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How to Categorise Essential Oils

Categorising essential oils will make it easier for you as you create your own essential oil blends.

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The Essential Life

How to Categorise Essential Oils

by britten thompson

For the most part, essential oils can be categorised into eight groups. Knowing these groups and their properties will help you when it comes to knowing which essential oil to use for which ailment as well as what essential oils to blend in order to create an appealing aroma.

When it comes to categorising essential oils, it’s important to note that, while many essential oils have similar properties, each oil within a category has unique therapeutic benefits separate from the oils in that category. To learn more about each individual essential oil, be sure to stay tuned to our blog.



The list of citrus essential oils is long and includes: bergamot, lemon, lime, mandarin, tangerine and many more. Oils that fall into the citrus essential oil family are cold pressed so the oil is extracted from the rind of the raw fruit.

In general, citrus essential oils have a number of therapeutic properties common between them. These oils are stimulating, uplifting and calming. Citrus essential oils possess natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and can be used as an antiseptic. Additionally, citrus essential oils serve as natural antioxidants which means these oils remove potentially harmful oxidising agents from our bodies.

When to use citrus essential oils

Citrus essential oils are perfect for diffusing first thing in the morning to accompany your morning coffee. They’re great for helping you feel awakened and energised. In moments when you feel yourself lagging or unfocused, try inhaling your favourite citrus essential oil, or a blend that contains a citrus essential oil.

When not to use citrus essential oils

While citrus oils tend to be invigorating and uplifting, there are times when this family of oils proves ineffective. If you are feeling discouraged, gloomy or mindless, opt for an essential oil from the wood family.

Citrus essential oils also increase photosensitivity and should never be applied undiluted to the skin. When using citrus essential oils topically, it is important to avoid sunlight for 8 - 12 hours after application in order to avoid risking serious burns and an increased risk of skin cancer.


Floral essential oils are a large family of oils that include: geranium, helichrysum, jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose, ylang ylang and many others. These oils are created through the steam distillation of flower petals which is why many floral essential oils are considered precious oils and the price point for these tends to be higher.

In general, floral essential oils are calming and serve as a relaxant. They are balancing and help to restore emotional calm. Floral essential oils are also anti-inflammatory and antiviral. When it comes to treating skin conditions and improving your skin’s health, floral essential oils are a powerful alternative to traditional beauty products.

When to use floral essential oils

When you’re in need of emotional clarification and a better understanding of how you are feeling in order to better express yourself, diffusing floral essential oils will help. Floral essential oils are a powerful way to calm and centre yourself so you’re able to better express yourself.

When not to use floral essential oils

In moments of fear and unsteadiness, don’t reach for a floral essential oil. Instead, reach for a spicy essential oil. Florals will also not help with feelings of depression or isolation. If you find yourself feeling down and out, try diffusing a citrus essential oil.


Often found in kitchens and miniature gardens, herbs are seed-bearing and flowering plants that do not have stems or wood-producing cells. Essential oils in the herbaceous essential oil family are produced through the steam distillation of leaves. Essential oils in the herbaceous family include: basil, coriander (cilantro), marjoram, peppermint, thyme and many others.

In general, herbaceous essential oils serve as detoxifiers and immunostimulants which mean these essential oils are best to be avoided if you are living with an autoimmune disease or disorder. Herbaceous essential oils also possess natural antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial and antiparasitic properties.

When to use herbaceous essential oils

Herbaceous essential oils serve to heighten feelings of positivity, open-mindedness and trust. Diffuse herbaceous essential oils to bring about calm and acceptance. Herbaceous essential oils are also great for meditation and for aiding in your mindfulness practice.

When not to use herbaceous essential oils

If you’re feeling down and in need of a pick-me-up, instead of opting for herbaceous essential oils, reach for your favourite citrus. While The Essential Life recommends using herbaceous essential oils during meditation, if you’re looking for a more grounding experience, try a wood essential oil or a resin.

Leafy essential oils

Leafy essential oils are ones that are made from the steam distillation of the leaves of raw plant matter. These essential oils include: eucalyptus, ravansara, rosemary, tea tree and wintergreen essential oils.

Broadly speaking, leafy essential oils are all anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial. Leafy essential oils are also very effective when it comes to keeping bugs away as well as elevating your mood.

