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A Warming Chai Spice Essential Oil Blend

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine made homemade chai tea for me. It took her almost an hour of grinding fresh spices, mixing, simmering and stirring. And I have to say, the results were worth it—it was the richest, most aromatic chai I've ever had. She kindly shared the recipe, but my life doesn't allow for a lot of hour-long chai projects. So sometimes I try to recapture the magic in other ways—namely, with aromatherapy.

The spices used in chai tea are fairly common—and inexpensive—essential oils, so a chai spice aromatherapy blend is relatively easy to make. It's also warming, energizing, and grounding, thanks to stimulating essential oils like black pepper and ginger. Here's what you'll need:

  • Ginger essential oil—I love the one from Eden's Garden because it doesn't have the funk that ginger oil sometimes can.
  • Black pepper essential oil
  • Cardamom essential oil—You may not have this one already, but if not, get some! It's a wonderfully unique, spicy scent with tonic and digestive benefits.
  • Allspice essential oil—Not strictly necessary if you don't have it, but it adds a nice mild spiciness.
  • Nutmeg essential oil—Also can be omitted if you don't have it on hand, but it adds a sweet warmth.
  • Cinnamon essential oil—If possible, use the oil from the bark (not the leaf), as it's sweeter and truer to the scent of the ground spice.
  • Clove essential oil
  • Star anise or aniseed essential oil
  • Vanilla oleoresin or extract, or Peru Balsam essential oil

Now it's time to blend! You'll probably want to start with fairly even quantities of most of the oils, with the exception of the cinnamon and clove which are both extremely strong and will overpower your blend if you use more than a tiny amount. I personally prefer my chai to be less licorice-y and so I use only a small amount of anise as well. A good starting point would be:

  • 3 drops each of ginger, black pepper, cardamon, allspice, and nutmeg
  • 1 drop of cinnamon
  • 1 drop of clove
  • 1 drop of anise
  • 5 drops vanilla or Peru balsam

Note that if you do use vanilla extract, it will not blend with the essential oils and you will need to shake your mixture each time you use it. Peru balsam, if you have it, has a really lovely (and very powerful) sweet vanilla fragrance and does blend easilly with other EOs, making it a good substitute in blends that you don't want to have to shake all the time.

Now that you've got a blend, try it out on a fragrance strip (or a bit of paper towel in a pinch) and see if it smells like your favorite chai. Everyone has their own personal preference, so if you find your blend doesn't quite hit the mark, adjust as you see fit. Here are some suggestions for duplicating the aroma of your favorite chai:

  • For very spicy chai: more black pepper and/or ginger
  • For more of a "pumpkin spice" chai effect: more nutmeg, cinnamon, clove (not too much!) and vanilla
  • For a more exotic, authentic chai aroma: more cardamom
  • For a sweeter, milder aroma: more vanilla or Peru balsam, or a few drops of sweet orange essential oil—it's not traditional, but it smells nice!

Once you've got the aroma just right, it's time to use your blend! My favorite way to use this blend is in a diffuser (I use this one in my living area). The most natural time to diffuse this blend is when you're getting cozy in the evening, but it's also great to diffuse during the workday since the EOs in the blend are so invigorating. Be conservative when you load up your diffuser—this is a strongly aromatic mixture!

This blend would also be really nice in a massage oil for tired muscles. Black pepper especially has a warming effect on sore areas. However, you'll want to use no more than a few drops in your carrier oil, as some of the EOs in this blend are potentially irritating.

Hopefully it goes without saying, but don't try to eat this blend! If you really need a warm cup of chai—and not just the aroma—try this recipe instead.