Aromatherapy: Understanding Fragrance Notes

Aromatherapy is all about smell and with practice you will learn to recognise a fragrance even if you can't pick which plant the oil is from. For instance, you will be able to tell a citrus aroma from a floral one, a woody fragrance from a minty one. The smell is determined by the chemicals an oil contains. As similar smelling oils often contain similar chemicals, they also tend to have similar properties.

Mixing your fragrances

Aromas are sometimes called 'notes', and oils are divided into 'top', 'middle' and 'base' notes. Knowing an oil's note is important when mixing oils together.

Aromatherapy notes

A good blend - such as most perfumes - usually contains a mix of all three notes, the proportions changing depending on what the blend is for. In addition, an oil may contain more than one note - ylang ylang contains traces of all three notes, and is considered the perfect fragrance.

Using Notes in Blends

Blend Type Top Note Middle Note Base Note
Refreshing 5 Drops 4 Drops 1 Drop
Relaxing 1 Drop 6 Drops 3 Drops
Sensual 1 Drop 4 Drops 5 Drops
Balancing 2 Drops 5 Drops 3 Drops
Invigorating 8 Drops 1 Drop 1 Drop

When making up a fragrance, whether it's for use as a perfume or in a vaporiser, use between four and seven oils per blend. Decide which type of blend you want, for example refreshing, and then choose notes with these properties to form the main part of the blend.

Mix the blend with carrier oil if you plan to use it on your skin and allow 30ml of carrier oil per 10 drops of essential oil.

Aromatherapy Top Notes

Aromas that are classified as top notes are generally fresh, light and sharp scents. They evaporate very quickly and have antiseptic and antiviral properties. They are good cleansing oils, and have an uplifting effect on the mood and the emotions, making them good for providing a quick energy boost.

Cleansing and Invigorating

Top note oils are good for cleansing, such as clearing a cold. Consider the properties of each oil when choosing which to use in a blend.

Typical Top Notes

Citrus oils: bergamot, lemon, lemongrass, orange, petitgrain.
Mint oils: peppermint, spearmint.
Fresh, woody oils: eucalyptus, tea tree, pine.

lemon aromatherapy

Aromatherapy Middle Notes

Aromas classified as middle notes are generally warm, rich and powerful scents. Their aroma lasts two to three days. They affect most of the systems in the body, making them healing and relaxing oils.

Soothing and Regenerating

Middle note oils are good for healing that requires attention over time, such as muscular or respiratory problems. They are also good to use for conditions that recur, such as migraines, PMS and painful periods. Some middle note oils are not safe for use during pregnancy, so check each oil before use.

Typical Middle Notes

Aromatherapy chamomile

Floral oils: chamomile, geranium, melissa
Warm spicy oils: clove, nutmeg, aniseed, black pepper
Herby oils: fennel, juniper, marjoram, rosemary

Aromatherapy Base Notes

Aromas that are classified as base notes are generally soothing, deep and lingering scents. The evaporate slowly and the scent can linger for anything up to a week. They have a strong effect on the mind and emotions, making them good for relaxing your mood.

Balancing and Uplifting

Base note oils can heal the body inside and out. They can treat a range of conditions from dry and oily skin to circulatory and digestive problems, to boosting a low immune system. They also have aphrodisiac properties.

Typical Base Notes

Woody oils: cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, rosewood
Strong floral oils: ylang ylang, rose, jasmine
Resin oils: frankincense, myrrh, benzoin

aromatherapy rose