December 9, 2021
[00:00:51] Podcast Sponsors
[00:03:13] About this Podcast and Guest Introduction
[00:06:42] How JW Ross got involved in the nutrition industry
[00:19:07] The ingredient JW Ross discovered living in Asia that is the key to the Feel Free product
[00:24:28] How to mitigate some of the harmful effects of kratom
[00:27:45] The effects of finding the magic formula of kava and kratom
[00:31:03] Podcast Sponsors
[00:33:17] cont. The effects of finding the magic formula of kava and kratom
[00:34:34] The best strains of kava and kratom in the energy drink
[00:43:42] Best time of day to take the product, and if it affects sleep
[00:47:15] How to deal with nausea when taking kratom
[00:50:52] Why kratom is still illegal in a number of US states
[00:56:29] Other products coming down the pike from Botanic Tonics
[00:57:34] Closing the Podcast
[01:01:35] Legal Disclaimer
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
JW: I found the combination. It gave me the feeling that I remembered when I had my first drink of alcohol. You'd probably had the same experience if you did the extracts for any period of time, you'd see some elevation in liver enzymes. I think, I'll get back to you just don't mess with Mother Nature. That's probably overkill, but I'm consuming this stuff daily myself. I want to make sure that it's right.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield, welcome to the show.
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Alright, now we're off to talk to the great Jerry Ross.
Okay, so this podcast today is one that I'm excited about. Because if you've been following me on social media, for example, you've seen me occasionally holding up this little blue bottle and drinking it and then saying, “This is the most amazing thing ever. I've got euphoria. It's my new discovery. I haven't skipped a dose in, I don't know, seven weeks since I started taking it.”
And anyway, so the story behind this stuff is I was down in Austin, Texas, and my friend Khalil who runs this wonderful series of coffee shops and juice bars down there. He doesn't like when I call it coffee shop, so we'll call it juice bar. Called Sunlife Organics. He wanders out there as I'm sitting at a table a few months ago in Austin and he's like, “Have you tried this stuff?” And, he pops a bottle down in front of me and it's says, little blue bottle, says “Feel Free.” And, at that point, the only time I'd heard of it was, I believe it was Paul Chek who had mentioned that he'd been trying this stuff. And, I just kind of shrugged it off. And then, Khalil gave me a bottle and as I'm prone to do, I just drank it. That occasionally is something that has given me bouts of explosive diarrhea in the past just trying random supplements without asking too many questions. But I like Khalil, he tries all these amazing, amazing stuff sources, the best stuff from around the world. So, I tried it. And, I was off to record a podcast again, the smartest thing to do, try some new supplement before we go off to record a podcast. But I took a shot of it and just said plant-based herbs, whatever, on a little bowl, tasted pretty good. And, that went off and did the podcast.
And, during this entire show, I'll link to that podcast that it was the one with Brian Sanders. I'll link to that in the shownotes. If you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FeelFreepodcast. You'll be able to find that episode that I did with Brian Sanders. And, I just felt euphoric and amazing. I felt like I'd had four or five cocktails as far as just loosey-goosey euphoria, but without any of the cognitive deficits. As a matter of fact, I was thinking extremely clearly. And, I was like, “Huh, that's interesting.” It lasted six or seven hours.
So, the next day, I tried it again and the same thing happened. I just felt amazing. That day, I did it before workout, went, crushed the workout, had to just eat breakfast because I knew I needed to have energy later on in the day, but I didn't have any hunger at all. It crushed my appetite. I felt euphoric. And so, I just kept using it day after day and this feeling just kept coming again and again. Again, sometimes one bottle a day, sometimes two bottles a day. So finally, I asked early Khalil, I'm like, “Who makes this stuff? What is this stuff? This should be illegal.” And so, anyways, I got the guy's name, his name is JW Ross.
And so, I connected with him. And, I was like, “Dude, I need to find out more about this stuff. We just needed to do a podcast.” So finally, we have been able to align our schedules and get on a show. So, JW, where you at in the world right now?
JW: I'm in Santa Monica.
Ben: Okay. Alright, you guys. So, JW is in Santa Monica. And, he has designed and invented this stuff. And, it's such a fantastic story behind it that we got to get into this on today's show. So, you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FeelFreepodcast for the shownotes and everything that we're going to talk about today.
But JW, you got to tell your whole backstory, man, because it's just fascinating. You gave me the cliff notes version. And then, I think I cut you off. So, I'm like, “Oh, my gosh, we got to talk on the show.” So, tell me your backstory and how you got into designing, I guess what might be classified as an energy or a feel-good drink because I don't think your background is in the nutrition industry, so to speak?
JW: No, I like the song. It's a long, strange trip. Actually, started out in the oil and gas business in the '80s. Did that for a number of years. Sold out of that business. It's about the late '90s. Did quite well from our parents but achieved everything that I thought was success times 100, the planes, the cars, the big house, all that stuff. But, I was very measurable.
Through this process, my mentors that I looked up to had the motto of “Work hard, play harder.” And, my drug of choice was alcohol. And, alcohol kept escalating to the point that in 2008, it all came crashing down. And, I went off to a 90-day inpatient treatment.
Ben: So, that'd been 13 years ago?
JW: Yeah. And, that's the last time I've had a drink of alcohol. So, treatment was life-changing for me. I went to an interesting facility in Atlanta, Georgia that specializes in doctors and airplane pilots. I wouldn't say it was so much the sessions, the formal sessions themselves that I was living with three doctors in a condo there. And, just the interaction with them and understanding that just because you can control everything else in life and be successful doesn't mean you to control everything. There's one specific experience, which I've mentioned on a podcast or two before, and it was really my lightbulb moment of why treatment worked for me. And, there was a movie, we were watching the movie “Beautiful Mind” about Robert Nash.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That's Russell Crowe, right?
