So you’ve gotten your essential oils and they’re working for you just fine. Great in fact. You feel like you’ve gotten the hang of using them and then someone mentions that you should “blend” your oils for maximum effect…huh?! Blending Essential Oils? Wha? Why?
It took me a little while to really get oil blending, but what helped me most was thinking about it like I’m baking a cake. What I’m able to produce (i.e. – the cake) is a big improvement over the sum of the individual ingredients. I mean, have you tried eating flour by itself – it’s terrible. The same goes for Essential Oils. If done correctly, combining the oils can positively boost the effects that the individual oils possess on their own.
Then there’s recipe…OK, so the ingredients in your blend may be a little more straightforward than those in a cake, but having the right oils in the right quantities is an important part of the equation (Too little baking powder? Hope you enjoy your flat pan-cake). How about the order the ingredients are added to your cake mix? Important right? When you add your essential oils can have an effect on the end result, since changing the sequence can dramatically change the chemical reactions, and the end result – including the fragrance.
It may sound complicated, but it isn’t really. By following some basics guidelines, all you’ll need are the right tools, a willingness to learn, and some practice.
So without further delay, let’s get started on your blending recipe…
Choose Your Adventure…
You’ve got your tools in place. Now it’s important import to understand what you want from your Essential Oil Blend. Do you want to become more focused, or relaxed? Maybe you’re searching to get rid of your pounding headache, or perhaps you hoping to clear your sinuses. Or how about finally making that natural bug spray or that pine “Christmas Blend” for the holidays? Whatever it is – pick your goal – and write it down. I keep a journal to write in.
Next, if it isn’t completely obvious, think about how you would like to apply or dispense your blend. Write this down in your journal or paper. Here’s some common methods of using oil blends to get your imagination going:
- Nasal Inhaler
- Aromatic Room Spray
- Outdoor Bug Spray
- Massage Blend
- Tension Blend Roller Bottle
- Face or Body Cream
- Bath Salts
Blending essential oils – just like baking – requires certain tools to do it right. Imagine trying to mix the cake batter with your hands instead of using your kitchen mixer! So before we start anything let’s get you set up properly – I don’t want you to get halfway through the process only to discover you have to go to the store to buy something.
I’ve organized my list into “Required” and “Nice to Have’s”:
- Dark-Colored Glass Containers: Dark glass helps prevent sunlight from degrading your oils and are available in a number of sizes and shapes, ranging from 5mL up to several ounces. There are some made for storage, others are spray bottles and still other are made for roller application of your oils. Bottom line: Think about the goal you’ve made in the last step and get an option related to this goal.
- 2 oz. Spray Bottle (Amber)
- 15 mL Bottle (Amber)
- 10 mL Bottle (Amber)
- 5 mL Bottle (Amber)
- Roller Bottle – 1/3 oz.
- Glass Droppers: Get yourself some good glass droppers: they’re a must for measuring blends and recipes. While it may be tempting to purchase a bunch of cheap plastic droppers or “pipettes” like you used in science class, it’s really hard to clean the residue from the inside of a plastic dropper once they’ve been used.
- Glass Bowls: (For larger mixes for soaps and salts): The smaller glass bowels you have in your kitchen are perfect for preparing aromatherapy products like creams, soaps and salts. Make sure to thoroughly wash your bowls before using them.
- Scent Strips or thick coffee filters: You’ll want to have some medium for testing your blend’s aroma in order to “dial-in” the correct mix. Scent-Strips are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. If you can’t stomach the cost or can’t wait to get them, we’ve used thick coffee filters, cut into ¼” strips as a descent alternative.
- Carrier Oil: “Carrier” Oils are used to dilute your essential oils for blending – which is what you’ll probably want to do. I’ll get into the reasons why in a bit, but just get it for now. There’s many carrier oils available but I nearly always use Fractionated Coconut Oil (DPW) – it’s cheap, odorless and can be used for tons of other things. Check out this article on 99 uses of Coconut oil from Dr. Oz
- Towel or Tissues: For cleanup
- Notebook: Sure, you COULD get by without a notebook, however I strongly suggest keep a notebook or journal. I’ve got me a medium-sized leather bound journal where I jot down my initial reactions to the different mixes. I find it to be a great tool to keep my brain focused. Mine has a lot of erase marks, comments and doodles.
