Taking a Fresh Approach to an Ancient Ingredient

Attitudes around cannabis are quickly changing as more people embrace the plant for its myriad benefits. As more brands incorporate cannabinoids into their product lines to meet increased demand, the wellness category is seeing a paradigm shift. The cannabis beauty category alone is projected to reach a value of $8.86 billion by 2030. 

One company setting the bar in this space is Element Apothec. The brand is helping to change the way people think about cannabis by offering a wide range of skincare products, tinctures, and topicals formulated with cannabinoids.

Element Apothec is the evolution of beauty and wellness, putting the plant front and center as a crucial ingredient for the personal care industry — they also have the distinct honor of being a partner in one of Thailand’s first cannabis resorts.

Normalizing Medical Cannabis

The desire to normalize cannabis as medicine is something Element Apothec Co-Founder and CEO Davina Kaonohi has been striving for her entire life. Her father, a Vietnam War veteran, relied on the plant to help him cope with PTSD. Seeing what a remarkable impact the plant had on him, Kaonohi learned from an early age that the shame and stigmas surrounding cannabis were unfounded.

“We knew when we visited him on the weekends when his stash box was full, it was a good weekend with him,” she recalled. “Even through D.A.R.E. and all the propaganda, he continued to reassure us that he wasn’t doing anything bad and that it was worth it even if he got arrested because he just wouldn’t be able to live life if he couldn’t have cannabis.”

Kaonohi’s sister took the experience to heart, going on to be one of the first medical marijuana dispensary collective license holders in California. And while Kaonohi helped where she could, it wasn’t until another family member found success with plant medicine that she decided to dive in full-time.

“My great aunt was diagnosed with multiple medical conditions and autoimmune diseases,” Kaonohi said. “Nothing was helping her and she was allergic to a lot of the medications that the doctors needed her to take.”

After reluctantly agreeing to try a high-CBD cannabis oil, Kaonohi’s aunt was soon on an upward trajectory. At the time, there were very few wellness products on the market containing cannabinoids. Recognizing the widespread need, Kaonohi’s aunt decided to create her own line, engaging her niece to build the brand.

“She passed it on with a goal of bringing her products from the kitchen to the world, realizing that they truly made a difference.”

“Everyone deserves to be well…”

To take Element Apothec to the next level and further the conversation around cannabis and wellness, Kaonohi knew she had to assemble the right team. She tapped Dr. Mavin Singh, a triple-certified gastrointestinal doctor with experience at UC Irvine’s integrative medical practice, as chief medical advisor. She also brought in Dr. Swathi Varanasi, an integrative pharmacist and cannabis educator, as the chief scientific officer.

The team consulted with dermatologists on their formulations to ensure every ingredient was safe, effective, cruelty-free, and good for the environment. They opted to adhere to strict manufacturing standards, mirroring European, Canadian, and Japanese markets as they go above and beyond those in the United States.

“We wanted to make sure that we stayed really clean and only used plant-based ingredients. There are a lot of ingredients that we can use here in the U.S. that I don’t agree with,” Kaonohi noted, adding that ethical sourcing was also a big concern.

The Element Apothec line quickly evolved to include a range of goods divided into four unique benefit categories: skin health, calming, recovery, and sleep. On the topical side, there’s a balm, lotion, and patches meant to relieve and nourish along with the Belle Visage face serum to moisturize and balance skin.

There are also three effects-based tinctures to help consumers feel “calm, cool, and collected,” “rest, relax, and recover,” or simply “be well.” The latter was specifically designed with cancer patients in mind to help them through their difficult journeys.

“Everyone deserves to be well,” Kaonohi said of the aptly-named tincture.

Element Apothec is ahead of its time on many levels, from its commitment to sustainability and clean beauty to its unique recipes. They were early adopters of minor cannabinoids like CBG and CBN, compounds that have now started to flood the market thanks to booming consumer interest.

“We were formulating with minor cannabinoids before most companies were even thinking about it,” she remarked. “We always look at the combination of ingredients to serve a functional purpose.”

The initial response to the line was astounding, with customers far and wide singing its praises. Element Apothec has already received a fair number of accolades as well; the company’s Nourish body lotion won a Clean Beauty Award in 2022, with the Belle Visage face serum being named a finalist in the same category.

Bringing Cannabis Wellness to Thailand and Beyond

While their initial success was already cause for excitement, the Element Apothec team is also celebrating global expansion, having launched in Europe and coming soon to Japan and Thailand.

The brand recently partnered with The Beach Samui, a luxury boutique hotel on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, creating one of the first cannabis wellness resorts in South East Asia. The property has already won approval to have an on-site dispensary, a major feat in a country expected to be a hotbed of cannabis tourism as their newly minted market comes online. 

Element Apothec is working closely with hotel staff to build out a full spectrum of wellness experiences and educational opportunities for guests who will have the option to take their morning tea with a couple of drops of cannabis tincture, enjoy a facial or massage with infused lotions, or participate in a variety of healing rituals.

The brand is also planning to add a women’s health line and is currently formulating more skin care products to meet a variety of needs. The brand is also striving to work alongside more cannabis brands to strengthen the industry and the message of plant medicine as a whole, launching a CBD health and wellness training program available to customers and retailers alike.

The rapid growth is indeed thrilling, but for Kaonohi and the Element Apothec family, it’s the ability to give back that’s most impactful. A portion of the proceeds is donated to veterans groups, environmental causes, and several other non-profits, fulfilling the company’s desire to have the most impact. Kaonohi noted, “It’s really important to us to do good for people and do good for the planet as best as we can.”

This article first appeared in Volume 4 Issue 4 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *