The Feel Free Lawsuit, Kratom Controversies, Kava Vs. Weed, New Botanic Tonic Formulations & More With JW Ross.

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The benefits and safety of Kratom and Kava
Biohacking, Body, Brain, Diet & Nutrition, Podcast, Podcast-new, Recovery, Sleep, Supplements

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Brilliant, intriguing, and somewhat controversial: that's the formula for an ideal podcast guest, and that's why I invited Jerry “JW” Ross back to the show for the third time.

JW is the founder of the company Botanic Tonics, the producer of an energy drink shot/alcohol alternative called “Feel Free,” which has come under heavy criticism lately, including a lawsuit, based on confusion (and lack of clarity) regarding the presence of kratom in the product. 

In the first episode, The New Drinkable Euphoria Compound That Will Completely Transform The Energy Drink Industry: Feel Free With JW Ross., JW talked to me about this new drinkable euphoria compound called Feel Free.
In the second episode, The Latest News About the Feel Free Energy Drink, The Problem With Dosing, How To Use Feel Free Properly & A New Feel Free Capsule That Solves Any Problems You May Have Had With Feel Free., JW and I discussed the potential dangers and misuse/abuse of compounds such as kava and kratom, what to do about these issues, and the new Feel Free capsules.
Now, in this episode, JW is back to take a dive further into the latest Feel Free kratom-free formula, the continued controversy around kratom and kava safety/addiction profiles, the lawsuit, and much more.
JW himself is a lifelong innovator and inventor of the plant-based tonic that is Feel Free. He started his career as a Texas oilman who experienced immense corporate success that was tainted with alcohol addiction. After hitting rock bottom and going to rehab, JW purged alcohol from his life and completely pivoted his career.
As part of his addiction recovery process, JW went on life-changing trips in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, where he discovered botanical plant medicines whose ingredients have been used socially and in wellness for centuries. After discovering these plants, JW dedicated his life to finding a herbal solution that would replace alcohol and still give him a euphoric lift with a positive impact. He home-tested many concoctions, finally creating the perfect recipe that turned into the new Feel Free Tonic recipe.
In this episode, you'll learn more about JW, understand the lawsuit against his company Botanic Tonics, and get a better idea of how testing in the supplement industry works. You'll also discover the roles of kratom and kava in Feel Free, understand the safety and benefits of kava, and hear about the new formula without kratom.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

– Who is JW Ross?…05:17

-The lawsuit against Botanic Tonics…07:52

  • Getting sued
    • An individual claiming wrongful marketing
  • Jerry is a recovering alcoholic
    • Hasn't had a drink for 13 years
  • The individual is also a recovering alcoholic
    • Started drinking Feel Free but way beyond the recommended dosage
    • Claims he needed alcohol to get off drinking Feel Free
  • People don’t pay attention to the recommended dosages
    • Consuming too much of anything can be dangerous
    • You can OD on water if you drink too much
  • Anything that makes you feel good can be habit forming
  • The individual that sued the company claims that:
    • There is way more kratom than kava in the product
    • That the kratom has been synthetically altered
  • None of it is true

-How testing works in the supplement industry…12:35

  • The individual who sued has not done any testing
  • The company did all the required testing
    • Tested every single batch for:
      • Contaminants
      • Active ingredient levels
    • Had a full FDA audit
  • How does testing work?
    • You're allowed to either test in-house or external
    • Most of the bigger companies actually test internal
    • Smaller companies go to a limited number of accredited labs
    • From each batch produced, samples are sent for testing
  • What were the test results?
    • You have to get the results back before you can even release the product
    • A batch that is out of spec has to be disposed of
    • A certified third party comes in for the disposal, and has to certify:
      • That they picked up the disposal
      • When they took the disposal
      • How much they took
  • During the FDA audit, records of every single batch that was ever produced were reviewed
    • The company is obliged to keep retains of each batch produced from six months to a year
  • What does it mean to be out of spec?
    • The active ingredient was a little bit higher or lower than what it was supposed to be
    • Happened twice to Botanic Tonics
    • A certified third party had to come for disposal
  • Ben invested in the cannabis space
    • Visited one of the facilities in Seattle
    • They had giant trash cans full of chocolate cannabis blended with cow manure and compost
    • Homeless people around the warehouse used to consume what they threw out

