What do they really mean?
I recently had an enquiry from a student who was confused as to how an oil like Clary Sage could be a top note, but at the same time have sedative qualities. The confusion came from looking at an aroma description and expecting it to have a physical explanation.
Because essential oils are complex by nature and used in a variety of ways, essential oil profiles often share information about the oil from completely different aspects and in order not to be confused it is helpful to understand exactly what the different aspects of the essential oil profile refers to.
This student asked the question, but I wondered if there were others who didn’t. I am always looking for inspiration as to what to write my blog on and it seemed to be a good idea to share a quick description of each of the elements in the hopes that it would be helpful to others as well.
Most essential oil profiles will share all or some of the following information.
This is where most essential oil profiles start, listing the common name of the plant, its botanical family and its Latin name . This ensures that we know exactly which oil we are referring to. Often there will also be information on where the plant is grown, what the plant looks like, how it grows etc.
This will describe the method used to extract the essential oil from the plant material It will also often give a description of the colour of the essential oil.
The Aroma Description of the essential oil:
The classification of notes comes to us from the perfume industry and it indicates a quality of the aroma of the oil. Top note refers to oils that one smells quickly. Top notes don’t generally have much staying power, they evaporating into the air quickly (therefore we smell them quickly) but they also dissipate quickly. Bottom or Base notes are the slowest to evaporate so we may not notice their aroma as quickly, but it has a long staying power and can be smelled over longer periods of time. Middle or heart notes are in between the two. One can create a blend completely out of top notes, or completely out of middle notes, or completely out of base notes, but if one does one should be aware that the aroma of the totally top note blend won’t last very long, while the aroma of a totally base note blend might take some time before one discerns the aroma but it will last long. Blending top, middle and base notes together helps to create a more rounded blend.
This is how strong the aroma of an oil is. For instance I classify Lavender as having an aroma intensity of 4 and Roman Chamomile as having an aroma intensity of 9. If I am going to blend the two together and I want the blend to be balanced and not just smell the stronger Roman Chamomile, I need to pay attention to the ratio I use to blend the two . A ratio of 1:1 would probably mean that all I’d smell would be Roman Chamomile.
This is an indication as to how quickly an oil evaporates and can no longer be smelled. The higher the evaporation rate the longer the oil takes to evaporate, the longer the aroma lasts. It could be seen as another variation of the Note. Top notes would have lower evaporation rates, base notes larger ones.
The Physical Properties of the essential oil.
Major Chemical Components.
Essential oils can contains many different naturally occurring chemical components, each of which brings its own healing properties. Looking at these will give one an idea of how the essential oil will work on a physical, emotional and mental level.
These precautions are based on the chemical make up of the oil, how it is assimilated into the body and finally eliminated.
Energetic Classification of the essential oil.
Some profiles will also classify the oils with respect to their energetic properties. What these are depends on the work being done with the essential oil and the person doing the classification. I have seen essential oils classified by their Colour Signature; Chakra Affiliation; Ayurvedic Doscha; TCM Meridian or Acupressure point, Angelic affiliation etc.
As you can see there are many different layers of information and many different ways of working with the oils.