Making essential oil blends is an easy and effective way to reap the benefits of aromatherapy at home. Essential oils can be mixed with carrier oils to make massage, bath, body and face oils, or they can be added to ready-made base products such as creams and lotions. Whilst using single essential oils can indeed be effective in helping to restore balance to the body and mind, combining two or more oils can often be more valuable and more pleasing to the senses.
Making essential oil blends requires a few essentials to get started, including:
It is a good idea to start off with just a few essential and carrier oils to get used to blending. With experience, new essential and carrier oils can be introduced to the collection.
A basic oil blend usually contains one or two carrier oils and up to three essential oils. More essential oils may be used where deemed necessary, but too many may result in a blend that is too overpowering and has lost the individual aromas of each oil.
As a general guide, use 2 drops of essential oil per 5ml of carrier oil. This is referred to as a 2% dilution. Only 1 drop – or a 1% dilution – should be used in facial blends, for overly sensitive skin, during pregnancy or if irritant essential oils such as peppermint, cinnamon and lemon-scented oils are used. A 3% dilution – 3 drops – may be used for more physical complaints, such as muscular aches and pains. More fragrant oils, such as jasmine, rose and ylang ylang, may only need a low percentage in order to have a powerful effect, or to alter the characteristics of an entire blend.
When using a new essential oil for the first time, it is a good idea to perform a patch test before making a full size blend, especially if the skin is sensitive. To perform a patch test, dilute 1-2 drops of a single essential oil in 5ml of carrier oil. Apply a little of the blend to the inner elbow or behind the ear and leave on the skin for 24 hours. If no reaction occurs, the oil is safe to use diluted on the skin. However, if irritation occurs – such as tingling, itching, burning or redness – the blend should be washed off with a mild soap and water. A reaction to a patch test means the essential oil that caused irritation should not be used in oil blends.
Essential oils, carrier oils and oil blends should be stored in a cool, dark place away from children, animals and naked flames or heat sources. Oil blends should be labelled with their ingredients and the date they were made. Oil blends generally keep for about 6 months if stored correctly. After that, the essential oils may start to oxidise and the carrier oils could start to turn rancid, meaning the blend will begin to lose both its therapeutic and aromatic qualities.
Making essential oil blends is both an art and a science, and can be a fun, creative hobby for many. Creating personalised oil blends instead of buying ready-made blends allows them to be tailored to each person's particular requirements. For example, there are a number of essential oils that help to aid relaxation, however not everyone is going to like the aroma of all of those oils. Furthermore, some essential oils may not be suitable for everyone, such as pregnant ladies, individuals with epilepsy or those with overly sensitive skin.
The first step in creating a blend is to determine its purpose. Will it be designed to help a physical complaint, such as acne or joint pain; or an emotional complaint, such as anxiety or depression?
Once the nature of the blend has been established, the next step is to choose a bottle that will hold and store it. Skincare oils are best suited to small bottles with a pipette; usually only a few drops of a blend needs to be applied to the skin, and a pipette dropper helps to dispense a small amount of oil without spillage.
Bath and body oils can be stored in larger bottles. They are best suited to pump or atomiser closures, as they allow a controlled amount of oil to be dispensed and massaged into the body or mixed into a bath. Regular bottle caps could also be used, allowing the blend to be poured.
If base creams are to be used, the essential oils can either be added directly to the cream's container, or the blend can be transferred to another jar.
After the container has been chosen, the carrier and essential oils may be picked. Carrier oils should be selected for their therapeutic properties. For example, grapeseed oil is easily absorbed and helps to nourish the skin, meaning it is an excellent choice for body blends. When making facial blends, it may be a good idea to choose carrier oils depending on skin type. Jojoba would be a good choice for oily skin since it helps to balance sebum; peach kernel helps to soften and soothe normal to dry skin; and rosehip helps to rejuvenate mature skin.
Essential oils should be selected according to their therapeutic properties (referring to essential oil profiles and therapeutic guides) and then narrowed down to an individual's specific preferences. For instance, if the blend's aim is to help ease muscle tension and relieve fatigue, then essential oils that are both warming and stimulating should be used, as opposed to those that are warming but sedating.
The emotional response to smell also plays a key factor in creating oil blends. Certain essential oils evoke memories and feelings in individuals, therefore it may be desirable to include oils that are associated with positive memories. Similarly, it would be prudent to avoid essential oils that are associated with negative feelings.
Essential oils are divided into three notes: top, middle and base. These notes correspond to the evaporation rate of an oil’s aroma. Top notes typically have a fresh characteristic; they evaporate the fastest and are usually the first to be detected in an oil blend. Examples of top notes include tea tree, orange, grapefruit, bergamot, eucalyptus and basil.
Middle notes form the heart of an oil blend and can be detected a little while after the first impression. Middle note essential oils include lavender, marjoram, rosemary, geranium, chamomile and lemongrass.
Base notes are deep, heavy scents that emerge slowly and linger. They can also act as fixatives to help stop the lighter oils from diffusing too quickly. Rose, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, jasmine and patchouli are all examples of base notes.
Although combining fragrance notes to form a harmonious blend is primarily used in perfumery, the same principles can be applied to aromatherapy to help create well-balanced essential oil blends. A typical 2% blend may contain 1 drop of a base note oil, 4 drops of a middle note and 3 drops of a top note.
A synergy is defined as the effect of two or more agents working together harmoniously to produce an effect that is greater than the sum of its separate parts. Some essential oils, when blended together, have a mutually balancing effect on the others, resulting in a greater therapeutic effect than if the oils were used alone. For example, chamomile’s anti-inflammatory properties are boosted when it is blended with lavender.
Oils of the same botanical family generally blend well together. For example, oils of the Lamiaceae family, including lavender, marjoram, rosemary, clary sage, basil and peppermint all complement each other. Oils that share common chemical constituents also blend well, such as eucalyptus, rosemary and spike lavender, all of which contain cineol.