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This New Japanese-Inspired Line Helped Me Beat My First Post-COVID Cold

OEM takes cues from Vaporub, Gatorade, and fancy skincare but with a modern twist, harnessing the powers of traditional plant extracts and CBD.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
June 29, 2021, 9:29pm
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Photo courtesy of OEM

Alright, I got a little cocky after getting vaccinated (even though I got the somewhat cursed Johnson & Johnson shot). After a year of stuffing my face with elderberry gummies every day and spiraling every time I had even the vaguest suggestion of post-nasal drip, I finally felt like I could emerge into the world with a newly jacked immune system. And for a couple of months, I enjoyed karaoke house parties, indoor dining, and maskless hangs without so much as a sniffle. 

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I awoke in a haze, the back of my throat sandpapery and itchy. A vat of piping-hot black tea did nothing to rouse my psyche from its fog. Allergies? Or worse, one of those weird post-vax breakthrough cases of COVID?! I took a COVID test and a Claritin. It turned out to be neither; it was just a run-of-the-mill, shitty, no-good cold

I had forgotten how disruptive the common cold is. It had been a solid year and a half since I'd been sick in any capacity, really (minus a disturbingly terrible, vomitous hangover that resulted from a mere two prickly pear frozen margaritas when I got overly excited about returning to my favorite Mexican restaurant post-vax and didn't account for the plummet in my alcohol tolerance). I started sneezing. I could barely focus. I felt like a damp, crumpled-up tissue on the floor of an airport bathroom—one that didn't even make it into a trash can. 

Blessedly, I had just received samples of OEM, a brand new line of Japanese-inspired cold remedies that blends "the familiar bedside table cold remedies of our youth" with some key ingredients from Japanese and Scottish traditions… and, with our close friend cannabidiol, a.k.a. CBD. Despite the lousiness of getting sick, the line's arrival was truly a fortuitous coincidence, and I was willing to try anything to feel better ASAP. 

Created by Shun Kinoshita and Ceilidh MacLeod, OEM (which stands for “On Earth Momentarily”) is meant to combine modern design (the packaging is minimalist-chic, in a soothing, simple color palette) with an emphasis on the notion of "care," not just for ourselves, but within our communities. Kinoshita and MacLeod note that both of the communities in which they grew up—for Kinoshita, in Japan, and for MacLeod, in a "small Scottish glen"—are places where a "culture of taking care of others runs deep." (Maybe unrelated, maybe not: Both Scotland and Japan also crush the whisky game.) Culturally, the timing feels spot-on; "If the past year has taught us anything, it's that the thought and care of others is indispensable," the brand notes. 

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OEM co-founders Shun Kinoshita and Ceilidh MacLeod, looking like a 90s album cover. Photo: OEM

The line, which launched today, features a multitude of products you might want if you're starting to feel under the weather: a hemp- and vitamin-infused electrolyte drink, sort of like a cross between Gatorade and Emergen-C with a Recess twist; a congestion-clearing menthol cream made with hinoki (Japanese cypress); CBD lip balm and skin-repairing balms; and hinoki hand sanitizer. It's basically a self-care kit for when you first start getting that dreaded feeling that you're soon to be an achy, sneezing, germy mess. 

OEM

Rehydrating Drink Pack (6-Pack)

I started my OEM journey by practically chugging the Rehydrating Drink, in hopes that it could squash my incoming upper respiratory infection with a firehose blast of vitamins (A, B3, B6, B12, and C), while chilling out my red-alert hypochondria with a mellowing blend of L-theanine (the stuff in tea that gives you that "relieved emoji" feeling of coziness) and 10 milligrams of broad-spectrum hemp extract. It had a light, pleasant citrus taste like a less-artificial version of Gatorade, and did make me quickly feel hydrated, although maybe just from the Pavlovian memory of chugging Pedialyte while hung over or Powerade after a high school volleyball game.

After finishing one can, I immediately wanted another, for better or for worse; I wish it came in a water-cooler-sized vat that I could fill a glass from whenever I felt even the slightest sniffle. It also seems like it would be amazing for hangovers, post-workout, or bad-vibes days—any time when you wanna crank your electrolyte and vitamin intake.

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The back of the can. Always read the back of the can. Photo: OEM.

