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

Affiliate Disclosure


From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/feelfree3/

[00:00:oo] Introduction

[00:01:06] Podcast Sponsors

[00:01:06] Podcast Sponsors

[00:05:16] Who is JW Ross?

[00:08:22] The lawsuit against Jerry's company

[00:12:35] How does testing work in a supplement industry?

[00:17:45] The kratom and kava usage in Feel Free product

[00:26:19] Podcast Sponsors

[00:31:21] The labeling of kratom and the FDA regulation

[00:36:19] Reddit users complaining about the side effects of kratom

[00:41:39] The use of kratom as an alternative to opioids

[00:43:44] The benefits and safety of kava

[00:50:39] How is Jerry handling the lawsuit?

[00:51:54] The new formula without kratom

[01:01:55] The future innovations

[01:04:50] Closing the Podcast

[01:06:42] Upcoming Event

[01:09:12] End of podcast

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Jerry:  Kratom, it's been around in the U.S. since the '70s. It's from Southeast Asia. And, in the '70s, you had Asian populations that migrated in. They brought it with them. You had Vietnam vets that came back that were exposed to it while they were there that were using it and they brought it back with them. So, it's been around for a long time. Currently, it's estimated they're somewhere between 15 and 20 million people in the U.S. that use it on a regular basis. So, it's a big, big market. It is a big market because it really works, but again, it's like anything, you have to consume it responsibly or you're going to have issues.

Ben:  Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.

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Well, folks, this is the third appearance on My podcast for today's very interesting but I would also say pretty controversial social guest. His name is JW Ross. He runs the company Botanic Tonics. And, I've had J on twice before on the show. The first time I had him on, he was introducing to the world this new drinkable euphoria-inducing compound that he kind of developed when he was looking for a way to get more energy and drink less alcohol. The name of this compound is Feel Free. It's this little liquid blue shot, you might have seen it around before, and it kind of seemed to take the whole energy drink and alcohol alternative industry by storm. I got my hands on one day when I was in Austin several months ago, probably almost a year ago, drank a bottle before a podcast, absolutely loved it, and have continued to use it to this day. I don't use a lot of it which I think some people probably do too much of it, but I probably average about three bottles of this Feel Free stuff a week. And, if I've got a really intensive training week, I probably get up to about five bottles. So, it's a little kind of almost the size of a five-hour energy.

So interestingly, I also often as a matter of fact, I had my first shot this morning in about two weeks just because as with any energy drink or compound like this, I modulate my consumption. But, that kind of leads me to the second podcast I do with JW where we talked about how the dosage in the bottle can be difficult to titrate if you want less. And so, he developed these capsules which have also the same type of kava and kratom, the two primary ingredients of the Feel Free drink. JW reached out to me a couple of months ago and told me they're developing this brand new kratom-free version of the stuff, which I wanted to get into but since then a whole bunch has kind of blown up around this whole Feel Free energy drink anyways because they're going through a lawsuit, there's a bunch of controversy in the U.S. right now or on kratom. So, I figured it would be a good opportunity to have JW on to just talk about all things Feel Free and really all things kratom particularly regarding all the controversy around it.

So, if you're listening in and you want to listen to the first two episodes of JW, go to BenGreenfieldLife.com/FeelFree3. That's BenGreenfieldLife.com/FeelFree3 because, again, this is the third podcast I've done with JW. And so, JW, welcome back, man.

Jerry:  Thanks for having me on.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah, I'm stoked. I forget, are you living in Austin right now because we met at one point? I forget if it was Austin or L.A.

Jerry:  No, I'm in Los Angeles.

Ben:  Okay. Alright, that's right. That's right. You guys still have your warehouse and production facilities and everything down there?

Jerry:  We do, yeah.

Ben:  Yeah, I remember when I was visiting you, you're just kind of building everything up. And, obviously, it's been a pretty successful company, but let's jump right into the elephant in the room here, man.

Apparently, you guys are getting sued.

Jerry:  We have potential class action suit filed an individual that is claiming basically wrongful marketing.

Ben:  Okay. Tell me about that.

Jerry:  So, he, like myself, is an alcoholic.

Ben:  Wait, wait, I got to ask you. You're not still an alcoholic, right?

Jerry:  Well, recovering alcoholic. I mean, I don't think you ever–the way I understand it is it doesn't ever go away. I've not had a drink in 13 years. I still know that if I started drinking that it wouldn't end well.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah, good. Well, I'm glad to hear you haven't turned the whiskey in the wake of this lawsuit, but go ahead and continue. What's going on with the lawsuit?

Jerry:  So, what he alleges is that he had stopped drinking, he'd gotten out of rehab, stopped drinking and he started using Feel Free. Unfortunately, he started using way more of it than what we recommend, and that he says then started him back to drinking again, and then he went back to rehab.

Ben:  Why did he say he started drinking again after drinking Feel Free?

Jerry:  He said that was trying to stop the Feel Free and he needed the alcohol to get off of the Feel Free.

Ben:  Oh, okay, kind of that up or down roller coaster ride type of thing, which I think actually happens a lot in the supplements industry. If somebody will stop one energy compound and then kind of, “Oh, I quit taking caffeine” or “I quit taking nicotine so now I need, whatever, low dose psilocybin or LSD to give me the same energy that that was getting.” And, it's kind of tricky because we have so many of these compounds available at our fingertips now readily accessible over the counter. And, I think sometimes people just often don't understand what they're taking or what they're consuming especially as far as dosage goes. You and I talked about this and I think the last show, I mean, you pick up a bottle of let's say Feel Free which you can find at a gas station or order online or whatever, and I think that some people treat a small glass bottle like that. It's something they can drink in pretty much unrestricted amounts because it's kind of drinking a bottle of water or a lot of people who drink Monster, for example, they'll slam three or four of those a day and just kind of basically love that clean bleed of energy. But, it seems like the ingredients in something like Feel Free, particularly the kratom would dictate that you do want to gate your consumption somehow. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a lot of people are grabbing these bottles and just slamming too many of them.

Jerry:  It's like anything else, I mean I don't care what it is if you consume too much of it, you're going to have problems. And then, the extreme of that is people have heard this is you can OD on water if you consume too much water. So, anything that makes you feel good can be habit forming. And, I don't care if it's sugar, if it's alcohol or if it's sex or whatever it is, and if you do it in excess, it can create physical and/or social problems.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. And so, what I understand from this lawsuit, apparently what this individual is claiming is that they didn't know kratom particularly was in Feel Free or they feel the labeling was misleading or something like that?

