At age 25, Dawn Russell was diagnosed with stage III cancer that had metastasized to her lymph nodes. Due to an infection she got during her third surgery, Russell could undergo neither chemo nor radiation.
“Illness is the language through which the body communicates its needs. At first it whispers; then, failing to be heard, it screams,” Russell once wrote in Tatler Magazine. “An eastern healer once told me to look at how I lived yesterday in order to understand how I feel today. Yesterday, I was all brain. I lived an overly masculine existence, relying on logic and crowding out the feminine way of letting life take its own course. With the cancer, the body had spoken. It needed a rest. As my journey got under way, I realized that in order to restore my health I had to remain open to all types of treatment, including happiness.”
Russell spent time in her 20s modeling for Donna Karan, but set out on a bigger life journey researching eastern medicines, regularly practicing yoga and using omega oils and herbal remedies, discovering just how intimately interlaced the mind and body are.
“Listen to your body,” she said. “As much as a phrase like ‘body communication’ sounds somewhat New Age, it’s true. Our bodies always communicate with us, but listening can be difficult with how hectic life can be. Being a mother of two young boys, running a company and living between two countries, I am definitely at my maximum capacity. I could not keep up with those demands without fitness. Since my cancer surgery I have half the normal number of lymph nodes in my body, so I have the blessing and curse of a body that communicates loudly and clearly—with inflammation, with mucus, with heat, or in the worst case, my left leg just stops working. Therefore, my fitness goals are essentially communicated to me through my body. We just need to shut the world out and listen to our bodies…Paying attention, and being respectful of how our bodies communicate leads to a healthy body and a healthy mind.”
Russell said that her experience brought her clarity and heralded the start of an important evolution in her life. All external aspect of her life began to remold themselves in more positive forms when she began listening to her body. She met her fiancé while she was ill. Many of her relationships with family and friends matured and deepened.
Her professional life also took a turn. Russell walked away from her unstimulating career in the fashion industry. She began research into complementary medicine in 2001, after being diagnosed. By 2003, she joined the board of Beth Israel Hospital’s Center for Integrative Medicine, as a patient advocate and voice of experience, before establishing the Dawn Russell Foundation, an advocacy and mobilization campaign to increase young women’s health and self-confidence in 2005. Two years later, Russell joined Donna Karan in establishing the Urban Zen Health Initiative and the following year she received support from EstéeLauder, which funded outreach to schools, universities and hospitals.
By 2010, Russell began the development of 8G, effervescent tablets that distill eight greens into frothy eight-ounce glasses of water, when she felt encouraged to endorse the benefits she’s reaped from natural greens throughout her journey. While the greens are not a cure to cancer, Russell said, “I found the right nutrients through my own life experience. I wasn’t well, and was not able to take the traditional medical steps to make myself better, and came to rely heavily on greens. They gave me strength. They made me believe. I settled on the eight greens that had the most significant impact on my health and I was determined not to make 8G unless those greens were included, particularly blue green algae—[it’s] is an unusually powerful green. When I was extremely sick, I consumed high amounts of blue green algae and other nutrient-dense greens and what I noticed was life changing, which I do not say lightly.”
Russell set out to find the best raw material suppliers, visiting farms, lakes and factories across the world. After four years of testing, five chemists, three manufacturers and 263 prototypes, 8G was launched.
8G is composed of spinach, wheatgrass, kale, blue green algae, spirulina, Aloe Vera, chlorella and barley grass that, together, detox the body, oxygenate and help with alkalizing pH levels—thusly affecting the skin. The greens go through a simple process of dehydration with no enzymatic or chemical breakdown of their ingredients. As a result, it’s a concentrated source of nutrition and key source of antioxidants that’s high in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, B3, B5, B6, B12, Zinc and Niacin. It detoxes organs, oxygenates the body, helps reduce effects of aging and promotes collagen, encourages organ functioning, alkalizes and balances pH levels, helps circulation and decreases inflammation. Free of wheat, gluten, sugars, allergens, dairy, preservatives and salt, one tablet is only nine calories.
“I experienced first-hand what [those eight greens] did for me and became committed to sharing that with everyone: kids, parents, grandma, the CEO, the bus driver, your niece, everyone. Not everyone has the time to make a green juice, a smoothie or to make the healthy choice with their nutrition every day. 8G is a convenient, tasty way to boost everyone’s daily green intake,” Russell said.“Over the course of years, I feel like I hunted for, researched and tried just about every green out there. I did my best to leave no country, no specialist, or no research center untried.”
Russell said that in seeking out partners at farms, labs and manufacturers, smaller, family-run establishments had environments that were the most ideal for 8G.
“They demonstrated the care, passion and dedication we needed. They needed to be willing to work their way through 263 different prototype blends. I needed to find people who were as passionate about greens and who valued authenticity as much as we did. It took us four years to select the right list of greens, then develop and evaluate those 263 different blends until we happy with the final result that today is 8G,” Russell explained. “Most individuals and companies would have given up long before the 263rd iteration. I think one reason 8G achieved success right from the first sale is that we persevered; we fought long and hard to create the right product we brought to market.”
Additionally, most green juices contain four times the sugar that World Health Organization recommends to consume in an entire day.
“The raw greens themselves each have strong, distinctive flavors of their own. Combining those flavors in a way that tasted good was perhaps the most difficult challenge we faced…Adding small amounts of non-natural ingredients was something I resisted, but the driving purpose of 8G is to give people an easy, delicious way to increase their consumption of healthful greens on the go. And the flavor profile is central to that,” Russell explained. “The popular green juices sold today have tended to take an easy, unhealthy shortcut, by loading the product up with sugar. You can look at the ingredients they list, and you’ll be shocked. This was never an option for us. Eventually, we realized that Acesulfame-K and Sucralose were the best options to sweeten the taste without taking a sugar shortcut. Both sweeteners are FDA- and EFSA-approved and are hundreds of times sweeter than pure sugar, which let us put in a minimal amount to achieve a taste that consumers would love.”
8G is currently being sold at Nordstrom for $12.50 for 10, but Russell has plans to expand access to her product.
“Our exclusive relationship with Nordstrom ends at the end of January 2016, so while we will continue to be sold across Nordstrom, we will expand to other retailers and boutiques who hold the same values as 8G and Nordstrom. I want 8G to be available to everyone. Exclusivity is not my goal—everyone getting more greens is,” she said. “While we have been so blessed with our launch exceeding all expectations, and with doubling all projections, what really means the most are the testimonials people sent—people are telling me how much their children detested greens, and now are happily consuming them daily. We have physicians reaching out to ask to be 8G ambassadors. We were rated 4.7 out of 5 with Nordstrom customers, which normally takes a multimillion dollar company years to achieve. That was the golden seal of approval for me. It’s been a long journey for us, but it’s really taking off now, and I want people to be aware that they can increase the amount greens they consume every day in the easiest possible way.”