What are Top, Middle, and Base Notes?

by Andrea Butje on January 26, 2015

Beautiful Blond Little Girl With Long Hair Smelling FlowerUnderstanding top, middle, and base notes in aromatherapy

We talk a lot about top, middle, and base notes in aromatherapy. What do we mean exactly, and how can you identify each note?

Not every aromatherapy blend has to have all three notes. Making a balanced blend just means you consider and understand which aromas tend to be more dominant, and use fewer drops of the really strong aromas. It helps to begin by imagining the feeling or experience that you want to embody in the blend.

For blends that do have top, middle, and base notes, you might have to take your time getting to know the aromas before you can identify all three. I like to take different kinds of sniffs—long, slow, deep sniffs sometimes allow me to smell different notes than quick little bunny sniffs!

Here’s what you’re smelling for. . .

Top notes

This is the first aroma you notice when you smell a blend. That’s because the molecules are evaporating more quickly than the others in the oil. It’s usually a light, fresh, sharp scent—like a citrus. In fact, the citrus oils are all top notes!

Examples of top notes would be Orange (Citrus sinensis) and Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi).

top, middle, and base notes

Middle notes

Middle notes have a very full, soft, character that gives a blend a lot of heart. This is why they’re sometimes called “heart notes!” Some people have an easier time identifying top and base notes, rather than middle notes, partly because middle notes can include both top and base aromas within them. Imagine top notes as a bright citrus tea, and base notes as a dark root tea. Middle notes would be a full-flavored, floral tea with hints of roots and maybe a little orange peel.

A few examples are Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara).

top, middle and base notes

Base notes

Base notes are intense, earthy, deep, and warm. They create the “undertones” of a blend. This doesn’t mean you won’t notice them as they have a very strong presence, it just means that they may be the last aroma you notice when smelling a blend, or the deepest aroma giving weight to the other scents. This is because base notes evaporate more slowly than top notes.

Some examples of base notes are Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) and Patchouli (Pogostemom cablin). This is a picture of Vetiver:

top middle and base notes

I hope I’ve helped to clarify top, middle, and base notes for you! We talk more about understanding aromas, and how to create really balanced aromatherapy blends, in Aromahead’s free online Introduction to Essential Oils class. This class lets you go at your own pace as you develop a solid foundation in using essential oils safely . . . and of course, it includes recipes so you can blend for yourself, friends, and family!


Winter Aromatherapy Bath Salt Recipe

by Andrea Butje on January 19, 2015

aromatherapy bath salt recipeA warm, floral aromatherapy bath salt recipe for cold nights!

I love warm baths during cold weather. They are so comforting!

I especially enjoy adding nourishing bath salts to my water. High quality healing salts can help repair your skin after it’s exposed to harsh weather, and protect it the next time you go out.

Here’s one of my favorite aromatherapy bath salt recipes for winter. It’s a warm floral blend. I make it with pink Himalayan salt, which has a particularly high mineral content skin loves, but you can use any natural salt that you prefer. You can use any grain (fine, small, or large), or combine them for a unique texture. I like small grain.

This recipe makes 4 oz (120 ml) of aromatherapy bath salt. It’s enough for two baths.

  • 4 oz (120 ml) natural salt
  • 4 drops Neroli essential oil (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
  • 4 drops Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 1 drop Rose absolute (Rosa damascena)

All you have to do is put your salt into one 4 oz (120 ml) jar, and add your essential oils drop by drop, stirring as you go. Use a stainless steel spoon. (A glass stir rod could also work, but salts are usually easier to stir thoroughly with a spoon.)

If you don’t have a 4 oz jar, you can make the blend in a glass or Pyrex bowl, then spoon it into smaller jars. You can also just store it in a Tupperware container, if you’ll be the one using it. (I like the jars better for gift-giving, though!)

This is such an emotionally soothing aromatherapy bath salt recipe, perfect after a long day. Neroli, Lavender, and Rose are all known for their relaxing effects on the nervous system, and their healing effects on the skin. (We only use one drop of Rose here, because we want to balance its strong aroma with the other oils.)

If you like this blend, you can double or triple the recipe and store it for future baths.


Look Inside a Free Online Aromatherapy Class: Introduction to Essential Oils

January 12, 2015

Do you know about Aromahead’s free online aromatherapy class, Introduction to Essential Oils? If you’re already in our free aromatherapy class, I’d just like to remind you that your class never expires—you can log into Aromahead to read over the materials and make the recipes as many times as you like! If you have not […]

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A Warming, Moisturizing Jojoba Blend

January 5, 2015

A moisturizing jojoba blend to keep you warm! Cold, dry weather can make you feel just that—cold and dry. When I lived in a cold climate it seemed like I was always looking forward to the next cup of tea or hot bath! Here’s an aromatherapy recipe for one of my favorite moisturizing jojoba blends. […]

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Aromatherapy Diffuser Blend for Colds and Flu

December 29, 2014

I have a great aromatherapy diffuser blend for colds and flu! I love this diffuser blend (this one is for adults). It’s got rich coniferous notes and when you breathe in, you can just feel the camphoraceous Ravintsara and bright Lemon opening up your sinuses. You can drop these essential oils right into an electric […]

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How To Protect Your Family from Colds and Flu Using Essential Oils!

December 27, 2014

I’m so excited to tell you about my newest video class  “How To Protect Your Family from Colds and Flu Using Essential Oils!” About 15 years ago, I started using essential oils for self care, and I came up with some incredibly effective recipes that really worked to keep me free of colds all year. It’s […]

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