Scientists have explored combination TCM practices with Western medicine for cancer research, heart transplant and the like.
Another big misconception in Asia is regarding TCM in pill form; in Chinese, this new form of making TCM into a compact tablet is called “科學中藥;” the direct translation is “Scientific TCM,” which can be misleading. It merely alludes to the way of extracting all the essence of a TCM formula into a concentrated pill form.
Pills may be a convenient form for people with a busy lifestyle, but you may not know exactly what goes into the tablet. That is also one reason we chose to have herbs in tea form for our YY Period Care Routine.
Could you walk us through how the Period Care Routine works?
Maria: In Chinese medical studies, “7” has long been the primary cycle number for women. Western medical research has well documented that an average menstrual cycle is 28 days. The four 7-day cycles establish the four phases: period, post-period, ovulation, and post ovulation. The YY Period Tea has divided the regimen into three parts, over three 7-day cycles, hence the magic number, 21.
We use three colours to represent three tea bags. The Pink Pack (during your period) is to minimise discomfort and to calm frazzled nerves. Five days is the average duration of bleeding, based on medical statistics.
It might differ from person to person. Take the Pink Pack on the first day of the period until your period ends (i.e., you stop bleeding). If your period lasts longer than five days, take a break and start the White Pack once you stop bleeding.
During the post-period, the White Pack replenishes and rebuilds the body’s energy as it recovers from all that outflow of blood. We have stipulated drinking the White Pack tea for only four days because the tea generates more Yang in the body, and you don’t want to overdose and get too heaty.
Finally, we have 12 packs of Yellow Pack tea, which is to be consumed before your period. The beauty behind the formula for the Yellow Pack tea that we designed is that it can function as a day-to-day drink. It nourishes and rebalances the body in preparation for the next cycle. The Yellow Pack is perfect for women who crave tea since our teas are caffeine-free and promote better sleep quality.
Our Period Teas are meant to be consumed every month for 21 days, resting for the last seven days. This is a complete cycle of YY Period Care Routine tea (S$50 each month). And just like any other TCM practice, we highly recommend at least three months of intake so that your body can adjust slowly to the benefits of our tea. As with everything in life, the more consistent you are, the more results you will see.
Ying Yi Wellness is very much catered to the modern individual. How does Ying Yi Wellness fit into the schedule of an everyday person with periods?
Maria: TCM has always been the first choice in alternative healthcare. But when it comes to TCM, most people have two impressions: first, that the preparation is too troublesome and time-consuming, two, the terrible taste.
The essence of Ying Yi Wellness products is that they are accessible and user friendly. First, the tea format shortens the preparation time. It is the most suitable solution for working women, whether working in the office, working from home or even during a business trip.
Second, we worked hard to curate the tea’s taste such that it could work as a possible alternative to other daily caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee. As we experienced the same problems common to many women like low sleep quality, we understand the harmful impact caffeine can have on our sleep. So, the YY Period Care Routine provides women with another drink option, while also nourishing the body.
This year with COVID-19, people have been relying on online shopping even more. YY’s subscription model aligns very well with the TCM philosophy because it takes time to balance the body instead of the one-time band-aid approach. We are a wellnessc ompany, not a medical company. We hope that preventive care will bring a better and healthier lifestyle to modern society.
Do you think society is ever ready to have an honest and open conversation about periods?
Felicia: Definitely. Talking about periods is not as taboo as it was a few decades ago. The reinvention and trend of menstrual cups with companies like Thinx have revolutionised the period industry and advocated transparent conversations on the subject.
So, it’s moving in a positive direction, but there is undoubtedly more work to do. There are two parts of the period taboo, one is talking about it, and the other is the financial aspect. A few days ago, Scotland became the first country to pass a bill that made period products such as tampons and pads free to all who needed them.
While this is worth celebrating, in certain countries, for example, 12% of females in India or 65% of females in Kenya are still unable to afford period products, let alone talking about the subject openly or having the resources to reduce PMS during periods.
Globally, around 500 million women are still experiencing period poverty and cannot afford essential products like pads or tampons. While having an honest and open conversation is vital, advocating non-judgmental menstrual health education for all genders can set us up for an unprecedented future and effectively fight period stigma.
What role does Ying Yi Wellness play in the ever-burgeoning wellness industry?
Maria & Felicia: Ying Yi Wellness is a wellness company, and we focus on the wellbeing of day-to-day lives. Although we apply TCM philosophy or practice, we do not purport to cure diseases; instead, we want to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle by integrating the benefits of traditional herbs in their daily routines. We wish to be the bridge between conventional wellness and modern life.
TCM is an industry that has been operating in almost the same way as a few thousand years ago. But now, consumers are smarter and more demanding than ever, and we cannot continue to offer the same products in the same way anymore.
During our journey in building Ying Yi Wellness, we find that transparent information is something that’s lacking in the TCM industry. By working with qualified physicians and suppliers, tirelessly asking the right questions and building useful data to improve the current TCM wellness industry—that’s the part we hope to be playing the wellness industry.