“During the lockdown, I profiled people with anxiety into three kinds: those affected by the absence of social interaction, those feeling depressed and those restless and haunted by negative thoughts,” says Kochi-based Nuthan Manohar, yoga exponent and natural perfumer.
She proposes an unusual solution: perfume.
“My customised wellness scents for the three categories would be — a blend of peppermint, fresh-cut ginger and basil for the first, and a bouquet of pure rose, lotus and fennel for the second. The last group will benefit from a blend of lavender, jatamansi and chamomile,” she says.
The launch of Me Met Me, her brand of wellness scents, in Europe was disrupted by the lockdown. While waiting for that to happen, she has been at her home in Kochi, designing customised scents and reaching out to clients virtually to reduce lockdown-induced anxiety with yoga and workshops.
- While working with students on behalf of Kerala Police during the lockdown, Nuthan developed a five-part online workshop to inspire and create happiness and teach resilience based on her findings from a dipstick and qualitative study that she conducted to understand how students were faring during the lockdown. The results of the sessions have been submitted to the Education Minister, C Raveendranath, as a part of her pro bono initiative.
Nuthan’s range of customised scents includes blends for stress, insomnia, heartbreak, focus, menstrual discomfort and winter depression. “Our joys and miseries are often the result of a behavioural pattern. Scent has an immense impact on moods and also affects behaviour,” says Nuthan, who has been researching essential oils and their ability to trigger memory and alter moods for over a decade.
Her research projects have been initiated at St Teresa’s College in Ernakulam. Post-COVID-19, she will resume her work with the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and the Institute of Tourism in Malta.
Explaining the effect of scents on human beings, she says, “Walking past a bakery is surely going to make us buy more bread than any photograph can. Likewise a whiff of a familiar scent can transport us back in time to when we first fell in love.”
Last year, her perfumery start-up, Me Met Me was selected in the launchpad programme at IIM Bengaluru with the backing of professor Sunil Handa, an authority on entrepreneurship.
“He recommended working on personalising pure essential oils (no fillers, no nature identical oils, no carrier oils, etc) because, in therapeutics, there cannot be one size that fits all. We now know that we have smell receptors all over the body, not just in the nose.”
Nuthan explains how smell interacts with us in a very physically measurable way.
“Inhaling lavender decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which leaves you feeling relaxed and ready to sleep. Much research and IP work went into it. To me, a smell has a biochemical reality with an intangible mystical allure,” continues Nuthan.
Her customisation is based on physical, mental and environmental conditions. “When a person comes to me with heartbreak, I blend oils that will help them feel better. The science behind that is that the oils I use often have compounds that mimic the hormones produced when one is in love and now are missing from the body. Detailed research has been done on the biochemical changes that take place. Essential oils of rose, bergamot, lavender have all been well documented for their impact on neurotransmitters as well as hormones.”
As essential oils oxidise easily, Nuthan bottles them in Swiss-made Miron glass that allows only UV rays to pass through.
“It means the oils remain true for a very long period. I have opted for functionality over form,” she says adding, “Perfumes are alcohol-based and meant for aesthetic appeal; they are mostly synthetic. Whereas pure essential oils are concentrates without any fillers.”
“I continue to research ways to alleviate morning sickness, addiction, lowered libido etc,” says Nuthan explaining that the perfumery dovetails with workshops. “It is not just about smelling good but all about feeling great.”