Taste for Life: In addition to being one of the founders of Dr. Rigg’s Rhelief, a natural pain supplement, you have extensive experience in a clinical pain management practice. What led you to that field?
Dr. Andrew Konen: My grandparents lived with us when I was growing up in Texas. I was my grandad’s little buddy and went with him to his doctor appointments.
Unfortunately, Grandad was often in terrible pain due to severe diabetic neuropathy. The doctors didn’t hesitate to give him his anti-hypertensive and diabetic medicines, but they refused to help him with his pain.
TFL: That must have been hard to witness.
AK: Yes. When I was 10, my family took a trip to Padre Island in Texas. Before we left, my grandfather said, “Andy, I can’t take this anymore.”
When we returned home, we discovered he had tried to take his own life. He survived the attempt, but it caused a brain injury that rendered him dependent on my mother and grandmother for years.
As a child, I found it very frightening.
TFL: That sounds traumatic.
AK: It became my motivation to go to medical school. I started a pain management practice with Dr. Brian Flanagan in 1999. It’s great to help people, and I love what I do.
Over the years, patients often asked, “What natural things can I try in addition to my prescriptions?”
Being trained in Western medicine, we initially dismissed the idea of Eastern-style treatments—even though most of the world’s first go-to is the use of traditional herbs.
TFL: What changed your mind?
AK: 5-Hour Energy shots came out in 2004. Anything that doesn’t need to be dissolved in the stomach is more rapid acting, and these tiny functional drinks quickly became popular. It gave my partner and I the idea of creating a liquid shot for pain relief.
Around the same time, a lot of clinical studies about the use of herbs for pain relief were being published in professional journals from around the world.
Encouraged by the existing science, my partner and I began testing different herbs, turning them into liquid formulations.
Unfortunately, none of them tasted very good initially. About six years ago, Dr. Leonard Riggs, a physician friend of mine, became an investor.
We began making a powder stick of our proprietary formulations that was easier to flavor and resulted in much more palatable products. There is wild cherry in the product, so it was natural to make it a wild cherry flavor.
Powder into liquid accomplishes the same goal of being absorbed into the body more quickly.
TFL: In addition to being rapid acting, what makes your product different than other natural internal pain relievers?
AK: We combine ingredients that address different sources of pain: Inflammation, joint pain, arthritis, musculoskeletal/bone, and neuropathic/nerve pain. Any time you might normally take Excedrin, Tylenol, or Advil, you can take Dr. Riggs’ Rhelief.
About 80 percent of people with chronic pain are vitamin D3 deficient, so that is included in the formulation. One of the most effective herbs is feverfew, a natural anti-inflammatory.
Another functional ingredient is a butterbur extract that acts as a COX-2 inhibitor. Most standard anti-inflammatories block COX-1, which can have damaging effects on the kidneys and undermine the stomach lining. Blocking COX-2 is a safer anti-inflammatory, and the only similar product on the market is Celebrex.
We also use caffeine in the product, which has direct applications for pain relief. Rhelief PM, our nighttime formula, does not contain caffeine. It includes ingredients such as chamomile, lemon balm, and melatonin, to help you relax and sleep.