Jerry:  They state that. They state also that there's way more kratom than kava in there. They state that it's been synthetically altered. None of those things are true. And, as you know, the kratom is listed on the bottle.

Ben:  And, a little package insert on a bottle. As a matter of fact, I know that because you recently sent me the new formula that doesn't have kratom in it. They're in an identical-looking box. So, when I go into the mini fridge out in my garage and I open up the box, I can see right there on the label which one's the new formula without kratom and which one isn't. But, I want to get into some of the details of this lawsuit.

Is this something that you've recently fixed as far as the labeling goes or has the kratom always been something that's apparent?

Jerry:  It really is amazing that the complaint, I mean when you get into it, these other allegations of the fact they're saying that that's way more kratom than kava, we said, “Well, here's the lab testing showing that that's not the case. Here's our formula.” And, we asked them, I said, “Did you test the product? You're making this claim that it's got more kratom than kava, did you actually test it? Send it to a lab.” And, they said, “No, we haven't done that yet.”

Ben:  You mean the prosecuting attorney or whoever's filing this lawsuit they haven't actually taken it to a third-party lab to test their claims?

Jerry:  Correct, correct. And they're alleging that we altered it somehow synthetically. I'm like, “Well, have you tested it to see because it's not?” And, they're like, “No, we haven't done that yet.”

Ben:  I think we talked about this on the last show. You've done independent lab testing, haven't you?

Jerry:  We test every single batch for everything; contaminants, active levels, all my third-party certified lab. In addition, we had a full FDA audit earlier in the year and they did all their testing too. If there was anything else in the product that wasn't on the label or if it was different than what is on the label, it wouldn't be being sold right now.

Ben:  Yeah. And, just so people know in the supplements industry, explain that to me. If I own a supplements company and I want to get something tested but I don't want to create a fox guarding the henhouse type of scenario and say, “Hey, I ran these tests in the lab in my garage or in the office basement or whatever,” how exactly does that work? How does the testing work?

Jerry:  You're actually through regulation, you're allowed to either test in-house or external. Most of the bigger companies actually test internal. They have their own testing departments, but most small companies don't set that up and they go to–there's a limited number of accredited labs that are across the U.S., and each batch that you produce, you send the samples in and they do their testing.

Ben:  Okay. So, what have you found from your testing? Has a comeback showing that the ratios of what you're actually putting in this and primarily, again, this kratom and kava on other podcasts we've talked about how there's a little bit of pineapple for flavoring and I think some lipids from coconut and stuff like that, but primarily active ingredients, correct me if I'm wrong, are kratom and kava. What's been coming back from the labs when you guys do a test?

Jerry:  The labs have to be run and you have to get the results back before you can even release the product from the plant through good manufacturing processes. We've had one or two batches where it was out of spec and we had to dispose of them. We didn't put them out of the plant. When we had the FDA audit, they came in and reviewed the records of every single batch that we've ever produced and check the lab certificates to make sure that they match. They even went as far as this. We have to keep retains of each batch that we produce to check six months a year so far down the line and they even took samples of those and tested them.

Ben:  Now, when you say out of spec, what's that mean?

Jerry:  That it was just maybe the active was a little bit higher or lower than what it was supposed to be. I think it's happened twice. We've had two different batches that it happened to. And, both of those, you have to have a third party come in, certified party to come in for disposal. It has to be certified that they took it, when they took it, how much they took. So, there's no room for error in producing something that's not what it is on the label.

Ben:  Yeah. My first experience, by the way, with out-of-spec products need to be disposed of was I used to do a lot of investing in the cannabis space. I visited one of the facilities that invested in Seattle and they were walking me through, in this case, it was chocolate edibles section of their warehouse and then we went out back and they had these giant trash cans full of chocolate cannabis that they had blended with cow manure and compost. And, the reason for that is what was happening is a bunch of the homeless people around the warehouse figured out where all the thrown-out-of-spec cannabis chocolate was and they had a bunch of people back behind the warehouse just basically getting trashed on cannabis. So, they wound up having to mix it with compost and stuff. So yeah, I experienced that firsthand tossing out-of-spec products. I don't know how much money they lost on that.

But anyway, so obviously you're not making a chocolate THC edible, this is kratom and kava, two stimulants anxiolytic compounds. And again, if you guys want to know the deep science behind the formulation and you're listening in right now, go listen to the other podcasts I did with JW because we really delved into the science of each specific ingredient.

But, back to this lawsuit, you mentioned that the claim was that the ratios were different than what you guys actually claim. Remind people what the actual ratios are in terms of the ideal product you're producing for kratom and for kava.

Jerry:  So, it's 10 to 1, kava over kratom. So, 10 to 1 kavalactones over alkaloids.

Ben:  Okay, got it. So, the kratom then in terms of the actual dosage, this might be kind of a little bit of a vague question, but obviously, you can go to head shops, and seems like you can't swing a dead cat by the tail at least in my experience without hitting some place that's selling kratom, kratom powders, kratom capsules, kratom liquids. Probably the most powerful one I ever had was–I don't know if you know podcaster Mark Bell. You guys could probably listen to him talking like a million miles an hour because Mark gave me a shot of this Mind Bullet kratom, which I drank. And, speaking of dosage, after I drank it, I read the label and it was split into 10 portions or something like that. So obviously, it was a lot of kratom. 

But, when it comes to the actual dosage if we're looking at a 10 to 1 dosage of kava to kratom, how would the amount of kratom in that compare to say the average capsule or powder or liquid you might be getting at the gas station or at some place that sells kratom?

Jerry:  One thing to point out also is that we don't use kratom extracts. We use just full-leaf ground kratom, so we feel that's the safest form of it. This has been used for thousands of years in Southeast Asia making the teas.

Ben:  This would be a cup of coffee versus caffeine powder you're saying in the Feel Free more like the cup of coffee than the caffeine powder.

Jerry:  Correct, yeah. So, we use 25 milligrams of alkaloids kratom per serving. Your shots that you're going to see, kratom shots only in the stores, they're going to start at about 50 milligrams and they're going to go up to 250. So, some of them are 10 times what ours are.

Ben:  The 25 milligrams of kratom with the claim that that's synthetic, what would it take to make that synthetic? You talked about how you use the natural alkaloid, would you have to do some kind of a fancy extraction process or something like that?

