THE THERAPEUTIC & RESTORATIVE POWER OF FRAGRANCE
2020 . 07 . 31 |
Fragrance is a powerful entity. Certain scents can mentally transport us to another place while the whiff of something familiar can bring back a flood of memories. Fragrance has the power to change our mood and evoke emotions due to its ability to influence our brain. As such, and since the brain controls the body, fragrance can enhance feelings of well-being by triggering the body to relax, to feel less stressed, even to elevate the spirits. Fragrance can also unlock pictures from the past, unleashing recollections of times gone by. I came across two individuals who are harnessing the unique powers of fragrance to effect positive change in our lives. Ruth Sutcliffe, a fragrance industry veteran and creator of the Essential Awakenings® Smell And Memory Activity & Kits, has applied her expert knowledge to developing tools to help people suffering from anosmia and memory loss. Mark Kohoot, founder of Aeroscena, is advancing the use of evidence-based aromatherapy in healthcare. Read on to discover their stories.
RUTH SUTCLIFFE, THE SCENT GURU GROUP, LLC
How did you got started in the fragrance industry?
Originally I started as an assistant to 3 perfumers at a large flavor and fragrance company now owned by Givaudan. I was answering phones, costing and typing up their formulas – back when formulas were still handwritten. One day, I was asked if I wanted to take a “smell test” by one of the senior perfumers and I guess he was impressed that I was able to describe what I was smelling (it was Coty Chypre), so I transferred to the Fragrance Evaluation team. Ever since, I have been very fortunate to have had a series of creative jobs which allowed me to discover an entire new world for creative expression.
What is your most vivid scent memory?
It would probably be from childhood, walking in the woods when I was a kid living on a farm in Arkansas. On hot summer days we went to a spring to cool off and slide down the rock spring beds covered with moss. It was a journey getting there, and I recall the scent of damp leaves on the forest floor, the foliage of trees, ferns, the damp earth and the fresh flowing spring water.
Tell me about some of the projects you have worked on that are most memorable for you.
I have had so many wonderful projects! Some were because I was working with a brand or celebrity who I had great respect for and others for the complicated and innovative challenge. For example, I was part of the IFF team who co-authored a patent called NeutrIFF which created formulas that mitigated the effect of malodors. Then I had the challenge to create the classic Windex from S.C. Johnson, which is still on the market! I did have some more glamourous projects too, especially when working with the Coty marketing teams on several celebrity fragrances that won FiFi awards including Celine Dion, Beyoncé Heat, Tim McGraw and Halle Berry. And now as a “solo-preneur”, I have taken a giant step and managed to develop, market, and sell my innovative multisensory kits to underserved markets.
In fact I understand the idea to create the multisensory kits grew from some very personal experiences with your mother and your mother-in-law. Can you elaborate?
When I was working as a Fragrance Designer at Coty, I used to take my fragrance submissions home with me to smell them in a different environment, and sometimes I would show samples to my mother-in-law. I discovered she rarely could detect the aromas, and then I noticed she did not like to eat anything that was not sweet or salty. I knew a lot about the sense of smell, so I quickly made the correlation, and understood why she, and other elderly people have no appetite because their lack of sense of smell contributed to their lack of taste. This happened to my mother as well, so I began to wonder if stimulating the sense of smell for the elderly would also stimulate their appetite. When I left Coty in 2014, I researched the topic while also thinking about how I could bring an innovative and interactive sensory activity into Assisted Living Communities to engage the residents in stimulating conversation all-the-while bringing attention to the importance of the sense of smell. Hence the story behind the creation of the Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory kits which can be used as “recreational therapy” and also as an activity that connects the family and the caregivers with the patient in a very special and intimate way.
Would you share with me some first-hand observations of the power of scent?
Let me tell you about Tim from the Senior Center in Cos Cob who told us the story of how his sense of smell saved his life in the Vietnam War. He recounted a memory of crawling on the ground of the jungle floor when he smelled garlic and fish. He knew he was in enemy territory since garlic and fish were not the customary diet of the American soldiers…and so, when he smelled these odors his fight or flight instinct kicked in. On another occasion I was talking to a group about the smell of fresh baked bread, and a woman shared her own personal story about the bakery downstairs from her apartment from way back in the 70s. Scent and scent memories are powerful, and storytelling ignited by scent memories is also powerful, emotional and rejuvenating!
Do you believe scent has healing properties?
I do believe that fragrance has healing properties whether it’s psychological or physiological. As a former employee of IFF, I was and always have been fascinated and believe in what they call “mood mapping”. Other large companies have their own methods of scientifically measuring the reaction scent has on mood, and one in particular from Takasago measured brain waves. Personally, I can say I feel comfort when I wear a soft and subtle scent like Metallique from Tom Ford which feels like a grown-up and sophisticated baby powder.
I also recently received a testimonial from a woman who lost her sense of smell and taste when she had COVID-19. She contacted me and I sent her one of our smelling kits. She told me she was motivated to use the kit because of the variety of scents and because it was easy to use. Her doctor told her this is like physical therapy for the sense of smell! She has seen great improvement and is sure the regular use of the kit has sped up the process.
What a rewarding story! And speaking of COVID-19, do you think it will cause a change in fragrance usage?
I believe that the usage of fragrance will be diminished because the virus has affected the income of so many people worldwide. When push comes to shove, they will be looking to pay their rent and buy groceries before they purchase fragrance. I also believe consumers will gravitate to the tried and true brands already in existence as well as to brands that are authentic, and to those who have shown empathy in their actions during this time of trauma.
