Rose is a base note essential oil, istockphoto, used with permission
Rose is a base note essential oil, istockphoto, used with permission

In last Monday’s post, I gave a quick introduction to making natural aromatherapy perfumes and introduced the idea of “notes” in aromatherapy; although notes are often associated with the making of perfumes, they are also important in the practice of aromatherapy.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll take a look at the three different note oils in aromatherapy, starting today with base note essential oils (The following text is amended from an article which I originally wrote for Suite 101).

The Distillation of Base Note Essential Oils

Essential oils are distilled from plant material through a process and combination of water, steam and heat. The plant material is heated up, causing essential oil molecules to evaporate into the air. The heaviest molecules are called “base notes.” Base notes are the least volatile molecules and are therefore the hardest types of molecules to extract from plant material.

Using Base Note Oils in Aromatherapy

Base note essential oils have therapeutic properties that are calming, relaxing and sensual. They are often used to treat stress, anxiety and grief as they are good oils to “ground” a person. Many base note essential oils have therapeutic properties for skincare too. Base note essential oils are “heavy” (both in fragrance and molecules) and are usually combined with a middle or top note essential oil to “balance” out the fragrance. Base note essential oils can cause headaches and nausea if you use too much and too often.

Examples of Base Note Essential Oils

Like other essential oils, base note essential oils are extracted from trees, flowers, herbs and grasses. Some base note oils may overlap with middle note oils and are often described as both base and middle note essential oils in perfumery and aromatherapy lists. Examples of base note essential oils include:

  •  rose
  • amyris
  • sandalwood
  • ylang ylang
  •  cedarwood
  • neroli
  • myrrh
  • frankincense
  • jasmine
  • patchouli
  • rosewood
  • cedarwood
  • ginger.

What You Need to Know About Using Base Note Essential Oils

Base note essential oils are more often than not expensive due to the minute quantities of essential oil extracted in one distillation. Consequently, you will also find that many base note essential oils are adulterated due to the high costs involved in processing them. Some, such as jasmine essential oil, are not in fact a “pure” essential oil, although they are often described as such.

If you are interested in learning the basics about aromatherapy, essential oils and how they are used in both clinical aromatherapy practice and to make aromatherapy skincare products, watch out for the Sedona Aromatherapie Foundation Course in Aromatherapy which is scheduled for a late May 2012 release date!


  • Caddy, Rosemary, 1997, Essential Oils in Colour UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd
  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons
  • Price, Shirley, 2000, Aromatherapy Workbook UK: Thorsons
  • Author’s own experience.
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