Jerry:  To actually make it synthetic, you would have to synthesize it. That's one step beyond an extract. You would have to basically make a drug out of it, take a food, and make it into a drug.

Ben:  So, for you guys, how does it work when you get your kratom leaves or whatever because you said you're getting it from, I forget what your sourcing is, but what exactly is this secret sauce here in terms of the way Feel Free is made when you get that leaf?

Jerry:  It's basically just taking the leaves, they're dried, and in their ground and then we take that and we put it into the shot. Very, very little processing.

Ben:  Yeah. I can tell you anecdotally. A lot of these gas station brands and stuff I see, it ranges from 10 to 200. So, it seems like the dosage widely varies.

Jerry:  Most of are going to be around 50 to 100. That's too much to be taking in one serving. And, the reason they're able to do that is we're the only shot that's on the market that's a full-leaf shot. Everything else is extracts.

Ben:  I wonder if that's why people feel kind of different when they use yours because I'll talk to a lot of people who use kratom and they'll take Feel Free and they'll be like there's something different about this when it hits me in a different way. Do you hear that?

Jerry:  It's different because you're getting 50 some alkaloids versus in an extract just a few. You're also getting a lot more of it. I mean, if you tried to put 50 milligrams or 100 milligrams of full-leaf kratom into that shot, it would set up concrete, you can't do it.

Ben:  Yeah.

Jerry:  So, you're limited by the amount you can put in there because of all the plant fiber.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. I mean, some people have described your product. You probably don't like this as brown sludge because you got the old product, not the new one which doesn't have kratom but the old price. Yeah, shake it up a lot and I guess the kratom and alkaloids kind of settle but that's interesting you say that because if you guys are one of the few folks who use whole leaf kratom and there's 50 different alkaloids in there compared to one or just a few in a typical synthetic gas station type of product. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that explain why a lot of people would think that Feel Free is somehow different than a lot of other kratom products and even lead to them saying, “Hey, they must be doing something weird or funky with this product that's illegal because it hits me differently than the other kratom that I use.”

Jerry:  It's a combination of that, and it's also because it has kava mixed with it. So, the two plants are working together.

Ben:  Yeah. And, just remind people who might not have time to go back and listen to the other podcasts that we did. Why do you combine the kava with the kratom?

Jerry:  I created this not for commercial purposes. I created it for myself because I'd stop drinking as we said earlier 13 years ago and I knew if I didn't find something to replace that that made me feel similar that I would go back to drinking and that wouldn't end well. So, I started trying different substances; legal and illegal, and I couldn't find any single substance that would give me what I was looking for. I was looking for productivity enhancement but feeling good not inebriated, something that I could use on a regular basis. And, I just couldn't find anything in the market that would do that for me. 

So, I started mixing different things together. And, that's where we came up with the blend of 10 to 1 kava over kratom. And, the thing that it's doing is the kava is more relaxing, the kratom is more energizing. So, when you mix those two together, you get what I call chilled energy. You have energy, you're focused, but you're not that caffeine kind of jittery energy.

Ben:  Yeah. That's actually why I kind of like it as an alcohol alternative if I'm going to use it for that. My only complaint about it from an alcohol alternative standpoint regarding the kratom. And, this might be a little bit of the kava too is at the dosage of a whole bottle, I feel like it can cause a little bit of gastric upset. But, during the nights when I'll take a shot around 5 p.m. or so to just kind of be loosey-goosey and energized and get that combination the rest of the evening, I just shake up a bottle, I dump it into sparkling water and put a few drops of peppermint and essential oil in there. So, it's this minty kratom-kava blend. And, I have zero gut issues if I dilute it and mix it with peppermint oil. You're running to other people who will sometimes have gut issues with it?

Jerry:  We recommend and I don't ever do more than a half a shot at a time. I'll do that a couple of times a day. Where we hear people having issues like stomach issues is when they're doing an excessive amount of it. And, we've heard and you reported before too about constipation. Part of that, I think, is because you're taking in a lot of plant fiber. I mean, if you drink several bottles of that in a day, that's a lot of fiber to put in your system and that's going to create constipation.

Ben:  It's an interesting point. I don't know if you know the answer to this, but the other thing that causes me gastric upset if I do a lot of it are some of these fermentable fibers. If a drink is sweetened with a lot of say sugar alcohols which technically isn't a fermentable fiber but something that is fermentable like a sugar alcohol or something that's kind of popular in the health and supplements and gut industry right now, which is resistant starch, which is a starch that's technically resistant to digestion and is fermented by the bacteria in the gut. You might not know this off the top of your head, but do you know if kratom leaf when it's ground down like that and in a bottle is something that would be considered a fermentable gut starch?

Jerry:  No, it wouldn't be. If it was, you would see that in the lab testing. You would pick up that, those counts.

Ben:  Earlier this year, I made a pretty big statement that I think that when it comes to NAD, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, this molecule with great cellular protective and anti-aging properties. When it comes to the bioavailability of it, I think that nothing beats from what I've seen NAD3. A version of NAD that's very bioavailable, difficult to find. But, there's a new product that has added other proven longevity compounds. Namely, spermidine, niacinamide, and resveratrol to the NAD3, making it the most complete and efficacious NAD supplement that I think exists anywhere. And, it's called BioStack NAD Regen, made by BioStack Labs. NAD Regen, like regeneration. Now, this is pretty impressive stuff. I'm popping three every morning right now. I'm also taking their Cell Shield. So, those two in combination give an enormous age reversal, longevity, anti-aging punch. When you get a 3-month supply of this stuff, they're going to send you a fourth bottle totally free. So, you're getting a bottle completely free. You go to BioStackLabs.com/Ben. BioStack, B-I-O-S-T-A-C-K Labs.com/Ben, if you want to try this stuff out. So, again, it's called N-A-D Regen.

You're no doubt familiar with some of the concerns out there when it comes to EMF. Like, having your phone in your pocket and what science has shown that does to your sperm morphology. Having heated items producing EMF, particularly up near your precious skull or say near the crib or bed of your child. Having all these smart appliances just blasting you 24/7, we know that that causes a calcium influx into the cell. We know there can be some radiative DNA damage. Yeah, bodies aren't dropping dead right and left, but it is increasingly shown in research to be an issue. 