-Kratom and kava in Feel Free…17:27

  • The kratom over kava ratio is 10:1
    • 10 to 1 kavalactones over alkaloids
  • Kratom and kava are stimulants or anxiolytic compounds
    • Delved into the science of every ingredient in previous episodes
  • Mark Bell
  • Mind Bullet
  • The lawsuit states that the ratios are different than claimed
  • Feel Free doesn’t contain kratom extracts, just full-leaf ground kratom
    • They use 25 milligrams of alkaloids of kratom per serving
    • Products available in the market start at about 50 mg and they go up to 250 mg
    • Some products could have up to 10x the amount than Feel Free
  • What would it take to make that synthetic?
    • You would have to synthesize it and basically make a drug out of it
    • One step beyond making an extract
  • Feel Free takes natural kratom leaves, dries and grinds them, and puts them into the shot
  • Whole-leaf kratom has 50 different alkaloids while typical extracts have only one or two
    • Could be the reason for the different feel of the Feel Free product 
    • Then kava is mixed in
  • Why combine kava with kratom?
  • Initially, Jerry made the product for himself because he stopped using alcohol
    • Needed something that creates a similar feeling
    • Couldn’t find anything on the market
    • Started mixing different things together
    • Came out with a kava-kratom mixture
  • Kava is relaxing, and kratom is energizing
  • Ben's experience with kava and kratom
    • It can cause a little bit of gastric upset
  • Some people have gut issues or constipation
    • The reason can be taking excessive amounts, meaning a lot of plant fiber
  • Ground kratom leaf is not considered a fermentable gut starch

-The labeling of kratom and FDA regulation…31:21

  • Kratom has been around in the US since the '70s
    • Originated in Southeast Asia
  • Could be between 15 and 20 million people in the US that use it on a regular basis
  • You have to consume it responsibly, or you'll have issues
  • FDA has tried for a long, long time to ban it
  • DEA actually tried to schedule it, but Congress stopped them
  • FDA tried to get the World Health Organization to ban it internationally
    • Scientists looked at all the data and said it does not warrant a ban
  • FDA still continues to try to figure out ways to tamp it down
  • When companies reach a certain size, they come in and raid them
    • Botanic Tonics was raided too
    • Came in with a court order and asked for an inventory of finished and unfinished product
  • Jerry filed a motion to dismiss based on feeling they don’t have the grounds to do that
  • They've done this about 4-5 times to different companies
    • Jerry is the first one to challenge them
  • Labels have always been compliant
  • Botanic Tonics Fact Sheet

-Reddit users complaining about side effects of kratom…36:19

  • Reddit thread with people claiming to have similar experience to the person that is suing has 300 members
  • Another Reddit thread with the opposite stance has 32,000 members
    • For many people, it is a lifesaver
  • Kratom is not for everyone
  • People metabolize things differently – like slow and fast coffee metabolizers
  • CYP enzymes
  • 20% of people are bad at metabolizing kratom
  • Most of the people complaining are having 5-6 a day
  • Deaths related to kratom
    • Jerry used the data from the FDA site
    • Not a single verified kratom-only death to date
  • There are hundreds of deaths every year from caffeine
  • Kratom is much safer than alcohol, caffeine, or Tylenol
  • Not had a single report of a death related to Feel Free itself
  • No verified liver damage or any physical damage

-The use of kratom as an alternative to opioids…41:39

  • Ben used it a couple of times for pain instead of a prescribed painkiller
    • A lot of ultra-runners use microdoses of THC and LSD to get through a 50-mile run
    • People use kratom to blast through a hit workout or high-intensity workout
  • Looking at the FDA's database, about, 50,000 to 60,000 people a year die from opioids
  • No clinical studies as to the efficacy of kratom in terms of an opioid alternative
  • Most of the people that die from opioids die because they stopped breathing
    • Kratom does not have a respiratory suppressant effect
    • Large doses will make you sick 
  • Kratom as an Alternative for Opium Withdrawal – Dr. Mercola article

-The benefits and safety of kava…43:44

  • No single verified death from kava ever that can be found anywhere
  • Podcast with Cameron George:
  • Tru Kava (use code BEN10 to save 10%)
  • Kava is very safe to use
  • The biggest issues our society is facing today are stress and anxiety
    • People are self-medicating for that
    • Using sugar, alcohol, prescription drugs
  • Probably the best treatment for stress and anxiety is kava
    • It is completely safe
  • Kava is the main ingredient in Feel Free products 
  • The key is to make it taste good and offset the bitterness
  • Kava is the closest thing to weed but it doesn't result in any of the neural deficits
  • Enhances creativity 
  • People in the Pacific Islands are consuming it regularly on a daily basis
    • They're happy and unstressed
  • About 80% of the kava in the world is grown in Vanuatu, a group of islands between Fiji and New Zealand
  • Also gown in several other areas throughout the Pacific
  • There are probably 200 strains of Kava
  • Weed has much more THC today than in the past, it's now more potent
  • Synthetic THC, synthetic kratom extracts, caffeine powder, and energy drinks don’t do any good

-How JW is handling the lawsuit…50:39

  • Went through a lot of stress throughout his life
  • Now using Feel Free to relieve stress and anxiety 
  • Does sauna, cold plunge, workout every morning
  • Good eating habits are effective but uses Feel Free to cope and not go back to alcohol

