This week let’s expand on what we learned last week in Aromatherapy 101 and move into blending essential oils. This can take some practice however it is rare that a blend cannot be saved with just a bit of tinkering. Blends are when you are looking for multiple results perhaps not available in just one essential oil. Our bodies take in essential oils in 2 ways. The first is through inhalation, which can have an effect on our mood and feelings. Some essential oils deliver physical results through inhalations, an example being a menthol blend to help clear sinus and chest congestion, however, most inhalation of essential oils is to calm, focus or stimulate the mind/mood. The second way the body takes in essential oils is by absorption through our skin. Our skin “eats” everything we put on it by absorbing the product and allowing it to make its way into the bloodstream, where it is passed all around the body to gets to work, whatever its job may be.
Let’s start by discussing Carrier Oils.
We know from last week’s blog that essential oils should not be used undiluted or “neat” on the skin as they can be quite irritating or even cause burns. Also, they are quite volatile and tend to evaporate quickly. When you have invested in therapeutic grade oils, it would be a shame to add them to an unworthy oil. Carrier oils can be looked at as a delivery system for your essential oils. You want to use one that will not distort the therapeutic qualities of the essential oils and that will be readily absorbed into the skin so you can get the maximum benefit. Look for high quality, cold-pressed oils so that their own nourishing properties are intact. One of our preferred local suppliers is Back to Earth –the team at Back to Earth has mastered the art of infusion of pure essential oil blends, with local, and ethically wild-crafted plants from around the world and provides high-quality products including their line of essential oils. There are dozens of oils that can be used, here are a handful to start with.
Grapeseed Oil – made from a pressure extraction of grape seeds, this oil is very benign meaning it does not alter the effects of essential oil. It is also readily absorbed by the skin. It can leave a yellowish stain on lighter materials so be mindful of what you are going to use it on. Grapeseed oil does have a shelf life and will develop an acrid smell when it has spoiled.
Jojoba Oil – made from a pressure extraction of the jojoba seed, which is 50% oil. This is the oil most closely resembles the oil that our skin produces and is more shelf-stable than most vegetable and Grapeseed oils.
Coconut Oil – look for Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil, pressure extracted, this has not been heat-treated and retains its benefits. This oil does have large molecules and can clog pores in some users, but has a very stable shelf life.
Apricot Kernel Oil – made from pressure extraction, this is a very light oil that does not leave a greasy residue, making it great for facial blends. It does have a shelf life, and will also develop an acrid smell when spoiled.
This list could go on for pages, however, let’s keep it at that so we can get into the process of blending. Last week, we looked at the four main “families” of essential oils and their properties/effects on the human body. Most will have one major benefit, so it great to blend a few together for multiple benefits. When blending it’s easy to think of it in three parts – a base note, a middle note and a top note. The base note is generally what the “heaviest” note is, the strongest scent that would need to be balanced out to avoid being overpowering. The middle note is that balancing essential oil, one that complements and tones the base note. The top note is the “lightest” and used to highlight the other oils. When you are beginning to blend, start with mixing 2-3 to see how they complement and balance each other out, or maybe do not. It can be helpful to approach the essential oils you are wanting to blend by looking to nature. Think of the woodsy family as a good base – Sandalwood, Frankincense, and Patchouli are grounding, heavy and can carry a load. The menthol family creates nice middle notes by balancing the strong base note with that same base note curbing the middle note. The Citrus and Flower families make beautiful notes as they are naturally light and uplifting. If you are unsure what essential oils pair well together, smell them side by side in open bottles. You will notice if they clash for you, as scent is a very personal thing. The scents you love to smell might be somebody else’s least favourite. If you are wanting to create homemade essential oil blends for friends or family, ask them what type of scents they like first and what benefits they are looking for.
When you are ready to start blending, have a notebook handy to record your recipes, this will help you make loved blends again and remember which ones just did not work. Also, have a glass bowl to mix the essential oils together in. Begin with a 1:1 ratio and go from there. For example, let’s say you are using Sandalwood for a base note, Sweet Orange for a middle note and Rose for the top note, put 1 drop of each in the glass bowl and mix together. Inhale and see if you can smell them all and what is coming through strongest; with this blend, the rose might be lost against the stronger Sandalwood and Orange, you may need a 1:1:4-5 ratio. The great thing about blending is that you can always add more of what is needed for balance. Each time you add one drop of essential oil, write it in the notebook so when you go to add this to the carrier oil, you know how much to use. A rule of thumb is that you are looking for about 10 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. (30ml, 6 teaspoons) of your carrier oil. If your blend has ended up taking 25 drops, you want to use 2 – 2.5 oz. of carrier oil for use.
As mentioned before, scent is such a personal preference, however, here are some of our favourite blends from the KurSpa team and their properties:
Morning Wake-up: Blend of Pink Grapefruit, Juniper and Sweet Fennel – clearing and invigorating
Sleep well: Sandalwood, Chamomile, Vetiver and Lavender – calming and grounding
Study Time: Frankincense, Orange and Chamomile – focusing and clarity
Aches & Pains: Peppermint, Rosemary, Arnica and Lavender – anti-inflammatory and analgesic
Romance: Sandalwood, Jasmine and Cinnamon – enticing and warming
Once you get to know your favourite oils, blending becomes easier and more fun. Once you have blended the essential oils, you can add them to your carrier oil to make body oils, use them with bath salts or even make room sprays. If you are making a room spray, you can add your blended essential oils to distilled water. Keeping in mind that essential oils are hydrophobic (do not like or mix well with water) you will need to buy an emulsifier (bonds the essential oils and water), which are usually available where essential oils are sold. Follow the directions on the emulsifier label and shake well. It is normal that you may have to shake the room spray before each use.
Happy experimenting and stay well!