JW: Yeah. And, at the end of that movie, he's walking along with his arch-nemesis. And, the guy said, “You look like you're doing better.” And, he said, “Do you still see them?” And, Russell Crowe looks over and they're walking along beside him kind of waving at him. And, he said, “Oh, yeah, I still see them. But I've learned not to engage with them.” It just hit me that I'm no different than he is. He may have a more severe version of it where he's actually seeing things, but I am acting off of all these things that I think. And basically, I've been acting my entire life that everything that I think is real, I realized that that's not the case and I don't have to act on all that stuff. A lot of it is just noise.
Ben: Right. Well, it sounds to me what you're referring to is the idea that our thoughts or the way that we interpret the world is often our own fabrication with the best example being stress, in many cases work stress because of the way that we frame the situation. Me, reading a really long email from somebody that I know I have to respond to really is not life-threatening, it's not something that that's actually when you step back and look at things supposed to be that stressful. But then, if I make it stressful or associate it with previous times of stress, all of a sudden, I've turned something into a scenario that it's really not because I've thought it to be true. You ever look into Byron Katie's “The Work” asking those questions: “Is this true? Do I know this to be true? What if this were not true?” And then, kind of reversing the statement. That's a perfect example.
JW: Yeah. And then, the other thing I had always prided myself on was making quick decisions after treatment. I took about a year and a half sabbatical to try to figure out what to do in the next chapter of my life. And, one of the things I did during that sabbatical was I studied neuroscience. And, I discovered that the new brain, the old brain, fight or flight that when you make quick decisions, you're using the old brain. And, the new brain has all the data, unfortunately, it's a very slow processor.
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
JW: And, in one of these books, it said, “A test of this is when someone sends you an email, it's a charge email. Just fire a response right back but don't send it.”
Ben: Sorry to interrupt, I've done that. I've written out long emails and not sent them. It's almost written catharsis, right?
JW: Yeah. And, the next morning, come back and look at that and see what your response was. And, I did it a number of times. And, what I realized was that I was misinterpreting or escalating things that didn't need to happen. Or, just making really bad decisions. That was another lightbulb moment for me. And then, it really got deeper than that during a sabbatical. It's like, “Why were you not happy? You had all this stuff, you should have been happy, you weren't.” Of course, alcohol played into that with associated depression. But what I figured out was that you have to have money, it's about money, but it's more about doing something that you feel is doing something positive for society. That was a pivot into an entirely new industry, which was the fintech industry, and financial technology.
And, I went to Southeast Asia. I basically lived in Vietnam for about two and a half years and launched this fintech company. And, it was while I was there that I got introduced to one of the active ingredients that's in the product. I'd been introduced to the other active ingredient decades before on a trip to Vanuatu. I was feeling a lot better, I was happier, but I still missed that feeling, having a few drinks.
Ben: Okay. So, what part of the world were you in?
JW: I was in Vietnam.
Ben: Okay. So, you were in Vietnam when you came across this first ingredient that for you, post-alcoholism, and in a state where you were still looking for a way to, I guess, have–What were you looking for? More energy, or a better mood, or what?
JW: I grew up in an extremely distant family, no hugging, no saying “I love you.” And, I'm not blaming my parents, it's just the way that they were raised and the way they raised me. And, I wish probably even more so than they were. I was just very detached from people overall. I just really looked at people as resources to extract what I wanted out of it. I realized that I just never really felt comfortable in my own skin. I really felt comfortable talking to people unless I was drinking alcohol. So, I was looking for something to give me that social lubrication that I could feel comfortable communicating with people.
Ben: Right, right. Got it. So, were you in Vietnam specifically trying to hunt down a solution like that? Did you happen to be in Vietnam and then you discovered this particular ingredient that seemed to do that for you?
JW: No, it's just there and discovered that. But that ingredient, it gave me some of what I was looking for. And then, I remember having the kava in Vanuatu decades before and the feeling that that gave me, which again, wasn't really what I was looking for but it was part of it.
Ben: Okay. So, when you say you had had kava in Vanuatu, there's a lot of people who may not know what either kava or Vanuatu is.
So, when did that happen? Where did that fit into the equation?
JW: It's a long time ago, probably 30, 35 years ago.
JW: I was just over there with a bunch of guys screwing around.
Ben: Right. And, where's Vanuatu?
JW: Vanuatu is a group of islands between New Zealand and Fiji.
Ben: Okay, got you. Yeah. Because I've come across kava before, multiple times during my trips to Kona. It's, I believe, a plant that's native to the Pacific Islands, but it's a very popular kind of social drink. People use it to promote relaxation, kind of a social lubricant. Gosh, what's the best way I can describe it? Well, it's safer. Kids will drink it. Adults will drink it. You drink way, way, way, way too much kava, and supposedly the alkaloids in it might affect your liver. But I would drink this stuff in Kona. A lot of times I'll drink it out like a traditional coconut shell. It's got kind of this earthy flavor. Sometimes you can find it out there in tinctures or in powders and your mouth gets just a little bit numb when you drink it and when you use a tincture. But you get this feeling of kind of euphoric relaxation, it's almost weed without the psychedelic effects kind of.
JW: Exactly. The beauty of it also is that it's not really inebriating, it's hard to describe. It's socially lubricating, but it's not inebriating. And, even better benefit is that you have no crash off of it or no feeling, no down feeling the next day. So, it's been used in the Pacific Islands the same way we used alcohol here for thousands of years.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It's technically acting on, I believe, a lot of the neurotransmitter systems. Kava is, which is why a lot of times it's used for anxiety. Some people use higher amounts at night for sleep, even though daytime. Kind of like CBD, take a whole bunch of CBD at night, it can help you to sleep. You take a little bit during the daytime and it helps with almost a relaxed alpha zone focus. But kava, it'll decrease glutamate which is kind of an excitatory neurotransmitter and then activates all these feel-good dopaminergic neurons. It interacts a little bit with GABA, which is the same inhibitory neurotransmitter you'd have when you have a glass of wine, for example.
