For more than a decade, vomiting and fainting were par for the course for Chelsea Leyland, a DJ and activist working to de-stigmatize cannabis and epilepsy. Over the years, Leyland would go to physicians to try to deal with her pain but was met with the same dismissive response every time, being told “it’s normal.” This is partly why it took years for the her to be diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that affects around one in 10 people who experience periods yet takes on average seven to 10 years to diagnose. With no cure for endometriosis, Leyland sought her own solution, delving into botanicals and Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Years of research and experience eventually led to Looni, a menstrual-health company dedicated to improving period literacy and autonomy.
Founded by Leyland and Tatiana Steel, Looni launched last month with the Balance Beam Mood Complex which is a supplement designed to target mood swings and cravings brought on by periods. “Every day of our cycle, the optimal balance of our hormones is extremely delicate,” says Steel. That’s why the supplement “focuses on being flexible support for balance every day.” Driven by a branded version of L-Theanine, 5-HTP and Ashwagandha, the complex balances hormones and neurotransmitters, helping to boost serotonin levels.
Historically most research and solutions centered on managing period symptoms have come from men, but Looni exclusively focuses on women-run studies and advice. This is a core tenet of Looni’s ethos, as Steel and Leyland know firsthand the effects of medical misogyny. “We’ve normalized pain for women—that’s a huge problem because of this systemic bias,” Leyland explains. Not only are many women—especially those who aren’t white—being gaslighted into believing their pain is minimal or normal by doctors (when in fact around 80% of women report menstrual pain with 90% experiencing symptoms in general), the founder notes how women are also often separated from knowledge about their bodies in the first place. “Periods are taboo. Women have been excluded from clinical trials for the longest time. We haven’t been included in this research.”
To push back against male-dominated studies and be transparent about their practices, Looni is open about their medical advisory board, a team of all-women medical experts who advise on their products. Comprised of one of the few woman urologists in the world, Dr Lauren B Schulz; hormone optimization specialist Dr Jaclyn Tolentino; gynecologist, pelvic pain advocate and associate professor Susan Evans and others; the board ensures that Looni’s supplements are backed by Western and Eastern science without perpetuating the biases common in the industry. In fact, “a lot of the physicians that we were talking to also said that they weren’t finding good solutions to offer patients,” says Leyland. In this way, Looni’s supplements fill a critical gap in healthcare.
While science drives the efficacy of Looni’s formula, natural and clean ingredients make sure that these components are delivered in a healthy and potent way. Unlike many other supplements, all of Looni’s Balance Beam ingredients are optimized for bioavailability and thus integrated into the body. Leyland spent almost a year touring farms across the US, looking at biodynamic practices and cultivation. Now, half of their components are sourced from the US with the other half coming from where they’re grown best, like Ashwagandha from India for instance.
After finding the best of their elements, the founders distilled their formula into a single capsule with a functional design that also happens to shimmer. “It’s divided into two parts,” Steel notes. “You’ve got the powdered ingredients and then the oil ingredients separated by a vegan membrane. That’s really been a game-changer in terms of what’s out there on the market, because we can fit really concentrated high doses of all these clinically proven ingredients into just two capsules.”
The company’s mission, however, extends beyond supplements. “A lot of it comes down to education,” Leyland tells us. “Women are sort of starting from this body deficit; we don’t know anything about our bodies. Really we’ve only started to track our periods in the last few years—how helpful would that have been if we’d been taught that at 13 years old? That’s why at Looni we talk a lot about living in sync with our cycles.” Throughout the platform’s newsletter and on social media, the founders share statistics and anecdotes about managing periods that validate how disruptive they can really be.
Despite launching less than a month ago, Looni is busting archaic myths that still surround menstruation, aiming to force the medical and healthcare industries to reckon with its biases. In doing so, the company has already generated a growing community on Geneva of those who finally feel seen when talking about their period. “I started building community amongst the epilepsy community and then last August I suffered from an ectopic pregnancy and lost a baby and then lost another baby a few months later—which unfortunately goes hand in hand with my endometriosis—then I started building a community for women with endometriosis and women suffering from infertility. I know that I wouldn’t be here or wouldn’t have been able to build Looni had I not had that support from that community,” says Leyland. “So that’s really at the core of of what we’re doing.”
Images courtesy of Looni