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11 Mar

Can These Chocolates Balance Your Hormones?

Addictive Wellness founders Sage Dammers and AnnaBlanca Teleky 

If we told you we'd found the key to true hormone health — and it was in chocolate form — we know it would be hard to believe. But Addictive Wellness, a raw, dairy-free chocolate company based in California (of course) is proving that the goodness of chocolate is a genius partner for hormone-balancing tonic herbs like mucuna, cordyceps, chaga mushroom and astralagus. Now, some of those adaptogens might sound familiar if you're particularly tuned in to the wellness landscape of late — these multi-functional herbs are purported to offer the body big benefits in addition to hormone regulation, from increasing blood circulation to promoting mental clarity. But pairing them with chocolate is an entirely new approach to feeding the body their unique health properties. 

These "wellness" chocolates, which are formulated to have specific effects (Love, Beauty, Tranquility, Focus), are the brainchild of founders Sage Dammers and AnnaBlanca Teleky — romantic partners who have funneled their love of wellness into a niche gourmet business that is pitch-perfect for today's health-hungry masses. It was a treat to chat with Dammers, whose background studying herbalism and superfood nutrition brought a wealth of wellness knowledge to this new endeavor. We were particularly keen to pick his brain about hormone wellness, as it appears to be a buzzy topic that's not going anywhere soon.


BIKINI: Hormones are clearly a huge driver in how our bodies function — why has it taken so long for us to hone in on how they actually affect us? 

SAGE DAMMERS: Absolutely, hormones are like the master switches controlling so much of our health and well-being. They’re often explained in ways that make them seem difficult to understand, but it really doesn’t have to be so complex. Your endocrine system is responsible for producing all of your hormones in the right amounts, but when you’re stressed, it focuses on producing cortisol to make sure you survive what your nervous system is perceiving as a major threat to your life. If you are chronically stressed, eventually you won’t be able to keep making cortisol and you will end up with chronic fatigue or adrenal fatigue. Of course, stress isn’t the only thing that can mess up your hormones: there’s also estrogen-mimicking chemicals, birth control and poor diet, just to name a few, but stress is really a big one. Adrenal-supportive herbs help to rebuild that deep core vitality that is being depleted by excessive stress, and perhaps also by other unhealthy dietary and lifestyle practices. Many of these herbs are also hormone-balancing in that they support the body’s hormone production systems and their natural self-regulating abilities that may have been overwhelmed or exhausted.

BIKINI:  Tell us about PMS — do you have an herbal approach to riding the female hormone roller coaster?

SD: So many women experience menstrual symptoms that are much more extreme than they should be because of hormonal imbalances. Bupleurum and peony is a classic Chinese formulation that is great for promoting hormone balance and also building blood, which is extremely important for women. In Chinese herbalism, they say, “Women are governed by blood.” Ginseng and longan (sometimes called codonopsis and longan) is another great formulation to know about for its blood-building properties. Eating high-quality goji berries and longan berries in moderation (to avoid excess sugar) is also good for supporting the blood. Some of my other favorite herbs for women are shatavari, gelatinized maca, and ashwagandha. These are all incredible tonic herbs that can be taken on a daily basis to support healthy hormone balance. The only slight exception to that is gelatinized maca — it is best to take maca five to six days per week and take one to two days off.

BIKINI:  Men have hormones, too, though they're rarely described as "hormonal." Why is that?

SD: Yes, I think men’s hormones aren’t given nearly enough credit for how powerfully they can affect us! Men don’t experience such an overt monthly hormonal cycle, so we might not realize that different things we experience are hormone related. Men can go through highs and lows of testosterone on a daily basis. When our testosterone is high, we’re at our best, and when it's low, we need to rebuild it. Ladies, when your man comes home from an intense day at work and just wants to zone out in front of the TV, work out, go into his man cave or just tinker away trying to fix a broken appliance, that is him being hormonal! As much as you can’t wait to talk to him, its incredibly important to allow him this time to do these activities to rebuild his testosterone. Once he’s done, he’ll be a much better version of himself and the interaction will be so much more fulfilling for both of you.

BIKINI:  How do you start tuning in to your hormone levels to understand them?

SD: If you have about $500 to spend on a comprehensive hormone panel or health insurance that will cover it, this can really give you great insight into exactly what’s going on with your hormones. If that’s not a possibility, just google “hormone balance questionnaire” and you’ll find an abundance of questionnaires that can also give you a really good idea of where you stand.

BIKINI:  Your Addictive Wellness products are blended with chocolate — it's a delicious idea! How did you zero in on that delivery method?

SD: When I was first getting into health and nutrition as a teenager, I was fascinated by the amazing benefits and nutritional properties of the cacao bean and I saw chocolate as being a rare food that was both super healthy (if made in the right way) and a food that people absolutely love to eat, making it a perfect “gateway health food” to be able to share my passion with others. I wanted to be able to have a chocolate that was raw, sugar-free, dairy-free and incorporated the most potent tonic herbs, but it simply didn’t exist, so I started making it myself and eventually turned it into a business. Most tonic herbs don’t taste that great on their own unless you’ve really developed your palate as a connoisseur of these flavors, but they combine amazingly well with chocolate. Also, being a vasodilator (an agent that widens the blood vessels), chocolate helps to essentially drive the herbs deeper into your system, so it's really a wonderful way to consume them.

BIKINI: If someone is looking for a silver bullet solution to a super crappy day, how can they treat it with herbs? 

SD: That’s a tricky question because it really depends so much on what the source of the problem is. But if I were going in blind and didn’t have any information other than that it was a "super crappy day,” I would take three capsules of reishi mushroom and then chew on two gel caps of holy basil from Gaia Herbs. With the holy basil caps, if you chew on them and get the liquid out rather than just swallowing the capsules, you can really feel it right away. Those are basically the best two herbs to relax and be at peace with all of life.