Lesson 27: Blending Essential Oils
Fundamentals of Aromatherapy pages 38-48.
Creating Synergies and Making Blends
Synergy is when two or more things together are greater than the sum of them separately. For example, 1 plus 1 equals 2. But when we put 1 and 1 together synergistically, they might become worth 3 or 6 or 10—maybe even a 100. For some people, when they form a partnership, magnificent things happen—beyond anything either could accomplish on their own. Brenda and I are a synergy. Do you know people with synergy because they hooked up with each other and made BIG things happen?
When you put essential oils into your body and mind, what kind of amazing synergy could that produce?
Two Types of Combining
Many of us who grew up in the world of aromatherapy participating in multi-level (MLM) or network marketing (NWM) have been under the false impression that we can only get an essential oil blend (really a synergy) from a company that has equipment and a staff who mixes two or more oils together for a specific purpose—then we get to buy it ready-made, like a birthday cake from a bakery. However, professionals aren’t the only ones who can mix essential oils.
These ready-made blends are really synergies. Yes, it is blending also, but what I want to do here is explain that in professional aromatherapy we have synergies or recipes and we have blending into another medium such as a carrier oil, cream, salt, etc.
In the aromatherapy world there are really two kinds of blending. Let me explain. In professional aromatherapy language, a blend or blending in aromatherapy usually means mixing an essential oil into a different medium, such as a carrier oil, cream, or salt. When we combine two or more essential oils together, they are called synergies because they become more valuable than when the same oils are used separately.
The goal of blending is to balance the artistic form of the oil with its designated function.
Aromatherapists prefer the word synergies for mixing two or more essential oils together. Most people have never heard of synergies. Most synergies are commonly called blends by essential oil businesses. When we talk about blending in aromatherapy, it can mean two things: (1) we are creating a synergy, sometimes called a blend; it can be diffused or later added to a carrier oil or other medium. Or (2) a blend can mean a combination of oils, or a synergy, that is already mixed with a carrier oil or another medium such as lotion, cream, shampoo, facial cleanser or toner, or bath salts. With that said, let’s learn how to do both—create essential oil synergies and make blends by mixing synergies with other products.
Before you begin, get out a notebook and a pen to write down your recipes. It is imperative to properly label your bottles with the recipes on them so you know what is in each one. Plus, you won’t have to rely on memory to make a recipe again.
Preparing to Create a Synergy
There are various approaches when selecting essential oils for a synergy. The first thing to decide is what is the purpose? Do you want to create something to relax sore muscles? Reduce anxiety? Or improve mental clarity?
You can’t arrive at a destination unless you know where you are going. So, decide where you want to go. Then you have to decide which route to take—through the city, over the mountain, or around the bend—it’s up to you. Next, make sure to take care of the basics—do you have a car? With gas in it? And be sure to choose a beautiful day when there is nice weather—you might as well enjoy yourself!
Now let’s relate those three things—a car, gas, and the weather—with making a simple synergy.
We will need three main components: the driving oil, the supporting oil, and the enhancer oil. The “car” is the driving oil; it relates to the purpose, what we want to accomplish—relaxation, pain relief, or whatever it is. We cannot even start a trip without a car—which is a driving oil in creating synergies (aka blends). Next we need some gas or supporting oil to ensure getting the car to our destination. The supporting oil supports and strengthens the driving oil in its purpose.
Good weather on a trip enhances the enjoyment and makes getting to the destination easier. Like weather for a trip, an enhancer oil is chosen for how it enhances or improves the aroma or smell of an oil synergy (aka blend). It also enhances the abilities of the first two oils, the driving oil and the supporting oil, to fulfill the purpose.
Just like planning a trip, there are a few things to consider before and during the creation of a synergy (aka blend). First is safety. We need to be sure each of the oils we choose and the amounts we use are safe for the person who will be using it. Who are we making this synergy for? Is it a child, pregnant women, or frail elderly person? We need to review information about the oil, especially checking the safety notes, as well as reviewing safety information for any medicines being taken—we need to be sure that neither will interfere with the other. The information necessary for safe use is included in this book—in the single-oil profiles, the Dilution Chart at the end of this section and in the Safety information in the Resources section.
Also, we need to ask when, what time of day or night, the custom synergy will likely be used. Will the person it is intended for use it at night? If so, we want to make sure we don’t use oils that are stimulating and keep them awake. Imagine this scenario:
“So Harry, how is your back feeling since I gave you that synergy I made for you?” “Oh my back feels great! But now I have insomnia.”
Do you really want to make an insomnia synergy to counteract the side effects of the back ache synergy, or …? Oops, sorry—for a minute there I thought I was hearing one of those drug commercials naming twenty or so side effects.
