The Path to DAO Labs

By DAO Labs /

The Path to DAO Labs

Traditional Chinese medicine has been practiced for over 2,500 years. While the heritage of traditional Chinese medicine is much more vast than the roots of Minnesota-based DAO Labs, the journey to our launch has been long. Very long. The journey to DAO Labs is decades in the making, and spans a patchwork of geography, herbs, experts, expats, and time. The team includes: a Boston-born TCM doctor who first ventured to China in 1985; an award winning chef who perfected Asian-infused vegetarian food; and a couple of midwesterners who first stepped off a plane in Yuan’an Province in southern China in 1994, unfamiliar to TCM.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (Traditionally)

Walk into any TCM pharmacy or acupuncturist clinic and the rationale for DAO Labs is abundantly clear. It works. Practitioners and enthusiasts believe TCM works to elevate your mood, relieve pain, aid in fertility, and help achieve overall balance, as well as everything in between. It works, why? TCM pharmacies have a distinct, musty, unappealing aroma, many will have small drawers full of raw herbs and prescriptions are more DIY than pills. In TCM clinics, the people waiting to have their Qi evaluated or receive cupping therapy or acupuncture (among many other very special but hard to describe practices, i.e. moxibustion) look remarkably familiar – they look like you and me. The people who seek TCM are all around us, not just the native Chinese.

traditional chinese medicine herbs

Raw herbs from a Chinese medicine pharmacy. These herbs would be boiled, concentrated and then consumed. Lots of honey and a nose purposely plugged makes the process more palatable.

With a raw herb prescription, the process is like this: 1) unnamed herbs are quickly hand weighted and combined in a paper bag; 2) the recipient is instructed to take the herbs home and boil them for any number of hours until it becomes a liquid concentrate; 3) add honey, lots of honey. While the honey is a moderate improvement, one is typically advised to plug their nose and try to focus on something else while drinking. After several hours, repeat (boil, honey, plug the nose, down the hatch). Despite the horrible, awful, disgusting taste, the results are staggering. There is a reason why this traditional medicine has thrived for over 2,500 years.

TCM has life-changing effects, from the herbs to the meditative, energetic benefits of tai chi and qigong. Ipso facto, the DAO team came together to make TCM less esoteric and much more user friendly.

traditional chinese medicine

One of many pharmacies the DAO Labs’ founders frequented in Beijing, P.R. of China (circa May 2013)
TCM in action – Chinese hospital treating cancer patients with herbal medicine

Guang’anmen Hospital of Chinese Medicine is a leading oncology hospital that uses TCM to treat cancer and relieve the side effects of chemotherapy. As part of our journey, we spent time there. To experience their pharmacy was as curious as it was inspiring. It was full of young pharmacists filling prescriptions among rows and rows of herb drawers, knowing that these prescriptions were for very, very sick patients. Why was it that in the most populous country in the world, in a city that had transformed itself dramatically on many levels, bringing incredible advancements in living standards and the resources for much more “western” health options, that these patients remained committed to a 2,500 year old practice? It was after this visit that the first plan for DAO Labs was drafted.

Our desire then, and remains as much today upon our launch, was to make this practice less mysterious and complicated (which in fact, it is, particularly the latter point) while never wavering on the authenticity. If we could do something to augment the flavor, all the better, but the goal remains to bring the power of these formulas into today, giving rise to a path that’s millennia old but largely unknown in the west. Thus, our passion for DAO was born.

DAO Labs: From China to Minneapolis

We like to say that DAO was created in China 2,500 years ago, conceptualized among a group of friends in Minneapolis, MN, and branded in Brooklyn, NY. Our launch products combine the complementary skills of the founders themselves: formulas recommended by a leading PhD who spent over 8 years learning traditional Chinese medicine in China; flavors that were developed by a classically trained chef, using today’s cold-pressed juices with fruits and vegetables that align with the TCM itself (an extremely important component of TCM and something we look forward to bringing forward in recipes, future blog posts and webinars) as inspiration; an “old China hand” who has spent a majority of his professional career in Asia; a college athlete turned Ivy League statistician; and an entrepreneur for the natural food and supplement industry.

WildAid & DAO Labs: Building a Sustainable Future

Our one collective team rule is authenticity, but our role and place in the world is one of TCM leadership, innovation, sustainability and simplicity, which we hope comes across through our products, our writing and all consumer engagements. All are important positions, but one we feel carries significant weight is sustainability: the TCM industry is unfortunately riddled with experiences of those who would do harm to nature, animals and the environment. Recognizing this, DAO is taking a forward, proactive approach, working closely with our suppliers and their farmers to ensure a humanitarian supply chain.


Moreover, we are supporting WildAid (, a global not-for-profit whose mission “is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. [WildAid] envisions a world where people no longer buy wildlife products such as shark fin, elephant ivory and rhino horn”.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like
– Lao Tzu

 As you learn more about DAO, we look forward to your questions, feedback and perspective. To be certain, the path to a balanced life by way of ancient Chinese practices does not end with the consumption of herbs, but rather through a combination of practices that connect the mind, heart and body. Through The Way, we look forward to discussing other aspects of TCM, from acupuncture to qigong and everything in between and beyond, applying the same methodology of explaining these beautifully mysterious practices in ways that we have attempt to to do when we position our products – approachable, easy to understand, simple.

Feel free to reach out with your questions, curiosities and perspective – we want to hear from you. 

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