And, of course, the idea with kava, and this is what I suspect is one of the reasons as we get into this Feel Free ingredient profile that I think that kava works is if you look at, for example, L-theanine, which is something that helps to shift the brain into alpha brainwave zone and kind of remove a little bit of anxiety. Well, if you stack it with something excitatory like caffeine, you get all the energy of caffeine, but with this kind of dialed in relaxed focus that the L-theanine gives you. And so, with kava, it's kind of like, “Well, do I want to take a whole bunch of,” let's say, “L-theanine during the day and get too relaxed and too kind of laid back? Or, is there a way to stack this with something to work and get that laid-back feeling, but at the same time, get a whole bunch of just fricking energy?”
So, the kava component, you and I have both tried that, but basically, fast forward back to Vietnam, because then you tried something else in Vietnam before I interrupted and took us down that rabbit hole.
JW: Yeah. While I was in Vietnam, I discovered a number of different things, but one of them was kratom, which is a tree. It's in the coffee family. And, the native populations take the leaves and extract a tea out of it. And, it's mainly used for working long days, labor, not only working but actually having fun doing it. Very similar to how natives in Central and South America have used coca leaves for thousands of years.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Well, I believe it's actually a little bit similar to coffee in terms of the species. It's an evergreen tree, but it's in the coffee family. And, it's all over Southeast Asia. I haven't talked about kratom too much on this podcast before, but it's really interesting. You're right, a lot of these South Pacific or Malaysian workers will use it for just crushing 12 to 16-hour days of hard work with a smile on their faces the whole time.
In the past, I had mostly just used kratom because there are different strains of kratom, which perhaps you can explain but different strains, some, again, kind of marijuana, for example, some strains are kind of be downers, some are uppers. And, in the past, I'd used kratom kind of successfully for sleep but didn't really like the way that it made me feel kind of got some dry mouth, a little bit of nausea, some wobbly and dizziness almost within, and didn't really like whatever strains I had tried in the past. And so, for me, I kind of briefly experimented a little bit with kratom, but never really kind of cracked the code on how to use it effectively. And so, you started using it in Vietnam.
JW: I started using it in Vietnam, and I was using it in its native form. I'd come back for a week or so every six months. I would look forward here. And, what I discovered was that similar to what has been done with coca leaves change, you get into cocaine, that they were doing the same thing here with kratom. They were taking it and using solvents or CO2 and extracting just two or three alkaloids out of 50 some that's in it and creating an entirely different thing. It was more about getting high. So, I tried some of that, I really didn't like that.
Ben: Okay. So, you're saying that the way kratom is traditionally extracted in US-based products is using, you said, harsh chemical solvents, but what would be the issue that will cause it to make you feel not as good as whatever kratom that you'd use in Vietnam.
JW: The way I like to describe it to people is because it's exactly the same. It's the difference between coca leaf and cocaine.
JW: And, they make cocaine, they take coca leaves, they use solvents, gasoline, and they extract two out of 51 alkaloids. They extract the ones that really amp you up. The issue with that is is that all those other alkaloids are doing things too. Your body uses those to help process and it lasts longer. It's not this huge spike in a crash. They've done the same thing with both kava and with kratom when it got brought into the West is they use the same methods to create these extracts.
Ben: And, I think this is one reason that it's been kind of frowned upon by the FDA, for example, it tends to be really high in things like heavy metals, for example. I don't know if it bioremediates them from the soil, very similar to what cannabis does. You got to be super careful with cannabis like lettuce. It just sucks stuff up in the soils, herbicides, pesticides, metals, et cetera. So, isn't that another issue with kratom?
JW: It is. And, fortunately, the American Kratom Association has latched on to this, and they're starting to get legislation passed state by state that sets standards for testing. You have to be certified in the state. You have to test every batch. And, it also outlasts high concentration extracts and synthetics, which I think is a wonderful thing. Because you go back to coca leaf and cocaine, you got people in Central South America that started in their teens and until they're in their 80s and have no health issues. Most people that start on cocaine, it doesn't end very well.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And, that's the way I know, it's traditionally used in Malaysia, and a lot of these areas in Southeast Asia is just chewed. I've gotten it in powder form before. I've had it in capsule form. There's one company, my friend, Mark Bell and Chris Bell, they do a supplement called Mind Bullet. That's a capsule form of kratom.
And, from an energetic standpoint, it is something, again, that I didn't experiment with too much because I could never figure out a way to really feel that great on it. But the other thing that had concerned me was the potential for, as you briefly alluded to, the impact on the body, if it's not in, I guess, more of its fully form or in terms of the way that it's extracted because liver enzymes is another issue that a lot of people get concerned. If you look up kratom, that's one of the concerns is potential for liver toxicity.
But you're saying these workers will use it their entire lives and be just healthy as a horse? I mean, is that just anecdotal? Or, what's going on with the liver thing?
JW: Yeah, I actually validated that myself because early on when I started working on this formulation, nobody had mix these things together before. Because I was making it for myself, I was concerned, is this going to cause some kind of health issue because I'm very–
Ben: I mean, you're just mixing it up in your kitchen?
JW: Yeah, yeah. I was very cautious about what I put in my body. And, one of the things that I did was I did much higher levels of it per day. And then, I took blood chemistry and compare that to my annual blood chemistry to see if I was getting elevated liver enzymes or blood sugar change or any of that. I didn't see any of that. I went a step further, I did for a period of time some of the extracts, and I immediately saw changes in liver enzymes.