When to use leafy essential oils

These essential oils are great when it comes to disinfecting your home, clearing the air and providing mental clarity. Diffuse leafy essential oils when you need to concentrate and focus. Leafy essential oils are also very effective in bringing about clarity of emotions which makes them great essential oils to diffuse during meditation.

When not to use leafy essential oils

The Essential Life does not recommend taking essential oils internally. We firmly believe the most effective way to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of essential oils is through inhalation and application (always diluted in a carrier oil). This is especially true with leafy essential oils. Many leafy essential oils are poisonous when consumed.


Resins are essential oils which are derived from sticky, sap-like substances harvested from the trunks of trees which is insoluble. These essential oils are made through the steam distillation of hardened resin. Resin essential oils include: copaiba, frankincense and myrrh.

While each essential oil in this group has a broad range of properties, in general, resin essential oils are deeply calming and grounding which makes them perfect for us during meditation and in the deepening of your mindfulness practice. Resin essential oils also contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties and work as powerful mood enhancers.

When to use resin essential oils

Resin essential oils are great for use in meditation blends, skincare blends and pain relief blends. These essential oils can also be great for clearing sinuses and relieving cold symptoms.

When not to use resin essential oils

With the exception of frankincense essential oil, The Essential Life does not recommend using resin essential oils in your diffuser. When pure, these essential oils are quite thick and will not diffuse properly in an ultrasonic diffuser. Over time, using resin essential oils in your diffuser will clog the ultrasonic mechanism at the bottom of your diffuser so it will no longer be able to vibrate.


As you would expect, root essential oils are ones created through the steam distillation of the roots of a plant. These essential oils include: ginger, spikenard and vetiver.

Broadly speaking, root essential oils are calming, grounding, restorative and calming. These essential oils also have powerful nervine, neurotonic and neuroprotective properties.

When to use root essential oils

The Essential Life highly recommends using root essential oils in ground meditation blends. When you are beginning a mindfulness practice, we also highly recommend adding a root essential oil to a necklace diffuser to assist in keeping you present and aware each moment of every day.

When not to use root essential oils

Root essential oils are grounding and calming. These properties mean that, when you need a pick me up or are looking to restore mental alertness, you should avoid using root essential oils. Instead, opt for a citrus or herbaceous essential oil.


As the name suggests, these essential oils are created through the steam distillation of spicy, aromatic and flavourful plant material. Spicy essential oils include: black pepper, cardamom, cassia, cinnamon, and clove.

Arguably the most common use for spicy essential oils is as an aphrodisiac. This group of essential oils is also warming to the touch and work as digestive stimulants. Spicy essential oils also poses antiemetic, anti-infectious and anti-parasitic properties.

When to use spicy essential oils

The warming properties of spicy essential oils make them great for adding to any massage oils. Diffusing them during autumn and winter will also help to stave off seasonal depression. Spicy essential oils also promote connectivity with loved ones.

When not to use spicy essential oils

The warming properties of spicy essential oil make them an absolute no-go when it comes to undiluted application. All of these essential oils should be diluted in your favourite carrier oil for any topical application.


Wood essential oils are created through the steam distillation of twigs, branches, needles and berries. This category of essential oils includes: arborvitae, birch, cedarwood, cypress, fir, juniper berry, sandalwood and many others.

Wood essential oils have powerful grounding and calming benefits when diffused or applied topically. These essential oils are also regenerative and refreshing. On a therapeutic level, wood essential oils are analgesic and work as natural astringents.

When to use wood essential oils

Wood essential oils are great in grounding meditation blends and should be diffused whenever you need to restore mental clarity and balance. Diffusing wood essential oils during the holiday season is also great for bringing the holiday spirit into your home.

The Essential life recommends adding woody essential oils to a necklace diffuser for support in moments when you need courage and to act boldly.

When not to use wood essential oils

While wood essential oils are great for bring about peace, calm and relaxation, when it comes to mood stimulants, a citrus essential oil would be a more powerful option. When you’re looking to achieve focus and concentration, a leafy essential oil such as rosemary would be a more effective solution.

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The Essential Life is dedicated to helping you get the most out of every last drop of your essential oils. We share information, tips, tricks and recipes to help you achieve holistic wellness in your life.

For more information about essential oils, stay tuned to our blog we share new information about essential oils every day and, if you don’t find what you’re looking for on our website, contact us and let us know what information you are looking for. Our commitment to you is to respond to all questions and comments within 48-hours.