Both herbs and essential oils have their place in natural health, but which one is best? Is one better than the other? There are benefits and downsides of each one which we will be exploring today!
If you are like me, and you are starting to dig deeper and become even more interested in natural medicine, you might be wandering about the difference between herbs and essential oils. Is one better than the other? Easier to use? More effective?
Herbs & essential oils are both derived from plants, but there is a difference between herbal products and essential oils. Herbals usually contain pieces of the actual plant in a dried form. Essential oils contain the concentrated essence of the plant without any of the fibers of the plant.
From my own research and from what I do know about herbs and essential oils, both of these natural health options have their benefits and downsides when it comes to safety, effectiveness, and ease of use. So lets break each of these natural health options down.
The Benefits & Downsides of Herbs
Herbals can also be purchased in liquid form, but usually it is extracted with a solvent such as glycerin or alcohol to pull out the plants chemicals. When you read the labels of most liquid herbal extracts, you will probably notice alcohol is listed as an ingredient because of the extraction process.
- Whole herbs and herbal preparations such as salves, teas, and tinctures contain many active compounds to meet numerous needs. They are considered to be highly complex substances that can be used by the body for various healing purposes.
- Whole herbs can be prepared in many creative ways. They can be added to your food, made into tasty beverages, mixed with honey, steeped in vinegars, extracted in alcohols, and more.
- The internal use of herbs and herbal formulas is well established in both research and tradition. While there are some herbs that aren’t safe to take internally, there are still hundreds of plants that can safely be taken internally.
- There is usually prep work that is required if you plan to use them medicinally.
- There are some herbs and herbal preparations that just don’t taste all that great, especially for kids. At our house we like to use garlic for colds & flu, but it can be difficult to get young children to take it when they are sick.
The Benefits & Downsides of Essential Oils
When an essential oil is produced, steam distillation is used to extract the compound of the plant. This extraction process concentrates the benefits of the plant, so only a tiny bit of essential oils are needed when being used.
Depending on the product, some essential oils can actually be as much as 75 times more concentrated compared with herbs.
- Essential Oils are ready to use because only require some dilution before using.
- Essential Oils are able to work through our sense of smell to help influence our brains in a way that our other senses are unable to do. There is a lot of mystery when it comes to aromatherapy because there is so much yet to be discovered about our sense of smell and how it can influence our brain.
- Essential Oils require more care, especially around children, pregnant women, the elderly, and pets. Because essential oils are so potent, they can do damage without proper care or improper use.
- Essential Oils are not effective for all situations. Not every ailment can be effectively treated at home with essential oils. Some ailments are best served with other active plant compounds that are not present in essential oils.
- There is a lot of misunderstanding and myths surrounding essential oils, and sometimes this can make it difficult to know how to best use them.
Which Is Best?
So which one of these is the best option in natural medicine? It really just depends on the specific health need and the person.
I personally like to use both herbal remedies and essential oils, but I usually find myself reaching for the bottle of essential oil first because they are so quickly assimilated into the body and also effective. Also I love the fact that the compounds are extracted with steam distillation instead of using harsh products such as alcohol or glycerin.
Because of the difference between herbs and essential oils, it is important to learn about the specific products available before you start to use 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.