Ever heard of vegan cocaine? No? Us neither! That was until we were met with a very busy stall at Breaking Convention ran by Karmaceuticals.
Set up by Karma Campbell, Karmaceuticals is a herbal medicine company that provides non-alcoholic alternatives for people looking for all the benefits as well as more without the nasty hangover that follows the day after.
A few weeks after Breaking Convention, The Natural Halo sat down with Karma Campbell, founder of Karmaceuticals to discuss how he began his career in the natural herb industry and what inspired him to begin Karmaceuticals.
The beginnings of Karmaceuticals
Karma began his journey at the University of Westminster studying Western Science and Herbal Medicine with the aim of becoming a medical herbalist and to start a practice.
However, Karma soon realised that there was another way to use these herbs “I quickly realised that essentially the majority of these herbs that we are prescribing for these conditions could have a double-edged sword impact in being able to used for purely health conditions but also being able to be utilised in recreational settings.”
It was his good friend and “mildly mentor” Melissa Ronaldson who influenced his decision. Melissa runs a herbal company known as “The Herbal Barge” which is an apothecary that floats across London. “I was inspired by her to create some of the formulas of herbal medicines that can be utilised in these recreational settings at the beginning of my course 5 years ago.”
Indeed, it was when studying in the university clinic that Karma realised that “essentially all of these herbs can be rebranded in a way that would make them a lot more exciting to the majority of the population.”
Tackling the market
The idea of Karmaceuticals was born from Karma’s previous experience of running cocktail bars at festivals around the UK. If making cocktails is mixing a different blend of alcohol, then why couldn’t a similar process be used with the herbs used commonly used in herbal medicine to concoct an alternative for those seeking an alternative to what is traditionally stocked at bars and festivals.
With the idea in mind, Karma continued with his studies and, while doing so, received his first opportunity to test out his theory at Meadows in the Mountain, where he ran his first non-alcoholic cocktail bar.
How his bar would be received at the festival remained a concern though, “when I first had this idea proposed to me, I thought it was quite ridiculous to be honest, being a lover of alcohol and other things, I didn’t really see there was a demand for this…but when I got to the festival, there was an unbelievable demand, people would come up and see 0% alcohol and think why would I want that and within 30 seconds of talking to them not only were they sold they would buy a load of drinks and not only come back the whole weekend.”
The weekend was an eye-opening experience for Karma and convinced him that the demand for his products was real.
For Meadows in the Mountain, Karmaceuticals creations were created out of a home lab with Karma and another herbalist concocting the creations. Since finishing his studies and going full time, the business has expanded and Karmaceuticals now use ethically sourced herbs, ensuring no contamination in the supply chain.
Goals and expansion of Karmaceuticals
Although Karma confesses that he did have “delusions of grandeur” at the beginning of the business, he sees the steady growth they have sustained since incorporation as a blessing in disguise. He admits to making the typical mistakes of first business owners, such as ordering too much stock, but each lesson has been able to “be incorporated, whereas if the company had expanded at the rate I was expecting then I would have been overwhelmed.”
This does not imply that business has been slow, however. The team at Karmaceuticals (there are 3 members, Dilyana, Pete & Evie as well as Karma) will have a busy summer attending 12 festivals throughout Europe, including Glastonbury and Secret Garden Party, while continuing to supply stores in Bristol, Wales, and London.
The end of 2023 going into 2024 is expected to be even bigger as Karmaceuticals looks to expand further afield than just the UK, such as Europe and America.
Giving back to the community
There are larger goals afoot than just breaking into new markets, however, with a particular focus on giving back to the community.
The first goal is to set up and fund a community clinic in Tottenham, where Karma is currently based. “The idea of that is we would subsidise the wage of the herbalist working there and that would essentially make herbal medicine much more accessible to people of lower income backgrounds. We hope to start in Tottenham and then expand to the rest of the UK and other places.”
One of the main issues Karma and his team currently face is with acquiring the necessary ingredients for Karmaceuticals. Many are sourced from far-flung locations including South America and India, but there is a plan in place to help mitigate this.
Karma is aiming to source a fleet of sailed powered boats as a “pre-emptive action towards climate collapse and inaccessible to oil-based logistics. Being involved in that would be ideal as a lot of the herbs are in South America, but I would love local only sources, but they do come from India, China, South America, so I would love to reduce the carbon footprint by the importing and export of these herbs.”
His sister is currently finishing her qualification to become a Captain, so he hopes one day soon she may be brought into the picture to help this plan come to fruition.
Karmaceuticals is also working with Melissa Ronaldson and Herbalists without Borders who do “amazing work with the jungle camps in Calais working alongside the paramedics, and it’s one of the more unique dynamics set up between the orthodox medicinal community and the complementary medicine community.”
As more people seek alternatives to the traditional offers available, both medicinally and recreationally, Karmaceuticals is primed to fill a niche that for many years has been left wide open.