Lesson 25: Notes of Essential Oils

Leiann’s Video

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Notes of Essential Oils

Another helpful way to categorize essential oils is by note. Oils are divided into three different notes: top, middle and base. A note is defined by how quickly the oil evaporates and rises in a synergy in order for you to be able to smell it or be affected by it. Creating a blend by note was and is still used in making perfumes. Using this method in conjunction with other methods will help ensure a balanced and enjoyable aroma to your synergies. Of course, sometimes we may not care how a synergy smells, we may just want the problem gone, which was the case for Cyrus’ injured knee. But many times you can accomplish both—having the problem go away while the scent lifts and carries you away.


Top notes evaporate the quickest and are the first aroma you experience in a synergy (i.e., a blend). These oils stimulate the brain, adding a brightness that clears the mind, giving us energy to move upwards. The aroma is fresh, light, airy, penetrating, and sharp.

Top note oils are:

  • Basil
  • Bergamot
  • Birch
  • Eucalyptus Citriodora
  • Eucalyptus Radiata
  • Grapefruit
  • Green Mandarin
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Red Mandarin

Middle-note oils soften the sharpness that top notes can sometimes give to a synergy. Middle notes balance and harmonize a synergy both energetically and physically. They are sometimes called the “heart” of a synergy or “heart note.” When going through the single-oil profiles, you will notice that some oils are top-middle or middle-base. A middle-note essential oil can have the attributes of both top-middle and middle-base, that’s what gives a fullness to your synergies. There is another advantage for some oils having two notes—sometimes when making a synergy, maybe you can’t find just the right top note; in that case, you can look at the oils that are top-middle or middle-top notes and select one in place of the top note in your synergy. The same goes for base note—you can also select an oil from the middle-base or base-middle oils to complete your synergy.

Middle note oils include:

  • Bay laurel
  • Black pepper
  • Black Spruce
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary Sage
  • Clove Bud
  • Coriander
  • Cypress
  • Fennel
  • Fir, balsam
  • Ginger
  • Helichrysum
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Marjoram
  • Neroli
  • Niaouli
  • Palmarosa
  • Ravensara
  • Rose Geranium
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme Linalool

Base-note essential oils evaporate slowly so are the last to be smelled, the last to your nose—the opposite of top note oils. They are known as “fixatives” because they hold your synergy together, slowing down the evaporation rate of any top note in your synergy. They are usually from roots, woods, or resins; although there are some exceptions—jasmine, rose and ylang ylang, which are floral, and patchouli, which is a leaf oil. Base notes are very grounding and soothing to our emotions, relieving insomnia, anxiety and stress.

Base note are:

  • Cedarwood
  • Myrrh
  • Sandalwood
  • Frankincense
  • Patchouli
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Jasmine
  • Rose
Designing a Synergy by Note

Designing synergies by note is simple. Select one oil from each note according to your goal. Back to my example with Cyrus, I chose Black Spruce (middle note) for inflammation and his skinned knee, Frankincense (base note) for swelling, and Birch (top note) for pain.

For this synergy, Sweet Birch is my driving oil because my main goal was pain relief and inflammation. My supporting oil is Frankincense because it also is anti-inflammatory and adds skin-healing qualities. Black Spruce is my enhancer because the aroma adds to the synergy, bringing harmony among the oils, and it also is anti-inflammatory, removes water from swelling, and is warming. Notice that we have a wood for bones, resins for skin, and leaves to lighten his mood.Each single-oil profile also gives ideas for which other oils tend to blend well with that particular oil.

Testing a Synergy by Smell

Pick three oils you think will work well together, a top, a middle, and a base note oil. Remember the oils that have two notes can fit where you need them.

With the lids off, hold the three oil bottles in your hands, grouped closely together in a sort of triangle, keeping the tops level with each other. Then pass them under your nose to smell the combined aroma. See if you like it. If possible, have the person you are blending for smell them. If you or that person doesn’t like the combined scent, try replacing one of the oils for a different oil in the same category. In between smelling sets of oils, smell some coffee beans—that will clear your nose “palate” of the previous aroma.

The 50/30/20 Ratio

When you have settled on the three oils you want to use, one from each note, there is an easy way to decide how many drops of each to use. Just remember the ratio 50/30/20—50% for high note, 30% for middle note, and 20% for base note.

Using the oil properties to help me decide which oils to put in my synergy for Cyrus, I picked Birch for a high note oil, Black Spruce for a middle note, and Frankincense for a base note.

Using the 50/30/20 ratio, I can quickly think 50% Birch, 30% Black Spruce, and 20% Frankincense, and can easily convert that into drops—5 drops Birch, 3 drops Black Spruce, and 2 drops Frankincense—for a total of 10 drops. This is a simple way for figuring a synergy by note.

Some of you may say, “Well, I buy blends with more than three oils in them.” Yes, but remember we want to keep this simple and fun. If you have more than three oils, try to maintain your driving oil at 50% and make any adjustments with the enhancing and supporting oils. If you have two enhancing oils, divide their percentages (divide 30% or 20% in half) according to the category of note they are in. For now, let’s just stick with three oils.