Drinks featuring medicinal herbs gaining popularity, even with pets

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo News

Drinks containing Korean ginseng, chameleon plant — or “dokudami” — and other substances used in herbal medicine are rapidly gaining acceptance, not only with health-conscious consumers but also with their pets.

At the end of May, Coca-Cola Japan Ltd. launched a blended tea called Karada Meguricha, or body circulation tea. It blends orange peel, Korean ginseng and six other herbs with oolong tea.

“Sales have risen to 1.3 times as much as projected,” a Coca-Cola public relations official said.

The company came up with the idea for the tea more than two years ago when it realized a drink made of natural ingredients would appeal to increasingly health-conscious consumers.

The drink comes in a PET bottle for easy purchase at convenience and other stores.

“It has been well-received by both men and women of all ages,” the official said.

Small shops are also cashing in on the trend.

Located on a corner in Yokohama’s Chinatown, Yakumitsu Honpo Ltd., sells honey produced by bees from the nectar of herbs used in Chinese herbal medicine, including boxthorn and astragalus root.

The various honeys all taste different. Although it is still unclear whether they have the same effect as herbal medicine, sales are increasing, according to Yakumitsu Honpo.

“They are popular with health-conscious people, and are also being sold at hospitals and natural food stores,” Yakumitsu Honpo President Akihiko Goto said.

Supplementary drinks containing herbal substances have also been developed for pets. Wangpao Co., a pet goods company, markets three kinds of drinks for dogs and cats.

Containing such ingredients as jujube and tear grass, one of the supplements is meant to “maintain physical strength” and the other is for allergies.

A Wangpao official said, “We wanted to develop drinks for pets that are getting old or that have lifestyle-related diseases but do not require veterinary treatment.” The company hopes the products help keep aging pets healthy.

Yoshichika Ono, Wangpao company director, said, “Oriental medicine emphasizes maintaining physical balance to prevent disease.”

Nihondo Co., a drugstore specializing in herbal medicine-related products, opened its Herbal Medicine Boutique in Tokyo’s Aoyama district in July 2002, offering medicinal herbs for cooking and cosmetics. There is also a space for customers to drink tea.

Young customers, mainly women, are on the rise, said Yohei Suzuki, store director.

“We want people with ailments, including skin and digestive complaints, to come to us,” he said. “I want more people to know that herbal medicine can help cure poor health.”