Now, there are a lot of EMF protection solutions out there but there's only one that I'm aware of that has pretty rigorous scientific proof and evidence behind it. Meaning that they work with the neuroscientists to conduct the EG brain scans, both with and without this particular product. And, they've actually shown some pretty impressive results. It's called Airestech, A-I-R-E-S-tech. You can check them out at airestech.com/Ben. That's A-I-R-E-S-tech.com/Ben. But basically, these are simple products you can attach to a phone, to a tablet, to headphones. They cover about 19 feet out from your body when attached to those devices. They also have one called a Flex, which is a pendant that you can wear that covers about 42 feet around you. And then, they have their Zone Max, which is for large spaces in your home or your office to also offer an EMF protective effect. This uses a microprocessor and antenna that's powered off the sources of surrounding radiation and that modulates the EMF. Kind of like noise-canceling headphones for EMF. And again, they've got some very interesting research on their website and they've patented this technology for protecting biological objects from the negative influence of electromagnetic radiation in a pretty wide range of frequencies. 

So again, it's proven with scientific and peer-reviewed research. They've done third-party testing on it. They've got global patents on this technology. And, it's a lot different than any of the other blockers or harmonizers out there because they're literally using a microprocessor and antenna to almost like absorb EMF and change it. So, anyways, Airestech is giving all my listeners a 30% discount. You go to airestech.com/Ben. A-I-R-E-S-tech, T-E-C-H.com/Ben, and you can use code Ben30 to get 30% off.

Hey, so the biggest complaint, at least one of them I get from my clients, who are business owners, is they can't get their employees excited about improving their health. It's no surprise when they have corporate wellness initiative that involves like sticking a fruit bowl and some raw almonds in the breakroom or some generic fitness app that's boring and adds just another thing to an employee's already long to-do list.

So, I stepped back. I looked at corporate wellness programs from a fresh angle. Like, what if we could do nutrition, fitness, mental, health, sleep, productivity, make it fun, make it exciting, make it all-inclusive, make it easy to succeed in, incorporate all the latest science and the cool biohacks, without breaking the bank and have a team of coaches to customize a corporate wellness program to the exact needs of a corporation's team. So, they do all the work, meaning my coaches do all the work. All you have to do is say, “Yes,” to improving the health of your employees, and then, we come in, we take care of everything, you get to sit back and watch morale, productivity, and engagement increase, while you get a huge team of happy and healthy employees. To learn more about my Corporate Wellness Programs and how they'll make your company a better and ultimately a more successful place to work, you can go to BenGreenfieldCoaching.com. That's BenGreenfieldCoaching.com. Check it out.

So, back to this lawsuit. So, this guy's suing you because he's claiming that the labeling was misleading and you have shown that the labeling is there on the product. But, from what I understand, and this isn't just an issue with Feel Free but kratom in general, there's a lot of controversy around it, around its labeling, around what the FDA says in terms of claims, and this also is a loaded question, but can you give me some background on what exactly is going on with kratom with labeling with FDA regulation and how this is all relevant to what you're going through right now?

Jerry:  Kratom is it's been around in the U.S. since the '70s. It's from Southeast Asia. And, in the '70s, you had Asian populations that migrated in. They brought it with them. You had Vietnam vets that came back that were exposed to it while they were there that were using it and they brought it back with them. So, it's been around for a long time. Currently, it's estimated there's somewhere between 15 and 20 million people in the U.S. that use it on a regular basis. So, it's a big, big market. It is a big market because it really works, but again, it's like anything, you have to consume it responsibly or you're going to have issues.

The FDA has tried for a long, long time to ban it or get it stopped. They started out in around 2010, '11. They got to the point of the DEA actually tried to schedule it and Congress stopped them, which is the first time that's ever happened and it's only happened that one time. Hundreds of thousands of people petition their Congress and letting them know what it was doing for them and it was knocked down. So then, the FDA after that, they tried to get the World Health Organization, WHO, to ban it internationally. This was just last year. 

And, the WHO, fortunately, it's run by scientists, they looked at all the data which there's quite a bit out there, safety data, and they said it does not warrant a ban, but the FDA still continues to try to figure out ways to–they can't stop it because it's not illegal. They just peck around the edges. They have an import alert where they can look at every import that comes in and decide whether it's adultered or not. It seems when companies reach a certain size, they'll come in and do a seizure here or there. I mean, they did it to Vivazen back in 2014 when they were about the same size that we are. They've seized of a certain amount of product, but Vivazen never stopped. They're still producing it today. They're limited in what they can do, but they just keep trying to tamp it down.

Ben:  Didn't they raid you too?

Jerry:  They did. They raided us about 45 days ago.

Ben:  What happened? Did a bunch of guys with guns just show up at your warehouse or what's a raid actually go down like?

Jerry:  It's not like the movies, they came in and they asked for an inventory of finished and unfinished product. They came in with a notice of inspection and they got a court order. They taped off part of the product and said you can't touch that until we go to court, which we are in the process of doing. We filed a motion to dismiss based on we don't feel like they have the grounds to do what they did. It's interesting because, in the past, they've done this about four or five times, different companies. Everybody's always just gave them the product. And, when they did that, they just went on and nobody said anything else. We're the first ones to challenge them on it. So, we filed a dismissal and we'll have our day in court.

Ben:  When you say they gave them the product, you mean they just turned over all their inventory to the FDA?

Jerry:  Yeah, yeah.

Ben:  Would they just go out of business after that?

Jerry:  No, no, they just kept producing.

Ben:  How much of this is related to the labeling, transparency and labeling?

Jerry:  Nothing, nothing to do with the labeling because they've reviewed the labels. The labels are compliant.

Ben:  Okay. Have they always been that way though?

Jerry:  The labels have always been compliant, yes.

Ben:  Okay, interesting.

Jerry:  We've added stuff to them over time but they've always been compliant.

Ben:  Yeah.

There's this one guy who's suing you obviously, but a whole bunch of people have sent me links to this Reddit forum where a bunch of people are saying, “Oh, I got addicted to Feel Free. I didn't know what was in it. I got to go to detox now.” What's your take on that whole Reddit thread that seems to just be a collection of people similar to this person that's suing you?

Jerry:  There's a Reddit thread that has, I think, 200 or 300 members that are the one you mentioned. There's also another Reddit thread that has 34,000 members that is just the opposite. They're talking about what good it's done in their life and they're going after the people that are saying that it's not good. And, we have thousands and thousands of testimonials. And, there's a lot of people out there like me that this has been a lifesaver for me. If I didn't see that, I would stop producing it. Unfortunately, even things like peanuts, not everybody can eat peanuts. Some people if they eat them, they're going to have serious problems. It's the same. I mean, it's not a cure-all for everyone but the majority of the people that we see actually find value in it.