The great thing about creating our own essential oil synergies (aka blends) is that you can create what is exactly perfect for you or your loved ones. You need to decide how you want to apply it. Maybe you want to make a mister or fill a roller bottle. Or perhaps you choose to create a soothing bath salt.
Selecting an Approach—Physical, Emotional, or Both?
Now we will decide what approach to take. Are we going to go only after the emotional side of an issue?—“I am frustrated and sad because my back hurts.” Or do we only approach a physical or health condition approach: “I want to get rid of this back ache, the pain, and inflammation.” Or do we take a holistic approach and address both the emotional and physical sides of the issue? Doing both is my preferred approach, because we are whole beings and cannot be divided into little boxes. There are times when we just want to be happy NOW! Or we want the pain gone NOW! We will address that later.
As you can see, creating synergies is much like planning a vacation. You choose where you want to go, who is going with you, what clothes to pack according to the weather, and what time will you leave. Then decide if you’ll make stops along the way or just drive straight to your destination. While the “vacation” is your main goal, there are often many individual pieces and parts that need to be considered and handled to reach your main goal.
Selecting a “Route” By Classifications
Now, which route will you take to get to your goal? You can choose from one or more of the following “routes:” chemical family, properties, plant family, plant part, or note of the oil.
How do you choose oils for a synergy or a blend?
1. CHEMICAL FAMILY
I consider the purpose for the synergy and match it with the chemical family that most closely resembles the goal. Or—sometimes I address different components of the same goal.
Here’s an example I can use from my own family. My son Cyrus plays football. Some days he really takes a beating on the field. His knees get bruised, scraped, and swollen. My main goal is to help him feel better. His bruises, scrapes, and swelling are the different components of that main goal. I want to make a synergy that will relieve pain, help fight infection and the scrapes heal, reduce swelling and bruising, AND help mend any damage to the bones and cartilage in his injured knee. I don’t care what it smells like as long as it works and Cyrus will use it.
Several oils came to mind, but what if I didn’t own all of them? I could turn to the Chemical Family pages in this book and see what each chemical family does and decide which ones seem to match up the best for my purposes. I would look at the profiles of the oils I have on hand in the Single Essential Oil section and find the chemical family under Technical Data. Then, I could pick the oils in the chemical families that would accomplish my goal. I could choose:
- A sesquiterpenol for its anti-inflammatory properties and because it is skin friendly
- A monoterpenol for anti-infectious properties and because it is soothing for the skin
- And a monoterpene oil to aid in muscle pain, for skin enhancing, and to cheer him up
Or, I could focus only on the swelling and choose three oils from the same family—sesquiterpenol—because I really want to slam it with every bit of anti-inflammatory I can find.
When considering creating a synergy by properties of oils, again I think of my purpose—which for Cyrus was to reduce pain and swelling, fight infection, and help the bones and cartilage. Then I select oils based on the properties (listed in the oil profiles in the Single Essential Oil section). I look for:
- Cicatrisant (skin healing)
- Analgesic (pain relieving)
All of these terms are defined briefly under Properties and are also defined in the Glossary located under Resources at the back of the book.
By using this method, I pick three oils with most of the beneficial properties needed for my goal that still fit within an overall program of safety and how and when I want to use the synergy I plan to make. I chose Black Spruce, Frankincense, and Sweet Birch for my synergy.
Again, I could focus only on reducing swelling and select three anti-inflammatory oils no matter what family they are in—such as Juniper Berry, Lavender, and Ginger.
3. PLANT FAMILY
Choosing oils from the plant families is done the same way as choosing from the chemical family. Look in the Plant Family section, learn what each family is known for, and choose your oils. If you need to make a synergy immediately, search in the Single Essential Oil section to find the profiles for the oils you currently own (or for the oils you plan to get). Choose three oils, based on the specific need, taking all factors into consideration.
For my son Cyrus’ knee injury, I could choose oils from the Asteraceae plant family (for their anti-inflammatory properties), the Burseraceae plant family (for their wound-healing properties), or the Geraniaceae plant family (for their anti-inflammatory and soothing-to-the-skin properties). Alternatively, I could select one oil from one family and two from another, or three from the same family—as long as they all help achieve my purpose.
4. PLANT PART
Choosing by plant part is a way of adding an emotional support component to your synergy (or blend). What kind of emotions are connected, in general or specifically, with the current issue—whether it’s physical or emotional or both? Also look at the physical characteristics of each plant part.
- I may choose a wood oil for Cyrus, in this case Sweet Birch, because he has damaged a bone and limb—his kneecap and leg.
- I might want a fruit oil for the swelling water element and to lift his spirits, such as Lemon or Juniper Berry.
