The Welsh family-run business Mon Naturals has been utilising a 200-year-old recipe in its natural skincare products using the indigenous ingredient of Welsh slate, and is now combing the recipe with CBD to create a unique product.
Established in 2016, Mon Naturals, based in Anglesey, North Wales, was created by parachute regiment veteran Ianto Jones to facilitate the commercialisation of his family’s traditional clay mineral balm – Eliawen – a recipe that has been passed down through the generations.
Mon Naturals launched the product at the Welsh National Eisteddfod in Cardiff in 2018 thanks to a SMART partnership – a project in innovation – with the Welsh Government and Bangor University. The company has gone on to develop its product portfolio to include a plant-based CBD-infused balm – Elienaid – which has received a Cosmetic Compliance Certificate to contain the legal limit of THC.
Tests are being carried out with Bangor University and Aberystwyth University on the clay, as, locally, it has traditionally been used throughout the generations on skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, burns and more. Its base uses a particular animal fat, which after extensive studying, Jones says, seems to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Jones is now developing the company’s third cream Elimon – a mixture of the Eliawen clay mineral balm and the Elienaid CBD balm – which is now ready to be tested before it is put forward for its Cosmetic Compliance Certificate, with plans to launch in early 2022.
Where it started
Growing up on a small Welsh farm, Jones was taught herbalism from the age of six by his mother and grandmother. He says as Welsh was his first language, the barrier to academia led him to a career in the parachute regiment – a challenge which he describes as a physical, emotional and mental challenge. He then went on to work in engineering after seeking a career change, eventually leading to working in fibre optics.
“I got into a small unit there and did that for a long time. I didn’t want to go through another war, I definitely needed a career change. So, I got into engineering, which was my father’s occupation, which led me to work with fibre optics, telecommunication, data, and then I got jobs and in the Whitehall, Cabinet Office, Admiralty house – I set up all the fibre networks in the late 90s for the government down in London.
“I decided to come back to Wales and went back to university where there was an innovation programme run by the Welsh Government, which wanted to know if students in universities had any ideas, innovations or solutions to anything. So, I told them about my family’s clay recipe which is hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of years old.
“They helped me from that point to commercialise the project, helped me network and get the right connections, and then the journey of this new career started.”
A partnership in Welsh innovation
The SMART partnership with the Welsh Government helped commercialise the balm by providing financial support for academic collaboration and expertise to grow the business. The company received innovation funding to assess the antimicrobial properties of the clay, and the research, which was carried out with Bangor University’s Biocomposites Centre – investigated both the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.
Further support was provided by Pontio Innovation at Bangor University for trademarking and branding, and from the European Regional Development Fund, and Jones has teamed up with Wales’ Centre for Photonics (CPE) which is supporting his innovation.
“I predominately work with the Life Sciences Hub Wales which is part of the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, and the Centre for Photonics Expertise, which works with the Celtic Advanced Life Sciences Innovation Network.
“I want all universities to thrive and grow and to be able to work on good projects – and as I grow, I want to see Wales grow and the universities to be able to become more forward-thinking so they don’t get left behind.”
Seeking medical validation
Jones says the overall aim is to gain medical validation for the product to help more people with a number of skin conditions, and that future research and development will aim to incorporate the product as a wound dressing for the NHS. The company is currently working on medical trials and Jones says it will soon release data in a number of medical journals.
“I did a thesis for the project – no one had done anything like that before – looking at these compounds and these ingredients. We came into some criticism because of the animal fat in our product. The Welsh people obviously had no problem with using it because they didn’t waste any part of the animal. It would only be used as a waste product anyway and would otherwise just be incinerated or go to a landfill. So, we turned that into a medical organic oil, which the university in Madrid proved the particular oil is anti-inflammatory.
“The two ingredients are purple slate and the animal oil – the purple slate is 55% silicone and quartz. Working with the CPE we have now found the right particle size, so we also know that when it is a nanoparticle, it is not toxic in the body so, if it goes through the blood-brain barrier, the slate is not toxic.
“The particular animal oil is very close to our own optimum fats that are in our bodies. It’s very unusual as there has never been a project like this before so obviously it is something new. So, I’m dealing with physicists, biochemists, biologists, chemists, they tend to be very good at one thing, but I can go from atomic to cellular to try and explain how the product works, which hasn’t been easy, it has been a lot of studying, but when you’re on a mission, you’re on a mission.
“That helped me make the vegan CBD brand, which is just a duplication of the animal oil but using plant-based compounds – which I was told I wouldn’t be able to do. It took me two years and I did it.”
Combining the two products
For Mon Natural’s most recent balm, Jones was inspired by a customer who had used the product on their psoriasis which they had unsuccessfully been able to treat for many years – finding that the products helped calm the condition. However, the consistency of the mineral blam meant it was difficult to apply in warm weather, so, the two products were combined to create a more solid balm.
“The customer decided to mix a little bit of the balms together – experimenting with different percentages until they got to a level where it was still working but it was more stable at warm temperatures and a lot easier to apply. I was sent all the data and I re-enacted the test to confirm it was right.
“Now we have created the new product, which is a mixture of the original two, and we will be bringing out a fourth one which would be the vegan balm and the slate together.
Jones says that the CBD infused slate balm will be researched as part of his partnership to gain data for the NHS, and that Mon Naturals is now working on a Class 1 Medical Device made of hemp polymer to create a plant-based wound dressing. Its CBD balm has also now been nominated in the World CBD Awards.