Nice to Have’s:
- Diffuser: A diffuser produces a consistent mist of essential oils into the air and are wonderful tools to have for mediation or mood-enhancing blends. I’ve put this in this in the “Nice to Have” column – but if I were you, I’d get a diffuser straight-away. I normally use my doTERRA nebulizing diffuser, but there’s tons of other options out there. For more information on diffusers and a bunch of recommendations on our favorites, click on our “Everything you ever wanted to know about diffusers” article…
- Glass Mixing Rods: Since metals, and plastic can affect the oil reactions, I recommend using glass whenever possible. Designed for mixing liquids that react with metal or plastic, glass rods are good to have if you’ll be working with recipes containing large qualities of ingredients
- Glass Funnels: I use glass funnels when pouring oils from one container to another, mostly to prevent spilling my oils. I’ve used plastic funnels before, but it’s difficult to clean thoroughly.
Although it may cost a little bit to get started get these tools – it’s worth the investment. These will help you get the most value from your oils through accurate measurements, plus you’ll be able to prevent unwanted chemical reactions that can occur between essential oils and plastic.
Picking your Oils
Now we’re going to choose the potential list of oils we’ll be using in our blend. Get an essential oil reference book or a phone app like this one from Modern Essentials and find out which essential oils have a history of providing the results you’re looking for. Find as many oils as you can and write these down on the same sheet of paper where you jotted down your blend “goal”. Make sure to find at least 6, preferably more.
If you’re halfway serious about using and blending essential oils, you can’t go wrong having at least one essential reference book at home. The internet and quick lookup apps like the Modern Essentials App are great for an on-the-go reference, but I haven’t found a replacement yet for the depth of knowledge provided by my oil books. And I use them every day. Here’s my list of books that I have on my shelf right now:
- Modern Essentials – A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils
- Essential Oils Natural Remedies
- Essential Oils for Beginners
- Duke’s Essential Herbs
Know thy Blending Rules
Ah…my young grasshopper, you’ve made it this far in your journey. At this point you should:
- Understand the purpose of your blend
- Understand how you will use your blend
- Have your blending tools and equipment
- Have a list of potential oils to use
We’ve now got to come up with the best order to blend your oils together. This is important. Combining your oils all willy-nilly can have a dramatic effect on the chemical reactions in the final product, so we’ll need a strategy. There’s a couple different theories on the best way to blend, but I belong squarely in the “Note” camp.
This method involved assigning your oils to one of three classifications based on its “Smell Power” (my term). More specifically:
- Top Notes give off the first-impression of a blend. Typically vibrant, sharp and short-lasting, they evaporate quickly. They are also considered more “volatile” meaning that they are quickly absorbed by your body. Many citrus-based oils and mints plants fall this category
- Bergamot, Lemon, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Verbena, Tea Tree
- Middle Notes are considered the foundation or bouquet of the blend. More viscous than Top Notes, they don’t evaporate as quickly and tend last a couple of hours. Many evergreen trees and floral scents are found here
- Black Pepper, Cypress, Cardamom, Chamomile, Juniper, Rosemary, Lavender, Ginger, Geranium
- Base Notes oils are generally the most viscous and, as a result, have the longest lasting aromas. They also work with Middle and Top note aromatic oils to “trap” these volatile molecules so their aroma and absorption into the body can be slowed.
- Vetiver, Sandalwood, Clove, Frankincense, Patchouli, Rose, Vanilla, Ylang-Ylang
Go down your list of oils and jot down its “Note” on the notebook paper.
Fine Tuning your Blend
If you haven’t guessed it already, it makes good sense to have a balanced blend of Top, Middle and Base notes. For example, you wouldn’t want a blend of just Top notes, because it would evaporate way too quickly. Same goes with a blend with just middle notes. I dunno, it might be fine, but because there’s no top notes to energize it, it’s probably going to be a bit bland. If the oils you’ve chosen fall too much into a single category, you’ll want to choose even more oils from your reference book until you’ve got a good mix of Notes.