Ben: Yeah. Because I do a huge quarterly blood panel, but then I've been doing a few other panels. I have this one company called BASE, that want to sponsor the podcast, so they keep sending these blood tests to my house. So, I've done probably, gosh, eight different liver enzymes evaluations in the past four months. And, you told me that you had been consuming up to at one time like six bottles a day of Feel Free. I probably average one and a half to two bottles a day. And, my liver enzymes, they haven't changed at all in terms of any type of rising. I take care of my liver. I do embarrassingly that a lot of people blush when I say those on the podcast, but I do coffee enemas and take glutathione. And, I'm very careful with my overall alcohol intake. And, I do a lot of things to take care of my liver. But I didn't notice. And again, I wrote this is fully anecdotal. I didn't know anything in terms of liver enzymes, after some, what I would consider to be some pretty significant consumption of this product over the past few months.
JW: Yeah. And, I would recommend anybody doing six a day. The reason I did that was I felt that eventually, somebody would do that. And, I wanted to be sure that it wouldn't cause issues. And then, I had a series of other people kind of run the same experiment, and they got the same results.
From what you're talking about, you'd probably had the same experience if you did the extracts for any period of time you'd see some elevation liver enzymes. I think I get back to you, just don't mess with Mother Nature.
Ben: Yeah. Yup. And so, for you, you were in Vietnam, and I don't think we really quite finished telling the story of how you went from Vietnam to mixing this stuff up in your own kitchen.
JW: Actually, I'd sold fintech company, and I'd come back to California. And, I was kind of looking for the next chapter in life. But I still had this nagging thing of it just didn't feel comfortable socially. And, I was sitting around one afternoon and it just popped into my head of why not try mixing the two of them together. They've been used in their respective native societies for thousands of years. And, why not do it in its native form and see mixing together and see what results you get? But that started me down a whole another rabbit hole because, as you mentioned before, there's various strains in producing various places and different combinations and percentages. And, I basically set up an informal lab in my house and experimented myself just trying different combinations of different strains, different percentages. My wife thought I lost my mind, but eventually, it took me about almost to a year, a year and a half. I found the combination. It gave me the feeling that I had that I remembered when I had my first drink of alcohol.
Ben: And, what was actually in what you tried that gave you that effect?
JW: It was the Feel Free formula.
Ben: Okay. So, this is the exact formula. So, you can finish telling the story but then fill us out on exactly what was in it because I'm just curious about ratios and strains. And, yeah, that's what I want to know.
JW: It's a five to one ratio, five parts kava to one-part kratom. The beauty of that, again, is that the kava is much easier on you, even on native form than the Kratom is. So, you can take a much lower dose of kratom. There's some synergy going on that they uplift each other. And then, there's some things going on that either one of them by themselves will not even–you just don't get that.
Ben: Yeah. Like I mentioned, I've taken both kratom and kava on their own, haven't noticed anything like this.
JW: I'd like to say that was all by grand design because all I was looking for was something to replace alcohol, but what I discovered was that it has an extreme focusing capability. It's dose dependent. And, smaller doses, it's an incredible productivity enhancement. And, that's really now when people that call in and talk to me about what they're using it for and experiences. I'd say more people are using it that way as an alcohol target.
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The only thing I haven't liked is probably because of the GABA hammer that the introduction of alcohol would cause. The only thing I found is that if I use Feel Free and then I drink at night, like a cocktail, I get sleepy. And so, that's the only thing I've noticed is it seems to potentiate the sleepy effects of alcohol. But when taken separately from a cocktail, honestly for me, it is crushing appetite cravings. If I just need to skip lunch and work through the day, it's right up there with ketones as far as me not getting hungry. And then, workouts, I can roll out of bed and feel absolutely no motivation at all to go crush the kettlebells out in the gym. I'll wake up, I'll stretch, I'll do what I usually do. And then, if I throw back a shot to feel free, I almost have to get myself out of the gym. It's one of those things where it feels I've been working out for 10 minutes and I look at my clock and like, I've done my whole 40-minute workout.
And so, so I've found that my top two uses would be reduction in appetite cravings, and also workouts and then, of course, the productivity enhancement pieces is absolutely amazing as you've alluded to. So, it's doing a lot of different stuff.
So, anyways, back to the formulation. You said five to one ratio of kava to kratom. Are there certain strains of kava or certain strains of kratom that you tried to see what would cause the best effect because obviously kind of weed, there's so many different strains?
JW: Yeah, there's [00:34:54]____ for one example. There's three supposed main strains, but then there's a lot of combination. And, it's also how it's processed too is how it's dried, whether it's dried in the sun, or whether it's dried in the shade. There's a lot of things that change chemically and then ultimately what the function of it is. I had the luxury of the time, to work through all that.
And, what I can tell you is that most of them, when you mix them together, you don't get their desired results, you get either too amped up and kind of jittery or you get what you're talking about, it's sleepy time. So, it's something about these two particular strains and the percentages that create this. As you said, I mean, myself, I mean, I get up, I'll do a half a shot, go work out. I drink now one cup of tea a day, and I used to drink caffeine all day long.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It seems to reduce the desire for any other stimulants. Absolutely. What about the actual strain? Because there's red, there's green, there's white forms of kratom. And, I mean, I don't know if you're even able to share if this is a patented–what do you call it? A proprietary type of thing. And, if you don't want people to copy the strange stuff that you've used, that's fine, you don't have to share. I'm just curious.
JW: It's a great question because we're actually growing some kratom in South Florida. And, if you look at the tree itself and look at the leaves, a single tree can have green, white, and red veins and different leaves. Depending on where it's located at on the tree, and then when you go to process it, to dry it, if you put it out in the sun, it will turn red. If you don't put it in the sun, it stays green. So, the ultraviolet light or light overall spectrum is doing some things to it. And, that to me is more so what's causing the differences.
In my mind, the white, green and red was more of a marketing play. The standard thing is you take the white in the morning for energy, and green bed day for euphoric, and you take the red for sleepy time.
Ben: Yeah, exactly.
JW: And, there is some correlation to that. But I can mimic that to some degree, all three of those on one tree, depending on how it's processed.
