Flower essences, essential oils, herbal tinctures, herbal oils, floral water… they are all made with botanical materials and they all come in little glass bottles, but that is where the similarity ends.
Read on and see the infographic to find out the differences between these products – how they are made, how they are used, and what they are used for.
What’s so important about getting the terminology right?
There is a misconception that anything made from plants must be safe because it’s natural. However, if something is powerful enough to have a physiological effect on the body, it may also have risks.
Unfortunately, medicinal plant products have similar names, and they are repeatedly misused by bloggers, researchers, and even medical professionals. This can lead to potentially dangerous confusion – each term has a very specific meaning and they are not interchangeable.
For example, when you read an article about using rosemary oil to massage your scalp, are you learning about rosemary infused oil or rosemary essential oil? I’ve seen many writers reference the shortened “rosemary oil” when they really mean rosemary essential oil, but some will also have articles about how to make your own “essential oil” which then actually gives directions for making an infused oil.
The problem here is that you could burn your scalp if you rubbed in rosemary essential oil without diluting it first, yet rosemary infused oil would need to be used full strength to be beneficial for the scalp.
Rosemary tincture would not be rubbed on the body, but taken internally. It comes in a dropper bottle like rosemary flower essence. However, you would not want to drop rosemary tincture directly on the tongue – you’d want to dilute it in a little water. As with any herb, you’d also want to be aware of contraindications. In this case, even the relatively safe herb rosemary is not recommended for those pregnant or breastfeeding.
However, rosemary flower essence is perfectly safe to drop directly on the tongue and has no contraindications. But it’s used for different reasons.
Confused yet? You’re not alone.
Many people don’t know what a flower essence is, and because the name sounds so much like essential oil, they assume it is the same thing. It’s a very common misconception and one of the things I had to explain most often when I worked at an herbal apothecary, and still do when explaining my practice to people who aren’t my clients.
Flower essences are extremely dilute and essential oils are extremely concentrated –they are at the complete opposite ends of what I call the plant medicine intensity spectrum. Flower essences have the least amount of plant constituents and work on a more subtle energetic level rather than physiochemically with the body, while at the opposite end of the spectrum are essential oils which have the highest concentration of aromatic plant constituents, and work on a very physical, chemical (as well as energetic) level on the body.
So that gave me the idea to conceptually chart it on an infographic. Keep in mind that it is a simplification because a.) different extraction methods pull out different constituents, and b.) strength is also dependent on the dose. The infographic is also very high level and condensed in order to summarize multiple complex process and different healing methodologies on one page.
I hope you find this useful!
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Listen to The Flower Essence Podcast
Listen to The Flower Essence Podcast to hear two Flower Essence Practitioners, Rochana Felde and Kathleen Aspenns talk about everything essences, geek out about plants, have fun, and go deep with tough subjects. Find us where you listen to podcasts! You can also read the transcripts or listen directly on the website: