Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bulu Box: If you're healthy and you know it, clap your hands

The concept of "health" is a fickle thing when you have a chronic illness. Am I healthy? What defines health? Does this disorder that I had no hand in developing count against me being "healthy"? Or is "healthy" only determined by those factors which you have at least a modicum of control over? And why am I getting so philosophical in a $5 subscription box review?

Bulu Box is a sample box of health and fitness vitamins/supplements/lifestyle/stuff that usually costs $10 a box. You can pick the "weight loss" themed box or just get a "general fitness" one (I picked weight loss for some reason, even though I don't actually need to lose weight). I used the discount code MYSUB5 from MySubscriptionAddiction which gives $5 off the subscription forever, so my boxes cost $5 a month. Which is good, because really it isn't worth $10. They only promise you sample sizes, not even deluxe samples, but you will occasionally get full sized products. I've heard that the full size products they send are often ones that are only a few months until their expiration date, but that doesn't bother me as Bulu Box is intended for sampling purposes.

What sold me on subscribing to Bulu is that you don't really lose your $5 even if you hate all the samples that month. With each box you get, you can go online and fill out a very quick survey for the products and earn 10 points to spend in their store. 10 points = $1. So if you had 6 products in your Bulu Box, that is $6 you get back after filling out the surveys. Just for having a subscription you get points each month (I believe you get 5 points per $1 you spend, so my $5 subscription box gives me 25 points a month). Their store has a wide enough variety of stuff that generally there is going to be something you want in it. You also get 50 points for referring friends to join, and if you're interested in joining after reading this review, I will have my referral link at the end (clearly marked as such so you don't click it if you don't want to!).

Pretty box, messy floor

My hopes for this subscription are:

  1. Find products that I can use for energy due to my narcolepsy
  2. Find healthy snacks that are easy to grab when I'm having a rough day
  3. Find products that don't interact with one of my many medications (big one!)

 Bulu Box ships on the 15th of each month, and I received my box on the 17th via a Fedex/USPS joint delivery.

Warning: Please talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement and do your own research about drug interactions. Even mundane over-the-counter supplements can be deadly when combined with certain medications or conditions.

Product #1: MarzLabs Reboot Spray (Full Size!)
This 1oz bottle retails for $34.95 according to Bulu, and the one I received expires in January of 2016. I wouldn't be happy getting this in a $10 box, for but $5 I'm not worried if I don't use it up in the 3 months before it expires. Also, I think we got this product because the brand's advertising shows new, snazzier packaging.

The Reboot spray is designed to be an energy drink in spray form that you can add to water or spray directly into your mouth. It doesn't say what flavor it is on the package (but it does say "great flavor" so there's that I guess), but the product is sugar-free, gluten free, and zero calories. Looking at the nutrition label, the "energy" primarily comes from Vitamins B12 & B6, Folic Acid, and a "propriety blend" of caffeine, taurine, ginseng, and guarana seed extract.

Vitamin B12 is the big player in this energy product. While B12 is one of the big forces of energy in your body, most people get enough of it from a daily multivitamin and via the animal products they consume. If you don't, or only rarely, consume animal products it may be beneficial for you to bump up the B12. Also, when B12 is combined with Folic Acid and B6 (like in the Reboot spray) it has been shown to help lower levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which in high levels is a risk factor for heart disease.

Caffeine and guarana are basically two forms of the same thing, while ginseng can help mood & energy (but needs a higher quantity than in Reboot) and taurine has some research behind it being mildly effective for mental focus and energy. It doesn't say exactly how much of each "propriety blend" ingredient is in the spray, but collectively they make up 42mg of a serving size, so I don't think they contain high enough caffeine content that you'll be getting the shakes.

Verdict: I wouldn't buy this normally, but I'm happy to give it a try and see how it goes. It is kind of overkill on the B12, but since that vitamin is water soluble it is pretty unlikely to ever cause an overdose. There is a chance this product can slightly assist in lowering heart disease risks, so that is a plus.

