With nearly 60 million Americans struggling with insomnia, and so many simply not knowing how to relax in general, manufacturers and retailers are presented with a big opportunity in the area of supplements to help people unwind and sleep.
Constantly on the go and with plenty of responsibilities, it’s not unusual to be sleep deprived. Not being able to wind down at the end of a busy day can lead to tossing and turning at night.
“Everybody’s ridiculously stressed, everybody’s adrenals are shot,” said Karen Lauber, owner of The Health Stop in New Jersey. “The trend toward sleep and relaxation is a need.”
Lauber said she’s a big fan of herbs. “One company makes a wonderful product called Stress ReLeaf,” she said. “It tones the adrenals, it’s anti-anxiety and anti-stress.”
In order to suit the customers’ needs, Lauber provides counseling and feels that half the battle is working with people on medications. She likes to work directly with Herbs Etc. in Santa Fe, NM because she said they are very supportive and have a medical herbalist on staff. After a recommendation of a sublingual B-12 and magnesium, a stressed customer who was “freaking out” calmed down.
Ameer Yassin, owner of Green Life in New Jersey, also recommends B vitamins and herbs to relax, favoring Oregon’s Wild Harvest Ashwaganda. The company also sells a lot of GABA, a supplement to naturally relieve stress and anxiety which can lead to insomnia.
Increased Need for Natural
Brendan Gaughran, president of Liver Medic in Connecticut, said that from what he’s witnessed and from discussions with health food stores across the country, there’s an increased need for effective alternatives to what the pharmaceutical industry can offer. “There are a few drivers for this,” he said, pointing to “an increasing awareness that drugs are a poor solution, the standard American inflammatory diet, and the ever-increasing stress in society.”
That increasing awareness makes natural products welcomed, according to Gaughran.
Educated consumers recognize the connection between induced chronic inflammation fueling adrenal fatigue, which, in turn, reduces the body’s ability to handle stress and interrupts circadian cycles. Gaughran said that manufacturers have to respond accordingly by formulating products that address potential gut discomfort, essential mineral and neurochemical deficiencies, in addition to adrenal support. “Some manufacturers fail to address these many systems including in our physiology,” he said. “A product’s success rates drastically increase the more these physiological systems are included.”
When developing their products, Liver Medic approaches a symptom as complex as stress or insomnia by addressing multiple physiological systems: the endrocrine system, especially the adrenals; involuntary and voluntary muscles; neurological hormone precursors and beyond.
“Many manufacturers do not take into account the holistic nature of stress and sleep,” Gaughran said. “For instance, a vast majority of the population have the MTHFR gene mutation. One might not think much of this, but over 150 compounds in the body are negatively impacted. Many of these compounds play a role in our sleep cycle and ability to buffer stress. A formula must have the methylated forms of ingredients to counter this. Also, inexpensive forms of minerals like magnesium are poorly absorbed and will not cross into critical areas such as the brain.”
Gaughran also feels that premium companies go the extra mile to remove potentially questionable ingredients like Mg stearate. “This keeps the product clean of impurities and we know toxins play a major role in our ability to deal with stress,” he said.
Andreas Koch, vice president of marketing at Natural Vitality in Texas, agreed that people are looking for natural solutions, as most of our population complains of restlessness, anxiety, stress and sleeplessness. “With our ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle, many are simply overwound,” said Koch. “As a result, people are looking for solutions to calm themselves and reset their sleeping pattern. Many supplements are saturating the shelves, and the category seems to be slowly expanding with more facings than ever before.”
Natural Vitality makes Natural Calm, said to be the best-selling magnesium citrate formula on the market. Natural Calm is recognized as a leading anti-stress drink and is carried in almost every health food store, the company reports. The Natural Calm banner will soon be line extending to a new Calmful Sleep product which just launched. The Calmful Sleep product includes its award-winning magnesium citrate formula, along with GABA, melatonin and Suntheanine for extra sleep support.
With today’s technology providing us instantaneous information at our fingertips, Koch said he feels that consumers are now more educated about their product purchase options. “They’re researching ingredients more than ever and seeking natural alternative solutions to addressing relaxation and sleep,” he noted. “These savvier shoppers are opting for alternatives to prescriptions and drugs and finding that natural remedies are encouragingly effective.”
