I’m often asked to explain the difference between herbal oils and essential oils, and to recommend which is a better or more effective therapeutic choice. The answer is that there is no simple, straightforward answer. Herbal oils and essential oils can both provide tremendous health benefits when used properly and safely. As a matter of fact, healing herbal oils and therapeutic essential oils have both been used safely and effectively for thousands of years to treat various health concerns. However ... although they are both valuable remedies, they are two very different compounds with two very different methods of use.
Herbal oils contain many medicinal healing properties that are beneficial to our health and well being. Just Skin Food handcrafts our Organic Healing Herbal Oilsin-house so that we can control the richness of these healing properties through various infusion methods. Organic olive oil is our preferred carrier because it has the longest shelf life of any oil, and we infuse it with only the finest organic plants and weeds through one of the following methods; digestion, cold, or heat infusion.
Proper infusion can take several weeks using each of these methods. Digestion infusion and cold infusion differ only in the type of herbs used. In digestion infusion, dried organic herbs are used. In cold infusion, fresh organic herbs are wilted for twelve hours, then chopped and infused. Heat infusion is exactly how it sounds – a heat source, such as the sun or a double boiler, is used to extract the medicinal properties from either fresh or dried organic herbs. Once the infusion is ready, one of two things occurs – either the herbs are removed, leaving just the infused oil behind or the herbs are left in the oil and continue to infuse, creating a stronger, more potent herbal oil.
At Just Skin Food, our Organic Healing Herbal Oilsare also used in the crafting of many of our other products, most notably in our curative Healing Salves. Herbal oils can generally be utilized on a daily basis without any adverse reaction, are found in many herbal teas, salves and tinctures that we use regularly, and are safe for ingestion in therapeutic doses.
Now lets talk a bit about essential oils.
Essential oils are oils that are extracted directly from plants and weeds. Steam distillation is the most common method of expression and extraction of essential oils because of it’s cost effectiveness. In this process, the plant is exposed to steam, causing the essential oils in the plant to evaporate. Once cooled, the condensation of water vapor and oil separates, making it easy to extract only the essential oil and package it into the lovely smelling little bottles we all have stored somewhere on our shelves. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a little aromatherapy :)
Simple, right? Not so much...
You see, while essential oils have many beneficial properties (the ability to influence the brain through our sense of smell is tremendous!), they definitely require more caution with their use, especially around children, the elderly and our pets. Undiluted essential oils have incredible therapeutic powers but should only be used under the guidance of an herbalist/naturopath/homeopath who is familiar with each oil’s healing properties in relation to an individuals specific health needs. These oils are actually so potent that only one drop is required per every 2 - 3 ounces of carrier oil. It is also not recommended to use essential oils on a daily basis. When improperly used or ingested, they can cause a host of problems ranging from negative skin reactions and upset flora in your gut, to actual internal tissue damage.
As always, knowledge is power. Herbal oils are, for the most part, safer and easier to use but we shouldn't overlook the amazing therapeutic properties of appropriately administered essential oils. So stay informed ... and when in doubt, seek the advice of a professional.