Aroma RockIts use fragrance to rock the senses
It’s Monday morning. Jenny Thomas, a student at the University of Memphis, is tired, cranky and out of coffee. She needs a pick-me-up, so she reaches in her purse to find her BrainCandy, an on-the-go aromatherapy elixir.
She untwists the orange cap and takes a whiff.
Thomas purchased it from a local gas station a month ago.
“I was told it was legal, all-natural, and safe,” Thomas said. “I’ve been looking for drugs…legal drugs to help me get through the day. These definitely do that.”
BrainCandy comes in a Chapstick sized tube and is one of the five Aroma RockIt aromatherapy blends produced by the local company, Scentral Blends. The blends are based on the belief that fragrances can alter mood.
Each blend is a combination of essential oils, formulated without any additives, carrier oils, or artificial fragrances. Like nasal spray, these blends are meant to be injected into the nose.
There are four other types of Aroma RockIts, including Chillout, HeadRest, InYourDreams and NightShift. Each of the blends is intended for different uses. The most popular, BrainCandy, comprised of essential oils from orange, rosemary, lemon and peppermint, is intended to maximize focus and increase productivity.
The Aroma RockIt products are currently being sold at 10 local Memphis businesses and one business in Florida.
Ashley Dunn, owner of a local natural food store, has sold Aroma RockIt products in her store for six months and has noticed customers’ increasing interest in the products. The store, Cosmic Coconut, has sold over 500 Aroma RockIt tubes since May.
“I like them and support them because they’re natural,” Dunn said. “Anything that is natural maximizes the health benefits and minimizes the damage to the environment.”
Aroma RockIt was created by Memphis resident Dotty Kelley. Kelly, also founder of Scentral Blends, has always loved to go the natural route.
A registered nurse and long-time practitioner of traditional medicine, Kelley says she finds comfort in the medicinal value of nature.
“I’ve had a fascination with the healing power of plants since childhood,” Kelley said. “I used to sniff different plants then wait to see what would happen to me.”
As an adult, Kelley turned to plants for help after a painful season of dealing with sinus problems. She experimented with various natural ingredients and found relief in the soothing ability of peppermint and lavender oils.
She then discovered that mixing different oils together gave her more relief than her prescribed antibiotics and steroids. Kelley said she was inspired to create a similar product for all her friends and family.
“As a Registered Nurse I enjoy helping others in their journey to restore their health,” Kelley said. “Introducing people to aromatherapy has become one of my favorite ways to do that.”
Aromatherapy falls under the broader umbrella of homeopathic medicine. Invented in Germany, homeopathic medicine continues to be a widely respected form of medicine in Europe and in parts of the U.S.
Sales of natural health remedies are on the rise due to increasing cost of healthcare, according to the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacist. In 2013, retail sales for natural products amounted to $6.4 billion, and have been steadily increasing since.
Because of this growing demand, Kelley plans to increase the number of stores at which her products are sold. She hopes to have her products sold at Whole Foods by the end of 2016.
In addition, Kelley plans to expand her Aroma RockIt product line to include holiday blends. She has spent the past 7 weeks in her lab experimenting with different combinations of essential oils for the blends.
Kelley said she anticipates that one day she will open up her own store selling Aroma RockIt and similar homeopathic items.
“Soon I will retire from nursing, and do the alternative medicine thing full time,” Kelley said.
For violinist, Barrie Cooper, bow against string resonates well
Thirty-six years ago on a small farm outside of St. Louis, 4-year-old Barrie Cooper learned how to play the violin using a ruler and a macaroni box.
Today, as the first chair violinist of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, 40-year-old Cooper sits in her living room in Memphis, rehearsing for the orchestra’s upcoming concert series with her Pirastro Gold violin resting under her chin.
The series, entitled “The Planets” and running Nov. 7 and 8, is the second of 10 concerts in the 2015-2016 season. The season started in October and will run until May.