Product #2: Natural Stacks CILTEP
The sample pack Bulu Box sent contains one serving of CILTEP, or 3 capsules. This is supposed to help mental performance and is "all natural" (so what? poison ivy is 'natural' but I still don't want any part of it!). There is a fairly large warning box on the back of the package that directly effects me: Do not consume prescription stimulants with CILEP. As I am prescribed stimulants for my narcolepsy, this one is strictly off-limits for me.

Breaking down the ingredients, lets start with L-Phenylalanine, which WebMD tells me is an amino acid. It also interacts with a crap ton of other medications that I'm not on, but you should check out if you're interested in this product. There is some evidence that phenylalanine might be effective for depression, but more research is still needed to confirm. Apparently individuals with ADHD have often been found to have slightly lower levels of this amino acid. However, oral supplementation didn't seem to help. When you Google phenylalanine, you get a few legit medical sites scattered in between scam sites and drug forums touting the amazing benefits of it. Keep a few grains of salt by your side when looking into this one if you are interested in trying it.

Next is Acetyl-L-Carnitine, which has been shown to be somewhat effective in improving memory... in the elderly and those who have abused alcohol. Coleus Forskohlii is another ingredient that kinda leaves me baffled as to why it is in here. It is rumored to help cure everything from cancer, to IBS, to erectile dysfunction, but the only thing that it has been shown to improve is asthma and cardiomyopathy (although neither is treated with a pill form). Artichoke extract is include, with the ingredients specifying that it is there for it's caffeoylquinic acids. Google tells me that artichoke has been documented as effective for two things: lowering cholesterol and soothing gastrointestinal upset. Not sure how that helps mental performance. Maybe they assume it is hard to focus if you're constantly worried about your LDL number?  Lastly, we round that out with more B6, which supplementation still has no proven effectiveness on mental performance or energy.

Verdict: Mostly ineffective from the studies that I've found, and I can't take it anyways. Next!

At first glance I thought this was Kelso from Scrubs.

Product 3: Dr. Price's Sleep Vites
This is a powder that you mix with water and take 5 to 10 minutes before bedtime. I am not allowed to take anything that might induce sleepiness with my nighttime medication, so this is another one that is off limits for me. But would it be effective if I could take it?

A large part of the powder is made up of fairly generic things you would get from a multivitamin: vitamin C, D, B6 (does this go with everything??), B5, Calcium, and Magnesium. The interesting ingredients come in the "Proprietary Blend" that accounts for 254.1 mg of the serving. I'll try to go through these quickly:

- Gamma Amino Butyric Acid: Or as most people commonly know it, GABA. This has been shown to be effective for sleep, but only if the individual has an experimentally damaged blood-brain barrier. Just assume you have a healthy blood-brain barrier, because if you don't you have bigger problems that just a few sleepless nights.

-L-Taurine: I don't understand this one. While it hasn't been proven effective, there is some evidence it may help energy and mental focus when combined with certain other supplements. There is nothing I've found (outside of marketing) that connects it with sleep.

-Melatonin: Melatonin is a widely misused supplement. Supplements generally have far too much melatonin in them to actually be effective. I'm going to leave it up to a wonderful website, Talk About Sleep, to explain the proper usage of melatonin.

-L-Tryptophan: This ingredient is listed second, but I left it until last to talk about because it is fairly controversial. There is evidence that L-Tryptophan might actually reduce the amount of time it takes an individual to fall asleep and slight improve sleep quality in some people, but there has also been over 1,500 cases of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome connected to L-Tryptophan that resulted in 37 deaths. It was pulled from the market in 1990 and reintroduced again a few years later. Some claim that the cases of EMS were all due to a single manufacturer's contaminated product, but there is still a warning out that the product is potentially dangerous.

