It’s no coincidence that we humans closely tie scents with memories. In fact, we’re hard-wired for it; our olfactory lobe, the small part of the brain that analyzes smells, is closely connected to the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions of the brain that handle memories and emotions.
This close tie is the reason why we can’t smell rose water without thinking of Grandma, why the smell of cinnamon reminds us of the holidays, and why the scent of lemon makes us think of a fresh and clean house (although clever marketing may have more to do with that).
It’s also why essential oils are so effective and so personal. Whether you are creating your own customized scent or want to make powerful homemade cleaning products, the key to learning how to blend essential oils is to find the scents you like, balance them to bring out their best qualities, and create uses for them around your house and your life.
Choosing the Right Essential Oils
To keep things simple in the beginning, it’s best to limit yourself to your five favorite essential oils. If you don’t know what these are yet, get to sniffing! You may be aware of your favorite scents without realizing their aromatic properties. Think about your favorite herbs, zests, flavors, and flowers and write them down. It may even be helpful to note which scents turn you off.
After you’ve explored a few scents, grab some perfume strips and your five favorite oils, and get ready to smell fantastic.
Finding the Right Balance
Essential oils are not created equal when it comes to their scent strength. For instance, when you compare lavender with chamomile, you’ll very quickly find that chamomile is a much more powerful scent than lavender. Pair them up drop for drop, and you’ll find the lavender disappears entirely (in this case you’ll need about six drops of lavender to balance the chamomile, give or take a drop).
Finding the right balance of essential oils takes a little trial and error, so start small and give yourself lots of room to breathe (literally—you may also need to take a break once in a while).
Here’s how you get started:
• Add three drops of each essential oil onto its own perfume strip.
• Waft all five strips in a fan in front of your face, inhaling as the scented air blows toward your nose.
• Close your eyes and see if you can pick out all five scents. Does one overpower? Does one or two hide behind the others?
Getting the Right Ratio
Now that you have an idea of which scents work well together and which ones needed to be strengthened or weakened, now it’s time to create an essential oil ratio. Add or remove perfume strips as needed, counting the drops you add or remove and repeat the above steps until your scent is found. At that point, add up the number of drops for each scent, and you’ll have a ratio that you can either scale up or scale down as needed.
There is no right or wrong with this process; essential oils can still be used for other things even if the scent wasn’t right for their intended purpose. Encourage yourself to play. This is why we have you only start with your five favorite scents; no matter how you blend essential oils, you’ll still end up creating something with what you already love. Just remember, because scents are so closely tied to memory, what appeals to you may evoke a different response for someone else.
Essential Oil Tip: Add a drop of your favorite scents (lavender and mint come to mind) to a damp washcloth and throw it into the dryer with your next load of clothes for a homemade dryer sheet that can be tumbled with wet or dry clothes.