I didn't really feel the CBD, but that could be for a couple of reasons: First of all, because my tolerance is such that I rarely feel CBD in concentrations of less than 25 milligrams a beverage, and secondly, because I was already in a daze as my immune system engaged in a Game of Thrones-esque battle with whatever germs I had inhaled upon returning to the grimy bars of LA that I had missed so dearly. At $29 for a six-pack, the rehydrating drink is not exactly cheap, but it's on-par with what you'd pay for any "adaptogenic" beverage from an LA grocery store, and probably better for you.

OEM

Soothing Cream (Hinoki Menthol)

Next up, I decided to give the Soothing Cream a try. Menthol is magical stuff, so I knew that no matter what, it would probably offer a bit of relief for my snot-clogged nasal passages, but I had never liked using Vaporub because of how greasy it is. Upon first touch, the Soothing Cream felt more like a high-end moisturizer—a weightless cumulus cloud of cooling mintiness. Its base is shea butter, which is gentle on the skin and easily absorbed, and it also contains extracts of green tea, strawberry, blueberry, sunflower, and rosemary, a sweet little bouquet of botanicals, indeed. Each jar contains 500 milligrams of CBD, a generous amount that matches or even exceeds what you'd find in many CBD ointments formulated for pain relief.

I wasn't super-familiar with the powers of hinoki, also a primary ingredient, until I did a little research—and wow! That stuff is cool. Multiple legit studies published in actual scientific journals (like this one and this one) have shown that smelling and touching hinoki induces a response of physiological relaxation. And IDK about you, but I love to relax. In Japan, it's long been popular to include hinoki wood furniture in your home because even just smelling the wood (or touching it with your feet!) can help promote chillness and harmony, two things we stan. (BRB, buying a hinoki bath mat.) 

I rubbed the Soothing Cream on my neck and throat, and immediately felt that lovely tingling as well as felt my sinuses croon a harmonious song of clear-breathing happiness. I reapplied every couple of hours and also enjoyed feeling like my neck was super-moisturized. We all look at our phones too much, and nobody likes premature neck wrinkles. Overall, it was a joy to use, and I'll be keeping this stuff on hand for future colds, allergies, and sinus infections, for sure. It's $49 a jar, which is definitely up the ladder from, say, Vaporub—but does Vaporub make you feel like you're getting a brain massage in Oprah's laundry room? Yeah, didn't think so. 

OEM

Restoring Ointment (Fragrance-free)

Unfortunately, coinciding with my First Cold of 2021™ was a merciless sunburn on the back of my neck, obtained by wearing pigtails (... always a mistake) for several hours in the blazing sun while flea market shopping at the Rose Bowl. Yes, I found an amazing vintage Criss Angel MINDFREAK shirt, but at the cost of positively scorching my apparently delicate back-of-neck skin.

I decided to test-run the Restoring Ointment—which is formulated for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns as well as general dry skin issues—on my wound of stupidity. The ointment contains Japanese camellia seed oil, an ingredient I recognize from the expensive skincare products that I love to blow my money on (shoutout @ Tatcha). It's gentle and repairing, as well as packed with antioxidants. The cream also has many of the same fruit and plant extracts as the menthol rub (those of strawberry, blueberry, and green tea, as well as coffee, cloudberry, raspberry, and cranberry); ceramide AP, which creates a protective barrier on your skin and is best known as the star ingredient of dermatologist fave CeraVe; petrolatum, which is essentially Vaseline; and CBD, because why not?

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I rubbed the ointment on my neck liberally a couple of times a day, and within about 72 hours, it had healed without peeling, which felt like an achievement for my incredible pale and sensitive skin that usually howls with anger for a couple of weeks after a gnarly sunburn. 

OEM

Hand Sanitizer 2-Pack (Hinoki)

OEM

Nourishing Lip Balm (Fragrance-free)

OEM

Nourishing Lip Balm (Menthol)

The lip balm and hand sanitizer are nicely packaged, high-end versions of what they are, although I am admittedly fickle when it comes to brands in those categories. (I've truly lost track of how many lip balms I own, but it's staggering.) But when it comes to OEM's soothing drink and creams, I was genuinely impressed. 

We definitely know that getting sick sucks. In fact, it's pretty much all we've thought about since early 2020. But if we can feel like we're being restored by a stroll through a Japanese cypress forest or a nap on the moss of a small Scottish glen—hell, we'll take it.


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