Essential Oil Notes & Categories Explained

Essential oil notes are a measure used to determine the fragrance, strength and lasting power of each individual essential oil. By combining individual essential oils you can make your own unique fragrance or blend such as massage oils, skin oils, hair treatments, bath recipes, candles, soaps and more. This blending process is really quite simple and some knowledge of essential oils notes will ensure that you can create a long lasting, aromatically balanced formula.

essential oil categories

Essential Oil Categories

There are three main ways to categorise essential oils, by their note, their fragrance and their effect. 

Essential Oil Notes

By understanding the note of each individual oil, you can easily decide which oils will work best together, how long the overall aroma will last and how it will change with time. Top note essential oils tend to be light and uplifting and with aromas that will evaporate the fastest while base notes are more grounding, providing the body of the fragrance and will evaporate the slowest. Middle notes (aka heart notes) are, obviously, in the middle but also act as a ‘bridge’ between the top and base notes, allowing them to come together and helping the overall blend to harmonise.

The essential oil notes are;

  • Top Note : Basil, Bay, Bergamot, Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Thyme
  • Middle Note : Black Pepper, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Citronella, Clary Sage, Clove, Cypress, Geranium, Juniper, Marjoram, Pine, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Thyme, Ylang, Ylang
  • Bottom Note : Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Frankincense, Ginger, Jasmine, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rose, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang.
Top Notes tend to be
  • Bright
  • Refreshing
  • Clarifying
  • Inspiring
  • Heartening
  • Energizing
Middle Notes tend to be;
  • Balancing
  • Warming
  • Grounding
Base Notes tend to be;
  • Calming
  • Emotionally grounding
  • Soothing
  • Relaxing

Essential Oil Fragrances

Essential oils come in countless fragrances, each individual oil having a unique aroma. But to keep things simple, oils are generally categorised into 8 fragrance groups;

  1. Citrus : Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, Bergamot, Lime, Lemongrass, Mandarin
  2. Floral : Chamomile, Geranium, Jasmine, Rose, Neroli, Geranium Rose, Lavender, Ylang Ylang
  3. Herbal / Herbaceous : Chamomile, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Marjoram, Rosemary, Bay, Tea Tree
  4. Camphoraceous / Minty : Eucalyptus, Laurel, Cajeput, Wintergreen, Peppermint
  5. Resinous / Musky : Benzoin, Frankincense, Myrrh
  6. Spicy : Basil, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, 
  7. Woody : Cypress, Juniper, Pine, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Amyris, 
  8. Earthy : Frankincense, Myrrh, Palo Santo.

You might sometimes find that an essential blend’s aroma will change slightly at times. This is due to the plant’s growing conditions, the season in which the plant was harvested and the drying and storage condition. This will not have any significant effect on their overall effects.

Citrus Aromas tend to be;
  • Energizing
  • Uplifting
  • Emotionally balancing
  • Reducing feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Deodorizing
  • Cleansing (popular in antibacterial blends)
  • Refreshing
  • Mentally stimulating
  • Spiritually heartening
Floral Aroma tend to be;
  • Comforting
  • Restful
  • Promote sleep
  • Mood balancing
Herbal / Herbaceous Aromas tend to be;
  • Calming
  • Promotes positivity
  • Encouraging
  • Emotionally balancing
  • Grounding
Camphoraceous / Minty Aromas tend to be;
  • Stimulating
  • Refreshing
  • Enhance focus
  • Increase concentration
  • Motivating
  • Cooling
  • Invigorating
  • Mentally clarifying
Spicy Aromas tend to be;
  • Bracing
  • Rousing
  • Crisp and penetrating
  • Lively
Resinous / Musky Aromas tend to be;
  • Grounding  
  • Promoting relaxation
  • Giving a sense of inner calm
  • Emotionally balancing
  • Uplifting
  • Enhances intimacy
Woody Aromas trend to be;
  • Soothing
  • Warming
  • Comforting
  • Calms the mind
Earthy Aromas tend to be;
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Create a tranquil space
  • Reduce stress and depression
  • Aids meditation

Essential Oil Effects / Benefits

The effects of essential oils are the benefits they impart. Many essential oils have  more than one note, fragrance or effect and this can sometimes make choosing oils for your blend a bit confusing. It can be easier to make this choice by narrowing down the oil options based on the characteristics of their fragrance families. 

Each fragrance family has a primary aroma and a corresponding primary effect, calming, grounding, energising, sedative etc.

Balance Hormones : Clary Sage, Geranium, Thyme

Boost Immunity & Fight Infection : Myrrh, Lemon, Ginger, Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Oregano

Digestion : Ginger, Peppermint, Juniper, Marjoram, Black Pepper, Lemongrass

Energy Levels : Lemongrass, Lemon, Grapefruit, Eucalyptus, Rosemary

Support Brain Function : Bergamot, Eucalyptus

Anxiety & Emotional Stress : Rose, Frankincense, Chamomile, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Orange, Frankincense, Vetiver

Aches & Pains : Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Chamomile, Rosemary, Marjoram, Thyme, Ginger, Myrrh, Frankincense, Turmeric

Skin & Hair Health : Clary Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Chamomile, Frankincense, Tea Tree, Geranium, Myrrh

Detoxifying : Lemon, Grapefruit, Ginger, Lemongrass, Orange, Cinnamon

Headaches & Migraines : Lavender, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Rosemary

Restful Sleep : Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Vetiver, Chamomile, 

Most Useful Essential Oils

Following are a list of the most beneficial and useful essential oils that everyone should keep in their home.

  • Lavender Oil: An incredibly calming effect on mind, body and spirit and one of the most popular and versatile of oils. Soothing and healing for the skin and skin conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema.
  • Peppermint Oil: Refreshing and energising, Peppermint also supports healthy digestion, soothes digestive aches and upsets, aids respiratory system, clears congestion and is powerfully anti inflammatory.
  • Tea Tree Oil: Antibacterial and antiviral, tea tree essential oil can be used on all types of infections. A must have for your first aid box.
  • Patchouli Oil: A very calming and grounding oil and one of the most popular essential for meditation and yoga. Can also reduce red and irritated skin.
  • Orange Oil: A wonderfully positive oil to lift your spirits and bring confidence into your life. It also supports your digestion, soothing minor aches and discouraging infections.
  • Eucalyptus Oil: Promoting deep and clear breathing, eucalyptus oil is a wonderful decongestant and helps clear your airways as well as having anti inflammatory properties. Brings a bright energy to your home, purifying the air when someone is sick.
  • Ylang Ylang Oil: Quiets the mind, releases muscular tension and promotes emotional healing.
  • Frankincense Oil: A wonderful healing oil for your skin, improving it’s tone and elasticity as well as giving it  healthy glow. 
  • Chamomile Oil: A very calming oil creating a sense of wellbeing and calm and aiding restful sleep. Can also relieve muscle spasms and pain.
  • Rosemary Oil: Boosts focus and concentration and leaves you feeling mentally stimulated. Helps boost energy and reduce fatigue.

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