Top, Middle and Base Notes in Aromatherapy

In all my articles, I suggest which oils to use. I would like to now share with you how to blend the different oils to make a balanced and complete recipe for massage. Essential oils are broken down into three main categories when used for aromatherapy treatments. They are top notes, middle notes and base notes. When mixing essential oils, it is usually best to use all three notes in combination to arrive at a balanced and well-defined scent, especially if you are treating the whole body and not just one aspect of a condition. It is because these oils work on the spiritual and emotional natures as well as the physical body that consideration should be given to include at least one of each note. If you primarily want to stimulate and enliven, you would use maybe 2 or 3 top notes, one middle and one base note in the formula. Likewise for a meditative, sedative oil, base notes would be prime and only accented with a top note and bridged with a middle note. It is advisable not to use more than 5 or 6 oils in a basic recipe, and depending on the amount of essential oils used, no more than a drop or two of each for each ounce of carrier oil used. Usually I would only use a total of 6 to 8 drops of 3 different oils in one massage session. (And some of my more powerful treatments were when I only used a single oil, rather than a mixture of many. A single oil can be very focused and precise for a specific condition, where as a recipe of 5 or 6 will be more for general overall health). There are essential oil companies that give special instruction for the use of their oils for specific treatments, like rainbow therapy, which in that case, you would follow the manufacturer’s instructions. But generally, for regular massage, the above recommendations are safe and suggested.

Oils with top notes are the most volatile and their scent lasts the least amount of time when exposed to air. These oils are usually derived from flowers, leaves and flowering herbs and mostly affect acute conditions because they are so fast acting. Their qualities are uplifting and stimulating and can be used for lethargy, depression, lack of interest or fatigue. When used in a mixture with the other notes, the top note usually is the one you smell first. It is the first one to stimulate the limbic system and start the healing or detoxing process. Top notes have the ability to buoy up the emotions, bringing joviality and lightness to a situation, while stimulating awareness, focus and alertness. Some of these oils include eucalyptus, basil, clary sage, petitgrain, tea tree, bergamot, cedarwood, lemon, mandarin, verbena, and rosemary.

Oils with middle notes generally affect the over all health of the body, assisting and balancing the major systems of the body like the digestive, cardio-vascular and lymphatic systems. They are mainly derived from spices and herbs (usually using the whole plant) and are a link between the faster top notes and the slower base notes. The main word for these middle note essential oils is balance. In creating the linking between the notes, they are able to establish a connection between the mental and physical planes. For instance if you have lack of concentration or forgetfulness, that could be considered an inability to digest information. Stiff joints could reflect inflexibility in your life. Arthritis could suggest the need to grasp on to things too tightly, or be too controlling. So it seems that middle notes have a way of treating the metaphysical reasons behind the physical debilities and bringing balance to the mind/body connection. Some of the middle notes are: geranium, cardamom, lavender, ylang ylang, cypress, fennel, melissa, ginger, hyssop, jasmine, rose, peppermint, marjoram, juniper, chamomile and black pepper.

The base note oils were some of the earliest essential oils used by man because of their ability to be tapped as the resins and gums of trees. These base oils, like their name, denote solidity and groundedness. The trees that they are extracted from have their roots deep into the earth and when used, bring us back into our bodies and enable us to plant our feet on the ground. Base note oils would be good for nervousness, erratic behavior, flighty feelings, in fact, any emotion that would tend to make us want to flee our bodies emotionally. These oils also work for chronic conditions; disease states that having been buried deep within us (like the roots of a tree), and for those mental states that were so traumatic, they have been lodged in the unconscious. Many times deep seated angers, frustrations, feelings of rejections and pain have been energetically suppressed down into the tissues and organs of our bodies, where they sit and fester, creating a toxic environment for disease. Base note oils have the ability to support us and help us to feel safe as we journey into that dark place of dysfunction, lifting the emotions up like branches of the tree. Recognizing the emotions behind a disease can often alleviate the miasmic patterns behind that disease and help bring about health and proper functioning. These oils include benzoin, frankincense, vetiver, neroli, pine, patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, myrrh, cinnamon, and vanilla.

So whether you are creating a formula for a massage treatment, adding a new recipe to your face cream or designing a mixture for your bath, it is worth balancing the oils for a balanced harmony between the body and mind.