Ben:  Yeah, we touched on this and I think the second podcast that we did because I looked into the actual genetics of creative metabolizing because there are certain CYP liver enzymes that, for example, would dictate how quickly or slowly you metabolize caffeine. That's probably the most popular people know of, the most popular example people know of where some folks will have a shot of espresso or a cup of coffee and just go hardwired ape nuts for the next couple hours because they're slow caffeine metabolizers and they're just not able to process all that caffeine. Then, other people can have two cups of coffee after dinner at a cocktail party or whatever and sleep just fine that night and metabolize it super quickly and it's out of their system. 

I looked at those same CYP enzymes, I don't recall if you remember our discussion about this on the last podcast, but I think it was up around 20% of people. They're just, pardon the expression, shitty metabolizers of kratom and it's just not for them. In the same way that you mentioned some people are allergic to peanuts or maybe some people have celiac disease in response to gluten or can't digest lactose or whatever. I kind of wonder how many people, not to insult the whole Reddit thread until you're crappy at metabolizing a certain herb, but I wonder how many people who struggle with something like Feel Free are simply not the type of people that should be using kratom in the first place, right?

Jerry:  It's probably some of that, but if you rate those threads, most of the people that are on there that are complaining are talking about having five or six of them a day. 

Ben:  Yeah, it's a definite dose of issue also.

Jerry:  Yeah, yeah.

Ben:  What about the deaths that people are talking about related to kratom? Have you looked into kratom deaths at all?

Jerry:  We finished doing a study of, and really we just used the data off the FDA site. If you look at even the number that they're reporting which we've done a study of that, there's not a single verified kratom only death to date. There's poly use, there's about 400, 500 of those where people are using other things or they had gunshot wounds or something else but they tested kratom in their system and they got logged as kratom. But, if you look at it from their overall database and I've done the graphics, we're getting ready to publish some of this is it's minuscule compared to a lot of other foods and drugs that are approved. An example would be with alcohol or even Tylenol or caffeine. There's hundreds of deaths every year from caffeine. Heart attacks. There's nothing, as you said, I mean there's going to be certain people that can't metabolize well. There's going to be certain people that consume way too much of it and have issues. But, even when you look at all that, the kratom safety profile is at the very bottom compared to a lot of these other substances that we don't seem to really want to talk about.

Ben:  That's interesting. So, in the same way that a lot of people will take say COVID death statistics and not realize that someone could be claimed as dying from COVID if they happen to have been infected and gotten hit by a car or had a heart attack and thus that death could be attributed to COVID. In the same way, if I take a bunch of say kratom or Feel Free and go to, I don't know, Wim Hof and cold thermogenesis and experience shallow water blackout in a pool, you could technically say that that was a kratom death.

Jerry:  Correct, correct. And, the reality is that we have not had a single report of a death related to Feel Free itself. Even poly or whatever. I mean, we've not had anybody say anything about that. We've not had anybody that's verified any liver damage or any physical damage.

Ben:  How does the safety data, and I realize you're probably a little bit biased, but how does the safety data of this compare to opioids? Because from what I understand, a ton of people use kratoms as an alternative to opioids. And, I'm guilty as charged. I've been prescribed opioids a couple of times for I had a thumb surgery, I had a knee injection, and a couple other pain-related scenarios where I was prescribed a painkiller and took kratom instead to kill the pain because there's certain strains that can help you sleep. Obviously, I don't think that's what you're putting in Feel Free. I think it's more the energetic variety. But there's this pain-blunting effect which is also incidentally why I swear by this as a strategy for a really hard workout, a lot of ultra runners will use microdoses of THC and LSD to get through a 50-mile run. I know a lot of people who will use something like kratom to blast through a HIIT workout or high-intensity workout in the gym and I've had success with that. So, there's definite pain-blunting effect whether it comes to physical-related pain or perceived writing of exertion but then also pain-related things like surgeries, injuries, et cetera. What's the efficacy of kratom for something like that in terms of what you've found as far as an opioid alternative?

Jerry:  Well, what I can tell you is that if look at the FDA's database, there's about, I think, 50,000, 60,000 people a year that die from opioids. Even if you took on face what the FDA is saying and you even took all the polys, you're talking about maybe a hundred a year of kratom. So, big, big difference. And, the main reason I think that that is is that my understanding is the majority of the people that die from opioids die because they stop breathing because opioids have respiratory suppressant.

Ben: Okay.

Jerry:  And, Kratom does not have a respiratory suppressant. So, even if you take large doses of it, you're going to get sick but you're not going to stop breathing and die.

Ben:  I was going to ask you what about the kava. Would that cause any kind of respiratory suppression because it's relaxing?

Jerry:  No, it does not. There's not been one single verified death from kava ever that I can find anywhere.

Ben:  Yeah, I did a long podcast about kava with the guy. He is probably competing product of yours. He even have kratom in it. Cameron George who runs Tru Kava company and we had a long discussion about the safety of kava. And honestly, from everything I've seen, not that kratom from what we've already talked about is as dangerous as I think a lot of people report it to be, but kava seems even cleaner and safer than that. So, I really don't see any issues with it either.

Jerry:  I think that kava is probably one of the best things there is out there. I think one of the biggest issues that our society is facing today is stress and anxiety. We're disconnected from nature or eating processed foods. We have too much information overload. Just a lot of things happening. It's like the perfect storm is creating all this stress and anxiety. And, what people are doing is they're self-medicating for that. So, they're using sugar mainly and sugar is incredibly good at treating stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, it has health issues. They're using alcohol. They're using prescription drugs. They're using everything they can get their hands on to try to treat this.

There's one thing that I know of that's probably the best treatment for stress and anxiety and that's kava. And, the great thing about kava is it is completely safe that you're not going to have the health issues with kava as you do with other things that you would treat yourself with for stress and anxiety. All of our products that we currently have and the ones that we're coming out with are kava forward. That's the main ingredient. We have several products are coming out that are just kava. And, that's what we're doing in Vanuatu is we're putting in our own farms, our own processing centers. I see a future where kava can be put in a lot of different things just like sugar is. So, it could be in a soda, it could be in potato chip, and use that to treat stress and anxiety versus some of the things that are currently being used. And, the key to that is making it taste good and that's what we finally figured out how to do is to actually give it a good taste profile. It's the bitterness of it that gets to some people and we've figured out how to offset that bitterness.

