What Maria and Felicia of Ying Yi Wellness wants you to know about TCM, period care and tea

That time of the month comes rolling around and you are faced with the same old frustrations: cramps, bloating, breakouts, mood swings, and fatigue. These five days can feel like a never-ending rollercoaster of ups and downs. Instead of bracing the harsh 'winter' every month, we are here to bring you a foolproof solution: Ying Yi Wellness

Ying Yi Wellness is a traditional wellness brand with a modern twist. Their secret? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in a monthly subscription model. They've harnessed the power of herbs to curate special teas that help you rebuild and restore your body through each cycle. They've condensed numerous rich herbs into one tea bag, to relief period discomforts and calm frazzled nerves. And if that's not impressive enough, their recipes have all been vetted by TCM practitioners and experts. What a win for women - it's time to toss away those painkillers and opt for a more natural option.

Naysayers may think that TCM is outdated or only for the elderly, but we find their practice to be distinctive and effective. We sat down with the founders of Ying Yi Wellness, Maria Rau and Felicia Liu , to understand more about the intricacies of their brand and products and how they came to be forefronts of this burgeoning wellness industry. 

1) Can you tell us more about Ying Yi Wellness?

Maria & Felicia: Ying Yi is a modern herbal wellness brand, we are here to redefine traditional wellness and bridge the gap between East and West. At Ying Yi Wellness we are committed to making the complicated process of Eastern wellness simple, we have designed a brand that speaks to the strength, beauty and health of modern women.

Our first product on the market focuses on women's menstruation cycles. Working with our accredited TCM physicians and nutritionists, we have developed a 21-day formula that will relieve your PMS in the most natural way possible. We provide easy access to these natural remedies by being one of the first to offer the ancient wonders of TCM in a monthly subscription model, making it easy for women with busy modern lifestyles.

We chose two Chinese characters for our company to represent the vision we have for our business, for women who want to achieve beauty and wellness from within.

Ying , is a Chinese character for the lustre of gems, used for describing the everlasting translucent beauty of a woman. Yi , derives from the ancient Chinese Book of Changes. It is the 27th hexagram and embodies the philosophy of proper self-care for one's body and soul.

2) What was the inspiration behind your brand and how did your products come about?

Maria: We started Ying Yi Wellness because we faced similar challenges when we were living in a foreign country away from home. Chinese herbs are not as accessible as we would have liked. Growing up in a Chinese family, traditional Chinese herbs are widespread in cooking and tea, especially when it comes to medicinal objectives. 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. They usually could not customise concoctions suited to the individual. If you want customised concoctions, you would have to visit a TCM doctor, but frequent visits proved quite costly and unsustainable as a lifestyle.

For us, we believe that “you are what you eat.” The essence of traditional remedies is to use the local food to nourish the body, and to improve the body’s immune system and function to achieve health. It’s all part of one’s daily lifestyle. Before we had Ying Yi, 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 attributes of the herbs differ significantly by climate, environment, and species. And I couldn’t find one formula that is suitable for the warm and tropical climate of Southeast Asia. Soon after, I started my journey to find out more about TCM history and the knowledge of different recipes and herbs, which eventually led me to start Ying Yi together with Felicia.

3) With the flourishing wellness industry, what makes Ying Yi Wellness unique?

Maria & Felicia: Ying Yi Wellness is a wellness company, and we focus on the well-being 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 into their daily routines. We wish to be the bridge between traditional 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 lacks in the TCM industry.

Another issue we’ve encountered is the lack of data or the lack of clinical trial data and research information released from organisations or clinics. In this e-commerce era, we not only want to position ourselves as an online shopping platform. We hope to be as transparent as possible about our information to our customers. Ying Yi Wellness has many goals for the future of wellness. By working with qualified physicians and suppliers, tirelessly asking the right questions and building useful data to improve the current TCM wellness industry, we hope to be playing an essential role in the burgeoning wellness industry today.

4) What is a myth or fun fact about TCM?

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 some 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 their 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 been exploring combination TCM practices with Western medicine for cancer research, heart transplant and the like. TCM practitioners go through 3-4 years of postgraduate study, and thousands of hours of clinical practices. In some universities, understanding both Chinese and Western medicine is required for the practice. TCM practice has also been used regularly in sports therapy, acupuncture, and cupping therapy has regularly helped with recurring injuries amongst athletes.

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 pill depending on the manufacturer. That is also one reason why we chose to have herbs in tea form for our YY Period Care Routine. 

