Partners in Wellness: Interview with Cristina Ciccone from Gaia

Gaia Herbs is one of our top herbal supplements suppliers - and we've worked with them for decades. They manufacture high quality liquid tinctures and liquid phytocaps as well as dried herb extract capsules. Much of the raw material comes from their amazingly gorgeous organic farm in Brevard, NC - as well as organic farms in Italy and Costa Rica. Their "Meet Your Herbs" platform puts transparency right at your finger tips - just use the QR code on the bottle to discover exactly where and how the extracted herbs in your bottle were grown and processed.

Cristina Ciccone, our Gaia representative, is one of our favorite reps to work with! She is incredibly dedicated to her work and a self proclaimed "herbal nerd" - we've come to her with many complex questions about herbal medicine over the years and she always responds with a thoughtful, detailed answer. In honor of Partners in Wellness week, we've asked Cristina to answer a few questions about her work with Gaia:

What do you love about working for Gaia?

As an Herbalist, I love working for a company that specializes in just that, herbs. Rather than attempting to produce products in every category like multi-vitamins, fish oils, probiotics etc., I think it’s important to have a company that specializes in a particular category and that does it exceeding well. Herbs vary so much in their chemistry and quality batch to batch, so it’s important to understand all the nuances to make really effective herbal medicine. Gaia is uncompromising in its integrity and manages to find the perfect balance of cutting edge science as well as honoring traditional wisdom and plant intelligence. I think it’s so easy for herbal companies to be pulled too far in one direction. Some herbal companies treat their herbal products like pharmaceuticals in isolating and spiking single plant compounds.  This type of herbal product is entirely “missing the point.” Gaia honors whole plant medicine by concentrating, never adulterating or isolating. I believe this makes for the most effective herbal medicine. Gaia is a company I truly believe in and feel honored to work for.

 Tulsi growing on Gaia's farm in NC. Photo Credit: Gaia Herbs

Tulsi growing on Gaia's farm in NC. Photo Credit: Gaia Herbs

What's the best part of your job as an educator and company representative?

Gaia has a full traceability platform called Meet Your Herbs. This is an industry first, and it allows consumers to trace every raw material to where it was grown, how it was grown and all of the testing done on that particular batch of plant material. Showing people that they have the ability to trace a raw material from seed to shelf helps to really bring their medicine to life and helps them to feel confident that it’s a pure and efficacious product. One of my favorite things to do in store aisles is to pull a product off the shelf, plug the lot number into our Meet Your Herbs app and show a staff member or a customer where that batch of herb was grown and all the testing and quality control that took place before that product even reached the shelf. It feels like I’m performing a magic trick. 

I also love the opportunity to educate about individual herbs and formulas. It is one of the best parts of my job with Gaia. It’s another way for people to 'meet their herbs'. The herbal category can feel pretty intimidating, confusing and even esoteric. Education helps to demystify herbal medicine, clear up confusion, and make people feel more comfortable in knowing when to use/recommend which plant or formula.  It can feel entirely overwhelming when you find multiple different choices in the immune health section, stress section, etc.  All herbs have their own specialties and individual properties. Education helps people come to see these patterns and understand an herb’s “personality.” With this knowledge it becomes easier to recommend/choose which product is right for which particular situation and which particular person. When I conduct these trainings, I almost feel like I’m introducing two people at a dinner party!

 Echinacea and Bamboo growing on the Gaia farm. Photo Credit: Gaia Herbs

Echinacea and Bamboo growing on the Gaia farm. Photo Credit: Gaia Herbs

What do you think is enticing more people to start using herbs?

There is a dynamic interplay that takes place between our bodies and plant medicine. We have co-evolved with these plants as long as modern humans have walked this earth. I believe there is an understanding and an awakening that takes place in our bodies when we consume plant medicine. Herbal medicine is literally built into our DNA. Our bodies do not understand isolated synthetic compounds, such as is found in pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals have been used  for little more than a hundred years. This is the blink of an eye for human existence and humans beings have no evolutionary frame of reference for this type of medicine and how it operates. I believe this is why we see so many side effects from pharmaceuticals because rather than the dynamic and elegant interplay we see with people and plant, Pharmaceuticals force a process in our bodies. I think many people are longing for the opportunity to re-connect with their medicine and food as well. I think part of our modern “social sickness” is a feeling of disconnect.  I think it is a profound thing to feel connected with your medicine and for people to reclaim their power by actively engaging in their own healing process. Of course the lack of side effects, less expensive cost and ability to help prevent disease, also makes herbal medicine more and more appealing.

What's your favorite (or one of your favorite) Gaia products that you use every day?

Adrenal Health! I always feel corny saying it, but this product literally changed my life. It was the first Gaia product I had ever tried and made me a believer.  This product is formulated for stress management, but rather than just temporarily masking the symptom of stress, it literally changes your body’s perception of stress through its regulation of stress hormones.  It also has the beneficial “side effects” of increasing my energy levels and enhancing my mood memory.