In addition to being the first chair violinist, Cooper is also the concert master, which means she is in charge of the entire string section.
“Barrie is like my technician, the liaison of the group,” Mei-Ann Chen, the orchestra’s director, said. “I count on her to make things happen.”
While Cooper does make musical things happen on stage, she admits that a big part of her job is maintaining the morale of the orchestra.
Last year, when the orchestra faced major financial problems, Cooper helped her colleagues overcome the slump after experiencing salary cuts.
“During the time of the new contracts, there was a lot of tension flaring in up the group,” Cooper said. “As a leader, I’ve had to absorb much of that tension.”
Cooper said today she enjoys her leadership position, but she wasn’t always an outgoing people who was comfortable leading others.
As a child, Cooper was shy and apprehensive to talk to strangers. So instead of talking, she said she used her violin to express herself.
“Talking didn’t always come natural for me, but music did,” Cooper said. “I used my violin to speak before I was brave enough to speak up for myself.”
For Cooper, music was a natural fit. She was introduced to music at a young age, spending hours listening to the Beatles and the other musicians in her parents’ sizable record collection.
“My parents were hippies who loved music,” Cooper said. “That’s where it all began for me.”
Cooper started playing the violin professionally soon after graduating from college at Johns Hopkins Peabody Conservatory and has maintained a career in music ever since.
Other than lifeguarding in college, music is the only job she’s ever had. Before joining the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Cooper worked as a music teacher in New York, played in festivals in Vienna, Austria, and performed with other professional orchestras throughout the country.
“There is something about music,” Cooper said. “It’s an odd way of touching people.”
Cooper’s love for music is not the only thing she carried with her from her childhood on the farm. She also took with her an affinity toward animals.
“For Barrie, it’s always been music and animals,” Lora Cooper, her sister, said.
Back in Cooper’s home while she rehearses, her four cats and two dogs sit perched nearby, listening to the familiar sounds of bow against string. Stevie, the pit bull, lies in the middle of the room and is part of the menagerie.
Cooper spotted the dog three years ago on the side of the rode, bruised, bloodied and near death. She gave him a home.
“One thing I love more than playing my violin is taking care of animals,” Cooper said. “I cannot stand to see an animal suffer and not do anything about it.”
Memphis student: Give her books or give her death
While lost in the world of “Pride and Prejudice,” my friend Raina nudges me in my arm, signifying she needs to use my lighter. Like most days, she’s probably either washed hers along with yesterday’s laundry or thrown it away with this morning’s breakfast trash.
Taking the lighter from my hand, she finally looks up from the encyclopedia sized novel in her lap, lights the cigarette, inhales, and then directs her gaze back to the page.
“Hey, did you know that Jane Austen died a virgin?” Raina asks without taking her eyes from the book.
I don’t bother to answer because I know like most times the question is rhetorical and like most times she is more than likely talking to herself. Also like most times she doesn’t like to chat while reading.
We sit on a bench close to the UC. While Raina peruses the words of her book, I peruse the crowd of students on all sides of us.
Raina, seemingly doesn’t notice the roaring of students’ voices swarming around us because she continues to read. Despite the occasional sip of coffee and inhale of smoke, Raina remains in the world of Jane Austen.
Minutes pass before Raina finally looks up from her book again, bites her chipped red nails and sighs.
“I don’t see the point in it,” Raina says. “Why do all these people want to dress alike and talk alike? They probably all think alike too.”
The one thing that angers Raina more than interrupting her while she’s reading is people’s endless pursuit to all do the same thing. To Raina, ordinary is boring.
My friend’s tattoos that wrap around her arms and legs and the silver hoops that decorate her nose and lip are all a part of her rebellion against the norm. Her oversized lumberjack shirt and grass-stained converse set her apart from the sea of jeans and t-shirts surrounding us.
“You know that’s why I like books,” Raina says. “It’s an escape from the monotony…Plus no two books are the same. Gotta love it.”