Ben:  Yeah, while you're talking to a guy who dry powders just about every supplement I take. So, the flavor profile, I'm probably a little bit jaded about, but the thing with kava too is I become increasingly disillusioned with THC-forward strains of cannabis and cannabis shots and cannabis edibles just due to the mitochondrial free radical leakage, particularly neuronal tissue. And kava, I think, is the closest thing to weed either in drinkable form or tincture form or even capsule form and it doesn't result in any of the neural deficits.

I've given kava to my sons before and obviously, we can't make claims about safety for children or breastfeeding women or things like that on this podcast. She's always talked to a doctor or do your research first, and compared to weed, I think the safety profile of kava considering that it seems to give very, very similar effects, even in terms of the creativity and the mental enhancement components when it comes to thinking and new patterns and new ways, I think it's way safer than weed.

Jerry:  It's interesting now that I've spent quite a bit of time in the Pacific Islands. The islands that are kava forward and these are islands where entire communities are consuming it on a regular basis daily, there is very little crime, they're happy, they're unstressed and you go to offsetting islands that are alcohol forward and they're exactly the opposite. I mean, you can see it, you can feel it, the difference. I think that we're really on to something here on a much that can become a lot larger scale because I do believe, like I said, that stress and anxiety is one of the biggest issues that our society is facing. And, I think that kava is the answer.

Ben:  What's Vanuatu like, this island where apparently a lot of the kava originated and that you get it from?

Jerry:  About 80% of the kava in the world is grown in Vanuatu. Vanuatu, it's a group of 80 islands, it's a country between Fiji and New Zealand. It's where kava started. It's also grown in the Solomon Islands, Fiji Islands, several other areas throughout the Pacific, but the biggest part of it is grown in Vanuatu. And, it's similar to cannabis and that there's probably 200 strains of kava, different strains do have different feelings to them or effects.

What I think happened, you mentioned about THC, is that I remember the weed that I smoked when I was a lot younger, I mean it didn't have near the THC content that what it has today. I mean, it was a fraction of it. I actually liked that. I can't handle what's in the market today. And, I think we've taken something that Mother Nature had designed and was good and we turned it into something that it wasn't meant to be. I think to me, that's the big problem with THC.

Ben:  Yeah, it kind of comes full circle to that synthetic versus natural discussion that we were having earlier. And obviously, as you so elegantly alluded to, water can kill you, and water's pretty natural. But yeah, synthetic THC, synthetic kratom extracts, caffeine powder, and these energy drinks that have 600 mgs plus of caffeine in them, I don't think those are really doing anybody a service either if they don't use them with incredible amounts of precision and training.

Jerry:  Yes, one thing that they're not, they're dangerous and they're unhealthy is the other thing is I don't like the feeling. You get kind of an antsiness or paranoia or something. It's not really the feeling that I like how I want to feel.

Ben:  Yeah, I agree, and in most cases. Unless, you're using it, I would say for the medical effects. I've also used THC a couple of times for pain and particularly pain in relation to sleep and actually for one of those injuries, I was talking about, I even stacked it with a sleepy strain of kratom and just slept like a baby through something that would have caused me to be biting my lower lip off the entire night. And, it does work, but I think the use cases are pretty few and far between. I think it's a pretty abused compound.

But, I wanted to ask you too. I mean, just for you, I guess maybe a little bit more of a personal question, seems to me like you're going through hell and back with this lawsuit. How are you handling it personally?

Jerry:  With Feel Free. I consume it myself on a regular basis and it works for me. It does. I went through some stressful things earlier in life and that's why I was drinking as much alcohol as I was. I was self-medicating myself against stress and I use the Feel Free, the kava to self-medicate myself against stress and anxiety and it works.

Ben:  Do you do any meditation or breathwork or anything like that?

Jerry:  Every morning I get up, I do sauna, I do cold plunge, I do I work out every morning. I have a very disciplined fitness routine and I eat well and all that. But, even with all that with the amount of stress that I'm facing right now, I have to have something in addition to that because I'll get edgy and I damn sure don't want to go back to where I was before.

So, that this new formula that you're making, but it's the anxiolytic piece, you talked about how kratom can be a little bit more of an upper than kava and even very energetic. I would imagine that based on what you've told me about this new formula and I'd love for you to outline it for people, this new formula might be something that, particularly for anxiety or stress especially people who are sensitive to kratom could be even more applicable in that type of scenario. Yeah?

Jerry:  Yeah. What we did is we took a group of ingredients, plants, and we blended that together to get the same feeling as kratom gives you to offset the kava. So, it provides the energy in the productivity enhancement like the kratom does in place of it. And then, you still have the kava that gives you the chilled part of it. That wasn't that easy to do. It wasn't that easy to figure out the right ratio of several different ingredients in order to mimic what kratom does.

Ben:  So, walk me through what exactly is in this new formula. 

Jerry:  So, it's kola nut, it's rhodiola.

Ben:  Kola, you mean K-O-L-A like gotu kola?

Jerry:  Yeah, kola. That's providing a natural caffeine.

Ben:  Okay.

Jerry:  And, it's rhodiola and lion's mane.

Ben:  Okay, got it. Just those three plus kava, huh?

Jerry:  Yeah.

Ben:  Is it the same amount of kava that's in the original Feel Free shot or you use more kava?

Jerry:  It's a little bit less kava in it.

Ben:  Okay. Alright, got it. So, I want to ask you a couple questions about these. So, the kola nut, you said it's a natural form of caffeine. Is that different than the natural form of caffeine you'd find in a cup of coffee or coffee bean, for example?

Jerry:  It's a different way of sourcing natural caffeine. Natural caffeine to me is pretty much the same, I think.

Ben:  So, describe gotu kola to me. What exactly is it and where does it come from?

Jerry:  It's as described, it's a nut. I don't actually know to be honest with you where it's actually grown at, but it's as the name says, it's a primary ingredient that Coca-Cola has used for a long time to source its caffeine.

Ben:  What made you pick that?

Jerry:  We tried every different form of natural caffeine that's available. We tried probably over 200 different ingredients in different combinations and then brought in people and did blind sensory testing and tested them against kratom. Different formulas, different percentages until we found the one that people said was the closest to what kratom made them feel like.

