While there are thousands of different types of essential oils, all of them can be classified as belonging to specific aroma families. There are eight major aroma families used to classify essential oils.

They are:

  • camphoraceous
  • citrus
  • earthy
  • floral
  • herbaceous
  • resinous
  • spicy
  • woody

Essential oils from the same category can synergize well and are often used to create oil blends. Some oil families blend well with others.

Earthy oils blend well with citrus oils. Woodsy and earthy oils are often mixed. Floral oils complement camphoraceous options, while spicy oils are best suited to pair with citrus oils.

Here are the main types of aromatherapy oils and scents.


You know the smell that stings your nose after you’ve just put on vapor rub? That’s the smell of camphoraceous essential oils in action.

These essential oils are known for being clean, clear, and purifying. Many of them are good for your respiratory system, as they help you breathe more clearly.

These oils work well in chest rubs and diffusers to help with respiratory illnesses due to their anti-inflammatory and decongestant qualities. Their antiseptic, antibacterial, and stimulating properties also make them good candidates to treat upper body illnesses.

Many of these oils are used in over-the-counter medications used to treat colds and flu.

Camphoraceous oils include:

  • all varieties of eucalyptus
  • frankincense
  • hyssop
  • marjoram
  • oregano


Most citrus oils are distilled from citrus fruits. These oils are commonly used to help you wake up. They are often described as having a lively and energetic personality and are best used during the daytime when you need the energy to keep you going.

Citrus oils are great at boosting your mood and improving your emotional balance. Their antioxidant properties help relieve stress and balance your brains chemicals, which results in an improved state of mind.

Many citrus oils are also used to fight germs and pathogens and are often used in homemade natural cleaning products to eliminate bacteria around the home.

Citrus oils include:

  • Bergamot
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Orange
  • Petitgrain


Earthy essential oils are distilled from forest plants. Many of these oils have grassy and musky tones. They are reminiscent of being in the woods or up in the mountains.

These oils are known for their calm and grounding properties, as they help you feel like you are connected to nature and the earth. They are also great at stimulating the circulatory system and can help improve digestive system function.

Earthy oils have a sedative nature that helps soothe anxiety, depression, and migraines. They also work well to ease overworked and tired muscles.

Earthy oils include:

  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Patchouli
  • Sage
  • Vetiver


Floral essential oils are some of the most common scents in aromatherapy. Many of these oils help boost mood and fight anxiety and depression. They are most commonly used for emotional problems, but have great skin care affects as well.

These oils are among some of the safer aromatherapy oils and scents and can be inhaled or applied topically or internally. Because of their pleasant scent, they are often added to beauty and skincare products.

Floral oils include:

  • Lavender
  • Jasmine
  • Neroli
  • Rose
  • Ylang Ylang


Herbaceous essential oils are distilled from many of the spices we use in our everyday cooking.

These oils make for good flavoring agents in cooking. However, they have many antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties that work well in fighting infections. A few of these oils are considered viable alternatives to antibiotics, especially when certain strains have become antibiotic resistant.

Some of these oils are also effective in treating allergies and inflammation.

Their anti-fungal properties make them a great natural alternative to treating fungal infections such as yeast infections, athletes foot, and ringworm.

Herbaceous oils include:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme


Resinous essential oils are so called because they come from the resin of specific trees. Natural resins provide many therapeutic benefits but are challenging to work within many aromatherapy practices due to their thick and sticky nature.

Ancient rituals and spiritual practices have included these oils for thousands of years. Their scent also encourages the body to follow a more natural breathing rhythm, which makes it a great addition to meditation and yoga practices.

These oils are made by steam distilling the resin. This process tends to make them more expensive than other oils.

Resinous oils include:

  • Benzoin
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh


Spicy essential oils are not hot in the same way as Mexican or Indian food. Rather, they refer to the types of spices you would find in fall and winter spice blends.

Spicy oils have many healing benefits. They can be used to soothe toothaches and inflammation. A tiny dab of one of these oils can also quell nausea, bloating, and stomach upset. Some of them even help ease chemotherapy side effects. Many of them help strengthen and support the immune system.

Most of these oils have a powerful aroma and should be used sparingly.

Spicy oils include:

  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • ginger
  • cardamom


Woody essential oils are often distilled from tree bark. Their grounding effects help boost positive emotions and promote happiness.

These oils are great at calming any mental issues you might face. The warm aroma encourages confidence and elevates the mind. These oils encourage you to call on your inner strength and are often used in spiritual practices.

Woody oils also make effective natural insect repellent. They even work on head lice and bedbugs. Some oils have astringent properties which stop nosebleeds and other types of bleeding quickly.

Woody essential oils include:

  • Buddhahood
  • cedarwood
  • spruce
  • sandalwood

Knowing your aromatherapy families and their uses will help you understand how to apply different essential oils. If you can’t find the right essential oil, chances are good that you can get the same benefits from using another option in the same aroma family.

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