Koch added that “Natural Vitality seeks only efficacious ingredients at the optimal dosage levels which are carefully researched for noticeable results.”
Examples of Natural Vitality’s criteria include: organic flavoring, vegan and vegetarian labels, and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) ingredients, along with having reputable third-party lab tests validation. Koch said that Natural Vitality supports retailers by offering promotions, in-store sampling with various flavored Natural Calm sample packs, its new corrugated beverage dispenser and various merchandising tools, such as instant coupons, displays, shelf takers and consumer brochures.
Jeremy Corliss of ProHealth, in California, is another marketer who agrees that there seems to be more emphasis on natural products that can improve a user’s quality of life.
“With so many people living busy, stressful lives, sleep and relaxation are so important to your overall well-being that the market is looking for new and innovative ways to offer products to suit consumers’ needs,” he said. “The natural products industry is offering some great solutions with regard to sleep and relaxation, and consumer demand is fueling innovation.”
When developing products, ProHealth considers what ingredients are proven to help users and how they can combine ingredients to create a synergistic effect. “We also want to bring products to market that are priced competitively and have the fewest unwanted side-effects,” Corliss said.
With the market for natural and homeopathic products growing at its highest rate, Ian Clark, founder of Activation Products in Cobourg, ON Canada, looks beyond the offerings of mainstream medicine. More than a decade ago, his own health crisis led him to natural options, he said.
“This is exactly what we are continuing to see all throughout the health and wellness sphere,” she said. “A trend toward greater consumer control, including individuals seeking out information outside of their doctor’s offices, accessing care from alternative providers and pursuing products that are naturally sourced and trustworthy.”
Clark added, “People are tired of being prescribed pills that while they may help them sleep, don’t help them to feel any more rested and have serious side effects, including dependency. For a long time, this was the only real solution that was being offered to people who had trouble sleeping.”
Activation Products offers its EASE Magnesium, which helps people get the sleep they need, waking up feeling refreshed, not groggy and without side effects, she said.
“Our primary concerns are effectiveness, quality, and purity,” Clark continued. “Product adoption is also a major concern. We have learned that no matter how well made or effective a product is, if it is difficult for people to incorporate into their lifestyles, they simply won’t use it. Meaning it doesn’t do them, or us, any good. We have a commitment to our customers to make products that are completely natural and made from the highest quality ingredients possible using the most advanced methods in existence.”
Delivering the Goods
Liposomal Sleep from FoodScience of Vermont is a liquid liposome formula that allows for faster absorption and provides significantly enhanced bioavailability, according to Derek J. Archambault, director of marketing. “We have also found that the delivery system is highly appreciated by consumers since it’s easy to swallow compared to a pill, and also easier to adjust serving size,” Archambault said.
Formulators are not just looking to make someone drowsy, but rather to support the relaxation and sleep cycles from a variety of standpoints, according to Archambault. “They’re looking at the intricacies of the circadian rhythm and the balance of neurotransmitters—chemicals in the brain—and using ingredients that gently encourage those systems towards a more relaxed state,” he said. “Ultimately, it sets the stage for increased relaxation and better sleep patterns. Liposomal Sleep is one of FoodScience’s latest and most innovative products to address this need.”
Another top seller for FoodScience of Vermont is L-Theanine, which helps promote muscle relaxation and improve quality of sleep. It’s known for its calming effects in the brain and is shown to support increased concentration and focus while reducing irritability, Archambault explained. The product is formulated with Suntheanine, which is a patented pure form of L-theanine and is delivered in a capsule form.
According to the American Botanical Council’s recent report of top selling herbal dietary supplements in the Natural Channel, valerian and kava are in the top 40, with growth rates of 5.9 and 14.3 percent, respectively. And valerian is No. 9 in the mass market with a 4 percent growth rate.
While these single herb items are popular in the broader markets, customers are turning to products like those from New Jersey-based Herbalist & Alchemist for their well-crafted practitioner quality formulas addressing the concerns of sleep and relaxation.
