Future of female health: Growing customization and importance of hormonal balance with science-backed ingredients
07 Mar 2023 --- Ahead of International Women’s Day, NutritionInsight discusses the latest developments in women’s health products and ingredients with Traditional Medicinals, Pukka Herbs, Peak and Valley and Wile.
“We look at the different cycles and phases of a woman’s journey,” explains Taryn Forrelli, chief science officer at Traditional Medicinals. She welcomes the growing customization of female health products as more brands are helping women through their life.
Nadine Joseph started Peak and Valley because she saw women’s health products as an “underserved category.” She has developed supplements based on her own health needs, focusing on stress management and brain and skin health, with ingredients where research articles backed their efficacy.
The recently founded supplements company Wile was created to specifically target women over the age of 40 and their health needs, focusing on their hormonal balance, says Corey Scholibo, the company’s co-founder.
According to Innova Market Insights, supplement launches with women’s health claims have grown by 40% annually from 2017-2021. Important categories include immune health, energy & stamina, pregnancy/breastfeeding, brain-mood health and skin health.
The journey of women’s health
Forrelli notes that the supplement industry is increasingly talking more directly about women’s health issues, such as menopause, menstruation and sexual health.
“Much of a woman’s life is led and guided by hormonal cycles – from adolescence to post-menopause. Maintaining a healthy cycle and hormonal balance will impact a woman’s whole body health, vitality, well-being and general feelings of wellness,” comments Jo Webber, herbal education lead at Pukka Herbs.
She explains that a healthy hormonal balance supports women during their “menstrual cycle, to conceive and give birth successfully and to experience stress-free menopause. Also, to have good muscle and bone health, healthy digestion, mood and happiness.”
Scholibo notes that instead of treating one-off symptoms, “we realized it requires a whole system approach because there’s a feedback loop between the nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems.”
Industry experts reported that many areas of women’s health are being overlooked, such as mental well-being and sexual wellness.
Turning to nature
Companies are finding inspiration in traditional medicines and plants when developing new products. Forrelli explains that plants have compounds that can regulate hormones and help modulate stress, which impacts women’s health.
Wile has a naturopathic focus for its (peri-)menopause products. “We knew that nine out of ten women wanted over-the-counter supplements and a natural approach to this natural transition,” notes Scholibo.
Joseph adds that her first products focus on adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms, which she found “were used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda healing traditions for hundreds of years and had quite a bit of research to back them.”
Ingredients backed by science
Science and regulatory experts are essential to select ingredients with known efficacy for a specific health area.
“Science looks at how plants are traditionally used and tries to understand which aspects of the chemistries of the plant are delivering the benefit,” explains Forrelli.
Webber adds that Pukka’s tea blends are rooted in ancient medicine systems. “We look at traditional medicine and science to choose the right herbs that have botanical/herbal effect action in this regard, e.g., chamomile to relax or valerian to promote sleep. We want the tea to be truly effective.”
“It’s then a matter of drafting a functional herbal formula that will be truly efficacious, similar to how you might for a patient, but with a mind to sustainability, taste, interest, etc.”
Why sourcing matters
Forrelli highlights the importance of traceability, as a plant’s source reflects its chemistry and potency. “If we want to make sure we use herbs of the highest quality reflected in their efficacy, we must understand where they come from.”
Although she first sourced through wholesalers, Joseph at Peak and Valley started questioning where the ingredients originated from and if people working with these products were treated fairly and appropriately paid. “I slowly started integrating direct sourcing into our products, sourcing from cooperatives at first.”
“The process of sourcing each ingredient is very long as I go out and develop relationships with farmers and cooperatives, usually in person.”
Webber welcomes the growing knowledge among women on what herbal teas to drink during different stages of the menstrual cycle. “Additionally, we’ve seen a greater understanding of menopause and its normalization and reframing as a natural transition, as opposed to something ‘wrong.’”
However, Scholibo notes that (para-)menopause products must become a more encompassing category with multiple options and alternatives. “More women will be over 40 than under 40. This whole category should be bigger.”
He urges retailers to bring all products in this category together in stores, such as supplements, feminine care, and skin and hair care.
Joseph urges retailers to embrace women’s health more and the brands that support them. “Retailers have the power to educate women, to show them alternative ways to support them.”
By Jolanda van Hal
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