Ben:  That's interesting. I don't know if I ever used much gotu kola by itself to assess for myself subjectively how I feel on that versus how I feel on kratom. But, does it simulate anything, I don't know, like the pain-killing or the euphoria properties of kratom or is it mostly just for the energetic central nervous system stimulant from the caffeine?

Jerry:  When you combine these ingredients together, you get the productivity enhancement and energy.

Ben:  Okay, got it. When say when you combine, you mean when you add also the rhodiola and the lion's mane?

Jerry:  Correct. It's not exactly the same as kratom. I haven't figured out how to exactly match that, but it's damn close.

Ben:  Okay, interesting. You have to do more research on gotu kola. I mean, like I mentioned, you sent me some of the new formula. I've probably drank six bottles of it over the past few weeks. I really dig it, dude. I feel different on it than I do on the Feel Free formula with the kratom. Particularly, I feel a little bit less like I've had a cocktail or something like that like that loosey-goosey energy. But, as far as the energy in general, I mean, it seems to be almost a slightly lower amount of euphoria but an equivalent amount of let's say a pre-workout boost or sleep-deprived energy or something like that.

Jerry:  Yeah, I agree with that 100%. What I found myself doing is I used it earlier in the day and use the old formula later in the day because it is more energizing and it has less, like you said, the euphoric feeling.

Ben:  Not that we want to turn people into all junkies, but have you ever tried doing a shot or half a shot of the original Feel Free formula and doing a shot or half a shot of this new formula together?

Jerry:  I haven't done that, but what I have done is we're actually coming out with a capsule version of the new formula also. I've taken half a shot of the old formula and taking a single capsule of the new and I really like that.

Ben:  Yeah, I like those capsules too for travel because you have a bunch of glass bottles and liquid and stuff like that. Those things work pretty well and especially people who again don't like the mouth-numbing effect or the flavor of the Feel Free, the capsule seem seemed pretty convenient. We did a whole podcast on that obviously.

Jerry:  Yeah. I don't know why, but I actually like–because it's three capsules to equal a half bottle of the capsule version. I like the new formula in capsule form better than anything.

Ben:  Cool, I'll just try it. The rhodiola, what about that? Why is that in there?

Jerry:  We were taking everything we knew that was natural and kind of in this space and trying different accommodations strictly to try to mimic the same feeling that the old formula Feel Free gives you. So, it wasn't really looking at any specific thing that a specific ingredient would give you, it was more about what does the combination do.

Ben:  Okay, got it. Yeah. From what I understand, it's not a mushroom. A lot of people think it's a mushroom, but it's an adaptogenic plant that adaptogen would increase energy when you're low on energy, stabilize you a little bit if it were too excessive. Similar to a reishi mushroom or an ashwagandha or something like that, I think it acts a little bit on some of the serotonin receptors. It seems for an energetic compound, it would be based on the same logic that some people would use when they're putting or combining l-theanine with caffeine or reishi with something excitatory like lion's mane or something like that. So, it's kind of like a stabilizer in my opinion.

Jerry:  Yeah. I've taken it by itself and I can't really tell that it does anything to be honest with you, but I can tell when it's mixed with the other ingredients.

Ben:  That's the way a lot of these adaptogens work is they're meant to be stacked. They're stacked with either something that has the potential to make you too sleepy or something that has the potential to make you too energetic. And, they kind of modulate and slow bleed those effects. So, that kind of makes sense with the rhodiola. And then, did you say that the last ingredient is lion's mane?

Jerry:  Lion's mane, yes.

Ben:  And, what's the idea behind that?

Jerry:  The very similar, again, it wasn't specifically about it being this or that, it was more about combining it with the other things and what the combined feeling was. But, I think lion's mane from what I understand is in the same boat, it's about mental clarity.

Ben:  Yeah. Well, no, there's also the neurogenesis component of lion's mane as well. It appears to act a little bit similar to psilocybin as far as the induction of some neuronal sprouting and difference in the way that you would approach problems or thought patterns, et cetera. And particularly, it's a precursor to BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It's interesting because I and my sons both carry the gene that limits your production endogenously of BDNF. And because of that, all of us use lion's mane on a regular basis. And, probably the other two pretty powerful things for that are sauna and some element of aerobic exercise. 

So, it's pretty useful as far as a creativity enhancement agent or a neuroplasticity-increasing agent. But, it's a mushroom and I'm know a lot of people might be curious about this, I don't know if you know the answer, but a lot of mushrooms in terms of the sourcing because they're a bioremediant, they'll draw anything out from the soil or the medium that they're grown upon. And so, many people get concerned over the sourcing or how the mushroom was grown or where it's from. Do you know anything about the lion's mane sourcing and the Feel Free new formula?

Jerry:  We're very meticulous about the quality of the sourcing that we do. Again, not only did we try the different ingredients that I mentioned before, but we tried several different sources. And, I can tell you that there is a variance between sources quite a bit.

Ben:  What about the growth medium in terms of a natural wood-based medium or a rye or something like that or starched? Anything about the sourcing or the synthesis of the lion's mane?

Jerry:  I don't myself. The R&D team is extremely into all of that, but I don't myself.

Ben:  You're the CEO and I'm asking you all the operator science questions. But, if you wanted to also, the shownotes are going to be at BenGreenfieldLife.com/FeelFree3, Feel Free the 3. If you if you want to share information about the sourcing or the innovation behind this new product, if you have any paper or anything like that, JW, I can put it in the shownotes for people who want to take a deeper dive.

Jerry:  Yeah, I'll get our scientists to prepare something and put it in there.

Ben:  Yeah, put your propeller hat people on that because I know I'm asking you some of the questions that you're probably not quite in the weeds enough to know about.

So, what about anything as far as future innovations? Obviously, you've now got the original formula liquid, the new formula liquid, the original formula capsule, sounds like the new formula eventually capsule. Are you guys looking into anything else besides the kava stuff?

Jerry:  Yeah, the next one that's coming out is the Feel Free Soda. It'll be an 8.4-ounce soda in a can. It's carbonated. Wonderful taste and it will be the formula of the new version. 

Ben:  Well, that's fantastic. There's one, again, probably competitor, so I'm going to talk about your competitor on a podcast with you JW, but Tru Kava does a soda like a kava-based soda. I think it's fantastic.

