Cannabis, and CBD in particular, has been the guiding inspiration the past several years for Adolfo Mendez-Nouel, who in 2008, along with his wife and business partner, physical therapist Michelle Rodriguez, launched Manhattan Physio Group (MPG), a physical therapy and wellness center in New York City. Since then, the midtown Manhattan location has served a clientele of athletes, dancers, celebrities, and active business people. With orthopedic manual physical therapy at the center of their practice, they have also been able to create a holistically-based program that highlights prevention, recovery, and maintenance. And as a company, they are always on the lookout for innovations in health and wellness.
Recently, Mendez-Nouel has been focused on how CBD could be incorporated into their goal of providing the most complete range of health options. “I read about the benefits of cannabis [and] CBD and heard more and more anecdotal stories about people who benefited greatly, and I wanted to make sure to bring that here to MPG," says Mendez-Nouel. "We want to give people the chance to access everything that could help them achieve greater health.”
In September 2018, MPG started rolling out MPG Essentials, their house brand of CBD tinctures, soft gel capsules and salves that come in "Everyday" and "Performance" varieties, as well as a hemp face mask.
“We use our Physio formula with patients in the clinic, and then we encourage patients to try our Everyday formula or Performance formula for site specific application," Rodriguez says of the salves, adding that, "the tinctures are great for individuals who are very sensitive and [want] to modulate the dosage easily throughout the day." Meanwhile, she says, the brand's strongest, all-natural, anti-inflammatory gel capsule is made with CBD and curcumin. "Patients use it daily when getting over an injury and managing chronic pain," says Rodriguez. "And they also use it after very long days to help to try to reduce soreness from extensive workouts or trainings.”
Mendez-Nouel and Rodriguez say the response to their CBD products has so far been incredible. Actress Drew Barrymore gushed over the effectiveness of MPG Essential’s Performance Balm on Instagram, though celebrity endorsements are nothing new for the duo, whose clientele include Natalie Portman and her husband, dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millipied. During her acceptance speech at the 2011 Oscars, Portman even thanked Michelle Rodriguez (though some thought she was referring to the actress of the same name) for her help on set.
Much of Rodriguez and MPG’s work has been with dancers, including members of the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and the Paris Opera Ballet, whose bodies absorb a high volume of physical stress. A former professional ballerina herself, Rodriguez is also an internationally recognized expert in many areas of wellness and physical therapy. For the past three years, Rodriguez has been the only female faculty member at the Vail Hip Symposium, considered the most innovative event in sports medicine on the subject of hip preservation.
When they initially began looking for existing CBD brands to carry, Nouel and Rodriguez found that the ingredients in many were below their holistically based standards, and so decided to launch their own product line. After an intense search, they found a Colorado-based grower breeding CBD with what Rodriguez considers “the highest possible levels of medicinal properties.” They then established a short and simple ingredient list of CBD extract, carrier oils, and essential oils, avoiding menthol and camphor, which can have adverse reactions especially if ingested, in favor of natural peppermint and cinnamon to replicate the familiar "icy/hot" sensation.
Many of the patients and clients who turn to MPG are in need of efficient relief from physical discomfort, whether from the effects of an injury or intense workout. By adding CBD to a list of services that have grown over a decade to include physical and massage therapy, gyrotonic, acupuncture, meditation and yoga, MPG continues to give their clients the reliable, whole body results that Rodriguez and Mendez-Nouel hope to expand.
Mendez-Nouel can personally attest to the benefits of CBD, and the formulas developed by MPG Essentials. He recently participated in a 28-mile charity bike ride and says that he was so sore afterward that he could not move from his hotel room. Fortunately, he brought along some CBD capsules and Performance balm. “I like to use myself as a guinea pig, so I can be confident that our products and methods work before we suggest them to others," he says. "I’m still dumbfounded by the results and how quickly I felt better.”
The success of MPG Essentials is helping Manhattan Physio Group progress in their other passion of giving back to the community. Ten percent of all sales of MPG Essentials products go to charity — primarily, a Puerto Rico-based nonprofit called Visit Rico, which is building a sustainable agrarian economy on the island that, according to their website, currently imports 85 percent of its food.
Mendez-Nouel hopes that MPG can continue to educate their audience about sustainable agriculture and polycropping as an alternative to monoculture. They also support arts and education in New York City, particularly dance. Rodriguez and Mendez-Nouel say that giving back to the local, global, and creative community is part of a comprehensive approach to health that includes self and community care — and caring sustainably for the planet.
As the benefits and potential of CBD and cannabis continue to be discovered and made available to consumers, Mendez-Nouel says he looks forward to a bright future for MPG Essentials. “We are excited to continue our work in physical therapy and especially in the community," he says. "We’ve got plenty in the pipeline to continue to reach more people.”