We Are Upstate NY with Helena McGill, founder of Morphologically Aromatherapy
Welcome to Inside+Out Upstate NY’s exclusive interview series, Upstate Wellness, where we feature top wellness advocates and catch up with a new generation of holistically driven wellness companies. Inside+out contributor Nandini Austin had the pleasure of interviewing Helena Mcgill, an acclaimed aromatherapist, co-founder and creator of Morphologically. From her years studying organic chemistry to becoming a registered Holistic Nutritionist, Helena seamlessly transitioned into the world of herbalism. Today she creates her line of wellness products committed to bringing safe, 100% plant-based natural options to our community. This statement on her website says it all:
“We are carbon molecules and we resonate with the frequency in our surroundings. However, as we get farther from our connection to nature and the pendulum swings towards technology, the daily commute, and the rush to get somewhere, it impacts our well-being. Any role I can play in the simple movement of looking back, helping others navigate busy lives, and finding moments of connection creates such a profound feeling of purpose that I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Read on to learn how this, nurturing homestead girl, who grew up in British Columbia, began her journey into wellness.
Opening Photo by James Autery
INSIDE+OUT: Tell us about yourself: Where were you born and how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
Helena McGill: I was planted in the interior of British Columbia in the 70s. Born to American ex-pat parents from Brooklyn, who were called to turn up, tune in and drop out they hitched their way to Canada. In search of family roots, I returned to the States in 2004 landing in NYC. The call of getting back to nature grew and in 2018 I packed up the cats and moved to the Hudson Valley, kicked off my shoes and planted a peppermint patch.
Where did you get the inspiration to start your business, and what was your journey?
As a homestead kid, I feel like I grew up 3 inches from the earth, forever learning about the importance of plants and the essential stewardship of them. The seed was sown and off to Vancouver, BC I went. There, I became a holistic nutritionist, studied organic chem and became a certified aromatherapist. There was a not-so-brief 12-year interlude upon arriving in NYC where I fell into fashion, during those years I kept blending, making gifts, and remedies for friends and colleagues. It was those guys that encouraged me to start a line. When I started Morphologically in 2014, I did not see aromatherapy integrated easily into people’s lives, saw a need and took the leap.
“I have great reverence for nature and its power to heal, uplift, and shift energy.”
Tell me about your products – how they can help people. Can you walk me through some of their health benefits?
Aromatherapy is a form of herbalism. As an aromatherapist, every blend I make starts with a purpose. The Morphologically line continues my work from when I was predominantly a medicinal blender in the late 90s. People would come to see me and I would pull from hundreds of essential oils for the desired effect. At the time, I was blending for everything from fibromyalgia to anxiety and reproductive challenges. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), I still look at the body from all angles and influences. The Morphologically line takes that same holistic intention and casts a wider net. Focusing on more universal goals like calming the body, elevating mood and enhancing one’s spirit. With Morphologically, I pull out the artisan perfumer. Dorky as this sounds, I create a scent with purpose.
What green, sustainable initiatives does your company do?
Trees do not grow overnight. I am constantly evaluating crop status and choose to work directly with farms whenever I can, like One Love Holistic in Ecuador, which implements reforestation farming practices. I change my blends often, as ethically and energetically if I am not honoring the plant, farmers and cultural history, that magic that comes from nature well tended is lost.
How do you market your business? And how do clients find you? Has it been hard to do as a small business?
When I started 8 years ago, I received a good amount of press and was carried in big retailers from Shiseido in Japan through to Urban Outfitters across America. To this day, most of my clients find me through a blend that catches their nose on the street or through word of mouth. I feel very lucky to have built a loyal customer base through years of in-person markets and teaching. Over the last few years, I have relied more on social media, which has been the most challenging format as a small business. I am still waiting for them to invent smell-o-vision.
What is one question you’re constantly asked or what’s the biggest misconception about your business?
People tend to be specifically curious about the descriptions, so I dip into the chemistry to explain how the plants in any given blend function. Like with Golden Amber, I use the word Love as a descriptor. It is a musky sexy scent that contains oils higher in naturally occurring alcohols that create a heady, dreamy glass of wine sensation, while also containing oils that help calm the central nervous system.
What impact does your business have on your town/community?
In whatever small way I can, I just want people to feel good and help ease their minds and spirits as much as herbalism possibly can. Locally, that reach has recently expanded to joining Proprietors Vintage and Handmade, a collective store in Hudson.
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
Community gardens! I am in love with the movement of growing your own food, front yard gardening and bartering. In several countries, this practice exists, yet sadly in the US it is heavily regulated and in some cases a fineable offense. FEED YOUR FRIENDS! Plant some strawberries.
What does the future hold for Morphologically?
Along with the rest of the world, I have felt the need to connect so deeply. I rejoined an old friend and moved the line into Proprietors Vintage and Handmade in Hudson NY in July. Getting back into one-on-one interaction has been so welcomed. In that vein, I have some classes coming up and a new product based on my favorite query. “Do you have something for…?” A truly awesome push that keeps me fresh and inspired in the studio.
What are your favorite ways to use your products?
I love multiple agendas! Almost the entire line is dual purpose. The Mustard Bath doubles as a poultice, the body sprays are awesome on bedding, and the shower drops are also a massage oil.
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn.
I can hypnotize chickens. Farm Kid.
Name three things you always have in your fridge.
Coffee, dates and artichokes.
What would be your dream Hudson Valley Staycation?
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