Ben: Right. There was an article that came out, it was last year about how really indica and sativa commonly associating indica with relaxing effects and sativa with energizing effects when it comes to cannabis is actually kind of a thing of the past. There are certain forms of indica that are energizing. There are certain forms of sativa that can be relaxing, and ultimately, it comes down to the isolated strains themselves that are important rather than whether it's red, or green, or white, or something like that with kratom.
JW: Yeah. I mean, I've taken it a step further. I mean, we do extensive lab testing for both contaminants and also ratios of alkaloids are called lactones. That's really what I'm looking for because I know that profile, and I need to get the right combination.
JW: And so, that's what I'm looking at to make sure that we source from two specific places directly from the farms. But even there–
Ben: Yeah. Is that U.S. or overseas that you source from?
JW: It's overseas. The kratom comes in from Indonesia, and the kava comes in from Vanuatu.
Ben: Okay. So, you take these strains, you mix them, and then there are certain things, and I've looked into this that kind of potentiate the effects of, for example, kratom. You can mix it with taurine, black pepper is another one that seems to potentiate the effects, magnesium like magnesium L-threonate. You and I haven't talked about this behind the scenes at all, but I've already got ideas for things you could add into the formula to experiment with.
But then, Vitamin C is one that seems to be one of the best things to combine with kratom to enhance the effects. I don't know if it's something like grapefruit juice to upregulate the CYP enzymes in the liver or what, but I think if I'm not mistaken I have the bottle in front of me, but you do have vitamin C in the formula as well. Don't you?
JW: We do have, yes. What you just described, there is a reason behind that. I'm not a scientist by any means, but what I look at is how had the native populations been using it and trying to mimic that because there probably is some underlying science into that, but they may not know it. There's something behind that. So, that's what I was trying to do. And then, after doing that, I started studying more of the science and I realized now that, yes, there is an underlying science to it. And, having some of these things in there in addition to just the plants itself help with the bioavailability.
Ben: Okay, got it. So, what is the full profile? We've got kratom. We've got kava. And, what else is in there?
JW: So, there's pineapple juice.
JW: Coconut cream. And, that's for getting some fatty acids, lipids to help, again, with bioavailability. And, the sweetness comes from stevia leaf, and we use what's called M stevia, which is vastly different than your table stevia would be. You won't really ever hardly see it.
Ben: Wait, what's it called again?
JW: M Stevia.
Ben: M Stevia. How is it different?
JW: It's different and that is very naturally processed. I don't like stevia. It has an after a wine to it.
JW: This doesn't have that. But again, you won't see it hardly anywhere because it's really expensive, partially put into soda pop or something.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, you somehow managed to make creatine which traditionally is a very, very bitter taste palatable, which I actually just shoot it straight out of the bottle. I'll give it a good shake. I always fill the bottle with water afterwards and shake it again and chase it just to get every last little drip of goodness out of the bottle. The pineapple juice, is that for the vitamin C?
JW: It is, yes.
Ben: Okay. And then, the coconut cream, you briefly alluded to the fact that that's basically allowing for better delivery of the lipid-soluble compounds, because I know mitragynine, one of the primary active alkaloids in kratom is fat-soluble. Is that what you're trying to do to get across the blood-brain barrier?
Ben: That's pretty cool. That's basically the reason people put C8, or MCT oil, or coconut oil, or butter, or ghee in their coffees is to carry a lot of the bioactive fat-soluble compounds, like the coffee stalls and the [00:42:25]_____ across the blood-brain barrier, which is why when you blend your coffee with fat, you feel it so much more than black coffee. So, that's probably another reason why I feel this more than I would normally feel like kratom or kava. And, I don't know if there's lipid-soluble compounds in kava as well.
JW: I'd like to say, again, I was smart enough to do that by grand design, but I was just mimicking, again, what the natives had been doing. And then, after the fact, I figured out that actually there is science behind it.
Ben: Anything else in there aside from pineapple, coconut cream, M stevia, kava, and kratom?
JW: That's it.
Ben: Now, when I saw coconut cream on there, I emailed you because I, a lot of times, worked out in a fasted state, and I do a lot of fasting. And so, I'm always kind of questioning how many calories are in something and whether it's a complete aside speed bump in terms of total number of calories, or whether I actually need to worry about it. And so, when I saw coconut cream on there, I'm like, “I like drinking 100 calories before I go workout.” But you said it's, what did you say, 15 calories?
JW: It's 13 calories.
Ben: Thirteen calories.
JW: It doesn't take very much. There's just a tiny amount in there, just enough to jack up the bioavailability.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. It seems to work for sure. And so, when you take a shot of this, what time of day do you think most people are benefiting from taking this? And, have you found that it impacts sleep at all?
JW: Most people after doing it a while gravitate towards what I'm doing now, which is I'll do half a shot when I wake up in the morning. And, I'm 59 getting ready to be 60. And, it's like I was 18 again. I get up and, like you said, ready to work out. Then, I'll do another half kind of late mid-morning just to really charge deeper into work. And then, I'll do one right after lunch and then one late afternoon. And, I'll power through 14, 16-hour a day, just like the laborers do in Southeast Asia. And, not only do it, but do it with a smile on your face.
Ben: Yeah, I've found if I take it getting close about four hours prior to bedtime, I've got too much energy at night. So, I usually won't take a shot after about 4:00 pm or so. So, that's what I found to be the sweet spot personally. And then, I've also found for taking especially before workout. It's crazy how fast they hit your system. It's crazy. Literally, I feel it within a couple of minutes, but it seems to really peak at about 20 minutes. So, I'll usually time at about 20 minutes before I hit the gym. At that point, again, I have to get myself out of the gym because it's one of those things where I just won't stop pushing when I use this stuff before workout, which again, workers in Southeast Pacific using this for long 14 to 16-hour workdays in the sun. Now, I understand they aren't combining it with kava. Unless they are. If I'm incorrect, let me know. But then, adding the kava just gives it this slow, stable euphoric blee that's even more amazing.
