Salve company lets plants 'do the talking'

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GUILFORD — It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. For Chris and Trish Thomas, curing diaper rash was the necessity and Good Body Products was the invention.

"We had already been pursuing healthy lifestyles," said Chris, recalling when their child was born. As many new parents quickly learn, diaper rash is a frequent ailment with babies. "Trish looked at diaper rash creams and they were filled with chemicals. We didn't want to put that on our kid, so she started making her own stuff."

Trish, who grew up surfing in southern California, learned about medicinal botanicals from her Mexican grandmother.

"That's how I learned," Trish said. "And my mother owned high-end beauty salons and spas in LA. She was also into herbals. I had the best of two worlds. I grew up using and working with medicinal plants since my childhood, learning from both my abuela and my mom. I spent a lot of time learning how to make healing body products, not products that just smelled good."

But it wasn't until Trish made the diaper rash cream that she and her husband realized they were on to something.

"Before we knew it, we had a small product line we were distributing among a pretty large tester group," Chris said.

Before mixing together the ingredients for their diaper rash cream, which eventually led to the creation of their company, Good Body Products, Chris and Trish had moved to Brookline in 2010 from Jersey City to be closer to his mother, who had moved from the coast of Maine to a home on River Road in Guilford. Shortly after moving to Vermont, they relocated to Guilford, where they distill components and combine them to create their various body products such as salves, soaps, body butters and deodorants. They also have their own line of essential and infused oils.

Chris and Trish, both musicians, first met in New York City working for Bertelsmann, which was trying to salvage Napster, the music-sharing online platform that took off like a rocket in the first years of the new century but was rocked by lawsuits over music piracy allegations.

When that effort collapsed, Chris and Trish moved on to other jobs, though still jamming with America's Sweetheart, a NYC-based band. After that band broke up, the couple went on to form The Natch with singer and bass player Paris Mancini. They also play in Fantastic Partnerz, a Brattleboro-based bar band that specializes in funky dance tunes.

When they moved to Vermont, Trish was marketing high-end stationery that focused on botanicals and Chris was helping to build mobile applications for Android and iOS platforms, including one for High Times magazine that helped marijuana users document their experiences with different marijuana strains.

In 2014, after sharing their diaper rash cream with their test group and establishing a limited liability company, the pair made their first sale and since then, they've been trying to keep up with the demand for their product. Chris and Trish made a commitment to make their products with natural ingredients, as locally sourced as possible, with no chemicals or GMOs and no animal testing.

The ingredients in their products include arnica, comfrey, calendula, lemon, yam root, geranium, plantain, eucalyptus, peppermint and St. John's wort.

"Trish has an amazing, innate ability for the pairings," Chris said. "She has a vibe for how these plants go together."

Their products are available around New England, in New York City, Virginia and Florida and on the West Coast. They also have a strong online mail-order business from customers around the world.

But one of their favorite places to offer their wares is the Brattleboro Area Farmers Market, where they often receive feedback on their products and have established relationships with farmers and herbalists. It was at the Farmers Market that their customers asked when they would start offering products with CBD oil.

According to Project CBD, cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel "stoned."

"Scientific and clinical research," states Project CBD, "underscores CBD's potential as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, MS, chronic pain, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, antibiotic-resistant infections, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders."

To source the hemp necessary to produce enough CBD to add to their line of products, Chris and Trish first worked with their neighbor, Aaron Rucker, of Firebelly Farm, who was growing hemp as an experiment.

"We did a year of testing and figuring out how to best use this plant because it is so very different from all the other plants we work with," Trish said.

"We don't look at hemp any differently that we look at arnica or comfrey or any of the other ingredients," Chris said.

In 2016, two weeks after their Whipped Wonder Butter and the Green Power Salve hit the market, they got a call from a writer from Rolling Stone Magazine, who was writing an article entitled "Inside the DEA ban on marijuana extracts."

"We were terrified about the attention we might receive," Trish said. "But we did the interview anyway."

In December 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration published a notice in the Federal Register entitled "Establishment of a New Drug Code for Marihuana Extract" for the purpose of tracking CBD studies. Unfortunately, the proposed drug code extended the classification of all cannabis products, including non-psychoactive CBD oil, as Schedule 1, the same category as heroin and LSD.     

"Immediately our reaction was panic," Chris told Rolling Stone. "We literally had just launched these new topicals. ... [Now] they're saying there's a possibility — by us selling a topical CBD oil-infused extract — that we are the equivalent of heroin or LSD [dealers]."

Now, going on two years from the filing of the notice, Chris told the Reformer the DEA has shown no inclination to crack down on the thousands of producers who are marketing CBD oil and products containing CBD. And the U.S. Congress is considering the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which would establish hemp as an agricultural commodity and give states the authority to regulate its production, meaning folks such as Chris and Trish won't have to fear prosecution much longer. However, if the act is approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, it will introduce another set of complications for producers — federal regulations that will create a mountain of paperwork that small producers such as Good Body Products will have to contend with.

"The hoops we will have to jump through are crazy," Trish said.

Nonetheless, Chris and Trish plan on continuing their efforts and hope to expand their facility on River Road to keep up with the demand.

"We are able to crank out a lot of product in this little space, but eventually we'll need more," Chris said.

Currently, they get their hemp from High Meadow Farm in Westminster and Mettawee Valley Hemp Company in Rupert. They also hope to continue their relationship with Firebelly Farm. Good Body sends its hemp to Champlain Valley Dispensary in Burlington, which extracts the CBD oil in a process known as supercritical extraction.

"Our whole thing is maintaining the integrity of the product," Trish said. "That's what our customers love about us. We are herbalists, working with the best and highest quality products and doing it the right way."

To learn more about Good Body Products or to find where it is available, visit goodbodyproducts.com.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.

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