Many times the blends we create will not exactly match the functions and indications of any specific herbal formula. We do provide essential oil versions of the formulas here, but our purpose is not to limit the practitioner, but to offer examples or suggestions as to how one might go about creating blends. Don’t be afraid to experiment or deviate from the prescriptions we lay out.
Jeffrey Yuen formulates blends differently than we do. His idea is to use base notes for the “monarch” oil, and to use middle and top notes for the secondary functions and indications. Professor Yuen seems to suggest that his blends will generally have one oil of each note, top, bottom and base. We have a different method.
We will generally use one, two or sometimes three (occasionally more) oils in our blends, but we generally use all oils of the same note. Generally for chronic, constitutional issues, we will use base notes. For digestive issues and issues pertaining to the middle jiao, we will tend to use middle notes. And for exogenous pathogens, we will sometimes use top notes.
This way, we can apply the blends more frequently if necessary. If we are using a base note, we don’t necessarily want to reapply the oil more than once a day. However, if we are using middle notes, we can apply the blend every 6 hours. This way, all the oils in the formula are working, and we don’t have to worry about one or two of them evaporating before the other. One exception to this rule is in clearing empty heat. In that case, we might use base notes to nourish yin, but then middle notes to clear heat
Another exception might be if we do not have another oil of that note available. If we are looking for a base note, but we do not have one, we will go with a middle note if necessary. In that case we could try to make the whole blend of middle notes and just apply it more frequently. Base note formulas are good, because the patient may not want to have to apply the oils more than once a day.
Generally speaking, we will try to use as few oils as possible. If one oil hits all of our functions and indications, we will use just that oil (with a carrier, of course.) Most of our blends will consist of two essential oils and one carrier. A few consist of three or more essential oils. We will also tend to use oils that are the most common, and also that are the safest. For example, if we need an oil to regulate qi, we would tend to select the oil that has fewer cautions and contraindications.
One last issue is harmonizing the blends. In herbology, we will generally use Gan Cao, or Licorice Root to harmonize the herbs in the formula. In using essential oils, it is not necessary to use a harmonizer like that. The carrier oil will harmonize the formula.
However, if you want to try an oil that will harmonize a blend, Jeffrey Yuen recommends Ginger and Ho leaf. Ginger is warming, whereas Ho Leaf is cooling. They are both middle notes, although Ginger is also a base note. (It can be used as either a middle or a base note.) Beyond that, you could try Galangal, which is a form of Ginger, or in general oils listed as tonifying spleen qi. These tend to be warming, so if you want something cooling, try one of the oils listed as smoothing liver qi.
We will generally create two versions of each blend. The functions and indications will be the same, but the oils will be different. This is to prevent sensitization. Sensitization occurs when a person develops an allergic reaction to an oil. This may result from overuse. This is why we dilute our oils. However, we also ask patients to switch blends every so often. If a patient tends to have allergies, we will ask them to use one version of the blend for 3 days, then switch to the other version, and back and forth, occasionally taking days off without applying the blends. If a patient has no history of allergies, maybe they can go 5 days before switching\