What Are the Essential Oil Fragrance Families?

What Are the Essential Oil Fragrance Families?
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Fragrance Families

The natural essences of plants, essential oils are a concentrated dose of the therapeutic benefits of the natural world. Some ease depression, others are perfect for soothing tired muscles and others are wonderful in skin care products. All of them are dynamic and have a number of different uses. Each aroma, often containing hundreds of different molecules, is a complex and potent entity on its own. Blended together, aromatherapy oils can yield an even more desirable effect.

While in general most oils work well together, some are more suited for blending. Understanding the basics of the essential oil fragrance families, the characteristics of each grouping and what oils are included, can help you combine different oils for all of your aromatherapy needs.

Uplifting Citrus Scents

Citrus Scents

The first family includes the citrus essential oils. These scents tend to be sweet, bright and clean. They are great for uplifting mood and encouraging mental focus and clarity. Use citrus essential oils to refresh the mind when feeling groggy in the middle of the afternoon or to help clear away stress. Grapefruit, orange, bergamot, tangerine, lemon, lime, citronella and lemongrass can all be included in this category.

What are the therapeutic uses of these oils? They can be used for alleviating depression and treating mental exhaustion. Keep a small cotton cloth scented with orange oil in your pocket or purse to inhale when needed to brighten your mood.

Cleansing and clarifying, they are excellent in hair care products as they help to remove build-up around hair follicles. Try adding one drop of lemon essential oil to every four ounces of unscented conditioner. Make a hair rinse with five drops of grapefruit and five drops of bergamot essential oil and two cups of water. When added to bath water this family of oils can help to boost the immune system and cleanse and tone the skin.

The citrus oils tend to be non-toxic and non-irritating, but they can increase your sensitivity to the sun. Do not use on the skin before going out into the sunlight. Aside from blending well with one another, they work well with floral, spicy, woody and resinous scents.

Soothing Floral Scents

Floral essential oils such as lavender, rose, neroli and geranium tend to ease tension and anxiety and have an overall calming effect on the skin, body and mind. They are frequently used in skin care products and perfumes for their pleasing scent and beneficial effects. Lavender for example can be added to unscented lotion, 25 drops for every eight ounces, for a lotion to help with eczema and dry skin. Bathing with rose and neroli can help to promote a restful night’s sleep. Many of these scents also have aphrodisiac properties.

While generally gentle and non-irritating, some of the floral essential oils such as rose should be avoided during pregnancy. Some of the stronger floral aromas, such as ylang-ylang, can cause headaches or nausea if used for too long. Limit use to fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. Floral scents blend well with citrus, herbaceous, resinous and woody oils.

Cooling Herbaceous Scents

Marjoram, clary sage, basil, rosemary and peppermint are all herbaceous essential oils. In many cases scents may be both herbaceous and floral; chamomile and lavender can be included in both fragrance families for example. As a grouping these oils are cooling, calming and

Basil Leaves

harmonizing. They tend to refresh the mind and help clear away stress and negativity. For the body these oils are great for easing digestion and relieving minor aches and pains.

Use basil and peppermint in a bath to help with sore muscles. Make a room deodorizer by mixing eight drops each of rosemary and lavender essential oil with eight ounces of warm water in a spray bottle to cleanse the air and provide an atmosphere of mental clarity.

Although these oils can support healthy digestion when inhaled or even when absorbed through the skin, they, nor any oils, should be ingested without the qualified instruction of a professional aromatherapist. Herbaceous scents work well with floral and camphoraceous essential oils.

Invigorating Camphoraceous Scents

The camphoraceous essential oils are intense, pungent and invigorating. Many cooling herbaceous oils, such as peppermint and rosemary, are also camphoraceous. Other scents included in this fragrance family include tea tree, eucalyptus, juniper and pine. These scents open airways and improve circulation. They are the essential oils to use to wake-up and seize the day. These oils also tend to have very strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Use one to two drops of tea tree oil diluted in one quarter cup of water and dab on blemishes with a cotton ball. Eucalyptus and peppermint can be blended together in a bath to help clear congestion and blocked sinuses.

These oils can be irritating. They blend well with herbaceous scents and some work well with citrus oils for incredibly invigorating blends.

Stimulating Spicy Scents

Ginger, clove, nutmeg, black pepper, cardamon, aniseed and cinnamon are all examples of spicy essential oils. These scents are warming,

Cinnamon Sticks

stimulating and uplifting. For the mind they can support a more enthusiastic, positive state. For the body they can improve digestion and circulation. Like the camphoraceous oils, which are strongly cooling, these strongly warming essential oils can be irritating to the skin and many are not used in skin care and bathing products.

Some however, such as ginger, are excellent for pain relief when applied topically or when used in baths. The warmth is perfect for arthritis pain and general poor circulation. Oils such as nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are wonderful in burners or vaporizers as they stimulate the mind. They blend very well with both woody and citrus oils and can be used with floral scents as well.

Warming Woody and Resinous Scents

Cedarwood, sandalwood, cinnamon, cypress and frankincense can all be included in the woody essential oil fragrance family. These scents are comforting and can help to balance emotional instability and sensitivity. They have a strengthening, grounding effect on the psyche. Some of these oils can be used in skin care, such as cell regenerating frankincense, and sandalwood, which acts as a skin moisturizer. Others can be irritating or should be avoided during pregnancy such as cinnamon and cedarwood. Woody essential oils blend very well with spicy, resinous and floral scents.

Resinous essential oils, including frankincense, patchouli, cedar and myrrh also have a warming, balancing effect. They are great for mental renewal and harmony. These aromatherapy oils tend to have dynamic fragrances and therapeutic properties.

Safe Use

With the fragrance families you can enjoy blending essential oils for their aroma and therapeutic characteristics. While many oils are safe, especially when used in small amounts, it is important to check each individual oil before use for specific precautions. Talk to a doctor before use around children, if you are pregnant or if you have a medical condition.


Esoteric Oils. https://www.essentialoils.co.za/aroma-families.htm#Earthy

Oshadi Essential Oils. https://www.oshadhi.co.uk/ecom-catshow/fragrancefamilies.html

Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

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