A former investment banker (JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs) has found a new thing to invest in; fighting pain and reproductive health concerns in women.
Harriet Chebet Ng’ok spent over 15 years working in the finance sector at the highest level in the globe. It is a demanding and male dominated field, but she did it well. Every day was constant battle to stay on top of the game, ahead of competition. What her colleagues or anyone who saw her on UK streets didn’t know is that for those 15 plus years, she was also fighting a personal health battle. A personal battle that when she won, led her to set up Harriet’s Botanicals…
How did Harriet’s Botanicals begin?
I stumbled onto my own treatment, which led to the development of my product and formation of the company-Harriet’s Botanicals. From 2000-2017, I experienced this excruciating menstrual pain four to five days of each month. I went from one doctor to the next, looking for someone to ease the discomfort. I had surgical interventions too, no success.
What changed in 2017 then?
This is the year I finally got treated. I came back to Kenya from the United Kingdom in 2009. You see, the set up in Africa, when it comes to African herbal medicine is to go to the village, stay there a couple of days, maybe a week, till the herbs are found, sorted out and prepared for you; then you take them under the supervision of the herbalist. I tried herbs from a few local towns, including Webuye, Keiyo, Marakwet, Nandi and other places. You know how it is with mitishamba… somebody knows somebody who knows somebody, who knows the herbalist.
In 2017, I tried herbs from my homeland- Sotik / Kapletundoh and Lelaitich both in Bomet County. It worked; I got a painless period for the first time in my life. This is how the journey of Harriet’s Botanicals started. The question I asked myself, back then, and even now, is; how come Africans do not have their own mainstream alternative medicine? The Chinese have theirs; the Japanese and Indians, Taiwanese among other communities too have theirs.
When you talk of ‘your products’ what is it, and exactly does it do?
At the moment we deal largely in reproductive health medicine for reproductive health related conditions for both men and women… These are non-allopathic drugs; Tendwet for men and Arorwet for women. In this case, we will talk more about the product for women- Arorwet. Arorwet is a fertility product that works on endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and adenomyosis.
All these basically are about blood not going where it is supposed to go…it is stuck in there, it is going into muscle, its forming growth etc etc. Arorwet is a 100% natural organic product; a set of 8 herbs processed together into one item. We use the stem, roots, bark, fruit etc. of different plants. Arorwet is a decongestant/ thinner. As needed, it thins/ softens the blood leading to easy natural and clean flow. It cleans the blood. This is an ancient remedy.
We rid the body of the headache and exhaustion and pre-menstrual tension. There is the getting babies part of the remedy but first, we strive to make women comfortable and without pain.
The beginning, how was it?
My goal was to mainstream African alternative medicine while easing the different kinds of reproductive health related pain that women go through. Women lose a lot of time in a month due to these kinds of pain. This terrible pain affects about 45% of women each month, continuously. I also wanted to remove the stigma and mystery associated with alternative medicine. We started by selling to friends and family. Then I did my research, about the products, at the University of Nairobi (Pharmacology and Pharmacognosy) in 2018. In 2019 I got certified by the Ministry of Culture as a herbal practitioner.
What aspect of reproductive health conditions do your products focus on?
At the moment we focus on two things; the physical pain and the creative function (the process of and about giving birth). Our focus has been on the physical element-alleviating the pain and getting women to be at ease. We are also dealing with the idea of being able to give birth. This is something that is quite controversial now. Especially when you look at the amount of family planning options available to African women and how organizations and people from abroad come to administer family planning (contraceptives) to African women. I have never been to any part of the world, say Belgium, and found an African NGO or a group of Africans administering or advocating for contraceptives in these countries. We are the only people that other races tell how many kids to have.
Nobody quite talks about the side effects of contraceptives as loudly as they advocate for their use…
Women are now exposed to contraceptives in their teens. This is why you will easily find an 18 year old girl in so much pain… because of these interventions. Girls in campus do not want to get pregnant, so they take the contraceptives… the pill and such. What they do not know is that these things stay in the system. So that after 5 or 7 years of using them, and then you get off… the physiology your body will not be the same compared to if you had stayed away from them. These are the girls who when they later try to conceive, they find the tubes are blocked or they experience ectopic pregnancies (where the pregnancy remains in the fallopian tubes-very dangerous). There are multiple miscarriages these days, like 4-5 miscarriages experienced by one person.
What other problems in ladies have you encountered so far?
Infertility in young ladies. People who generally should be fertile and virile. People in their twenties. Ladies whose periods have disappeared… young women, aged 28 or so, who have just gotten off a 3 year or 5 year birth control injection regimen. When they get off, they realise that the hormones in their bodies have been messed up with. No periods.
Early menopause (ladies as young as 36 start to have a change in their voice, they start looking older, receding hairline, increase in weight in a muscular kind of way, hot flashes, possible beards etc). These are the things that my product treats. All of them including the early menopause bit; Arorwet stimulates the body to produce the right hormones.
What does your company do that is different from what herbalists do?
Everything: We process the medicine, we bottle it, label it, offer instructions and we bring it to the clients. We actually have brought the treatment to towns.
Can Arorwet be taken together with other conventional drugs?
It works with other drugs that are prescribed at the hospitals. What we advise the ladies is that if they are on any allopathic hormonal interventions, then they need to be keen on how to pace their dosage. They should also understand the drug interactions before using ours together with the conventional ones.
How much, a bottle?
We are big on affordability. I understand (and have experienced this) that modern interventions are quite expensive. Our bottle lasts one month, and each sells for Sh 1,500.
Which are the two most striking cases that you have handled so far?
I had a lady who because of her PCOS she had been told that she would never give birth. PCOS is a very complicated illness, most patients just manage it. Lots of endometriosis and PCOS patients are told they’ll never have kids. After three months of using Arorwet, this lady got pregnant.
A different lady had been trying to get a baby for 15 years. She had blocked tubes. It also took three months after making contact with us and beginning our treatment for her to get pregnant.
We have several testimonies from different people. And all of them are heart-warming stories of how they overcame extreme pain or inability to conceive.
‘Our aim is to give a natural outcome to the ailments that women have to deal with on a daily basis. We treat fibroids and cysts by shrinking them as opposed to surgical interventions. Arorwet shrinks fibroids. Our plan is to stimulate your body to work the way it is supposed to work under normal circumstances. Ours is a natural intervention that does not change the chemical composition of the body, it is largely psychosomatic; to stimulate say for instance a detox or growth etc etc.’Harriet Chebet Ng’ok – Founder of Harriet’s Botanicals on her vision.
What were you trained in?
Oh, I am a finance person. I studied at London School of Economics after which I spent 15 years working some of the world’s leading investment banks: Worked with JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.
What motivated you to start this…?
There are no African health products for the African (and world) market that are derived from Africa and developed by Africans. In other parts of the world, they have strong alternative health stores. They have practicing apothecarists and practicing herbalists. And they have been mainstreamed as part of available medical options. But Africans don’t have. And when I lived in the UK, I would buy from these places, but the fact that Africans don’t have mainstream alternative medical stores bothered me. I thought some scientist or doctor should be the one to create it, not me. But here we are.