Written by, Becki Andrus
Question: Are there differences between essential oils and herbs?
Answer: Herbs and essential oils are both derived from plants, but there is a distinct difference between herbal products and essential oils. Herbal products usually contain pieces of the actual plant in a dried form… in comparison, essential oils contain the concentrated essence of the plant without any of the fiber or “roughage” of the plant.
When an essential oil is produced, steam distillation or hydro distillation is used to extract the compounds and constituents of the plant. This extraction process concentrates the benefits of the plant, so only a tiny bit of essential oils are needed when they are being used. There are other methods that can be used to extract essential oils, but steam or hydro distillation are the most common.
Herbal extracts can also be purchased in liquid form, but usually the product is extracted with a solvent such as glycerin or alcohol to pull out the plant’s chemicals. If you read the labels of liquid herbal extracts, many of them have “alcohol” listed as an ingredient because of this extraction process.
Interesting fact: depending on the product, essential oils can actually be as much as 75 times more concentrated compared with herbs!
Because of the differences between herbs and essential oils, it is important to learn about the specific products before you start using them. For example, just because you have an herb and an essential oil from the same plant, the products may not necessarily be used in the same way!
I personally use both herbal remedies and essential oils, but over time I have been finding that I tend to reach for the bottle of essential oil first– because they are so quickly assimilated into the body and they are so effective. Also, I love the fact that the compounds are extracted with steam distillation instead of using harsh products such as alcohol or glycerin.
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