“Training and using our noses is very important in perfumery but it is also a way of being intimate with oneself. The experience of really smelling something with awareness and enquiry is meditative. Our mind becomes still as the sensation is felt in non-rational parts of the mind… We should aspire to practice perfumery just like that.”

Alec Lawless

Learning how to blend natural aromatics is a skilled art form, much like painting a picture or cooking a fine meal. Like any skill, the first requirement is to become familiar with the raw materials themselves: in this case the various natural botanical materials at our disposal. Then by becoming familiar with the different ‘families’ of scent it is possible to gradually improvise and create well-balanced ‘synergies’. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow your own creativity to explore the realm of scents. But we also need a methodology, to be able to measure precisely and to keep meticulous records of our blending.

When setting out to produce a perfume or therapeutic blend, the first thing we need to ask ourselves is: “Who is this for and what kind of effect are we trying to produce?” We need to have a theme with the overall aim of making a harmonious whole where sum total of all the ingredients is greater than that of the individual parts: another words, it takes on a vital new aspect. The most interesting part of creating a natural aromatic blend is the process itself … it is an act of experimentation and discovery! Try blending three essential oils and by trusting your instincts, express how this combination makes you feel and if you find the effect pleasant or unpleasant ... as this is a key feature in any successful blend.

I have recently reviewed the manuscript for a forthcoming book by Jennifer Peace Rhind called ‘Aromatherapeutic Blending: Essential Oils in Synergy’ which in her own words, seeks to strike a balance between “science and traditional wisdom”. In my view it is an excellent book, as she is able to combine her expertise as a bio-chemist with her own intuition & sensitivity to the natural world. At the start of her book, she asks the simple question: “Why do we blend essential oils, rather than use them singly?” She proceeds to present the up-to date research as well as historical evidence that indicates that a “combination of aromatics has a greater therapeutic effect than each could exert on it’s own…”

However, the actual art of synergistic blending is not easy to define. The first specific guidelines for making potentially synergistic blends of essential oils for aromatherapy purposes was defined by R. Harris in 2002, when she said: “the selected oils should compliment one another in terms of chemistry, activity and direction; that the number of oils in the formula should be restricted to between three and seven… and where the therapeutic purpose should be clear”.

Combining essential oils that belong to the same family, such as ‘woody’ or ‘floral’ oils, which share similar constituents, certainly make for a reliable heart to any blend, but what in my view makes a synergy-blend stand out as exceptional, is the addition of something unexpected or unusual. It is at this point that the art of individual creativity becomes invaluable! Part 3 of Rhind’s book makes a unique contribution to this field, in that she includes an entry entitled ‘expanded practice’, were she suggests substituting more unusual oils for their specific effect in blending, in place of their more common counterparts.