Aromatherapy, Phytotherapy (or Herbal medicine), essential oils, herbs, extracts… it can be very confusing at times. While all these disciplines have in common plants and their powerful healing properties, they both have a specific way of extracting and using botanicals.
It all started with plants… and Phytotherapy is a generic term for all kinds of plant-based therapeutic methods based on western principles. Phytotherapy combines herbs, plant extracts, and natural active ingredients to create different remedies. Aromatherapy is a derivative of Phytotherapy. Essential oils at the heart of Aromatherapy and they can be diffused, massaged or blended for skincare. Aromatherapy skincare combines essential oils and Phyto or plant extracts to create a high performance, synergistic product.
Phytotherapy and Aromatherapy are different in philosophy, approach and applications from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic medicine, Naturopathy, and Homeopathy. However, some essential oils are widely used in Aromatic TCM and Ayurveda.
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils, which are obtained from aromatic plants and trees. The aim is to rebalance and maintain physical and psychological well-being, combining essential oils and carrier oils with massage, topical applications or inhalation. In some cases, essential oils are taken orally (this is not recommended unless under the direct supervision of a professional aromatherapist). Aromatherapy is a fast-growing branch of complementary medicine, and its cosmetological applications have challenged and revolutionized the traditional skincare and beauty industry. It encourages the use of other natural products such as plant oils (or carrier oils), hydrosols, dried herbs, plant extracts, sea salts, sugars, grounded kernels, clays, and muds.
In plants, essential oils act as plant hormones, regulating their functions and coordinating the production of vitamins and enzymes. Essential oils can also perform the same tasks when applied to humans – they can act as neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes and therefore play an active role in balancing our general functions.
Two main streams of aromatherapy live together within the western culture, the ‘French’ school and the ‘English’ school. A third ‘current’ school of thought, embraced by some American Aromatherapy providers, follows the French stream and promotes the use of essential oils both internally and externally, suggesting a higher dosage of intake with new and controversial application techniques (for instance high doses of neat essential oils applied directly on the spine).
In France, aromatherapy has a distinct medical approach. Some Essential oils are also taken orally with generally safe dosages and are available in some pharmacies as natural remedies. In the UK and in many English speaking countries, aromatherapy focuses on re-balancing both the physical and psychological state, taking into account the energetic and vibrational energy of essential oils. It is a more intuitive and holistic practice which emphasizes the importance of external applications such as massage, inhalation, and bath. In the US some Aromatherapy providers suggest the use of essential oils as regular preventive supplements, applied undiluted and with higher doses than recommended by other Professional Aromatherapists.
At NATIVE ESSENTIALS we do not encourage the internal use of essential oils and the undiluted application (with a carrier oil or cream) unless under the direct supervision of a qualified professional Aromatherapist ideally trained as Medical Aromatherapist. We always recommend safe oils and blends based on individual age, conditions, and requirements.
PHYTOTHERAPY (OR HERBAL MEDICINE)
Aromatherapy uses essential oils, which are obtained by processing part of the plant, roots, flowers or leaves (steam distillation is the most common extraction method). Herbalism tends to use the whole plant, fresh or dried. It is common for herbs to be taken orally as fresh, dried, or as tinctures (as teas or capsules or in decoctions like traditional Chinese medicine blends) also knows as extracts. Essential oils are usually applied topically (diluted) or inhaled. Organic Cosmeceuticals use both.
There are roughly 150 plants that produce essential oils with therapeutic qualities compared to thousands of plants that can be used by herbalists. Herbs and essential oils can be very powerful, and some of them can even be toxic. At NATIVE ESSENTIALS we do not use any hazardous essential oils. We use a selection of safe plant extracts, essential oils, and vegetable oils, which are all individually lab tested.
The same plant can be used for aromatherapy and herbalism purposes but with differing concentrations, potency, and therapeutic effects. A single tea bag of Chamomile (Matricaria Recutita) contains approx. 2 grams of dried flowers. To obtain 1 drop (0.05 ml) of high-quality chamomile essential oil we need to do a steam distillation of at least 50 – 70 gr of fresh flowers, which is roughly equivalent to at least 30 tea bags! A chamomile tea has a very minimal amount of essential oil; it will be soothing for the stomach and relaxing before bedtime. 2-3 drops of Chamomile essential oil in a hot bath or as a diluted carrier oil for massage will promote restful sleep and if applied topically, is a very powerful general analgesic.
The information included in this section is for reference only.