The lotion for hemorrhoids that hides grandmother’s recipe and is managed by a garage

The lotion for hemorrhoids that hides grandmother’s recipe and is managed by a garage

After completing a double degree in Journalism and International Trade at the University of Valencia, Carmen Manzano, 22, decided against the family’s expectations to take the only path that wasn’t on the list of future options: to return to the city. A return to basics to throw herself into the void and become a businesswoman, thanks to her grandmother Carmen Serrano’s (Villanueva de la Jara, Cuenca; 1923-2018; 1923-2018) secret recipe: a homemade and natural ointment said to relieve hemorrhoids.

Grandma Carmen grew up among cattle and wandered with her father through the pastures and fields that surrounded the city in the Manchuela region between the La Mancha plain and the Cuenca mountains. She has barely set foot in school, enough to read, write and the desire for knowledge has made her an insatiable woman. At the age of 12 he began to minister in the homes of the landowners. After the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, a field hospital was set up in Villanueva de la Jara. The doctor who lived in the house where the young woman worked soon noticed her restless spirit. “Carmencita, do you know how I can find some plants in the field?” he asked. She didn’t hesitate for a second.

The plants the doctor was referring to were the cat’s tail and another that the Manzanos would rather not disclose. These are small plants with medicinal properties that grow mainly in Valencia, Catalonia and the surrounding area. At the doctor’s urging, Carmen Serrano refused to bring him more unless he told him the reason for so much trouble. The man had no choice but to give in to the young woman and promise to keep the prescription, with which he received a remedy for hemorrhoids, secret.

Grandma Carmen Serrano together with her grandson Alberto Manzano in a picture provided by the family.Grandma Carmen Serrano together with her grandson Alberto Manzano in a picture provided by the family.

All her life, the grandmother secretly cooked the product. She went into the fields without telling anyone and used the moments when she was home alone to lock herself in the kitchen. “First I used it on her who was suffering from this disease. But later, when he found out that a family member or neighbor also had it, he gave it to him to try,” recalls Enrique Manzano, 61, the youngest of his five children. A devoted and supportive woman, entrusted to the Virgen de las Nieves and Santa Teresa de Jesús, Carmen never knew how to say no. News of the miracle spread like wildfire and the phone at 34 Calle José Agraz kept ringing. Desperate because of the pain, every day and every hour a stranger came looking for help. There were always several two-liter bottles available in the house, which the woman gave to anyone who came to her. “My mother never asked for anything in return, she did it for personal satisfaction,” explains Enrique. The woman was a grave and never revealed the secret. “She wanted to be the one to spread happiness. Many people tried to persuade her, including pharmacists in the area, but it was impossible. If he revealed the recipe, the magic would be lost,” he says.

Years passed and just like her inseparable silver watch, Carmen’s batteries ran out. Finally, aware of the social work he had done, he decided to exclusively confess to Enrique where the plants are and how to cook them. “Don’t accuse me, mother!” he answered first. But when the phone rang again after her death in 2018, her son didn’t know how to refuse either. “The avalanche was so big that I was in despair. I wanted to get rid of people who were even looking for me in the factory where I work,” says the man.

Time to professionalize

It was then, on any given afternoon, that the lightbulb went on while she breathed the fresh air on the terrace with Alberto – her son – and her niece Carmen. “Why don’t we professionalize Grandma’s recipe and create a brand?” he suggested. Both agreed but were unaware of the difficulty of starting your own business in a town in empty Spain with no work experience in the industry.

Alberto and Carmen, grandsons of grandmother Carmen Serrano.Alberto and Carmen, grandsons of grandmother Carmen Serrano. DAVID EXHIBITION

The granddaughter combined her university studies and music conservatory with bureaucracy and paperwork while still living in Valencia. “I spent the day on the subway filling things out, asking for permits and solving problems,” he explains. “I suddenly became an older person, with an adult life that had nothing to do with my friends. After spending the summer in the city in 2020, I decided to stay here, against the wishes of my parents, who almost stopped talking to me, preferring that I study for some opposition figures.”

After a long process with several moments of crisis, the grandmother’s recipe became an approved cosmetic product under the name AlmoStop. It is not a clinically proven drug: since it is a non-prescription cosmetic, it is not required to be and is approved as a skin care lotion. However, they are already working on a clinical study with the University of Albacete and the Infanta Leonor University Hospital in Madrid to try to scientifically prove its effectiveness.

The hardest thing, says Alberto, has been finding a 100% organic nursery to grow these plants and a laboratory to make the ointment in compliance with health regulations, without the end product being different from the one his grandmother used to cook Hometown. At 23, he is concentrating on the company’s accounting duties. “We spent months trying to find the formula, there was always one parameter that failed. We had to show them the recipe under non-disclosure agreements.”

In July 2021, they received the National Code awarded by the College of Pharmacists – the product’s DNI – giving the green light to market and distribute the cosmetic. From door to door, Carmen and Alberto appeared in the pharmacies of the towns in the region, without their owners giving them any credit. “They laughed at us or thought we were trying to trick them,” she recalls. They decided to abandon some units and post them on their networks where they could be physically purchased. They soon sold out and pharmacists began to trust them.

Carmen Manzano, commercial director of AlmoStop, works in the office she set up in her home in Villanueva de la Jara.Carmen Manzano, commercial director of AlmoStop, works in the office she set up in her home in Villanueva de la Jara. DAVID EXHIBITION

Carla Domínguez, 27, is a pharmacist and optometrist in Motilla del Palancar (also in Cuenca). “I remember when they showed up they were so young that at first you didn’t believe them,” he recalls. “But they showed us the National Code and we checked that they had the Department of Health register. Hemorrhoids are still a taboo, especially in small towns like this. However, it is a very common disease that can affect anyone. The product they offer has the advantage of being suitable for all audiences and not causing any side effects as it is 100% natural,” he says.

repopulate the city

Villanueva de la Jara, like so many other cities in Spain, suffers from a serious problem of depopulation. It currently has 2,300 inhabitants, the lowest number since 1899. “We know that talent emigrates. There are only mushrooms and muesli here, young people go when they can,” assures Alberto. “Our goal is to grow so far that we can set up a laboratory and warehouse here and thus directly create jobs in the region. May grandmother’s recipe not only serve to cure hemorrhoids, but also prevent the city from disappearing,” adds Carmen.

Carmen Manzano, Sales Manager at Almostop, packs the cosmetics in a sales-oriented manner.Carmen Manzano, Sales Manager at Almostop, packs the cosmetics in a sales-oriented manner. DAVID EXHIBITION

Since last year, sales growth has exceeded expectations and sometimes they feel overwhelmed. Every morning the jars come out of the laboratory to be individually packed and sealed manually in the garage to be later distributed to pharmacies or shipped for online sale both in Spain and in some countries of the European Union.

Gathered around a table in the city’s only open bar, Carmen, Alberto and Enrique contemplate the future that awaits them while enjoying a sanjacobo with boiled potatoes. “We have recognized that the pharmaceutical industry is a jungle. The money is divided between a few companies and we start to get angry because we want to keep our independence,” says Alberto. His father is confident and warns: “We have to be prepared that we will be kicked.” “We are the pile of their asses,” says Carmen. “But they don’t have Grandma’s recipe,” he adds.