Barbara Adam learns about a company focused on the health of people and the planet. Photo by Angeli Castillo.

It sounds like the start of a joke: an Englishman, an American and a Vietnamese-American walk into a bar … and decide to collaborate on herbal remedies.

But Dragon Capital founder Dominic Scriven (the Englishman), Dalat-based entrepreneur Curtis King (the American) and Ho Chi Minh City-based businessman Cuong Van-Dinh (the Vietnamese-American) are serious about their venture, SVK Herbal Corporation, and its LaNui range of herbal teas and supplements. (And they didn’t actually walk into a bar to set things up.)

Named for la (leaf) and nui (mountain), LaNui currently has a range of 15 products, available as tea bags and supplements.

LaNui Chief Executive Cuong Van-Dinh said all the products are natural, with no chemicals or pesticides used by the farmers who grow the ingredients.

“More than 90% of our ingredients are from Vietnam,” Cuong said.

Dr. Tran Van Nam, head of SVK’s research and development department, said LaNui’s products were the result of more than 30 years of research into Western and traditional medicine.Dr Nam said most illnesses could be attributed to four causes: stress; pollution; a weak immune system; and a lack of exercise. LaNui’s products are designed to address these issues, using 80 different types of herbs.

“The goal we have is to produce products that are safe and effective, to treat illnesses that are harder to cure, to help make people healthier and help them live longer,” he said. “ Our focus is on prevention. “

SVK Herbal Corporation is also focused on the health of the planet, as well as its people. Rather than harvest wild herbs, pulling them up roots-and-all, SVK works with scientists to develop farm-able cultivars. This is part of the company’s commitment to conservation.

“We have model farms and we provide seedlings to local farmers and train them in organic farming practices,” Cuong said. “We have to find farmers with the right piece of land, who can grow the different kind of herbs. We buy the herbs from them.”

Cuong said throughout Vietnam certain villages are known for certain herbs, which are usually foraged from the mountains and jungles. For example Yen Bai Mountain villagers collect herbs that are very effective in treating gout.

SVK is currently researching how to cultivate these herbs on farms in Son La.

The corporation is also working with Japanese scientists testing a new variety of reishi mushroom discovered in the jungles of Vietnam.

“Japanese scientists believe it can cure many things,” Dr Nam said. “They also believe it can be cultivated in a lab.”

The reishi mushroom is one of the ingredients in La Nui’s Slim tea, along with lotus leaf and loquat. 

Bim bip, known as Sabah snake grass in English, is another herb used in the LaNui range. This herb is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties. Bim bip is used in the Joints tea, along with collagen and false daisy.

Cuong said SVK was also working with a Taiwanese company to test a patented tea pressing machine and how this technique could improve their products.

“The goal is to bring our products to the medicine cabinets of homes around the world,” he said.

SVK is working on a range of probiotics and a line of detox products. The company is also working on supplements to ward of cancer, alleviate the symptoms of cancer and boost children’s immune systems.

A free consultation service is also being planned, to operate out of a pagoda in Go Vap that works with cancer patients.

LaNui’s current range is available at pharmacies, including Pharmacity, Guardian, FPT Long Chau and Century pharmacy.