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Community Highlights: Meet Nathan Hart of Tok Wellness Company

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Hart.

Nathan, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up with my grandma’s herbal medicine. Unfortunately, through my childhood, I hadn’t paid close enough attention to learn. It wasn’t until my college years that I started studying. That interest was sparked by a chance encounter with an herbalist at Purdue university who, finding me suffering with a cold, offered boneset tea and some instructions. An afternoon and evening drinking that tea cleared my cold symptoms. In my next meeting with that man, I asked for some suggested reading materials. Traditional western herbal medicines became a hobby of mine for a number of years.

In 1999 while studying engineering at the University of Illinois, I suffered a frustrating lower spine injury. I had severe pain in my lower back, radiating down both legs. This injury was in the way of every activity I loved—snowboarding, skating, running, swimming. A number of doctors told me surgery was my only hope for a 50% chance of relieving the pain. The idea of surgery frightened me and was not something I was interested in pursuing. In 2001 I attended a semester at Qinghua University in Beijing. A new friend how was aware of my injury introduced me to her mother, a physician, who referred me to a local acupuncturist. After the acupuncturists had completed my physical exam, he told me acupuncture was the right approach, and he would be prescribing herbal medicines. I remember laughing, “How are plants going to fix my spine?” He laughed back, “You try! two months. Then, come back.” I followed his instructions, cooking and consuming that most odious brew every morning. The effect snuck up on me. I think it was 5 or 6 weeks into that herbal therapy that I realized the pain in my legs had faded.

To test the effect, I too myself for a jog around the campus. No pain! I kept jogging, through Qinghua campus, over to the Beijing University campus, and back. No pain! The next day, more jogging. And, no pain! Plants fixed my spine! That got my attention. I wanted to learn, but opportunities in Central Illinois were nonexistent. My engineering career brought me to San Diego in 2003. I met Mr. Lew soon after relocating. Mr. Lew, 86 years old at the time he and I met, had grown up in a Taoist temple in Guanggdong Province, China. There he learned Taoism, traditional medicines, martial arts, and other things. He immigrated to San Francisco in 1959 and San Diego in the early 1980s. In 2003 he was making a living teaching Taoist neigong (literally, internal work), a curriculum of meditation and various health exercises. I began visiting Mr. Lew as often as he’d let me, for learning neigong, or his amazing lectures on Chinese history, or stories of life growing up in a mountain temple.

My visits often found him cooking herbal medicines, and each of those times I’d try to get him to talk what ingredients, what’s it good for, etc. Sometimes he’d share a little about his recipe, most times not. Many times, I’d ask him if he would teach me medicine. Each time I’d ask, he’d reply quick, “I’m retired.” But my asking continued, visit after visit, until that day, what I remember as a most memorable visit… On entering his home, he directed me to the kitchen, to the kitchen table, and stacked there was his collection of botany books. He began, “Medicine very difficult. You think easy. Not easy… Learn medicine, must understand plants, where grow, how to grow together, like that.” And that was Mr. Lew’s brief prologue to Chinese herbal medicine. I followed Mr. Lew, learning what he offered, until his passing in 2012. Since then, I’ve continued studying his lessons and sharing my gratitude for him through my traditional medicine practice and martial arts class. Darius and I met sometime in 2018 in my martial arts class. Common interests and complementary talents inspired our creation of Tok Wellness Company.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The road has been relatively smooth these past years. An early challenge was changing career focus from full-time engineer to full-time traditional medicines designer. I invested a lot of time into engineering, and I loved the work. But I wanted a new adventure and more time for personal projects, a big part of that being deeper study into traditional herbal medicines. I started designing herbal medicines for family and friends, I think around 2007 or 2008. That work and the time required to do it grew quickly after I started accepting referrals. My biggest challenge in recipe design has been sourcing ingredients.

As often as possible, I prefer buying directly from farmers or foragers. In this way, I get to know more about the farming practices or locations producing these plants and their ingredients. Tok Wellness Company began with two of my favorite recipes. While the product design and refinement process were complete, we found sourcing somethings to be a challenge. We needed great ingredients from plants grown without inorganic chemicals, certified cGMP compliant manufacturing, beautiful packaging, and accredited labs to verify our ingredients’ identity and purity and the potency and purity of our finished products. Our quality is high, and we’re determined to keep it high. I mean, we’re after quality as amazing as nature offers, and we want our customers to trust that we are doing our very best to achieve that for them. So, attention to sourcing will remain an important focus as we move forward.

We’ve been impressed with Tok Wellness Company, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Tok Wellness Company began with two very special products, each a unique approach to increasing physical and cognitive fitness. Tok Energy gets you going and keeps you going for hours! Mood, motivation, strength, endurance, attention, memory… all benefit! And it does this without any caffeine or caffeine-containing substances. There is absolutely no caffeine in Tok Energy! It can be taken to prevent or relieve physical exhaustion due to overwork or to hasten recovery from physical inquires. Students enjoy Energy to get through long hours of rigorous study. Professionals enjoy Energy to keep mentally and physically motivated throughout the workday. Athletes enjoy Energy as a reliable pre-workout to improve athletic performance or post-workout to accelerate recovery and healing. Tok Support also benefits physical energy, but more gently than Tok Energy.

Support is designed to benefit stress tolerance, mood stability, emotional balance, and all aspects of cognitive functioning. It can be taken to prevent or relieve mental exhaustion due to overwork or to prevent or delay physical and cognitive decline associated with aging. Support also promotes a healthful immune function. Like Tok Energy, Tok Support contains no caffeine or caffeine-containing substance. However, if taken with your favorite brewed coffee or tea, Support will enhance and extended caffeine-related effects. Support is enjoyed by students and professionals required to perform in demanding, high-stress environments that may be mentally and emotionally taxing. Seniors enjoy Support for its ability to restore physical energy, flexibility, joint mobility, and cognitive acuity. These two products, Energy and Support, are each a complement to the other, and in fact, can be taken together without either altering the purpose of the other. A number of our customers enjoy our products in some combination that fits their needs and lifestyle—for example, two tablets of Support with coffee in the morning and two of Energy before an evening workout. We’re happy to receive customers’ requests for guidance on product selection and use. If you have questions, send us an email: hello@tokwellness.com

Any big plans?
To support active lifestyles, to promote great health, we’re advocating diets incorporating more whole-food, plant-based nutrition and either of our current supplements. To get more involved in our customers’ health, we’re introducing additional products that address a wider variety of common needs at different age groups. We’re also getting started scheduling one-on-one consultations with customer’s interested in having Tok Wellness design something special just for them, custom products that satisfy their unique needs. These will be health supplements designed from the ground up, including only whole plant ingredients, prepared here in San Diego, by hand, in small batches, for one customer at a time. That’s just the beginning, but it’s an exciting one!

Pricing:

  • Tok Energy Supplement: $68

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Nathan Hart

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