5) What is an ingredient used in tea-making that should receive more spotlight?

Maria: All ingredients are equally important. In TCM, individual herbs have different effects, but the combination of them helps to enhance the desired benefits. Some herbs produce new effects when specifically blended with the other herbs. To find the right formula, certain formulation rules are followed, combined with the knowledge and experience of experts. Of course, this is also backed by thousands of years of trials and errors - and today, with clinical trials - which established the system of TCM. For Ying Yi Wellness, we adapt these formulas specifically for Southeast Asia climate and the improvement of the taste.

6) Ying Yi Wellness hopes to create a community that comprises passionate women who support one another. How do your products reflect feminine strength?

Felicia: As a brand, we want to offer more than just a self-care product. We want to create a boundless community that is driven by our passion for wellness, our love for our culture, and most importantly, our feminine strength. Together, we are finding new ways to redefine and showcase the strength and creativity of the modern woman. 

As a company founded by women, we focused our first product on relieving premenstrual syndrome. A monthly subscription, herbal tea set designed specifically for before, during and after your period. 75% of women in the world have experienced PMS at some point. And the older and wiser we get, the more we understand that band-aid solutions like taking painkillers or the usual birth control pills are doing more harm to our bodies than they should.

As a young company, we work tirelessly with professionals and suppliers to find a natural solution to PMS - a problem and experience that connects every woman around the world. As issues like PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and infertility increase in women over the years, women's health is more important than ever. Our goal is to provide natural and preventative solutions for women who are affected by all of these issues while juggling their careers and busy lives, starting with PMS. Most importantly, we hope that by creating a dialogue among women about health and traditional medicine, we will realise that we have more power over our own wellness than we previously thought. The more we talk about it, the more we know and the more we can support each other.

7) As women, what more can we do to support one another?

Maria: Everyone experiences different things at all stages of life. It's very important to just have an open heart, communicate, and keep an open mind to understand what the person is going through. For me, the key is to have a compassionate heart. The event or situation is unique to the person going through it. Although the similarity of certain things is there, the details and the emotions involved are very different. That's why I don't think we should judge or give subjective advice. Sometimes a quiet company is the best support. Helping each other find an appropriate community and support system is also a helpful way. After all, we all need to have the support system we need.

Felicia: Most of the time, we don't have to do more to support each other. Sometimes just asking the right questions, listening, and believing is enough. Nowadays being a woman has so many layers and it can be tough, especially with the impact of social media culture, comes with unrealistic standards. If a woman is being real to herself, we should support others' versions of truth. On a larger scale and along with many current women empowerment movements, we are hearing more and more women coming forward and telling their stories and we should listen to them and respect them because as women, we all deserve that. On a smaller scale, as Maria mentioned, every woman goes through different stages. And a lot of times we don't necessarily have to agree with decisions made by others but as a famous comedian said, one woman's affirmation of her life choice is not a negation of your existence. Learning to support and listen without bias is one of the most underrated but effective ways to support each other.

8) Since it is International Tea Day, what is your favourite tea and what is the best way to enjoy it?

Maria: To be honest, I love the Ying Yi Yellow Pack so much. It's a bit like the tea offered after a massage at a spa. It tastes good both cold and hot, as an experiment I made a cold brew with it, it was great, especially on a hot day.

As an alternative, I drink a special Taiwanese black tea called "東方美人" (Oriental Beauty). Oriental Beauty are usually hand-picked sprout leaves with a special manufacturing process. Because of the uniqueness of this tea, it is suitable for both cold and hot consumption. I myself don't like to add sugar or other things like honey or fruits. This way, I can enjoy the original fragrance of the tea. There is another tea that I always reach for, which is one of the Singaporeans’ favourite teas - TWG Silver Moon.

Felicia: I'm a big tea drinker, so I have tea for every moment. I've always enjoyed a nice cup of mint tea, with fresh mint and a drizzle of honey. It's perfect for any setting. For nighttime, I usually drink chamomile tea to wind down, also with a drizzle of honey, while I use the same honey for some natural face masks. For work, I usually drink whatever Taiwanese Oolong tea I can get my hands on, the scent makes me get into a more productive mood. Of course, one of my favourite teas is our Pink Pack from YY Period Care Routine, it's a recipe formula we are quite proud of. Not to brag, I usually have terrible cramps on the first day of my period but after the first cup of The Pink Pack, the pain is gone and I'm left with warm sweet after taste. 

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