The Rewarding Risks of Starting an International CBD Brand

How the Mexico City-born Xula came to be.

Xula co-founders Karina Primelles & Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey | Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Xula co-founders Karina Primelles & Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey | Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
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There are literally thousands of options out there for CBD tinctures. There aren’t any like those from Mexico City-based brand Xula, however, which fuse ancestral remedies and cutting-edge herbal science and testing. Their Calm + Clarity formula targets anti-anxiety and focus with CBD as well as passionflower, damiana, rose, blue vervain, mugwort, and rosemary oil. The high CBD balm is amplified with plants like comfrey leaf, hyssop flower, ginger root, and cramp bark, known as corteza de calambre in Mexico. Co-founders Karina Primelles & Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey managed to create truly novel formulas, and they managed to do it across multiple borders and cultures.

To better understand the origins of this unique plant medicine brand, I got Primelles and Aggrey on the phone to hear about their background and how they built Xula. Here is their story, in their words.

Karina Primelles: I was born and raised in Mexico City, but I left for the US to go to college in California. I enrolled in a course at Oaksterdam University while finishing up pre-med courses, and as soon as I started understanding how cannabis really interacts with our bodies, it was a moment of inspiration. I felt like cannabis had the potential to change our entire healthcare system, and that I could channel my interests and passions for wellness and health through cannabis. After that, I fully dedicated myself to learning the plant’s medical effects. I moved back to Mexico about three years after college, when things started looking like they could legalize there. I was interested in going back to my roots and starting projects there relating to medicinal cannabis.

It was then that a mutual friend introduced me to Mennlay, back in Mexico City. She knew we both loved weed and were interested in it, and she imagined we’d at least bond over that.

Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey: I moved to Mexico City in the winter of 2014, after working as a writer and in the legacy cannabis industry in California. Our introduction was even cuter than that: I was talking to a friend about my recent interview on Ayelet Waldman, and how I loved her book on microdosing, A Really Good Day, and she goes, “oh I know someone who did the research for that book!” As in, Karina.

KP: It’s almost hard to look back in a linear way as to how we started nailing down the products. One of our cornerstones as we got going was the notion of CBD—and cannabis as a whole—as a portal to introduce people to plant medicine in general. For example, in looking at the hemp plant, one thing we saw a ton of potential for was womb health. There are tons of other herbs that have also shown medicinal effects like hormonal balancing, antispasmodic, helping with hot flashes—all these things. So that was our foundation: what kind of effects do we want to support, what kinds of herbs out there support those effects, and what kind of synergistic formulas can we use to make really unique products with targeted effects.

MGA: Early on we were publishing bilingual articles about the endocannabinoid system, the entourage effect, CBD and menopause—all the bases. That educational element is still a big part of Xula, and we have an herbal index on the site that helps further plant medicine knowledge as well.

We were really intentional about finding herbal concentrations that worked most effectively with the widest range of bodies. It took us two and a half years to develop the current line.

KP: We interviewed and spoke with multiple herbalists for months to find the right partners to develop our formulas. After that came the testing of the different herbal ingredients and formulas, and then sending it out for feedback and sending it back to the herbalists for tweaks. People’s bodies work so differently. You can have one, specific cannabinoid concentration that will have wildly different effects on different bodies. We were really intentional about finding herbal concentrations that worked most effectively with the widest range of bodies. It took us two and a half years to develop the current line.

MGA: It feels important to point out that all of this was happening across international borders. Getting the herbs, testing the formulas, the CBD content—the cross-border situation made everything more challenging, but honestly, it was also very rewarding. It proved it was possible.

KP: Quality of ingredients was so important to us that we really felt it was important for us to grow our own hemp. There are so many ways to grow it, but we wanted to ensure a craft process from seed to finished oil—that we would be proud to share with the world. I spent half a year in Oregon helping to get the hemp farm going. Mennlay and I returned for the harvest to help with that, and while in Oregon, ended up making most of our connections for the other wildcrafted herbs there. The ingredients that can’t be grown there are sourced from their native regions—we have some ingredients from India, the Polynesian Islands, and from here in Mexico.

MGA: We hear a lot of positive feedback about the uff! Touche + Soothe salve, which has a warm, spicy scent and is super potent at 600mg CBD and 100mg CBG, as well as the zzz! Lights Out tincture for sleep. But I think we get most excited about the whew! Moon-a-Pause tincture. When people use our products, we want them to feel better. Not dragged down by menstrual cramps, or a headache, or arthritis, or hot flashes—but we also want them to feel seen.

Our goal is really embodied by our saying: “feel yourself.”

KP: As women get older, they become more invisible in our cultures. And they’re kind of invisible in cannabis—there aren’t many, if any, products targeting them. The menopausal products really do work, to a degree that actually shocked us. Every woman we gave it out to for testing said it was the first time many of them were able to cut back on hot flashes and sleep soundly through the night, or felt like themselves intimately. It was relief they hadn’t even found through hormonal replacement. This is us honoring that transition and speaking to women going through other life phases.

Our goal is really embodied by our saying: “feel yourself.” Life is hard. So many things can get in your way. More than just medicinally, Xula is about feeling good in yourself; in your body; in your skin; feeling that your body is an ally in whatever you set out to achieve.

Lauren Yoshiko is a Portland-based writer and co-host of Broccoli Magazine's podcast, Broccoli Talk. She was among the first journalists to cover the commerce and culture of cannabis starting in 2014 and her work has since appeared in Willamette WeekForbesRolling Stone, and Broccoli Magazine, among others. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenyoshiko for Portland breakfast sandwich recs, stoned nail art, and moderate cat content.
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