Do you have any new developments or projects in the pipe?
I DO have a new project in the pipeline but cannot discuss that at this point. But I will tell you that I have gone forward with a non-provisional patent for MindScent®, and the Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory kits now include a Smell Training Guide that was developed for me by Dr. Rachel Herz. People who have lost their sense of smell due to aneurysms, and COVID-19 have already successfully used the distinctive smell prompts with the guide and the kits are now being recommended by some medical professionals at a very large medical unit in New York.
In closing, tell me what has been the biggest lesson you have learned in life? What advice would you give to your younger self?
It is so important to understand global cultures and religions for a greater understanding of people. With that, you will understand how they affect and influence product form, olfactive preferences, purchasing behavior and usage habits. As for advice, I would say “find a good mentor, and always be loyal and appreciative of them.”
MARK KOHOOT, AEROSCENA
Mark Kohoot, who founded Aeroscena in 2010, has been a pioneer in advancing the usage of aromatherapy to enhance health and well-being. In a widely unregulated field, the company has succeeded in obtaining empirical evidence to substantiate aromatherapy’s efficacy through rigorous testing and scientific research in clinical settings. Aeroscena has gone on to launch Ascents, the leading US brand in clinical aromatherapy. Mark graciously spared me some time to elaborate on this fascinating world where scent is both restorative and therapeutic.
You have had a very diverse career in fields unrelated to fragrance. How did you originally get involved with aromatherapy?
Originally I agreed to a one-year consulting position as chief administrator at the Cleveland Clinic when Dr. Michael F. Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer approached me. Dr. Roizen was and continues to be a thought leader in the health and wellness industry, and his hope was to bring that knowledge to the Cleveland Clinic in a functional way to help patients. I became fully immersed in that world by working with him. During that time, we constantly found ourselves uncovering solid scientific evidence (mostly from overseas researchers) about the efficacy of aromatherapy in clinical settings.
Western culture has a skeptical relationship with aromatherapy. Why do you think that is?
I would say that Western medical culture has a skeptical relationship with aromatherapy, but not Western culture in general. The aromatherapy and essential oil markets continue to grow exponentially in the US, and in Europe, in particular, scientific research into the ways in which essential oils can positively affect wellness has been happening for many years. More recently, it has picked up in the United States as well, since more people have started to make wellness a priority, and, especially, more natural ways of achieving good health. This is especially true now that COVID-19 has made it clear that everything in and around our environments can affect our personal wellness.
How did Aeroscena come into being?
The essential oil industry was (and is), unfortunately, not the most transparent in terms of claims, or consistent in their standardization of oils or formulas, or even their quality. We realized that if we could apply scientific principles to essential oils, generating clear empirical evidence of their efficacy, and design a way for health care professionals to administer them safely in clinical environments, we would be able to do several different things:
•Help protect consumers from false or misleading information and claims made by many essential oil companies by providing research results to back up our products’ claims,
•Develop a non-invasive, effective, and safe way for medical personnel to provide symptomatic relief to patients in clinical settings,
•Create a lighthouse aromatherapy brand rooted in scientific research and designed specifically for the needs of medical professionals, but also available to consumers seeking only the highest-quality products for personal use.
So when creating the Aeroscena line of products our philosophy has been centered on transparency and consistency in all we do, thinking first about how health care professionals can most effectively administer aromatherapy to their patients. Everything needs to have a grounding in fact and science.
What kind of results can come through the use of aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy works by triggering the body’s own internal chemistry function to create a desired response. It can mitigate symptoms in order to enhance overall well-being.
For example, if a cancer patient is undergoing chemotherapy infusion, there are many, many side effects, including nausea, anxiety, and exhaustion. Aeroscena has developed a number of formulas to help chemotherapy patients manage their symptoms more easily, including Nausea Relief, Calm, and Energize. This means less discomfort for patients, and a greater sense of well-being, as well as feeling more in control over their symptoms without adding additional drugs to their already complicated regimens. In fact, we worked with Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL last year and found that patients who used our aromatherapy formulas experienced less stress and nausea, and those results lasted at approximately the same levels of relief for all five months of their treatment.
Would you share with me some first-hand observations of the power of scent?
We have been fortunate to see some really amazing results thanks to our research partners. One of the best was a study done at Nebraska Children’s Hospital (Omaha) in their palliative care unit. Finding out we were able to make children more comfortable in that type of environment was truly one of our favorite moments.
A case from an early study we did at Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC on post-operative nausea was particularly memorable and powerful. A 6-year-old girl experienced debilitating nausea after her surgery. The usual protocol of Zofran failed. A nurse had one of our nausea relief packets, which immediately brought relief. The note from her parents is something I won’t ever forget.
Do you have new projects in the pipe?
We are currently involved in a clinical trial examining the effect of aromatherapy on knee replacement surgery patients’ pain, in hopes that it will be effective enough to reduce the need for postoperative opioid painkillers. The initial results look very promising. We also are working on a morning sickness trial, for a formula that seems extremely effective in reducing pregnancy-related nausea and emesis.
What is your biggest lesson learned? What would you tell your younger self if you could?
As a first-time entrepreneur, I had no idea how difficult it would be at times. The amount of capital needed to create and launch a business in the healthcare sector is substantial, and it is nearly impossible to do without significant financial backing. I would tell my younger self that if I was going to follow an entrepreneurial path to be sure to gain a solid grasp of corporate finance and capital funding, as well as operations. But above all, value authenticity. Be authentic with your partners and team, your investors and above all your customers.