Herbalist & Alchemist CEO Beth Lambert said, “Our sales of David Winston’s Grief Relief, Serenity Compound, and Emotional Relief have increased significantly this year.”
Adaptogens—herbs that are remarkable natural substances that help the body adapt to stress, support natural metabolic functions and restore balance—are a trend that Lambert has recently noticed.
“Stress about family, relationships, jobs, finances, school, you name it, are the fundamental reasons most people cannot relax or get a good night’s rest,” she said. “And without these vital restoratives, one’s immune system weakens. We see more consumers looking for answers that help their own bodies adjust, and that is where both traditional use and emerging science focusing on adaptogens are especially valuable.”
Though Lambert sees adaptogens as a recent trend, she noted they date back thousands of years to ancient India and China. “But serious scientific study did not begin until the 1940s in the Soviet Union,” she said. “These and other scientific pioneers defined adaptogens as non-toxic. They produce a non-specific defensive response to stress and have a normalizing influence on the body.”
When developing products at Herbalist & Alchemist, specific issues are looked at, and based on David Winston’s clinical use of these herbs, he combines them with other supportive nervine, immune, or stimulating herbs to develop synergistic formulas that modulate the immune system, balance stress and promote energy, and support workout recovery.
Herbalist & Alchemist supports retailer sales through education, Lambert said. “We have monthly herbal webinar ‘salons’ on specific topics for our retailer and practitioner customers that are very well attended,” she noted. “David Winston’s many books and lectures are a wonderful resource. Our monthly newsletter features links to good information. We actively use social media to connect our followers to educational opportunities or interesting research.”
Oregon’s Wild Harvest also has an herbal line that’s described as safe to use regularly without the side effects of prescription medications and over the counter sleep products. According to company co-founder Randy Buresh, RN, “If you can get off to sleep and stay asleep, then you are going to be a healthier, happier person. There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep. This time allows your body to regenerate. The nice thing about herbal products is the fact that they are metabolized in a short period of time and you wake feeling refreshed and ready to embrace the day.”
Some of the more common, safe and effective herbals, according to Buresh, are skullcap, valerian, passionflower, hops, freshy milk oat tops and lemon balm.
Buresh said that addressing the cause of the sleep and relaxation disturbance is essential to establish a true foundation of wellness. “There are a group of herbs called nerviness, which are nerve tonics, or calming herbs, that help a person to relax without the powerful overwhelming effects of sedatives,” he explained. “These herbs help to restore emotional balance and provide natural ways to nourish the nervous system.”
With consumers researching a company’s practices and reputation, studying labels, and looking for whole herbs without a long list of other ingredients, as well as products that are gluten-free, non-GMO, and USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) certified organic products that are manufactured in the U.S., Oregon’s Wild Harvest considers all of these things by finding the right combinations of herbs that will work in harmony with the body’s own natural sleep patterns, Buresh said.
“Nature has provided us with everything we need,” he noted. “It’s time to reconnect with the planet world. Plants have always been here for us. The problem is, we have forgotten. It’s time to return to a more natural way of life.”
As growers, Oregon’s Wild Harvest considers their ability to plant the material needed to produce a product from season to season. “If we cannot grow every ingredient a product requires, we investigate reliable sources to fulfill our ingredient need,” said Buresh. “All of our suppliers undergo a thorough review process to ensure that they meet our standards for organic and high quality, and that they share our values and are a reliable source.”
Oregon’s Wild Harvest said it makes sure they have the right herb and the right amount of herb. During manufacturing, they test and test again to make sure it works well, Buresh said. “We make sure that the label claims we make are true and backed up by traditional use and/or clinical trials to support those claims,” he added. “A pretty name in a fancy label will only sell once. Our goal is to have lifelong customers that can trust us.” VR
For More Information:
Activation Products, (866) 271-7595
Food Science of Vermont, (800) 874-9444
Herbalist & Alchemist, (908) 689-9071
Liver Medic, (800) 387-2278
Natural Vitality, (800) 446-7462
Oregon’s Wild Harvest, (541) 548-9400
ProHealth Inc., (800) 366-6056