From Byron to LA: Meet the mates biohacking their way to liquid gold

Health & Wellness

Manna Vitality leveraged the world’s biggest biohackers to generate $1 million a month. Now, after launching in LA, its creators are planning to double that by adding gold to their black Himalayan goop.
Manna Shilajit
Manna founders Brad McDonnell and David Reid. | Image: Supplied

In a monastery somewhere in the Himalayas, an order of monks sworn to silence is about to start toiling at reducing 3kg of 24-karat gold down to nano-particle size so it can be added to Manna Vitality’s latest wellness drink sachet.

It will be the culmination of a spiritual journey that began in 2011 for two Byron Bay/south-east Queensland seekers – former medical device salesman David Reid and construction drainage sales guy Brad McDonnell – when they left their jobs, grew long beards, and went on various self-actualisation quests over the next few years – from Uluru to Egypt, Israel, Peru and Tibet.

A decade later, that journey had led them to be sitting, clean shaven again, in a hotel room in the US in February 2023 with fulfilment centres full of a new wellness product made from concentrated Dead Sea minerals and a black Himalayan ooze.  

They’d spent a fortune getting the product formulation and its package’s industrial design right – producing a sachet like a credit card that snapped in two to squeeze out the shilajit and ormus mixture. It looked great.

Manna shilajit
Manna’s shilajit sachet. | Image: Supplied

Now they just had to figure out how to sell the stuff and take a piece of the $258-billion wellness-product pie.

McDonnell had a wish list of 100 wellness influencers he wanted to contact. But where to start?

A friend put him in touch with the Austin, Texas-based host of the Wellness + Wisdom podcast, Josh Trent. “He got sent a box of samples and absolutely loved it,” says McDonnell. They spoke about “genetic liberation” on Trent’s podcast in March 2023.

Trent also put them in touch with a socials advertising agency in Austin that was able to leverage the podcast and YouTube content. “He basically handled all of our paid acquisition … which is like your Facebook ads and your sales system.”

 Suddenly other podcasts wanted the Australians on to talk about Manna.

“We did a podcast roadshow,” says McDonnell. “That’s how David and I operate … [we] travelled in flow. One thing would present after the other, because we did such an amazing job with the packaging and the delivery mechanisms and the taste. It just kept flowing. We just jumped from one podcast to the next.

“This team in Austin … were saying from the content we were giving them that we can grow 30% month on month,” says Reid. “I mean, I’m the numbers guys so I’m like, ‘That gets us to a million dollars a month by October, November. That seems like a bit of a stretch.’ But that’s exactly what happened. They actually had us growing like 33%, 34% some months.”

A recent McKinsey studied showed 60% of consumers would “definitely” or “probably” consider a brand or product posted by a favourite influencer.

They now have affiliations with 20 influencers, including two of the world’s biggest, biohacker Ben Greenfield and Bulletproof’s Dave Asprey. Greenfield, for example, has said “When I drink Manna, I feel like someone just threw the power switch on for all the cells in my body.”

Manna Vitality went from 10,000 product sales a month in March 2023, to 110,000 by the end of the year, Reid says.

Manna co-founders Brad McDonnell, centre, and David Reid, right, in Central Australia. | Image: Supplied

Reid says their success has been based on relationships. “We’re able to develop some very, like, resonant and deep friendships really quickly. Ben Greenfield’s is an example of that. But there’s another 20 affiliates equivalent to Ben… We don’t have 500 affiliates like a lot of companies do. We’ve just got 20, but they’re people that we’ve worked with, we’ve met them in person, and we feel proud to partner with them. So getting content with them, and then giving that to our paid ads team who can then distribute that across social media is how a lot of our sales are generated.”

Reid and McDonnell maintain they did not set out to develop a product when they began their spiritual journey. Reid says they were contemplating the big questions. “Like, who are we? What are we doing here? Where do we come from? And that caused us to stop doing what we were doing in the corporate world.

“We started travelling to super remote places like Uluru, Egypt, the Himalayas, Israel and Peru … As we were travelling through them, we were constantly coming up against these substances that were called like, ‘elixir of life’ or ‘fountain of youth’ … And we noticed in some of the areas, like the Himalayas and the Dead Sea, there were sacred texts and old medical texts where these specific substances were written about.”

Their research start to focus on ormus, which their website describes as “a group of essential minerals previously unknown to modern science but used by ancients back to the Egyptians and Sumerians” and shilajit, a black mineral pitch found all over the world, but especially in high mountains, that concentrates the mineral remains of ancient plants. It has been a staple of India’s traditional ayurvedic medical system for millennia.

They started getting different samples of shilajit tested and found that the stuff coming from a region of Tibet around Mount Kailash had the highest concentration of fulvic and humic acid. “The shilajit we get comes from above 16,000 feet, (4,900m) and so it’s under snow for about 10 months of the year,” says Reid. “We can only access it for a couple months of the year.”  

Explaining how Manna is claimed to work, Reid says that because of its complete array of 92 trace minerals, the ormus allows the body’s electrical circuits to work better. “We look at the cells as batteries and we’re aligned with some doctors in the US that look at the body as like an electromagnetic system as well as physical meat and fluids. Because the body is 99% water by molecular count, we’re giving that water back all its electrical potential, which helps with all of the communication, it helps with the fluids moving between the cells. And ormus is the best substance we know of – the most concentrated substance we know of – to be able to do that.”

Manna co-founder David Reid left in Egypt. | Image: Supplied

The addition of gold to the new ormus product is also related to the electrical flow, Reid says. Ayurvedic medicine has traditionally used incinerated gold, Swarna Bhasma, to treat arthritis, diabetes, and nervous system-related complaints.  

“Its [gold’s] super conductivity is really important for electrical circuits,” says Reid. “I was actually trained as an electrical engineer. So it helps me understand that ‘body electric’ very well.” He says gold is still used in many electrical products, like phones, because of its conductivity. “It’s the best superconductor that removes the most amount of resistance in the circuit and allows things to flow properly. So we can transfer that knowledge over to the human body. And that’s effectively what we’re doing with the ormus and gold component of our materials.”

He said he’d been introduced to the concept in Egypt in 2012 but had put it aside because it seemed too expensive.  But he met the monks in the Himalayas. [He declines to name them because of what he says are risks of “pushback”, nominating various secret societies.]

“We got introduced to an incredible alchemist who was able to take 24 karat gold and turn it into a bioavailable substance that is a certain nanometre and charge. That is really important because that allows it to pass through the blood brain barrier, get into the amygdala of the brain, and then those very high frequencies in charge of the gold can have very profound impacts on the biology.” Gold has a long history of usage in food and is classified as additive number E 175.

Manna shilajit
Manna co-founder Daivd Reid at the Dead Sea, Israel, where he camped for 88 days. | Image: Supplied

The unnamed Himalayan monks are about to start work on 3kg of gold to convert it to Swarna Bhasma and have it ready for the launch of Manna’s Gold product on June 21, 2024.  “Then our next order of that is 5kg and then we’ll work up to 20kg. But obviously that’s a process.”

With the release of three new products including the Manna Gold [containing shilajit, ormus and 5mg of 24 karat gold] this coming June, Reid says current sales of $1 million a month are predicted to double by the end of the year.

The US takes 90% of sales, with about 3% going to Australia and the remainder being spread around the globe.

Reid and McDonnell remain majority owners of the business. They raised US$500,000 in 2019 and a further US$300,000 in 2022. US registered Manna Health LLC is the operating company. It is part owned by Reid and McDonnell’s non-profit Sunshine Lighthouse Foundation.