I personally love sipping my Chamomile herbal tea before bedtime to relax and feel cozy. When my skin breaks out and has some form of irritation, I make a quick blend of 1 drop of Chamomile Essential oil in 2-3 ml of Calendula oil and I can see my skin improving within 10 minutes. So I am actually already using the same plant in different ways, my very own basic Herbalism, and Aromatherapy DIY treat. But there are so many plants and essential oils and is so easy to get confused about what to use and how to use it.
What is the difference between herbs and essential oils? Is one better than the other? Easier to use? Safer? More effective?
BOTH ARE PLANTS BUT EXTRACTED DIFFERENTLY.
There are roughly 150 plants that produce essential oils with therapeutic qualities compared to thousands of plants that can be used by herbalists.
Because of the differences between herbs and essential oils, it is important to learn about the specific properties, benefits, and most importantly use. As a general rule
ESSENTIAL OILS ARE MUCH MORE CONCENTRATED AND POWERFUL THAN HERBS.
Here’s an example of how the same plant can be used for aromatherapy and herbalism 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 steam distill at least 50 – 70 gr of fresh flowers, which is roughly equivalent to at least 30 tea bags! 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 diluted in a carrier oil for massage will promote restful sleep and if applied topically, is a very powerful general analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
HERBALISM (OR PHYTOTHERAPY) vs AROMATHERAPY
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) and Carrier Oils, fatty oils used to dilute essential oils. Essential oils are usually applied topically (diluted) or inhaled.
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.
HOW DO HERBS AND ESSENTIAL OILS WORK?
Essential oils work at both a physical and emotional level, being rich in extremely active chemical compounds like Phenols, Alcohols, Monoterpenes, and Oxides. They have strong antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties and can penetrate quickly and efficiently into the body via the skin. Only essential oils can activate the limbic system of our brain (controls emotions, sleep, and mood) by inhalation.
Herbs offer a variety of botanicals (medicinal plants, of which there are thousands) and are active at a physical level. They contain different multi-purpose chemical compounds like Saponin, Tannins, Flavonoids, Phenols. Herbs gently help balance the metabolism, are anti-inflammatory, help to stimulate nerves and the circulatory system. In skincare, herbs offer an interesting variety of gentle botanicals that are perfect for any skin type and condition.
HOW TO USE HERS AND ESSENTIAL OILS?
Here is the chart of how to understand how to use Herbs and Essential Oils.