Have you ever been walking down the street and smelled something that suddenly transported you to some long-forgotten memory? Hopefully, that smell was the sweet scent of a particular cake wafting out of a bakery that reminds you of the one your grandmother used to make for your childhood birthdays… and not something horrible drifting out of a dingy alleyway. But whatever the scent is, the point is that smell is a strong trigger for memories.
You might not even realize the power your sense of smell can have over your memories and emotions. If we asked you what your childhood best friend’s house smelled like, we’re willing to bet you wouldn’t have an answer to that question. At least not a specific one. But if you walked into another house that smelled the same way? You’d probably instantly be able to place it, and it might even bring back some childhood memories you thought you’d forgotten.
This is actually a quirk of your brain’s anatomy. Anything you smell passes through your limbic system, and your limbic system includes the amygdala and the hippocampus, which are the two regions in your brain most closely connected to memory and emotion. So anything you smell has a pretty direct connection to these things—memory and emotion—which makes your sense of smell a surprisingly powerful one!
That's what inspires aromatherapists to create their blends with everything from patchouli to geranium essential oil. In the same way, mastering the mixing of essential oils could be a powerful skill in your self-care repertoire.
Imagine if you could concoct an uplifting mixture of essential oils with nutmeg and cinnamon that immediately harkens back to the magic of Christmas when you’re little. Smell is a powerful thing — and we think it’s important to know how to make the most of it!
While we’re not exactly perfumers, we think we’ve distilled the art of essential oil mixing into a pretty straightforward list of DIY do’s and don’ts — with plenty of room for you to make the process your own!
Do Start Simple
Everybody’s sense of smell is different. And everybody has different associations with different smells. While the scent of bergamot or ylang-ylang might be beautiful and relaxing to you, others might find it too floral. And someone else might love cedarwood or eucalyptus, but someone else might find that it gives them a headache.
In order to find your ideal mix of essential oils, you’ll first have to test them out. We recommend adding a few drops of essential oil to your diffuser’s full water reservoir so you know what it smells like and what that smell evokes in you.
Don’t Start With Complicated, Pre-mixed Essential Oils
Lots of places offer essential oils pre-mixed, with names describing the effect the aromatherapy is meant to heave. Although companies often pair essential oils together to make sure they’re compatible both in scent and in wellness benefits, these mixes aren’t personalized in any way.
If you want to create the perfect mix of essential oils, you’re better off getting to know individual essential oils first and starting from the basics.
Do Consider The Health And Wellness Benefits Of Each Essential Oil
Essential oils offer many health benefits when administered properly. Some essential oils have calming, relaxing properties, while others have qualities that make them great for keeping you alert and focused. In making your perfect mix, it’s important to consider the influence each essential oil might have on your mood and state of mind, and not just consider how they smell.
Don’t Mix Oils Based Solely On Scent
If you choose your custom blend based solely on the scent, you’re not likely to have the optimal experience. The ideal essential oil mix meshes well and is pleasant to your senses, but also creates the aromatherapy experience you’re looking for.
If you judge your essential oil mixture based only on your favorite scents, you might end up putting a mixture in your diffuser before you go to bed that smells relaxing… but actually stimulates your body in a way that keeps you awake.
Do, However, Consider How The Scents Will Blend Together
Although different oils can have complex scents with notes of their own, it might be useful to identify each essential oil in your diffuser blend as an individual aromatic note. Your mixture should have a top note, a middle note, and a base note.
Your top note is generally the most obvious scent in your mixture. It’s the first one you notice, but it doesn’t last very long. The middle note is longer lasting, and the base note is less overpowering but has the greatest longevity. By incorporating different levels into your essential oil mixture, you’ll be able to create a more complex scent that’s more appealing to your senses — so while scent shouldn’t be your only consideration, it’s definitely important.
But DON’T Be Afraid To Experiment
While it’s useful to consider essential oils as part of different families — energizing, relaxing, warm, green, or whatever works for you — so that you can have an easier idea of which essential oils might go together, making your own essential oil blend is about finding the perfect mixture for you.
Maybe your two favorite scents in the world are clary sage and grapefruit. Clary sage is often used to promote better sleeping habits, while grapefruit is thought to be invigorating and to stimulate better focus. These might not seem like they go together — but if the idea of combining them excites you, you should try it! Only you can really know what’s going to work best for you and your nose.
So while we’re offering you guidelines, you should follow your heart. Or your nose.
Do Think About How You’re Going To Use Your Essential Oil Mixture
If you use essential oils in a diffuser, your mixture will be diluted with water before being spread by the diffuser, so you don’t need to incorporate anything else into that mix. However, if you plan to use your essential oil mixture topically or as skincare, you’ll want to consider which carrier oil for diluting it — and how that dilution will impact the scent of your mixture, as well as the additional benefits the oils may provide.
For example, coconut oil is a great carrier oil if you intend to use your mixture on your skin as a lotion, but you’ll want to consider that it will likely add some coconut aroma to your mixture. This might be great for citrus oils like lime, but it may not mesh quite as well with frankincense or tea tree.
Other oils, like almond, argan, apricot kernel, or jojoba oil, have a nutty scent. This might be a great advantage to some warmer pure essential oil mixtures, but if you’re going for a bright and cooling blend with peppermint or lemongrass, these carrier oils might seem too heavy and weigh your ideal scent down.
Don’t Start Off With A Big Batch Of Your Essential Oil Mixture
If you’re trying out an essential oil mixture for the first time, start small. It’s hard to know how a mixture will smell after it’s been in your essential oil diffuser for a while or how well it will wear on your skin. You might love the scent of neroli at the start, but after some time, you find that sandalwood suits you better.
It’s best to start with a weaker, diluted mixture and test that out a few times until you’re sure you’re happy with it. This way, you can make adjustments if you feel your essential oil mixture is unbalanced, or overpowering — or just isn’t exactly what you want.
Do Keep Track Of What You’re Adding To Your Mixture
Imagine the heartbreak of finding the perfect essential mixture… only to realize you haven’t written down your proportions!
Not only should you test out your essential oil mixture in a small amount to begin with, but you should keep a careful record of how much of each essential oil, or carrier oil, you add to the mixture. This way, when you’re happy with it, you can recreate it in a larger quantity so you can bottle your favorite essential oil blend and have it whenever you want it!
Our sense of smell is powerful! It can trigger vivid memories and influence our emotions — so it’s no wonder aromatherapy and essential oils are often recommended to help with so many things. From chamomile calming you down when you’re stressed to spearmint helping you focus or even helping ease discomfort, knowing the benefits of each essential oil can make your life a lot easier.
But if one essential oil is helpful, harnessing the power and benefits of multiple essential oils in a single, potent blend can be a gamechanger. We’ve shared a bunch of advice to help you navigate making your own personal essential oil blends, but before we go, we have one last, crucial “do” for your list. And we promise it’s an easy one.
Do have fun mixing your essential oils! See? Simple.