- I may choose a root oil for its grounding effect of feeling settled or calm; for example, Ginger.
- Another possibility would be to stay with one plant part, such as three wood oils—Birch, Cedarwood, and Cinnamon Bark—that have beneficial properties for the bones.
Creating a Synergy
Whether you plan to create a synergy to use alone or expect to blend it with a carrier oil or other medium, start small. Make a synergy test sample first.
How to Do a Synergy Test Sample
To do a synergy test sample, start with the simple amounts of 5, 3, and 2—putting 5 drops of your high note, 3 drops of your middle note, and 2 drops of your base note into a bottle. Skake the bottle vigorously, pounding it against your hand 100 times, then let it rest at least 3 minutes. Smell the synergy for a few seconds, and adjust if needed by adding no more than 1 or 2 drops of any one oil.
Keeping an oil synergy journal is important. You want to write down exactly how many drops of each oil you are adding. Nothing is more frustrating than making an amazing synergy (aka blend) and then forgetting how you made it. Believe me!
When you are satisfied with the scent, you are ready to make your full bottle of your synergy. Keep in mind, the directions below are for the original formula, without adding any additional drops. If you adjusted your synergy, you would need to add some steps described later in “How to Adjust a Synergy.”
How to Create a Synergy
There are a few ways to create a synergy. Here you will learn how to make what we call a stock bottle or a full bottle of a synergy (aka blend) to have on hand like any ready-made “blend” (aka synergy) you might buy. Just remember, making a cake doesn’t work if you switch the amounts of flour and salt. So follow the 50/30/20 ratio. It really is very straight forward. To make a 100-drop (5 ml.) synergy, simply add 50 drops of the high note oil, 30 drops of the middle note oil, and 20 drops of the base note oil. Or, just double those amounts if you want a full 10 ml. bottle (which holds about 200 drops) depending on how thick the oils are, which can vary.
Once your oils are in the bottle, you’ll need to shake the bottle vigorously to make sure they are mixed well. I like to pound it against the palm of my hand 100 times, then let it rest at least 3 minutes, an hour, or a full day, which isn’t too long (and is best). We want the oils to have time to really “marry” or become one—a synergy, a new entity. Now you’ve made your very own synergy (aka blend), you can use it as you would any other purchased blend (aka synergy). You could make a mister, put it in a diffuser, add it to a carrier oil, or add to bath salts for a soak in the tub, etc.
How to Adjust a Synergy
After the oils have rested, smell them again to determine if you like the synergy or if one oil is overpowering the others. Adjust your synergy by adding just 1 drop of one of the other less pungent oils. Shake, rest, then smell again. I don’t recommend wandering far from the 50/30/20 ratio. Synergies sometimes need to rest for a full day before the oils really “marry,” so I usually just stick to the formula and trust my instincts.
“Creating a Synergy Can Be Fun” Song
I feel a song coming on! I can almost hear Brenda declaring, “Oh no, you don’t!”
Creating a Synergy Can Be Fun (Sing to the tune of “The Ants Go Marching”)
Three little oils is all you need.
Driving, supporting, enhancing.
50, 30, 20 percent
And they all go dripping down, into the jar
To create a synergy
Shake, rest, smell.
Creating a Synergy in Nine Easy Steps
Let’s sum up how to create a synergy—keeping it simple. There are just 9 steps I use:
- Decide the purpose (or goal) of the synergy.
- Ask if there are safety issues? —age, condition, or medications being taken?
- Consider when to use the synergy: night, morning, or after a workout?
- Choose which approach to take: emotional, physical, or both holistically.
- Choose a route to follow to fulfill the purpose (or goal). Select oils using information from one or more of the following :
- Chemical Family
- Note of the oil
- Plant Family
- Plant Part
- Choose three oils: one each for top, middle, and base note.
- Divide total drops into the 50/30/20 ratio.
- Make the synergy: put the oils in a bottle, shake, rest, and smell. Adjust if necessary.
- Use the synergy!
Nine steps may seem like a lot, but soon it will become second nature, like driving a car. Remember when you first started to learn to drive? You had to think about every action and take those actions nearly at the same time. After practicing for a while, driving became automatic, and now you simply drive, like you’re on autopilot. In much the same way, you will soon simply create synergies (i.e., blends). Please remember these are guidelines not directives.
Making a Blend Using a Synergy
How do I determine the number of total oil drops to blend with the right amount of carrier oil or another medium or base, such as a cream, a lotion, or shampoo? The key is the Dilution Chart included at the end of this section (with a second copy just before the table of Suggested Uses in Part 5).
