By Fei Nie

The Roots of a Plant Person

For me, the inspiration behind Plants By People has been a lifetime in the making. The industrial center of China in the 1970’s and 80’s was a peaceful and joyous place for me. I lived in a home with my parents, aunts, and grandmother in which we shared a courtyard with five other multigenerational families – we considered these friends extended family. This frenetic existence trained me to be a keen observer – especially when it came to the mysterious herb concoctions that were used for everything from sweet treats for kids to treatment of serious illnesses.

My relationship with plants goes way, way back. And long before I ever dreamed of making plant tonics or starting my own business, I was just an inquisitive and observant little girl growing up in a crowded home near the center of Beijing.

In the mornings, after the hustle and bustle of parents leaving for work and older children going to school, grandmas and aunts would emerge from their rooms and convene in the courtyard with black clay pots to make herbal remedies. These aromatic brews, boiled slowly all day, left a permanent imprint on me. Whether the purpose was to help cure a sick relative or to serve as a boost for maintaining good health, the magic was always in the herbs.

After decades of learning about and experiencing the power of plants first hand, I decided it was high time that I started sharing my knowledge with others.

When I was around 5 years old I started experiencing respiratory issues. My father and grandmother were both heavy smokers, and combined with the smoke from coal-burning heaters that blanketed Beijing in the winter, my young lungs were weakening. I had recurring bouts of bronchitis and fevers that required a visit to the pediatrician almost weekly. The doctor’s solution for my lung troubles was 12 consecutive days of Penicillin shots. After the sixth day of the treatment, I had a bad reaction. Since Western medicine was not working for me (in fact, it was making things much worse), the doctor switched to an herbal treatment. Doctor’s orders – drink two full glasses of an herbal juice, twice a day. It was bitter and pungent, but it worked. From that point on, I knew deep down that there was something special about plants and herbs. I had always been told that they have incredible powers – but after this experience and countless others, I became a real believer.

The true test however came when grandma got sick.

My grandmother, a chain smoker since the age of 10, developed asthma, bronchitis, and a cough in her 70s. Her cough was so bad that she couldn’t sleep at night (and neither could anyone else). My father called in a favor and was able to have a well-known herbalist from the Beijing hospital come by for a house call. This doctor prescribed a powerful mixture of herbs. During the first three days grandma’s body ached, she couldn’t eat, she had little energy – we all feared that she was dying. However, within a week, she looked and felt like a new person. I truly believe that the prescription saved her life. Through my own personal experience, plants had become mystical.

Fast forward a few years, now grown, I had caught the travel bug. Seeing the world was my passion and not surprisingly, everywhere I went, I found plants and herbs inextricably woven into the lives of the locals. From ginseng in Italy, to a herbal liquor in the Czech Republic, to a pork rib dish popular in Singapore and Malaysia, everywhere I traveled, plants and herbs were being used in interesting and delicious ways.

After decades of learning about and experiencing the power of plants first hand, I decided it was high time that I started sharing my knowledge with others. If people everywhere only had access to the right mixtures of organic herbs – sourced and packaged in the most earth-friendly way possible – just think how much more balanced all our lives could be.

Five delicious plant-powered tonics later, Plants By People is here and we’re doing just that. Guided by the 5 Elements Theory of Classical Chinese Medicine, the power of plants is unleashed to restore our collective inner energy flow (or Qi). And it’s hard not to feel like everything in my life has guided me towards this.