JW: Yeah. And, the other thing, I've never really had good sleep, or at least not since I've remembered. And, I've done sleep studies and all that. And, I didn't really tie the two together, but when I started doing this, I started having wonderful sleep. Even more interesting, I started having vivid dreams. And, I know they say we all dream every night, but we don't remember it. I don't really remember having dreams, period, but I have incredibly vivid dreams.
Ben: No kidding.
JW: All the time. And actually, I've had hundreds of people report that to me.
Ben: I haven't really noticed much on the dreams. But you know what, gosh, I have a pretty good dream just about every night. So, maybe I didn't really have anything to fix in that department or my pineal gland is okay, or something. But that's really interesting. I'm wondering what the mechanism of action would be probably something to do with the GABA or a shift in sleep architecture from some of those neurotransmitter dopaminergic shifts that it's making, but that's super interesting on the sleep component.
JW: If you have anything that you think of on that, I'd like to know what's going on there because at first, I thought maybe it's just me, but literally had now hundreds of people reporting that.
Ben: Yeah. Well, we have a lot of people listening in who will try this. So, if you go to the shownotes. Leave your comments if you're tracking your sleep, and you've noticed much because that's pretty interesting. I'd love to hear some feedback from people on that component as well.
Now, in terms of one thing that I think some people have struggled with kratom would be a little bit of a nausea, little bit of gut upset with using too much kratom. And, usually the fix for that, actually, because I did some research on this is peppermint oil. If you get any type of stomach upset at all, you put a few drops of peppermint oil, and you rub that on your stomach, or you put a few drops in a little bit of water and you drink the water. And, it seems just absolutely crushed any of the stomach upsetting effects of kratom. But one thing I noticed is if I use Feel Free, and then I have a big meal. I would not do this before turkey day Thanksgiving because I've noticed if I have it and I have a big meal after, I get some stomach upset after. Have you experienced that?
JW: I really have it myself, but I've never really had any issues to speak with my stomach. My wife is just the opposite. She has a very sensitive digestive system.
JW: And, what she's discovered is that she'll do a smaller amount. She has a third of a bottle. And then, she has about a half of a bottle of Bio K with it.
Ben: Oh, the Bio K yogurt, the probiotic?
JW: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: Okay, that's interesting.
JW: She has no problem with it then.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That's one thing I should mention is I have talked to a lot of other people who are beginning to use this. It seems like this, every health influencer I talk to, I'm getting a text from somebody, they're like, “Have you tried this Feel Free stuff?” I'm like, “Yeah, I have.” Many of them, especially the smaller people or the females, will do half a bottle instead of a full bottle. Which is probably important, too, because let's not beat around the bush here, JW. I've also had people say, “This is like how much per”–If you order a box of it, obviously, we have a pretty hefty discount code for folks, but it's not inexpensive. If you think about it from an energy drink standpoint, what's it come out to per bottle, 8 bucks?
JW: Yeah, from a subscription standard, it's $8 per bottle. What we recommend for people to do is to do it half a shot at a time. Issue two drinks for $8 basically.
Ben: Yeah, for me to invest in basically the equivalent of one and a half lattes to absolutely destroy a workout or a day of productivity. I tell people who say, “What are you doing? You're doing CBD and melatonin and magnesium before bed every night. That adds up.” I'm like, “I would pay happily for the entire rest of my life 20 bucks for a good night sleep.” I'd pay that every day of the week. I give you $20, you give me an amazing night of sleep. I'll do it. I give you $8, you Let me crush a productivity day or an amazing workout. I'll do that every single day.
So, I realize it seems expensive, but it's all relative compared to your juice at the cold-pressed juicery that's $16 or your four-hour energy drink that's not doing any of this for you in terms of the stable euphoric energy for 4 or 5 bucks or whatever those are. I don't think the 8 bucks is that big of a deal. If were to bulk, though, by the way, do you save at all on this stuff?
JW: The best deal is subscription, which again is the 96 per case, which is 12 bottles.
Ben: Okay, got it. We have a discount too, isn't it? What's our discount? BEN40?
JW: Yes, it's BEN40.
Ben: Is that 40%?
JW: It's 40%, yes.
Ben: That's significant. Okay, so I'll put a link in the show. You guys can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FeelFree and code BEN40. 40% is a lot. Thanks for doing that. When you send me a discount code, I'm like, “40? Really?” That's great for my listeners, especially for people who just want to try this out and see if it actually works.
Isn't kratom not even legal in six states, though?
JW: It's not. Kratom has a very interesting history in the U.S. And, the basis of it, again, is all these synthetics and extracts that are, I said really more about getting high. In 2015, the FDA actually was able to get it classified. So, became federally illegal. Within about a year and a half, hundreds of thousands of people had started talking to congressmen. And, a lot of congressmen, they were actually using it. They overturned it. Congress did, which is the only time in history that that's ever happened for anything. But in the interim, there were six states that passed state laws mimicking the federal law. And, those states never remove that law from the book. So, that's why you have it being legal federally, but illegal in six states.
Ben: Now, what if you live in one of those states? Can you order Feel Free? Or, are you not able to order it?
JW: You're not able to.
Ben: What are the six states?
JW: It's Arkansas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Ben: I think you've listed five but I'm sure people could easily look up. Is kratom legal in their state? Find out, you just have to order it to a friend, I guess, or get a different address.
And so, in terms of legality, do you foresee that kratom is going to have an uphill battle? Or, do you think that it's one of those things that's getting looked on more friendly?
JW: That's the beauty of it. We're seeing this or macro groundswell of adoption of plant medicines.
Ben: Yeah. You mean, psilocybin and things like that?
