Erewhon Natural Foods Market is home to a different kind of bar. At this Los Angeles raw food mecca, self-professed alchemist Jay Denman blends what he calls “healing beverages” for his loyal clientele—some willing to pay upwards of $15 for a single concoction.
“It’s the complete opposite of an alcoholic bar,” he says. “We work with the body to regenerate it—we don’t break it down.”
With over one hundred ingredients at his fingertips (many rooted in Chinese herbal medicine), and an extensive knowledge of their benefits, Denman creates customized, non-alcoholic potions tailored to each patron’s concerns. “It’s not a ‘Give-me-a-number-six-and-supersize it’ kind of place,” he says. “I’ve never made the same drink twice.” Here, a closer look at Tonic Bar’s five best-selling additives.
The remedy: Pearl Powder
The claim: These finely-milled grains are derived from both freshwater and saltwater pearls, and contain amino acids and minerals thought to help boost skin’s hydration and improve clarity.
What the science says: A recent study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Sciencefound that the topical use of pearl powder noticeably improved moisture levels in test subjects’ complexions while inhibiting the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase (responsible for hyperpigmentation), but the jury is still out on its oral effects. “So far, research suggests that the amount ingested doesn’t reach the skin in high enough levels to be measurable,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., YouBeauty Dermatology Advisor.
The remedy: Super Ant (Polyrhachis Ant)
The claim: A single capsule containing crushed Asian Mountain Ants, a rare, protein-rich species raised in special chemical-free farms in China, can purportedly restore energy, rejuvenate tissue and protect the liver by lowering the activity of heating enzymes. “It’s great for preventing hangovers if you take one before drinking alcohol,” Denman says.
What the science says: A research team at the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Portland, OR found that ant extracts do have antioxidant properties and antioxidants can help remedy oxidative stress related to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, but you'd get 20 times more antioxidant activity from vitamin C. More research is needed to determine exactly what, if any, alternative benefits come from the ant extracts.
The remedy: Rhodiola rosyea (Chinese Ginseng)
The claim: An elixir laced with this potent herb could alleviate depression, combat fatigue and minimize high-altitude sickness.
What the science says: Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia determined that oral doses of the plant-based supplement had positive antidepressant effects on participating test subjects, suggesting that it may be an effective alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. However, the findings are still preliminary and additional trials are needed.
The remedy: Collagen
The claim: Improved skintone when taken consistently over time.
What the science says: A study conducted by researchers at Kyoto Prefectural University in Japan suggested that collagen is, in fact, absorbed into the blood stream, where it travels to the skin. Researchers at Katsuragi Hospital in Osaka, Japan had similar findings. An experimental group of 40 subjects was given oral doses of a supplement mixture that contained collagen, while a control group of 40 was not. Those who had taken the supplement experienced reduced levels of basal skin impedance (which increases with age) than those who hadn’t, and reported smoother and more hydrated complexions.
The remedy: Quinton Hypertonic
The claim: Pure marine plasma, this powerful liquid has three times the mineral concentration of human blood. A vial will perhaps instantly spike energy levels and improve concentration—minus a caffeine—or sugar-induced crash.
What the science says: Early experiments in the late nineteenth century by French biologist Rene Quinton observed that isotonic seawater collected from plankton is quite similar in composition to blood, and he conducted a series of experiments that suggested restorative benefits. More recently, 12 amateur cyclists took at least four ampoules of Quinton Hypertonic on a daily basis for a month while logging roughly 50 miles per day. Each subject showed an improvement in endurance, recovery of energy after racing and ability to accelerate uphill. These results suggest that Quinton hypertonic may have some benefits, but the studies to dat