Verdict: I can't take it anyways, but objectively I don't feel this is worth it. If you want to try an L-Tryptophan or melatonin product, there are better ones on the market.

Product 4: Run Gum
Caffeinated gum? Okay, I can dig it. Bulu box send two packages, Fruit and Mint flavors, with 2 pieces (two servings) in each. My favorite part is that they list the amount of caffeine per piece on the back! Each piece of gum contains 50mg of caffeine, which is a little bit more caffeine than is found in 8oz of black tea. I like that it is a quick boost, but isn't the high amount of caffeine that is in many energy products.

The gum also contains 20mg of Taurine, which is possibly beneficial for energy and performance in the right combination, but still not entirely proven. Of course, what energy product would be complete without our friends, the Vitamins B12 and B6. Thankfully these gums contain a reasonable amount at 50% and 110% of your daily value, respectively. On a more mundane note: this gum is sugar-free, gluten free, and zero calories.

Verdict: I haven't tested this product yet, but I'm very hopeful. I can't handle too much caffeine due to my stomach issues, and these gums seem like they have a good amount to give me an extra push on bad narcolepsy days. My mother is excited to try them as well!

Product 5: Tiger Balm Ultra Strength Pain Relieving Ointment
Who hasn't heard of this? This cult classic topical herbal pain reliever is one that I've heard so much about from my friends, but haven't actually looked into trying myself. Bulu box gave us two little sample packs that I'm definitely going to put to good use to battle horseback riding soreness this week.
Tiger Balm's primary ingredients are Camphor and Menthol, this ultra version containing 11% of both. 11% Camphor is the maximum allowed by law. Camphor and Menthol are used in many different pain relieving or decongestant topical ointments (Vicks VapoRub, Salonpas, Icyhot, etc). The rest of the ointment is just various oils, petroleum jelly, and paraffin.

Verdict: Tiger Balm is always a winner. I'm happy to finally be able to try it.

Product #6: Dermis8 Exfoliating Soap
This is a "lifestyle product" that Bulu box sometimes includes. The package instructs you to use it 2-3 times per week over your face and body, but I'm not partial to bar soap or physical exfoliation on my face. Usually bar soap has too high a pH for my acne-prone skin and the walnut shell powder would probably be too rough on my face anyways. However, I am totally going to use this on my legs and feet!

Verdict: It is a cute little bar soap with decent enough exfoliating ingredients for my rough body spots (but not face!). Interestingly, it is made in Korea.

Final Thoughts:
 Even though I can't use all the products in this sample box, I found some interesting ones that I'm willing to give a try and see how they work for me. The Run Gum I think is the most promising out of the whole lot. I'm not going to spend my points yet (I believe they expire after 90 days), but I'm actually pretty excited to keep getting Bulu Box. My cheapass box of interesting, I call it.

If you want to sign up to get Bulu Box it would be awesome if you used my Referral Link to do it (but if not, that's cool too!). Just don't forget to use the code MYSUB5 to get a discount on your subscription! Cancelling appears easy and is done online (no annoying phone calls) if you're worried about that, too.

I bought this box with my own money. I am not a doctor nor a scientist, if I got anything wrong in this post about an ingredient feel free to leave a comment correcting me and direct me to a good source. Questions, Comments, and Casual Insults always welcome.


  1. I'm semi disappointed... I thought the first product was called MarzLabs Robot Spray. Ah, well. Rebooting may be more important than turning into a robot. I was looking at getting this box yesterday, but it had such bad reviews that I decided not to. But for $5? Beep boop boop....

    1. I'm disappointed it isn't a Robot spray. Yeah, I saw the box had utter shit reviews, but for $5 plus the points you get from reviewing stuff...I couldn't say no. I'm probably going to spend some points on PB2 soon (de-fatted powdered peanut butter is amazing in milkshakes...). I also really liked the idea of getting in a box of stuff and being able to hyper-critically review their scientific effectiveness.