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Main Differences Between Essential Oils and Herbs

Updated: Apr 22



For centuries, herbal medicine has been a trusted companion, used worldwide and by diverse cultures to heal ailments and support bodily functions. 

The connection between humans and their search for botanical medicine dates from the distant past.

 

Over a thousand years, we have co-evolved with plants, fostering a natural harmony that makes our bodies particularly adept at processing, absorbing, and metabolizing these plant-based foods and medicines. 

 

There are approximately 300,000 species of catalog plants in the plant kingdom, 260,000 of which produce seeds. Only 3,000 of these plants produce essential oils; however, about four hundred plant species have been commercially produced. 

 

Not all plants contain volatile essential oils, or they have such small amounts that distilling them is not cost-effective. Lilac flowers are one example. These flowers are very fragrant but do not contain any useable essential oil. 

 

Plants containing volatile oils are aromatic chemical compounds characterized by their unique ability to change often and unpredictably. They are known for their distinctive aroma and therapeutic chemical properties. 

 

Essential Oils

  • Composition of Essential Oils

Highly concentrated, containing volatile chemical components and a stronger aroma. Diverse therapeutic properties.

  • Extraction Process of Essential Oils

Steam distillation, CO2, absolutes, cold pressing, hydrosols.

  • Uses of Essential Oils Only specific plant parts, such as roots, flowers, leaves, and branches, are used for distillation or extraction.

  • Applications of Essential Oils They offer various applications, including inhalation, diffusing, bathing, topical blends, personal care, and cleaning products.

 

Herbs

  • Composition of Herbs

Offer a broader spectrum of compounds, including fatty acids, vitamins, and other phytonutrients.

  • Extraction Process of Herbs Maceration/infusion with water, alcohol, glycerin, honey, or vegetable oil.

  • Uses of Herbs

Generally, use the whole plant, either fresh or dried. Herbs are used as spices, tea, capsules, tinctures, extracts, flower essences, or used for topical application in compresses and infusions.

  • Application of Herbs Herbal remedies can be used fresh or dried in tea, skincare (infused oils like calendula), tinctures, capsules, added to food, or infused in honey, vinegar, or alcohol. Overall, herbal remedies are much safer to use internally than essential oils.  

We use both essential oils and infused herbs for custom aromatherapy blends and many personal care products.

 

Learn how to make your own herbal-infused oils, such as arnica, calendula, rosehip, and St. John’s Wort.


Enjoy our facial serum blend that combines infused oils and essential oils.


Want to learn how to use herbs, flower essences, and aromatherapy together?

We offer a book and an integrative 25-hour course, Harmonized Aromatherapy for Seasonal Wellness.

 

Resources

Dechen, Shanti, Harmonized Aromatherapy for Seasonal Wellness, CreateSpace Publishing, Crestone, CO, 2018, p. 28.

 

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