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In harmony with nature

Alexander Helm has been interested in medicine and pharmacy practically from birth. Now 35, he was just four when he started to help his mom, Ute, to sort boxes and bottles at her pharmacy. Back then, in the 1980s, she was already working with the active ingredients in medicinal plants, various preparations, and how they affect people's well-being. To this day, mother and son continue to trust in the healing power of nature, and while Ute Helm still stands behind the counter at the Central-Apotheke, her pharmacy in Werdau, her son finished his studies of pharmacy in 2016 and started his own company, Casida GmbH & Co. KG, making his own natural health products, dietary supplements, and natural cosmetics. The company has been a huge success, with customers flocking to natural products, as Alexander Helm tells us.

Mr. Helm, you’re a pharmacist like your mom, and the plan was for you to take over her pharmacy from her one day. How did you end up taking a different path?

When I finished my degree, I wanted to gain some experience first, so I started substituting for pharmacists all over Germany. Whenever someone went on vacation or was absent for other reasons, I jumped in. I got to know a lot of different facets of the industry, and it wasn’t long before I started thinking about starting my own company that would supply pharmacies.

Where did you get your belief in the healing power of nature?

I grew up with it. My mom was always interested in medicinal plants and preparations using them. Later on, she made plant-based products according to her own formulas, and customers at her pharmacy found them really helpful. We wanted to offer products like those to a broader audience, and so Casida was born. The company is my baby. It’s really a dream come true.

[Translate to Englisch:] Die Produkte von Casida basieren auf natürlichen Inhaltsstoffen. Foto©: Casida

What does Casida stand for?

Casida was born of a passion for helping advance human health in harmony with nature. Each and every product we sell is a combination of pharmaceutical expertise and experience with naturopathy. Casida stands for the utmost in quality, natural ingredients, and purity. You can see that from the short ingredient lists, for example. Anything we can leave out, we do, like dyes, fragrances, and preservatives. And we use organic ingredients wherever possible. We now have over 80 products in our range, from plant-based treatments for nail fungus and hemorrhoids to high-quality clean cosmetics and natural dietary supplements. We also offer pure, natural essential oils.

The judges for the Sächsischer Gründerpreis, a prize for founders in Saxony, were obviously convinced. They named you Saxony’s Startup of the Year in 2021. What does this award mean to you?
It was a huge honor for us.

It was also awesome to see how much reporting there was in the regional media. That really helped us become better known here in Saxony.

[Translate to Englisch:] Ätherische Öle erfrischen dank eines Diffusers die Wohnräume. Foto©: Casida

What were your biggest challenges in the early years, both personally and as a businessman?

Building your own brand takes a lot of self-discipline and good time management. The biggest challenge for me personally has been that my responsibilities are constantly growing. And unlike many other early-stage brands, we don’t have an investor with deep pockets or a parent company behind us. We had to turn a profit from the start.

What distinguishes your products from those made by other makers of plant-based natural products?

A lot of natural cosmetics or natural medicine brands belong to large conglomerates, which just want to have a “green” brand as part of their portfolio for image reasons. The big advantage of small, owner-operated brands like Casida is that they can operate independently of lobbying or group specifications. We also make as many of our products as possible locally, right at our company site in Werdau. That helps us keep things local and strengthen our own area.

Do you also use plants that only grow in Saxony as ingredients?

In terms of climate alone, Saxony would be a good place to grow plants with medicinal uses, but the incentives just aren’t there in agriculture right now. That might change, though. For example, we’re seeing the first efforts to grow medical cannabis in Saxony right now. Traditional medicinal plants would also be conceivable, of course.

What do you promise with your products?

Casida products are pure and natural, produced in pharmacy quality, and of course they are never tested on animals. We select the best ingredients, refrain from using chemical or synthetic additives, and ensure that we do business sustainably across every area of the enterprise. A large portion of our product range is vegan, for example, so those products are suitable for those cultivating a lifestyle fit for the future.

Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?

We aim to become a fixture of the highly competitive pharmacy market, further strengthen the Casida brand, and tap into new markets, especially raising our profile in Switzerland and Austria.

[Translate to Englisch:] Die ätherische Öle sind vegan und tierversuchsfrei. Foto©: Casida


Casida, a Werdau-based maker of pharmacy-quality natural health products, keeps things local.

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