JW: Yeah. And, even now, the psychedelics. I think, people are waking up to a lot of these synthetics medications, not always good for you long-term. So, they're looking for alternatives. You're saying the same thing with kratom. Six states now have passed kratom regulation, which sets standards for testing for contaminants in outlaws, the high concentration extracts and synthetics. There's 30 more states that that's working through the process. So, within the next few years, you should see a lot more states that have regulation in place. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think in this case, regulation is what's needed.
Ben: Yeah. Well, with all the issues with the metals and the way that it's extracted and stuff that it seems prudent to me because obviously, it could be dangerous if it's not the right variety and not extracting the right way. And, you guys, you mentioned you actually do testing on the heavy metals and any chemicals, any deleterious compounds that would be in the kratom or the kava strains that you use.
JW: What we do is we found that you can't always rely on the testing that's done overseas, unfortunately. So, when we bring it in, we retest it. The base active ingredients, and then we also then test, again, after it's bottled to make sure that there wasn't any other contaminants that were introduced. And, that's probably overkill but I'm consuming this stuff daily myself. I want to make sure that it's right.
Ben: It's important. And, like I mentioned with my own testing, I haven't seen any deleterious issues pop up.
Two days ago, I had a flight back from Phoenix and I took a shot of Feel Free and a shot of ketone esters because I don't like to eat when I fly. I just think it presents sometimes an inflammatory scenario. At least in many cases, I try to avoid eating too much when I fly.
So, I took a shot of Feel Free and a shot of the ketone esters at 4:00. Did the whole flight, got home at 11:00 pm unpacked work, took care of a bunch of business until 1:00 am, still wasn't hungry, still was just flying high. Took my CBD and melatonin and hit the sack, woke up at 6:00 am the next morning feeling fantastic. But again, the use cases for this stuff and the things you can combine it with, I mean, we talked about vitamin C and the lipids and then kava and kratom already being in the compound. But then, I've had fun experimenting. You got to get your hands on. I don't know if you've used ketone esters before tip for appetite, [00:55:30]____ shift you into a state of ketosis. But man, doing a shot of ketone esters. I even put this on Instagram at one point as a really good one-two combo for just crushing a day where you don't want to eat. Shot a ketone esters like the HVMN, or the KetoneAid, Ketone Esters with a shot of this Feel Free, and, oh, my goodness.
Again, you got to be careful because sometimes you forget to eat and you work so hard, and you crush your workout so well that I would imagine long-term you might lose too much weight or push yourself too hard. But I'm having fun just combining this with stuff and figuring out what it stacks well with. I mean, any nootropic I've consumed it with, it just seems to amp up the effect twofold at least.
So, again, I keep pitching myself that it's so good. And, I realize this almost sounds like a giant commercial for your product. But whenever I find something cool, I like to share it with people. So, it's pretty interesting.
Are you tinkering with anything else at Botanic Tonics, your company in terms of other products that you want to make?
JW: I've got a couple other formulas that I've come up with. One of them is more of a sleepy time formula. And, the other one is even more energizing formula. No, don't plan on launching those until sometime next year.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Well, for the energy formula, we should talk because I would like to see you experiment at least with taurine, with bio pairing black pepper extract, and then magnesium threonate. Those would be super interesting to amp up the energizing components, especially when it comes to the interaction with kratom. So, there's a lot of fun stuff that you could experiment with that.
But in the meantime, though, what I'm going to do is I'll put our link to this stuff, or people can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FeelFree. Again, we got a code, it's BEN40 is the code.
JW, anything else that you want to share with folks about Feel Free or any other things that we haven't covered about the product or best use while I have you on the call?
JW: Yeah. I think the one thing is when you google kratom, there's a pretty bleak picture painted. But again, the basis of all that is the extracts and the synthetics. I keep going back to in the native populations when it's consumed and it's fully formed, it's been consumed for a long, long time and nobody's really had any issues. It's just when we got a hold of it and mess with it like we did with coca leaves and cocaine, and it became another issue. So, I'm glad to see the regulation happening that is going to help control that.
The other thing is people ask me if it's addictive. And, my response to that is that, from my experience, anything that makes you feel good is addictive, that's probably not the right question to be asking. The right question to be asking is–
Ben: Coffee is pretty addictive last time I checked.
JW: Yeah. If I consume this on a regular basis, is it doing anything harmful to me? That's the part that I've talked about earlier that I really focused on because when you ask people, “Is coffee addictive?” They're like, “Well, no.” And, I'm like, “Have you ever tried getting off of it?” Because most people, once they get on and never get off of it. Cheese is another example. I mean, cheese is extremely addictive.
Ben: Yeah. There's a lot of the opioid receptors. And, that's interesting too because kratom is often used as a way for people to get off opioid-based painkillers. And, it's been incredibly successful. And, I suspect there might be a little bit of pharmaceutical interest in limiting the availability of kratom or painting a bad picture of kratom just because it's so effective as an alternative to opioids. And, the idea of it having a bad rap, I've seen that too. I've had a few people reach out to me for getting Feel Free and they're like, “I just realized kratom is in this. Have you looked up kratom?” And, I'm like, “Yeah, well, it depends.” You could get an herbicide, pesticide latent strain of weed, you could get coffee chockfull of mold and mycotoxins, or you could get pure clean organic coffee and wonderful cannabis that's full spectrum grown organically. And so, it always depends on the sourcing. So, I will vouch for this stuff. It's incredible, and I like it and I appreciate it. I told you this when I met you JW, I said, “Thank you, thank you for making this stuff, because it's definitely made life better.” Not that life suck before, but anytime I find something that's a keeper for me, I thank whoever came up with it. So, thank you.
JW: That's what makes it all worthwhile hearing that. And, I hear that on a regular basis every week. And, that's back to the ritual, part of my back story. That's what I figured out is really, yeah for me, what life is about.