Let’s say I’m going for a sweet-smelling “Springtime Blend”. I’ve got my list together and it looks like this:
- Bergamot (Top Note)
- Anise (Top Note)
- Geranium (Middle Note)
- Lavender (Middle Note)
- Jasmine (Middle Note)
- Rose (Base Note)
- Sandalwood (Base Note)
- Patchouli (Base Note)
I feel like I’ve gotten too many middle notes, so I cut out Juniper:
- Bergamot (Top Note)
- Anise (Top Note)
- Geranium (Middle Note)
- Juniper (Middle Note)
- Lavender (Middle Note)
- Jasmine (Middle Note)
- Rose (Base Note)
- Sandalwood (Base Note)
- Patchouli (Base Note)
Now that’s a fine mixture of all three groups, if I don’t say so myself. In fact, let’s use it in our example going forward.
Commence Scent Testing!
OK, now this is the fun part. On some paper towels, layout all your oils on the table and line up those “Scent Strips” or Coffee Filter strips we had discussed in the Tools section.
Starting with the Base oils, apply a single drop of each BASE oil to its own scent strip. Take a nice big whiff of each and make sure you still like the smell of each oil. (I have to pick mine up and bring it to my nose to avoid contaminating the smell with the other base notes).
Repeat the process with different 2-oil combinations of the base notes together and finally all base notes on the same strip. Decide then which combinations of the base notes you like. I like Patchouli, but it didn’t work in my example above so I’m going to scratch it off my list. I’ve also noticed I the combination of Rose and Sandalwood when I add Rose first and THEN Sandalwood. I’m writing down all of this in my notebook J!
Do the same steps with the Middle Note and Top Notes, Back to my example: while I love the smell of Anise, I thought that Bergamot should be the dominant Top Note. So I added an extra drop for every drop of Anise. Guess what? It worked!
At this point, here’s my notes for my “Spring Time” blend:
- Anise (Top Note) – Apply 1st, 2 drops for every 3 drops of Bergamot
- Bergamot (Top Note) – Apply 2nd, 3 drops for every 2 drops of Anise
- Geranium (Middle Note) – Apply 3rd, equal parts Geranium, Lavender and Jasmine
- Juniper (Middle Note) – TOO MANY MIDDLE NOTES
- Lavender (Middle Note) – Apply 2nd, equal parts Geranium, Lavender and Jasmine
- Jasmine (Middle Note) – Apply 1st, equal parts Geranium, Lavender and Jasmine
- Rose (Base Note) – Apply 1st, equal parts Rose to Sandalwood
- Sandalwood (Base Note) – Apply 2nd, equal parts Rose to Sandalwood
- Patchouli (Base Note) – DON’T LIKE THE SMELL WITH ROSE OR SANDALWOOD
Now you’ve decided what Top, Middle and Base note combinations you like. Now add 2 drops of the base combination and 2 drops of middle combination together in a small bowl, adding first the Base and then the Middle notes. Siphon a drop from the mix and add to a scent strip, again taking a big whiff. Write down your thoughts.
2 drops of the middle and base notes, smelled fine, but I found that adding more middle notes brought out the aroma I’m looking for. So I’m going to decide to add 3 drops Middle Note for every 2 drops Base.
At this point I’m good to go with my Base and Middle notes, so onto the Tops! Begin with the Base and Middle Note mix in one small bowl and the Top note combo in another. Add your top note combination, one drop at a time to the Middle and Base note bowl and smell the resulting combination – either in the bowl, or on a scent /coffee strip. I found that adding 1 drop for every 3 drops of the Base Note and Middle Note mix smells the best to my nostrils.
Congratulations! You’ve got your mix!!
It take some math to get there, but here’s my mix recipe so far for a 100 drop mix (scale it up / down as you see fit).
Base Note: 30 Drops
- 15 Drops – Rose
- 15 Drops – Sandalwood
Middle Note: 45 Drops
- 15 Drops – Geranium
- 15 Drops – Lavender
- 15 Drops – Jasmine
Top Note: 25 Drops
- 10 Drops – Anise
- 15 Drops – Bergamot
Tone those oils down some
In most cases, you’re going to want to dilute your blend. Carrier oils and water are the two mediums used to thin use to dilute your oils. Why would you want to dilute your oils? 3 reasons mainly:
- Carrier oils are used to blend with less viscous essential oils that on their own would evaporate quickly after application
- Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils that are, for the most part, considered too strong to be used “neat” (without dilution)
- Diluting your oils can help extended the use of your oils. For example, diluting your oils to 5% can extend the life of that bottle of Frankincense 20 times over.
