Like many of us in the past year, Susan Rockefeller has found herself doing a lot of deep thinking about her work-life balance, her overall quality of life, her relationship with the community in which she lives, and her health.
The pandemic’s impact on the way everyone spent their time, and who they interacted with was profound. According to an in-depth study from Pew Research, 41% of respondents reported missing friends and family, but 33% also noted that it deepened their relationships with their immediate families. And about 26% said that the slower pace enabled them to discover new hobbies and spend more time relaxing. But 28% also reported concerns over their own or a loved one’s physical or mental health as the pandemic continued.
This comes amid a readjustment of cultural attitudes toward traditional Western medicine, leaving a space for alternative therapies, either in tandem with or in lieu of Western medicine. The use of yoga, meditation and chiropractors as complementary approaches to medical treatment, for example, has risen from 9.5% to 14.3%, 4.1% to 14.2% and 9.1% to 10.3%, respectively over five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And many other people are turning to plants, such as cannabidiol (CBD) as alternative forms of relief and therapy as well. CBD, derived from hemp, unlike Marijuana, which also belongs to the cannabis genus, contains much lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that causes psychoactive effects in Marijuana users. (CBD products are legal in all 50 states, as they contain by law no more than 0.3% THC). According to Consumer Reports, an estimated 64 million Americans have tried CBD, and 22% said it helped them supplement or replace over-the-counter drugs.
We sat down with Rockefeller, to find out how the pandemic inspired her to create Muses Neck Potion No. 9, a line of hemp-derived, locally sourced aromatic blends of botanicals designed to inspire introspection and joy, while also providing pain relief.
NEW YOUR MAKERS: You’re a passionate environmentalist and entrepreneur, whose award-winning environmental documentaries, including Food for Thought and Mission of Mermaids, have aired on HBO, PBS and the Discovery Channel. What inspired you to create the Muses line?
SUSAN ROCKEFELLER: It’s an outgrowth, in many ways, of my monthly newsletter and digital magazine, which I founded in 2018. Musings is a bimonthly publication that curates the ideas and innovations, and profiles the change-makers, that are paving the way toward a more sustainable future. I have always believed entrepreneurs and consumers hold the power to create lasting change and ensure a safe and healthy future. During the pandemic, my husband, children, and I spent a great deal of time hunkering down in the Hudson Valley, and I fell in love with the region. There are so many entrepreneurs, farmers, and thought-leaders using the stunning bioregion that surrounds us for creative purposes. There are regenerative farming projects, people exploring different applications for plant medicine, a real sense of the community at large paying attention to what’s happening in the world around them and using it creatively to their advantage in a way that is helpful for all of us. That, and the magazine itself, in which so many of these leaders are profiled, inspired me to explore the line myself. I was also dealing with chronic pain.
NYM: When did the chronic pain start?
SR: I had a neck injury when I was a young gymnast, and it led to chronic pain for me as an adult. But I found during the pandemic I was constantly on my phone and other digital devices, something I ordinarily try to avoid. The constant use exacerbated the pain, and I searched for new ways to relieve it through the network of farmers and environmental activists I know.
NYM: Did you discover CBD during the pandemic?
SR: I discovered CBD about six years ago, and I have been very excited to see how well it can manage chronic pain. CBD is wonderful in and of itself, but I wanted to see if I could use it in tandem with other plants that are beneficial in other ways. I also, quite frankly, wanted something that would smell good. Scent is such a powerful sense, and, during the pandemic, we have all gained a new appreciation for the small and quiet moments of life. I loved the idea of creating something that would help people with pain, while also creating a grounding moment where they could just take a deep breath, inhale a beautiful scent, and take just a moment for themselves.
NYM: How long did it take to turn your vision into reality?
SR: It was a long process. I reached out to the Hudson Hemp team. They have been growing hemp here since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized it, and they utilize regenerative farming practices. I worked with Onchiota Adornetto, the chief science officer there, and with Made Safe, America’s first nontoxic seal for everyday products. It ensures that everything from baby to personal care items are entirely free of products linked to endocrine disruption, carcinogens, parabens, phthalates, SLS/SLES, GMOs or synthetic fragrances. Everything with the Made Safe seal is also animal cruelty free. We wanted to ensure that everything that went into Potion No. 9 was safe for everyone, in addition to being as locally derived as possible. All told, it has taken us almost a year to get the balance of ingredients right for pain management and for scent.
NYM: What else goes into it aside from CBD?
SR: We have two scents, Floral and Earthy. The Floral scent is designed to lift and enhance mental clarity, while the hemp extract soothes pain. The Earthy fragrance grounds and calms mental stressors, while also relieving pain. We use completely natural ingredients, like White Willow Bar, which contains salicin, a compound similar to aspirin found in the bark of willow trees. It has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years.
NYM: Where can people find it?
SR: We are just launching it now here [in the US], and on Musings. We were also very mindful of the packaging, working with a designer in Paris on the aesthetic and ensuring that the packaging is made from completely regenerative or recycled sources.
Circularity is central to Rockefeller’s vision of regeneration, gratitude, joy and zero waste. Muses Potion No. 9 seems like a beautiful way to celebrate the Hudson Valley’s bounty, and yet another sign of just how much we are capable of creating, even amid one of the hardest and most painful years in recent memory.Here at New York Makers, we hope the Muses story itself will serve as inspiration for other makers and creators, dreamers, and doers.