Ben: Yup, yup. Well, what I'll do again is I'll link to all this. If you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FeelFreepodcast. You can go to the shownotes. And, if you want to order this stuff, just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/FeelFree. The code is BEN40 over there. And, I think you're really going to like it. And, you can leave your comments, your questions, your feedback, the impact in your sleep architecture if you have any feedback for that so that we can take a deeper dive into what's going on there.
In the meantime, JW, thank you so much for coming on the show, man.
JW: Ben, thanks for having me.
Ben: Alright, folks, I'm Ben Greenfield along with JW Ross signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
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If you've been paying attention to my social feed recently, you've no doubt seen me throwing back—nearly every day—a small blue bottle of absolutely euphoric, energizing goodness that is one of my favorite new discoveries of late for energy, workouts, sex, a better mood and much, much more.
Inside the bottle is a tonic of ancient plants from the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, where the ingredients have been used both socially and in wellness for centuries. The formula is called “Feel Free” and was invented by today's podcast guest JW Ross—also known as Jerry Ross—as a unique and potent blend of the earthy and spicy tones of the ancient tropical plants kava and kratom, along with refreshing pineapple juice, coconut, and premium sweet stevia leaves.
JW Ross is a lifelong innovator and investor in the international business and financial world. He has been married for over 20 years, and he has two grown children who are also active in business and finance. JW Ross currently lives and works in Santa Monica, California where he is an avid yoga practitioner.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-How JW Ross got involved in the nutrition industry…06:42
- Began in the oil industry and did really well financially, but developed some unhealthy habits such as alcohol consumption
- Went to rehab in 2008, had an “ah-ha” moment watching A Beautiful Mind movie; “choose not to engage with” the voices encouraging bad behavior
- Byron Katie's questions: Is this true? Do I know this to be true?
- Began studying neuroscience after rehab which helped identify some unhealthy thought patterns
- Sought something that would allow the social liberation he felt with alcohol without the negative effects
- Had discovered kava living in Vanuatu earlier, but sought more
- BGF podcast with Cameron George on kava:
-The ingredient JW Ross discovered living in Asia that is the key to the Feel Free product…19:00
- Kratom trees are prominent in Vietnam
- Used for working long days, and having fun doing it; similar to cocoa leaves
- Kratom products in the West were not in their pure form, more for getting high than any real health benefits
- Kratom tends to be high in heavy metals
- Mind Bullet
- BGF podcast with Chris Bell on kratom:
-How to mitigate some of the harmful effects of kratom…24:56
- People in Vietnam, Malaysia, etc. use kratom their whole lives and are perfectly fine
- BASE blood test for liver enzyme evaluation
- Ben has had a lot of Feel Free over the last few months with negligible changes in liver enzyme markers
-The effects of finding the magic formula of kava and kratom…27:45
- JW Ross had left the fintech industry and was looking for the next chapter in life
- Found the right ratio of kava and kratom that mimicked the effects of alcohol without getting drunk
- Ratio of 5 parts kava, 1 part kratom
- In small doses, it's an incredible productivity enhancement; people use it for that more than the alcohol replacement
- Top 2 uses of Feel Free for Ben:
- Quell appetite cravings; akin to ketones
- Workout enhancement
- Reduces desire for other stimulants
- BGF podcast with Brian Sanders:
-The best strains of kava and kratom in the energy drink…34:36
- 3 main strains of kratom
- How it's dried is a factor in the chemical makeup
- A single tree can have leaves with green, white, and red veins
- Will turn red if left in the sun after picking
- Article on indica and sativa:
- Kratom is from Indonesia; kava from Vanuatu
- Study how native populations use the plants and mimic that
- Full profile of the drink:
- Pineapple juice – for Vitamin C
- Coconut cream – better delivery of fat-soluble compounds across the blood-brain barrier
- M Stevia leaf (Reb M/rebaudioside M) – does not have the aftertaste of ordinary stevia
- The coconut cream acts much like C8 (use code BEN to save 10%) or MCT Oil when added to coffee, which enhances the effects
-Best time of day to take the product, and if it affects sleep…43:41
- 1/2 shot in the morning; 1/2 mid-morning
- One after lunch; one in the afternoon
- Work long days and be happy doing it
- Vivid dreams after taking the product
-How to deal with nausea when taking kratom…47:12
-Why kratom is still illegal in a number of U.S. states…50:48
- The FDA made kratom illegal in 2015; this decision was overturned due to popular demand
- 6 states passed laws mimicking the federal law: Arkansas, Alabama, Wisconsin, Vermont, Rhode Island; cannot order Feel Free in these states
- 6 states have established kratom testing standards; more are expected in the next decade or so
-Other products coming down the pike from Botanic Tonics…56:23
- Launching next year:
- Sleepy Time formula
- Energy formula
-And much more!
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar
Resources from this episode:
– JW Ross:
- Feel Free by Botanic Tonics (40% discount automatically applied at checkout)
- The Natural Drug And Alcohol Alternative That May Transform The Future Of Mental Health: Everything You Need To Know About Kava With Cameron George.
- The Kratom User’s Guide: What Is Kratom, How Do You Use It & The Truth Behind This Controversial Natural Herb with Chris Bell.
- “Drunken” Banter, Unplugging From Wearables, Ketogenic Mistakes In Exercisers & Athletes, Carb Refeeds, Alcohol Hacks & Much More With Brian Sanders.
– Other Resources:
- HVMN Ketone Esters
- C8 (use code BEN to save 10%)
- Perfect Keto MCT Oil
- Ketone Aid Ketone Ester Drink
- Kion Coffee
- Mind Bullet
- Peppermint Oil
- Bio K Probiotic Yogurt
- BASE Lab Test
- Byron Katie's Four Questions
- Laboratory Analysis Of Kratom Products For Heavy Metals
- Best Kratom Strains: Most Effective & Strongest Kratom Strains
- What's The Difference Between Indica And Sativa?
- A Beautiful Mind
–Kion Aminos: Building blocks for muscle recovery, reduced cravings, better cognition, immunity, and more.
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