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Sun Potions, Or the Privilege of Paying 75$ to Get Ants in Your Smoothie

A California brand of supplements uses exoticism and spirituality to sell its social media followers aspirational wellness with no convincing scientific evidence

Take-home message:
-Sun Potion is a brand of plants and mushrooms (and sometimes ants) in powder form that you can add to your food.
-The health claims the company makes are not based on rigorous science

There are days when the turbid waters of pseudoscience rise up, seemingly sentient, into a tsunami. You think you’ve seen the tallest wave there could be, but you catch yourself staring at a massive swell of unpalatable water of simply astonishing height.

Today is one of those days. I stare at a Sun Potion bottle and shake my head. You have to hand it Nitsa Citrine, who designed the bottles. While Alex Jones’ Brain Force zeroes in on your typical male with black and grey colours, angular shapes, and no-nonsense fonts, the Sun Potion label evokes mysticism and potency. Its retro font is both plump and refined, playful yet esoteric.

Sun Potions are not sun potions. They are a brand: deep blue jars of powdered fungi and plants, “transformational foods” according to their creators. They will sell you reishi mushroom powder (“queen healer”) or pine pollen (“longevity & aphrodisiac”). If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can opt for the herb of kings, polyrhachis ant, an actual insect, described in an ancient Chinese text, that’s been pulverized so that it “may” help treat your arthritis and “may”, while we’re at it, increase your sexual vigour.

The real vigour on display is on their social media. On Instagram, @SunPotion tempts its 106,000 followers with snapshots of new-age health, carefully photographed in square displays of aspirational wellness. Their regular hashtag—a sort of slogan for the social media era—is #APotionADay. Growing up, the people who believed in potions and spells were ostracized; in 2018, potions have been reenergized thanks to the language of ancient healing and are going mainstream in some segments of the population.

Sun Potion tantalizes its Instagram followers with a photo of chocolate stars and hearts. What are these confections? “Collagen chocolates made with our heirloom cacao powder and butter, spiked with reishi, lion’s mane, tocos, pine pollen, he shou wu, ashwagandha, astragalus, pearl sweetened with a little coconut nectar.”

Have we grown bored of our food? Are carrots and honey passé?

Such an absurd exoticism suggests, between the lines, that our modern food is empty. It can’t nourish our nervous system. It can’t promote our well-being. It can’t heal us. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals are outdated. What we need is an antediluvian scroll from a faraway land to salvage our wellness.

There’s no science behind Sun Potion’s legally permissible claims. The “may”s and “known to”s run the gamut of rejuvenation and stress relief. The evidence? Anecdotal (“many athletes take maca for peak performance”); implications that they contain elements found in regular food (“researchers have identified in suma root almost all the amino acids”); the old antioxidant trope (“potent antioxidants which help in inhibiting the effects of free radicals”); and arguments from antiquity (“has been used for centuries by Taoist Herbalists”).

Despite this, Sun Potion has created an aspirational brand for itself by selling people expensive, nearly-identical bottles filled with ground-up leaves, roots, and mushrooms, and asking their customers to trade recipes online. What to do with leftover yin powder? Delilah recommends adding it to her coconut cordyceps latte! And just like that: the worlds of healing and gastronomy have come together to form an online community focused on feeding their orthorexia with antiquated wisdom.

Sun Potion’s Instagram profile describes its product line as “Tonic Herbs + Alchemy for a High-Vibe Lifestyle.” Some nonsense simply nips mockery in the bud.


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Thanks to Jennifer Mills for the photo.

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