-The new formula without kratom…51:55

  • New product with a new formula, Feel Free Tonic (use code BEN to save $40)
  • Took a group of ingredients and blended them together to get the same feeling that kratom gives
  • It was difficult to figure out the right ratio of the ingredients 
  • The ingredients are
  • Kola nut provides a natural caffeine
  • Why Kola nut?
    • Tried every different form of natural caffeine that's available
    • Over 200 different ingredients in different combinations
    • Did blind sensory testing until getting the right, the closest to how kratom feels
  • The ingredients combined together provide a productivity and energy enhancement
  • Ben tried the new formula – a little bit less kava in the new product than in the original
  • It's not about the individual ingredients but the effects when they are combined
  • The capsule version of the new formula is coming out soon
  • What is Rhodiola?
    • An adaptogen, not a mushroom
    • A natural ingredient used for productivity enhancement and focus
    • Similar to Reishi mushroom and Ashwagandha
    • Effective when combined with other ingredients
  • Why lion’s mane?
    • Great when combined with other ingredients
    • Appears to act a little bit similar to psilocybin
    • It's a precursor to BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor)
  • Ben and his sons carry the gene that limits the production of BDNF so they use lion's mane on a regular basis
  • Useful as a creativity enhancement agent or a neuroplasticity-increasing agent
  • It's a mushroom so many people are concerned about the sourcing
  • How the mushroom is grown or where it's from?
    • The company is meticulous about the quality of the sourcing
    • Tried several different sources
  • Mushrooms are bioremediants, they draw anything out from the soil or the medium that they're grown upon
  • Feel Free Tonic Ingredients

-Future innovations for Feel Free…1:01:55

  • Coming soon is Feel Free carbonated soda with the same formula as the Feel Free Tonic 
    • 8.4-ounce soda in a can
  • Tru Kava is also fantastic
  • Some people tried to make Feel Free at home but are not very successful
    • It's not just about the combinations and ratios; it's also about the strains
    • It's always more than what you think it is
  • Ben’s oxtail experimentation for his new cookbook
  • Botanic Tonics (use code BEN40 to save $40)

-And much more…

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Couples Collective is an exclusive and immersive way to explore health, wellness, and mindset with your significant other. Jessa and I will be leading a health optimization and relationships workshop alongside many other awesome couples. This is a small event, and access requires you to interview with event-holder OWN IT to ensure a right fit. However, for those who are said fit, this event is designed to bring you into deeper union within your relationship and onward into greater connection with your life, love, health, and happiness. I'm looking for 6 to 7 powerful couples to come join me at the event. Are you one of them? Learn more here.

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

JW Ross:

– Podcasts:

– Other Resources:

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Episode Sponsors:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for JW Ross or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

10 thoughts on “The Feel Free Lawsuit, Kratom Controversies, Kava Vs. Weed, New Botanic Tonic Formulations & More With JW Ross.

  1. Glen says:

    One bottle of the original feel free does move the needle a little (mild relaxation/euphoria), however personally the cost to benefit isn’t there for me. I almost wish there was an extra strength version. Because of the expense/lack of strength I have turned to creating my own formulas with different strains of kratom powders and kava.. I personally have found this not only more cost effective but beneficial. Thank you.

  2. Jeff says:

    Everyone who blames feel free for getting addicted has a problem with addiction not feel free. Learn how to properly use the stuff rather than blame the product, have some extreme ownership!

    Good pod now that’s the FDA is in the loop it makes me want to go and grab some, this is riduclous they are truly out of bounds and evil!

  3. Dr. Ugs says:

    uppers + downers. still a slave to “botanicals”. groovy man. LOL

  4. Aaron says:

    BEN discount code doesnt work for the original formulation. bummer

  5. Matt says:

    I will also say I believe the formula has changed. In addition to these new side effects the euphoria feeling is way less and now I just feel more tired about 3-4 hours after I take it

  6. Matt says:

    I used to love the product and always used within recommended guidelines, usually 1/2 to 1 bottle per day with regular breaks. Recently starting getting nasty headache and jaw pain, which went away a few days after I stopped using. Could this be related to the Gene issue you raised, and any recommendations (other than to not use feel free anymore)?

  7. Jarred says:

    Great episode to hear since I’m a regular consumer of kratom. Fyi: gotu kola is not the same as kola nut.

  8. Chris Eddy says:

    Ben, I commented on your previous episode about Feel Free and shared about how it became an addiction for both my brother and I. Overcoming the addiction required months of significant medical intervention and financial resources.

    A quick Reddit/Google search results in hundreds of stories just like mine.

    Here’s an entire forum dedicated to quitting Feel Free:

    So, why are you tripling down on this and continuing to promote JW Ross and his product? Do you think that the hundreds, if not thousands, of nearly identical stories about the addictive nature of Feel Free are fabricated?

    1. did u even listen to the show?

      1. Aline Maus-Ash says:

        I have over 50 yrs of sobriety. 76 yrs old with long haul Covid. I get terrific Covid headaches and rather than pop Alleve all the time, I use a few Kratom tablets. Have absolutely NO side effects, only use it when the Covid headache strikes and NEVER crave it. Apparently everyone metabolizes the plant differently, but I would rather kill the pain with Kratom than Tylenol or Alleve any day. IMO it’s much, much safer.
        I don’t use the feel free product because after trying it a couple of times, I couldn’t stomach the taste. It just tastes god-awful IMO. And it certainly wasn’t addicting to me!

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