Jerry:  Yeah. I've actually had their soda. In fact, I have some in the fridge right now and I like them. We've created something I think that's actually better than that, but some people like one, some people like the others.

Ben:  It's kind of funny some people, I'm going to call it my brother on this because I know he doesn't care plus I can't get in trouble with my brother, they'll try to make their own home version of Feel Free by taking some of these kava drinks and kava compounds and kava tinctures and combining them with kratom that they bought from the head shop or the gas station or whatever. And, I've attempted that a couple of times, but dude, I can't seem to simulate the effects probably because it's not the right type of kratom full leaf and the ratios that you have and probably the lipids aren't in there, and some of the other things that help to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Jerry:  That part of it I can tell you about because I did that formulation work myself because that was about two years of me working in my kitchen trying different combinations until I found the right combination. Again, it's like cannabis, it's not just about the ratios, it's about the strains you use. And, there's a lot more involved than it's always more than what you think it is.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. I'd pay good money to stop into your kitchen sometime dude and see what the mad scientist lab looked like back in the day. My kitchen right now is a bunch of oxtail from U.S. Wellness Meats because I'm doing a lot of experimentation for a cookbook, a new cookbook I'm working on and all my cookbooks are bastardized versions of cookery. It's molecular gastronomy meets biohacking meets weird-to-find or hard-to-unlock superfoods. And, I just use all manner of kitchen tools like sous vide or an immersion blender or an air fryer, in this case, tonight I'm seeing how tender I can get oxtail, which is usually a super long slow cook time by doing a special vinegar deglazing and marination and then a 40-minute pressure cooker on it. So, that's what my kitchen is like right now. I'll hold my oxtail up to your kratom any day of the week.

Jerry:  Alright.

Ben:  Yeah. So, that's the invite for dinner.

Well, folks I know you're probably going to have a lot of questions about this. I would imagine we'll probably get some visitors from the Reddit forums or other folks who are concerned about some of the issues that have been raised regarding Feel Free in this lawsuit. And look, my website is a total open platform. I welcome anybody's questions or comments or feedback. I know JW sees a lot of those as well. So, if you want to jump in with your own comments, usage questions, controversial ideas, anything like that regarding Feel Free because I know it tends to be a little bit of a lightning rod, this little blue bottle for some reason, go over the shownotes at BenGreenfieldLife.com/FeelFree3 and you can leave your comment there. All I ask for is your credit card number and your mailing address–no, I'm just kidding. Just leave your comment over there. I look at them all. I'm happy to reply and dive in and help point in the right direction.

In the meantime, JW, thanks so much for coming on for joining me and for opening the kimono and giving us some inside baseball on Botanic Tonics.

Jerry:  As always, I appreciate you having me on.

Ben:  Yeah. And, by the way, I should mention I do get from JW some pretty steep discounts on this stuff. I was shocked the first time he gave me something. It was like 40% off or something, $40 off different boxes. And so, I'll find the best discounts I can get on this stuff and put them in the shownotes for you guys because JW, for some reason, has been super kind to my audience in particular with his discount codes and things. So, there's a few floating around up there, I'll put them in the shownotes and you guys can get a discount on this stuff if you want to try the old formula, the new formula or the capsules or anything like that for yourself. So, JW, I'll just put that stuff in the shownotes if that works.

Jerry:  Cool.

Ben:  Alright. Well, sweet. Well, folks, thanks for listening, thanks for joining in, until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield along with JW Ross signing out from BenGreenfieldLife.com, have an amazing week.

Alright, folks, I know a lot of you wonder how my wife and I have been married for 21 years. The key habits that we integrate into our life and our family's life day in day out in order to develop a healthy family, to build legacy, to build generational wealth, to have better sex, better connection, better dates, and all the things that go into a thriving relationship. We've decided that we are going to teach all of that and we're going to do it at a 5-star Napa Valley getaway called the Couple's Collective. So, not only are Jessa and I going to be there, but as a part of this event, it's luxury food, it's a luxury location, you're going to be also a part of an entire team that operates an online platform that gives you access to monthly master classes with relationship and health experts, accountability and mentorship with men's and women's groups, a health optimization plan for you and your lover, and did I mention an all-inclusive luxury five-day immersive retreat. And, as a matter of fact, as a part of this collective, you get access to two of those a year. You even get an app that you get to download to your phone that has me and all the other featured experts in there helping to teach you, helping to guide you, helping to hold you accountable. And, if you want to go to the boots on the ground event with me and my wife in beautiful Napa Valley, here's how to apply.

So, go to OwnItCoaching.com, O-W-N-I-T, OwnItCoaching.com/Couples-Collective. And, when you go there, you'll be given a chance to take part in this amazing event specifically designed to be an intimate getaway for couples where you're going to learn from me, from my wife, a whole bunch of other fantastic relationship experts in a luxury locale with amazing food, amazing side events and excursions. And specifically, this is geared towards couples who run their own business, who are entrepreneurial couples, who want to develop greater ways to make profit, build multiple streams of income, but also have good work-life balance and connect with each other deeply physically, mentally, spiritually in the process. So, pretty exclusive yet immersive event. And again, it's OwnItCoaching.com/Couples-Collective, October 25th through the 29th in Napa, California. 

More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be, and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.



This is the third appearance on my podcast for today's intriguing but controversial guest: JW Ross.

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

In our 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 our 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.
In this episode, Jerry “JW” Ross 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 this plant-based tonic. 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.

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 does testing work 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, 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 being 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

-The kratom and kava usage in Feel Free product…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 use 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 250mg
    • 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 (use code BEN to save $40)
    • 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 the FDA regulation…31:21

  • Kratom has been around in the US since the '70s
    • It came from 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 an 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 four or five 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 there are 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 (use code BEN to save $40)
  • 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 but will not kill you
  • 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 (use code BEN to save $40)
  • 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 is Jerry handling the lawsuit?…50:39

  • Went through a lot of stress throughout his life
  • Now using Feel Free to relieve stress and anxiety (use code BEN to save $40)
  • 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 the 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…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 BEN to save $40)

-And much more…

Upcoming Events:

  • Couples Collective: October 25th – 29th, 2023

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.

Resources from this episode:

JW Ross:

– Podcasts:

– Other Resources:


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Couples Collective: Join us for an exclusive and immersive way to explore health, wellness, and mindset with your significant other in Napa, California October 25th – 29th. Head over to ownitcoaching.com/couples-collective to apply. 

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

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