Coconut, sesame, grape-seed, wheat germ, jojoba and sunflower oils are examples of popular carrier oils. But unless I’m making soaps or a blend recipe that call for something different, I nearly always use “fractionated” coconut oil. It’s cheap, doesn’t smell and lasts a long time. The word “fractionated” means it stays a liquid at room temperature.
How much to dilute?
Most therapeutic blends call for between 25 and 30 drops of essential oil to approximately 15ml of carrier oil. A 15ml bottle can hold about 300 drops of liquid – so that makes a solution that is between 8% – 10% Essential Oil (EO) to Carrier Oil (CO). Or in nerd form:
- 25-30 drops (EO) : 265-270 drops (CO)
If you plan on using this blend for children, or for pregnancy you may consider dialing that percentage down to:
- 2 – 6 drops (EO) : 298 – 294 drops (CO)
For severe, short-term concerns like migraine headaches, muscle tension or bruising you may consider a 25% – 35% ratio or:
- 75 – 105 drops (EO) to 225 – 195 drops (CO)
I don’t usually recommend applying your blend “neat” (without dilution). I feel like it wasting my oils. I suppose if you’ve tried diluting your oils and it doesn’t work for you, try it neat and see what the results are. Just be aware of any sensitivity you may have to the stronger mix.
Aside from oils, there’s other mediums you can use to mix with your essential oils. For a Green Gal like myself there’s only two others I would consider: water and alcohol.
Mixing you essential oils in water makes perfect sense in spray-type applications like in a bug spray, cleaner-spray or misting-spray where you’re looking to disperse a diluted mixture over a large surface area. And since the water to essential oil dilution is so high, you don’t have to worry about keeping it in a glass bottle. For example, I keep my orange and clove cleaning spray in a plastic bottle with an industrial spraying nozzle.
A couple things to keep in mind with a water-oil blend. Since oil and water don’t mix…at all, you’ll need to shake the bottle almost constantly while you’re spraying it to keep an even solution. What’s more, evaporation will increase when you add water, so while I like using it for a quick spray blend for the bathroom, I don’t use it for aroma I want to stick around.
For perfume blends, you might consider using Everclear. That’s right: EVERCLEAR, you know…used for mixing drinks. YES, SERISOUSLY! (OK, that’s enough Megan). Perfumeries around the world use some kind of alcohol in their perfumes, so we’ll do the same. It’s a good carrier since it’s doesn’t smell (much) and gets the oils to where they need to go and then it evaporates quickly. Some folks prefer using “denatured” alcohol, which is similar to a consumable alcohol like Everclear, however chemicals have been added so it cannot be consumed. Yes, denatured alcohol is cheaper, but that’s no reason to use unsavory chemicals with your blend.
Putting it All Together
Let’s once again reference our Spring Blend. Let’s say want to make a 15ml (300 Drop) vial of this blend with 10% EO and 90% CO using Coconut Oil as the carrier.
10 percent of 300 drops equals 30 Drops of my Essential Oil Blend. You’ll make this first according to a 30% proportion of our blend, adding it to a brown 15mL bottle. Next, simply add the remaining 270 drops of coconut oil to the mix.
You’ll want to let your blend “mellow” for 24-48 hours in order for your oils to react to each other, but other than that: you….are…DONE!
Wrapping it up…
Alright, so this was a long article, power packed with information. There’s a lot to blending, but it’s not complicated, and certainly something anyone can do. My advice for those that are thinking about blending oils is: Just start doing it – you don’t have to be an expert to start! Learning to blend essential oils can be a worthwhile lifelong endeavor and – just like our baking analogy – the more you do it, the better you become.
Just keep at it, start small and don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s a lot of fun and, in the process, you may just find that perfect oil blend. You know, the one that works best for you.