Aromatherapy And Formulation Tip: How Many Essential Oils & Other Aromatics Can You Use In A Blend?

Aromatherapy And Formulation Tip: How Many Essential Oils & Other Aromatics Can You Use In A Blend?

One question that gets asked quite often is how many essential oils can you blend together. A lot of people state that you can’t use more than 3 to 5 essential oils or other aromatics in a blend. I have surprisingly seen some aromatherapists state this too! In contrast, some companies seem to use everything but the kitchen sink in their blends.

In theory, you can blend as many aromatics as you like (by aromatics I mean essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, oleoresins, etc). I have made some amazing blends formulated with many aromatics. However, I have seen a lot of blends where the aromatic choices make no sense, whether they contained only a few or a lot of aromatics.

As you get to know more about aromatics, you will be able to formulate more complex blends, if needed. The only reason a lot of people state to use ‘3 to 5’ essential oils is because they learned only to blend with a few during their initial classes, from books, articles (geared towards the general public), or other resources. Sticking to just using only a few essential oils is a good place to start when you are still learning or relatively new to blending. But qualified aromatherapists (especially those that have been studying and practicing for many years) are usually able to formulate more complex blends, if it is appropriate for that particular situation. Sometimes for a specific case only one or a few aromatics are needed. And there are some cases where several to many aromatics is the best choice for the person you are blending for, because of the person’s specific circumstances, and the synergy of the aromatics.

Using only 3 to 5 essential oils is a misconception! There is no 3 to 5 rule
Many people believe there is a ‘3 to 5’ rule in aromatherapy blending, when there isn’t. Pictured is a selection of essential oils, as well as an authentic aromatherapy blend made with several aromatics.

Personally as a qualified vintage (meaning ‘long time’) aromatherapist who is trained in clinical aromatherapy and advanced aromatic medicine, and a long time professional formulator, I don’t limit myself to a specific number of aromatics, but my aromatic choices are based on many different factors. Blending is more than just focusing on the number of essential oils and CO2 extracts, etc. My aromatic choices are based on my understanding of how each aromatic works, its properties, its usage, its safety, its energetics, the chemistry, the specific formula and the synergy between different aromatics, the individual I am blending for, the purpose of the blend, the specific health issue or condition, emotional aspects, mental aspects, spiritual effects, the constitution of the client, how the aromatic affects that individual, aroma notes, drug contraindications, health contraindications, irritation or sensitization potential, max dermal limits, age, the difference between aromatics (essential oils, CO2 extracts, and absolutes don’t always have the same properties), and more. I take all of these into account when blending, and I don’t really stress on how many aromatics I use but I focus more on their effectiveness and what that particular person needs.

For example, every year I complete one dozen to a few dozen private case studies, and though some of my blends have just a couple to a few aromatics in them, many of my blends have 5 to 9 or more CO2 extracts, essential oils, absolutes, and oleoresins. These complex blends are some of the most effective blends I have ever made. In addition, when my aromatherapy and herbal business Earth Alkemie was open, I formulated some very complex blends made with multiple aromatics (including essential oils, CO2 extracts, and absolutes), herbs, and carrier oils, and they were some of my bestsellers because of their effectiveness. Lastly, as a natural perfumer, I have made perfumes with one to a few dozen aromatics that have had profound energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical impacts. But having said that, there are times when I do not use a blend of aromatics, since in some cases a single essential oil is all that is needed! 🙂

The number of essential oils depends on many factors. There are times when only one is needed!
Once you know properties and usage of aromatics well, you will know when a single essential oil is appropriate and when a few to several aromatics are needed.

I am not the only aromatherapist that doesn’t focus on the number of aromatics that is needed for a specific case. Many of my past and current teachers use more than 3 to 5 essential oils or other aromatics in some of their blends. In aromatherapy pioneer and cosmetic & food chemist Mark Webb’s advanced aromatic medicine course, some of his formulas only had 4 or 5 essential oils, folded citruses, absolutes, oleoresins, and CO2 extracts. But some formulas had 6 to 7 aromatics. Most of the blends in aromatherapy pioneer Andrea Butje’s classes contain just 3 to 5 essential oils and absolutes, but there are a few that have 6 essential oils and absolutes. In the live version of essential oil safety pioneer Robert Tisserand’s skin care course, his hand gel formula had 6 essential oils. His dry skin lotion had 7 essential oils. Some other formulas he discussed had 4 to 5 essential oils.

But just because it is okay to use more than 3 to 5 aromatics in a blend, that doesn’t mean you need to. I often blink at the long list of aromatics that I see in many products: not because of the number of aromatics but because of the number of randomly added aromatics. I have seen a lot of blends by essential oil companies that contain numerous aromatics, and their aromatic choices do not make any sense. Their aromatic choices often contradict what their blend is supposed to be for, they may not have considered safety for specific groups of people (I have seen a lot of kids and pregnancy aromatherapy lines that are not safe for babies, very young kids, or expecting or breast feeding mothers), they have made up usage or properties for certain aromatics (that have no basis in practice or in science), they were formulated at unsafe concentrations (many aromatics have max dermal amounts), or they have cited properties for the wrong plant part or extraction method (essential oil properties are not always the same as herbal properties, and different aromatics can have some very different properties from each other), and many more issues. In other words, they are poor formulations.

It's not the number of aromatics that matters but aromatic choice and effectiveness.
There are many reasons to choose different aromatics in a blend.

So how many essential oils and other aromatics should you use in a formula? The answer is it depends. For some people, a single or just a few aromatics is the right choice for them for that particular situation. But for other people, for their specific issue, they might need a more complex blend, and that is the appropriate choice for those cases. Like most other qualified professional aromatherapists, I believe in Maury’s concept of individual prescription, and I formulate for specific people. In my extensive aromatherapy and formulating experience, I have found that it is not about the number of aromatics, but it is aromatic choice and effectiveness that matters the most. Don’t limit yourself to blending with a certain amount of aromatics, but also don’t formulate a poorly designed blend either!

Resources: For more information or if you have questions about aromatherapy, herbalism, formulation, perfumery, and eco living, please join Plant Alkemie’s Facebook group and Plant Alkemie’s Facebook business page.  And check out more articles on Plant Alkemie’s website:  http://www.plantalkemie.com. You may also leave questions about essential oil/aromatic blending in the comments of this article.

To learn more about my ‘tip’ articles series, read my first tip article on preservatives.

*This article is copyrighted and it may not be used without permission.

6 comments

  1. Li, well written. And a topic that needed covered. Thank you my friend. I often see blends that make no sense and have no safety mentioned whatsoever as per your article. I recently came across an article on a blog of a major company that I have purchased from. The safety information was completely neglected. Such a disappointment. Thanks Li

    • Thank you so much Rehne! I am so sorry that a company’s article disappointed you. Sadly a lot of companies (even good ones) may neglect safety information. Companies have to take care in their wording (they can’t make medicinal claims) but there are ways to reword and post about safety! It just takes some creativity. 🙂 Have a wonderful day!

  2. Great job on this, Li. Good examples, too, on how well intended guidelines in a coaching/teaching setting can evolve into wildly inaccurate “rules” outside of the learning environment.
    🌻 Be well, my friend!

  3. Amy Spurlin

    Thank you for this. I also have seen many state no more than 3-5 and as a studying Aromatherapists, I’ve used more in blends on myself for pain issues.

    • You are very welcome, Amy. That is great you are studying aromatherapy! My pain blends often have several aromatics in them too. I wish you the best in your studies!

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