In Conversation With… Tom Smale

Tom Smale

Image Source: Tom Smale

Tom Smale combines Western medicine with ancient philosophies, for an all-round approach to health and wellbeing. He and Zoe Lind van’t Hof created Ayurveda-inspired health brand Wunder Workshop, selling Golden Mylk® and all things turmeric. Their amazing products work on the theory that rather than treating diseases, we can prevent them with a healthy immune system (any theory that can help us avoid getting bugs is one we can definitely get behind!). Their ingredients are also 100% organic and ethically sourced, to support Sri Lankan farmers, so are good for us and the environment!

How did you and Zoe meet, and how do you share the work for Wunder Workshop?

Zoe and I met at university in Manchester, where we bonded over healthy food and dreams of surfing, despite the wet and dreary northern weather. We both started in quite different backgrounds, studying completely unrelated topics, but I always had a passion for health and fitness and Zoe a deep understanding of natural medicine. When we first started talking about health and food, Zoe’s argument for prevention through a balanced, plant-based diet made a lot of sense to me, having studied pharmacology and knowing about the molecular basis for chronic illnesses. We started brainstorming ideas for food businesses, but it was only after a trip to Sri Lanka and learning about the many therapeutic uses for it did we feel the buzz, and we knew it had to be our focus.

Zoe is the mastermind of all the products and their design, the “creative guru” so to speak, whilst my area is to try and spread the turmeric word.

We love turmeric- what are some of the amazing things it can do?

Many people will know about its widely studied anti-inflammatory benefits from Curcumin (one of many proteins that makes up the chemical structure of turmeric), which help decrease low lying levels of inflammation from stress, pollution and exercise. But my favourite little turmeric trick is that Curcumin also releases dopamine, a chemical in the brain that makes you feel at ease and happy!

All our oils are carefully blended to complement each other- could you tell us a little about the other ingredients you use, to maximise turmeric’s power?

Yes! We always look to maximise turmeric’s potential and there are a few ways of doing this. Turmeric isn’t absorbed well by the body and will pass through our digestive system very quickly, however, by combining turmeric with a healthy fat increases the time that it spends in the gut and therefore increases the amount taken into the bloodstream through our gut wall. Piperine in black pepper is also essential when having turmeric and it increases its absorption by up to 2000%! That’s why you’ll always find either black pepper, a healthy fat or ginger (which acts similarly to piperine) in Wunder Workshop products!

Our haircare ethos is influenced by the ancient Ayurvedic practices, combined with modern Western style sensibilities, so we love that you blend Sri Lankan philosophies with western medicine: can you tell us a little more about how you juggle the two?

We incorporate Ayurvedic principles in to everyday “western” products that people can enjoy without feeling like they are taking a medicine. We support the philosophy of consuming with a purpose, because every meal should add value to your wellbeing, and so we use ingredients that can have a profound effect on your health.

Your blog is full of amazing recipes! How do you normally fit turmeric into your diet?

Turmeric is so versatile, which is one of the reasons that it has become so popular. I often add a teaspoon of our Turmeric Latte blends in to smoothies in the morning to set my day up. However, I have recently been experimenting with sourdough baking and combining this with turmeric, there may well be another recipe about this coming to the blog soon!

We think that hair care is a vital part of looking good- what is the most important part of your grooming routine?

I have dry skin that often gets itchy, especially in the colder months. Therefore, for me, the most important part is making sure that my face is moisturised after showering or shaving.

What are your favourites of your products?

I’ve been using Sukin Super Greens facial moisturiser for over a year now and love the enriched feeling it gives my skin. I’ve also just started using EQ Sulfate-Free Shampoo with Tahitian Monoi – an absolute dream and it’s 99.1% from natural origins.

For us, it’s all about balance, and relaxing rituals (like hair oiling) are important parts of self care. What rituals do you have to help you relax?

I will normally go for a run or cycle first thing in the morning, there’s nothing better than starting the day with a rush of adrenaline and endorphins, which helps me to prepare for the day ahead.

In the wellness community, we’ve seen a massive spike in trends and miracle ingredients. How has this affected your business, and what are your next plans?

When we started Wunder Workshop in 2014, we never anticipated the amount of press and commotion that would follow. Though it seems as ingredients come and go, we believe that the recognition of turmeric’s health benefits are still at a very early stage, plus it has been used in Ayurveda for generations and will continue to do so here.

We’re quickly approaching cold and flu season- we’ll definitely be loading up on turmeric to boost our immune systems, but do you have any other wellness tips to help us stay healthy?

One thing that I start every morning with is a mug of hot water with a little apple cider vinegar. It’s been shown to manage blood glucose levels, so they don’t spike as much after eating. I think this is particularly important in the build up to Christmas when we all indulge a little more than usual.

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