A peek into aroma families: 8 major categories of essential oils

Essential oils are sources of great well being. An essential oil is nothing but a plant extract which is concentrated and highly rich in healing and aromatic properties. Often volatile liquids, these essential oils contain small oil-like molecules produced by plants during photosynthesis. It is these extracts which are present in plant cavities like roots, petals, seeds and peels, that protect the plant from various infections, parasitical hindrances and other environmental issues, making it grow without trouble. The same valuable volatile liquids act wonderfully to prevent and treat ailments in human beings too. This makes them special and this is why these essential oils are used to heal/prevent/treat many health disorders in people.

Aroma families: There are a whole range of essential oils in the market. Some are grouped as just fragrances, some act as herbal liquids, while some serve the purpose of treating ailments. One classification of essential oils is based on notes – Top Notes, Middle Notes and Base Notes.


Essential oils classified under Top Notes normally evaporate faster and tend to be more antiviral, invigorating and refreshing. They are highly volatile and hardly last long. However, they make their mark with their aromas and light nature. Middle Notes oils have a balancing effect and normally take a couple of minutes to establish their scents. This is because they are warm and soft fragrances which are a bit heavy than the Top Notes variants. Base Notes essential oils are very solid and strong in their aromas. They last a long time and even slow down the evaporation of the oils mixed with them. Heady fragrances that relax the body mark the Base Notes category.

There is also yet another way of classifying essential oils other than the one based on Notes. A broader classification can be made based on the aromas of the oils. Some people have even classified oils depending on the reaction they have on people. But the below categorization is a different one based on the aromas of the oils:

1. Citrus oils: Essential oils that have a distinct citrus flavor fall into this category. Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange and Tangerine are some of the Citrus oils.

2. Herbaceous oils: Oils that are extracted from plants which are otherwise most useful herbs are called Herbaceous oils. Basil, Chamomile, Melissa, Clary Sage, Hyssop, Marjoram, Peppermint and Rosemary are some of this kind.

3. Camphoraceous oils: Essential oils which have particular healing properties and camphor-like aromas are grouped under this category. Some of these essential oils are – Cajeput, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Rosemary and Eucalyptus oils.

4. Floral oils: Oils made from floral parts or which carry the floral essence of plants fall under this group. Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Rose, Neroli, Chamomile, Ylang-Ylang etc. are some of these oils.

5. Resinous oils: Essential oils extracted from the resins of plants. Benzoin, Elemi, Frankincense and Myrrh are more resinous than others.

6. Woody oils: Essential oils that are woody in aromas or extracted from the barks and other woody parts of plants are termed Woody oils. Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Cypress, Juniper Berry, Pine and Sandalwood etc are some of these oils.

7. Earthy oils: Essential oils that have a distinct earthy aroma or are extracted from plants’ roots and other earthy parts are grouped here – Angelica, Patchouli, Vetiver and Valerian are some of these oils.

8. Spicy oils:
Oils extracted from spices or spicy plants. You can know it from their names itself. Aniseed, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Ginger and Nutmeg are some of these oils.