Soccer star scores with CBD

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If cannabidiol had been formulated for sports recovery when Rachael Rapinoe played professional soccer, her career might have ended less painfully.

Injury-prone throughout high school in Palo Cedro, California, outside Redding, and college in Portland, Rapinoe suffered a serious fracture while her twin sister, Megan Rapinoe, trained with the U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2012 Olympics. Like so many other athletes, Rachael Rapinoe recuperated by taking loads of over-the-counter medications and prescription opiates, which medical experts agree can do more harm than good.

“There’s just so many pills that athletes are given,” says Rapinoe. “We ultimately should be taking care of our athletes.”

Caring for athletes’ wellbeing, Rapinoe, 35, cites her Master of Science in health and exercise for her success as a highly sought-after sports trainer. Born of an interest in nutrition and natural supplementation, Rapinoe’s latest success is a line of CBD remedies derived from hemp.
“I wish that I would have been able to take this stuff when I was playing.”

Athletes can attest to the results of Rapinoe’s isolated cannabinoid products, marketed under the name Mendi. The Portland company founded four years ago has two lines, “base” and “core,” differentiated by the absence of tetrahydrocannabinol in the former and the federally legal THC level of 0.3% or less in the latter. Mendi can further assure athletes that the base line poses no risk of failing a drug test, and major international sports governing bodies approve it.

“By and large, they’ve embraced it,” says Rapinoe of fellow athletes’ relationship with CBD products.

Sponsoring athletes to tell its story, Mendi has signed WNBA stars Sue Bird and Nneka Ogwumike, professional lacrosse goalie Adam Ghitelman and face-off specialist Trevor Baptiste and a host of soccer players, including Rapinoe’s sister.

“I have so many connections with athletes,” says Rapinoe, adding that Mendi already had signed three new “ambassadors” by August with the intent to sign four in 2020.

But elite athletes don’t make up Mendi’s main market. Anyone who plays sports, trains for specific physical goals or exercises intensely can benefit from Mendi during their downtime.

“If someone like my sister or LeBron James takes something for a pulled muscle, it’s probably going to work for the average person,” says Rapinoe.

Formulated with other therapeutic herbs, Mendi’s CBD is administered as tinctures, gummies and gel capsules. For topical application, Mendi offers oil, cream, bath salts and salve as a roll-on stick.

“The topicals are great for inflammation,” says Rapinoe. “The salve stick is pretty phenomenal.”

Instead of popping ibuprofen pills for post-workout muscle aches, says Rapinoe, Mendi customers may ingest a little CBD tincture, which comes in daytime and nighttime formulas in both the base and full-spectrum core lines. The products promote relaxation and calm nerves heightened by adrenaline, says Rapinoe.

“The sleep factor is probably the piece of feedback we hear most frequently,” she says of the products that promise a good night’s rest while their daytime counterparts won’t “knock you out.”

Mendi stands out in the competitive CBD market, says Rapinoe, for its high dosages and simple aesthetic that “looks athletic.” Matching the packaging’s clean design, Mendi’s base line tastes cleaner because products contain none of cannabis’ aromatic terpenes. Tinctures come in berry, citrus, mint and spice flavors, while gummies are fruit-flavored. Tasteless gel capsules are billed as a complement to one’s daily regimen of vitamins.

“The effects are really wonderful,” says Rapinoe. “It’s not snake oil, and it’s not a cure-all.”

Amid an industry awash in low-quality CBD products, says Rapinoe, it only stands to reason that some consumers remain skeptical if they’ve seen little to no benefit. Continued education around hemp and cannabis, she says, is key for the plant to be fully legitimized, not least in sports arenas.

“It’s sort of a weird dichotomy,” says Rapinoe of professional sports leagues who have bans on cannabis use despite its prevalence among players. And presented with the opportunity of hemp and cannabis sponsors, sports leagues don’t want to miss out on the money at stake, she says.

Yet Mendi has taken its foot off the pedal, so to speak, on pursuing partnerships with professional leagues, says Rapinoe, despite its status as one of the first CBD companies to break into that realm. Without fans in the stands amid the coronavirus pandemic, sponsorships aren’t nearly so enticing, she says.

“We’ve had to scrap a lot of plans.”

Mendi’s marketing strategies may have changed, but the company is still doing well, considering the larger economic picture, says Rapinoe, who acts as Mendi’s chief executive officer. Co-founders Kendra Freeman and Brett Schwager are Mendi’s chief product and creative officers, respectively. Recently marking a year of being in the marketplace, Mendi became Rapinoe’s full-time job in January after she closed the doors on her sports training business.

Counting Mendi in good company among Portland’s other sports-brand icons — Nike, Adidas and Columbia — Rapinoe and her team also benefit from the state’s supply of high-quality hemp. Most of the full-spectrum CBD originates in Oregon, along with some of the medicinal herbs that make up Mendi’s proprietary blends, says Rapinoe. Some of the company’s other CBD isolates come from Colorado, she adds.

A THC line could expand Mendi’s reach as soon as this coming year or 2022, says Rapinoe. In the meantime, she says, the company stays connected with cannabis associations working toward universal availability of THC products.

Shop Mendi, compare base and core lines, read athlete interviews and testimonials and find answers to frequently asked questions, plus more information at themendico.com.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

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