With Cyrus, I anticipated he would probably get injured quite a bit while playing football. I considered blending my synergy in a base of cream or with a carrier oil. In either case, I would use the Dilution Chart to determine amounts. Here’s how that process works:
Using the Dilution Chart, I find the condition, the dilution percentage, the amount of carrier, and the number of drops of essential oils. Cyrus is a healthy, non-pregnant (of course!) male adult, and he is not putting this blend on his face; his need is for short-term muscle and bone pain. For that condition, I see the Dilution Chart indicates a 10% dilution. I have a 1-ounce bottle, so I find 1 ounce carrier oil on the Dilution Chart. For 1 ounce carrier oil with 10% dilution, the chart shows I need 60 drops total essential oils. Now I have the information I need to create my synergy in preparation for blending with a carrier oil.
With this information from the Dilution Chart, I can make my synergy according to the 50/30/20 ratio. For Cyrus, that’s 50% Birch or 30 drops, 30% Black Spruce or 18 drops, and 20% Frankincense or 12 drops, all totaling 60 drops. Before counting out the 60 drops and putting them together, I like to make a tiny amount for testing to make sure I like it. I make it in the same ratio—so 3 drops of Birch, 2 drops of Black Spruce, and 1 drop of Frankincense.
Make Your First Blend
Here is an essential oil bath salt recipe for you to make right now. Just mix the following together:
- 5 drops Lavender, Maillette
- 3 drops Lemon
- 2 drops Clary Sage (or substitute Rose Geranium)
- ¼ cup of sea salt or Dead Sea salts
Now you have just made your first synergy of Lavender, Lemon and Clary Sage or Rose Geranium and mixed it with a medium of salt. This recipe will relax your body and lift your spirits.
Go ahead! Start running the water for a bath now; you can finish reading while you soak. I will wait.
(If you hate taking baths, don’t make a bath-salt blend for yourself. Likewise, don’t blend a massage oil if you can’t tolerate being touched. I do hope that by using oils, it will help a person get over any phobias about being touched. Touch is an innate need all humans have. In my experience with oils for that kind of problem, I would begin by massaging myself—my shoulders, arms and hands, and feet and legs. Also, there is nothing more soothing than a long hot bath. It cleanses, detoxifies, and relaxes. This is when a bath salt blend with relaxing oils is perfect.)
How to Make a Blend Using a Carrier Oil
To make a blend with a carrier oil base: put half the carrier oil in a bottle, add your previously mixed synergy, dropping your synergy mix straight into the bottle of carrier oil. Shake the bottle a 100 times (pounding it against your palm). Add the remaining half of the carrier oil and shake it 100 times again. Finally, let it rest for a few minutes or longer. Before using your blend, smell it once again and adjust by 1 drop (if needed) before applying it.
Keeping in mind that (in a perfect world) you would follow the process of creating a synergy first, before adding it to a carrier oil or other medium. But, more often than not (because of an immediate need), you may want to make a blend all at once. When necessary, you can: select three oils, determine the amounts, put half the carrier oil in a bottle, add your essential oil drops, shake it a little, add the other half of the carrier oil, shake again, let it rest just a minute, and then smell and use it.
For Cyrus’ injured knee, I picked a 1-ounce plastic bottle with a flip-top to make it easy for him to squirt out—if it’s not simple, he won’t use it. I put in half (.5 ounce) of the carrier oil, then counted the 30, 18, and 12 drops (60 total) of the three essential oils as they dropped directly into the bottle with carrier oil. I shook the bottle 100 times against my palm, then let it rest for 3 minutes. I added the remaining half (.5 ounce) of the carrier oil, shook it up or pounded it as before. Then I gave it to Cyrus.
We are the only ones who really know our bodies. Always listen to your body, and not just when it’s screaming at you. There are several factors to be considered when deciding how much oil to use. Here are a few questions to ask:
- What is my condition? Is it a long-standing issue or something new?
- How am I going to use it?—a mister, massage oil, or face cream?
- Have I read the Safety notes on the oils I plan to use? Am I taking any medications?
- Have I read the Safety information in the Resources section of this book?
- What is the condition of the skin where I plan to apply it? Is there a cut, an open wound, a rash, or is the skin sensitive?
- How old am I? Am I pregnant? A baby? Or old and frail?
- What is my goal? How do I want to feel and look?
Think these things through, look at the chart, and blend away—have fun! Use this as an opportunity to be creative. Make gifts for your friends and family members. Give your significant other a massage, give your kids a massage. This is a tradition at our house. My kids give each other and Kent and I massages—feet, hands, shoulders, and back massages. All you need is a bathing suit or pair of shorts, some carrier oil and willing hands. I have been amazed as we and our children have done this, the more caring and connected we have all become with each other.
Creating synergies or making blends is an art form. Use your imagination for inspiration. Keep it simple. Try something impossible. What impossible thing will you do today?