Blending essential oils
On their own essential oils have their distinct fragrances. Some of these are not particularly pleasant. As we get to know the oils we can distinguish their aromas. Once we start to do that we can begin to blend dissimilar fragrances to create new patterns of fragrant experience.
Some oils we can easily recognise like Citrus like because they are citrus derived. The aroma of Grapefruit is an almost universally appreciated as refreshing. The aroma of Bergamot has a more subtle quality and can be found in half of all blends.
The grand and rather expensive floral scents of Rose and Geranium, Jasmine and Ylang, Neroli (from the flowers of the bitter orange tree) and Petitgrain (from leaves and branches of the bitter orange tree) are typical of female blends.
You’ll see I have worked in a couple of oils there Geranium with Rose and Ylang with Jasmine, Petitgrain with Neroli to demonstrate some simple associations of the oils with cheaper oils of geranium, jasmine and petitgrain echoing the more expensive Rose, Jasmine and Neroli.
Oriental scents have a dominant resinous sensual spicy or vanilla fragrance or ‘note’. Cinnamon, Frankincense, Patchouli.
Cyprus or ‘Chypre’ scents are softer and include Labdanum, Bergamot and Sandalwood.
Green are fresh and simple scents Lavender, Pine and Mint.
Fern or ‘Fougere’ scents are masculine including Lavender and Coumarin (tonka bean)
So Citrus, Floral, Oriental, Cyprus, Green and more masculine Fern scents.
More fully, (in italics are perfumery oils not used in aromatherapy)
Citrus include bergamot, bitter orange, grapefruit, sweet orange, lemon, lime, mandarin, petitgrain, tangerine
Woodsy scents include cedar, cypress, sandalwood, pine, patchouli, vetiver (I dont mention oakmoss)
Spicy include clove bud, coriander, cinnamon, juniper, nutmeg, black pepper
Spicy anise scents include aniseed, angelica, basil, caraway, chamomile, cumin, fennel, tarragon
Rose includes rose otto, rose absolute, geranium, palmarosa
Camphorous include bay, eucalyptus, lavendin, lavender, rosemary, thyme, myrtle/sage
Balsamic include labdanum and clary sage (I dont mention balsam of peru, storax, vanilla, tonka and balsam copaiba)
Floral include jasmine, rose, neroli (I dont mention cassie, jonquail, hyacinth, narcissus, orris root, violet)
Resinous include benzoin, elemi, frankincense, myrhh (I dont mention oppanax, galbanum)
Citrussy/Cintronella include citronella, melissa
Mint include peppermint, spearmint, marjoram
(Source: John Carles who arranges the oils into a table)
Carriers. What carriers are we going to use for our blend. If this is an experimental blend for a perfume to be worn sprayed on the skin we would use vodka. Jojoba is preferred for wear on the skin as it is similar to the skins natural sebum. Jojoba is nourishing to the skin, containing for the first 12 months many vitamins, while vodka is drying. Olive oil too makes a good carrier.
Precautions. All the normal precautions for safe and effective use of essential oils apply. Bergamot in particular is photosensitising so avoid direct sunlight for a couple of hours after spraying onto the neck.
Blending by kinesiology. Some of the most remarkable blends I have experienced have been prepared by kinesiology or muscle tensing. Testing is simply done first for oil selection and then for number of drops.
Records. You will want to record the number of drops carefully in a carefully kept spiral bound notebook. This is helpful for your aromatherapy experiences as you can find blends made or shared with other practitioners years before for particular purposes of use again.
Therapeutic blends often provide help for sleep or anxiety or agitation. Vetiver combined with Lavender and Melissa makes an excellent sleep blend particularly for elderly people.
Some of the earliest perfume experiences were with burning frankincense and myrhh resin on charcoal. The smoke is sweetly fragrant as well as being antiseptic and calming. Hence the name “per fume” “through the smoke”.
Geographically egypt “Mother of the World” was the centre of perfume production and trade with perfume incorporated into religious life.
No discussion of blending would be complete without top middle and base notes comparing the rate of evaporation of essential oils. A top relatively sharp and short lived note compared to a deep, long lived base note which can also add duration to the blend by causing the top notes to linger (known as fixatives).
Among modern perfumes the Chanel Number 5 is an enduring scent including jasmine and ylang, centifolia rose (I have two bushes in my garden) animal scents and aldehyde.
Top notes: bergamot, lemon
Middle notes: jasmine, neroli, rose, violet, orris root, ylang
Base notes: cedar, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla
Top notes: basil, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, lime, mandarin, tangerine,
Top to Middle. eucalyptus, peppermint
Middle notes: black pepper, chamomile, clary sage, coriander, cypress, fennel, geranium, hyssop, juniper, lavender, marjoram, neroli, petitgrain, pine, rose, rosemary, thyme, ylang
Base notes: benzoin, cedarwood, frankincense, jasmine, myrhh, patchouli, rose absolute, sandalwood, spikenard, vetiver
1. Aromatherapy a complete guide to the healing art, Kathy Keville and Mindy Green Chapter 11 Blending: The Perfumers Art 128-140
2. The Jean Carles method at Basenotes http://www.basenotes.net/t/264237/the-jean-carles-method
An interesting historic note on Jean Carles. Towards the end of his career he was anosmic having little sense of smell but his principles nonetheless enabled him to create many classic perfume blends.