In the first post of this series on the fundamentals of using essential oils for aromatherapy, I focused on how to use essential oils safely and touched on a few of the controversies and misinformation that exists around this healing modality. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, you can do so here.
I’d now like to shift into talking about blending essential oils for therapeutic, medicinal and aromatic purposes. There are a few things that are helpful to know before you begin.
Essential oils can be grouped into several different categories. We will be talking today about 2 of the most common systems for categorizing essential oils. Having this information will facilitate your knowledge and ease of blending and creating successful aromatherapy synergies. The 2 categories we will be going over are Aroma Families and Aromatherapy Notes.
Aroma Families sort essential oils into groups based on their scent or aroma. There are generally 8 different aroma families, although some authorities cite 9.
- Citrus: As you would expect, the vast majority of these oils are citrus oils like, orange, lime and grapefruit. They all have that distinctive, fresh, uplifting quality that we all associate with the fruit.
- Floral: These essential oils all have a flowery aroma, some of the most common being oils such as Geranium, Lavender and Rose.
- Herbaceous: Included in this group are oils such as Basil, Hyssop, and Rosemary.
- Camphoraceous: These oils are a very distinctive group with members like Tea Tree, Peppermint and Eucalyptus.
- Spicy: This group includes oils such as Cinnamon, Ginger and Nutmeg.
- Resinous: This group includes oils like Frankincense and Myrrh.
- Woody: Here we have Cedarwood, Pine and Sandalwood, among others.
- Earthy: These are oils like Angelica, Patchouli and Vetiver.
When blending essential oils using the Aroma Families, there are no hard and fast rules and the choices are limited only by your creativity. However, there are some guidelines that can help give you some direction and a place to start.
- Firstly, Oils in the same category generally blend well together. So, a floral oil will most likely blend well with another floral oil.
- Secondly, Florals tend to blend well with spicy, citrusy and woodsy oils. For instance, Geranium might blend well with lemon and Cedarwood.
- Thirdly, Woodsy oils generally blend well with most of the other categories. The possibilities here are endless.
- Fourth, Spicy oils blend well with florals and citrus oils. So, for example, you might want to try Ginger blended with Orange.
- And lastly, Camphoraceous oils blend well with citrus, woodsy, herbaceous and earthy oils. An example might be tea tree, fir and lemon.
- Another note on the aroma families, please notice that there is some overlap, since essential oils are complex and so one oil can belong to more than one family.
Let’s now move on to the next category – Aromatherapy Notes. Using the analogy of musical scales, oils are arranged in this categorization according to how quickly their aroma dissipates. You’ll remember that essential oils are volatile, meaning that they vaporize and evaporate fairly quickly.
So, for instance, ‘Top Notes’ evaporate the most quickly, usually within 1-2 hours and are the first thing you smell in a blend. They are usually very fresh and light. Examples of top notes include Euclyptus, Grapefruit and Tea Tree.
‘Middle Notes‘ are oils that evaporate within 2-4 hours in general. They are the heart of your blend and provide the bulk of its character. Oils in this grouping include Chamomile, Lavender and Rosemary.
Lastly, ‘Base Notes‘ take the longest to evaporate. Some of these oils can linger for days! They are rich and heavy and act as a fixative to hold the synergy together. Oils such as Frankincense, Patchouli and Sandalwood are considered base oils. Again, there is some overlap in these groupings, so some oils will be listed in more that one group.
A good aromatherapy blend uses a combination of all the aromatherapy notes to achieve a balanced, well-rounded blend.
So, equipped with this knowledge, we can delve into blending oils. I’m going to explain the process in an easy How-To format for your convenience.
- The first step in blending is to ask your self “What is my intention for this blend? What is its purpose?” The answer to these questions will guide you through the rest of the blending process, so always keep your intention in mind.
- Next, decide which approach you want to take – do you want a strictly therapeutic blend? An aromatic blend based solely on smell? A holistic blend combining the medicinal qualities of the oils with the family and note categorizations? There are many approaches you can take.
- The next step is selecting your oils based on the the answers to the first 2 questions.
- One way to do this is to select a core essential oil to address your goal and then select another oil or 2 to support and harmonize the blend.
- Another way to accomplish this is to choose one top note, one middle note and one base note oil.
- A third method might be to choose an oil that you really love the smell of and then select one or 2 other oils that will enhance and harmonize with that aroma.
- As you can see the majority of this is involves experimentation and the more experience you have with the oils, the more confidant you will be and the more your intuition will guide you.
- Now that you have selected your oils, you need to determine whether your chosen oils smell good together.
- One way to do this is to open all the bottles, hold them all together several inches under your nose and wave them back and forth so that the aromas waft around. This works best if you only have a few oils in your blend.
- Another method is to place one drop of each oil into a small glass container and waft that under your nose. This is a better method if you are using several different oils.
- A third method is to place a drop of each essential oil in your blend on a separate cotton swab and waft them under your nose.
- You’ll want to start small when beginning a new blend. Limiting your experiment to a total number of 5 or 10 drops will ensure that you don’t waste your precious oils.
- In the beginning, limit your selections to not more than 5 different essential oils per blend. This will allow you to get to know the oils well and keep your synergies from becoming too complicated.
- Always use glass to blend in, or at least PET plastic to ensure that you are not dissolving any plastic residues into your blend.
- Always, always always keep a record of your experiments. Keep a notebook to record every blend you make, listing which oils you chose, how many drops of each and your impressions of the blend. It’s the most frustrating thing to have created the perfect blend and not be able to reproduce it later!
- Along with that, always make sure to label your jars clearly. If there is not enough room on the jar, label it with a number that corresponds to that blend in your notebook.
- A good blending percentage to start with is top 30%, middle 50%, base 20%. So, for instance, if you use 10 total drops in your blend, you would use 3 drops of your top note, 5 drops of your middle note and 2 drops of your base note. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a general guideline to help you get started.
- Allow your blend to sit a few days to give the aromas time to marry. The scent will usually round out a bit and you will get a better idea of what your blend will be. Note, however, that a blend can continue to morph and change for several months!
While blending essential oils is an art that develops with lots of practice and experimentation, these tips can be helpful to get you started on the path of creating fragrant blends and aromatic synergies.
In the next post, I will cover some of the most common and popular essential oils and their medicinal qualities, to help you learn how to develop healing remedies to use for mind body and spirit.
Have you created aromatherapy blends? What are your favorite tips?