Essential Oils vs Herbs… that is the question. One seems so luxurious, exotic, and expensive, while the other is as common as the food on your kitchen table. Today I want to break down the difference between the two, and when using one over the other is more appropriate.
What’s the difference?
You might be interested to know that what makes an herb an “herb” (i.e, the flavor, health benefits, etc.), is actually the tiny bit of essential oil you find in that herb. Yep, you heard that right: herbs actually contain essential oils! Essential oils are the life blood of every plant, as they contain virtually all of the plant’s beneficial nutrients, like amino acid precursors, oxygenating molecules, coenzyme A factors, trace minerals, enzymes, vitamins, hormones and more (learn all about them here!). Compare this to the fact that herbs dried loose up to 90% of nutrients and oxygen molecules.
Besides this, essential oils have a very long shelf life compared to herbs. While it’s easy for herbs to go rancid after a few months, essential oils last for years if stored out of direct heat & sunlight.
Potency is King
Essential oils are 50-70 times more potent than herbs. In fact, 1 drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 20 cups of peppermint tea! Now let’s put that in perspective: say you want to use Peppermint to help support your digestive tract. Which would you go for: 20 cups of tea or 1 drop of oil? I don’t know about you, but internalizing one drop seems way easier than brewing and drinking 20 cups of tea!
And, get this: because essential oils are so powerful, they penetrate every cell in the human body in 15-20 minutes after being applied topically! Their design also makes them incredibly effective in the use of supplements and delivering vitamins and nutrients to the body’s cells.
Is Internal use of Essential Oils Safe?
It’s very important to know how your essential oils are being made before you use them, period. Many companies cut corners in the production of their essential oils, diluting them with carriers & synthetics, distilling with solvents, treating the plants with chemicals, and more. All of this stumps the essential oil’s ability to support your body and renders them unsafe for internal use.
We are so thankful to have a company like Young Living, who controls the entire process from Seed to Seal, so that no pesticides, synthetics, or other adulterating substances ever gets into our precious oils. They have an awesome Vitality line for easy identification of EO’s as a dietary supplement. This line is the same grade of Young Living’s other essential oils, it just has a different label for FDA compliance 😉
When We use What
Jessica and I personally love using essential oils for health support & household/personal care products. We have not transitioned our kitchen cabinets to using Young Living’s vitality line for our cooking & baking, simply because we’ve had bigger priorities on our “wellness” plate 😉
While oils, in the long run, are more cost-efficient due to the extended shelf life and incredibly potent flavor, we still love our herbs for cooking & baking! And here’s one thing that herbs definitely have over EO’s: you can never replace the beautiful look of herbs in a dish or bake!
In the season of life that I am in right now, it makes more sense for me to use oils for health support and beauty/cleaning products than in cooking & baking. Using oils culinarily is a learning curve that I have yet to fully grasp, but am eager to experiment in.
In the case of using a tincture or ferment of herbs vs. oils for health support… I lead a full life, so I find it waaaay more simple to use a drop or two of oil vs. ordering pounds of herbs (space), waiting for weeks for a tincture to be ready (time), and having to use a lot of it to get any results (money). We have done the tinctures, and they just don’t win compared to the simplicity and efficacy of oils.
One beautiful thing that using Essential Oils has taught me is the incredible attributes of that plants that we normally entitle “herbs”. They do so much more than just seasoning a dish, or giving pleasure through a cup of tea. Whole-body health & support is at our fingertips just through the plants of God’s creation, and Essential Oils are definitely the best way of harnessing those benefits.
I hope that this article helped you understand the difference between Essential Oils and herbs! Feel free to shoot me some questions down in the comments, and I will do my best to answer. I am definitely not an expert in this field! I’m just as eager for good info as you all, and do my best to provide that for you.
xo, Charlotte B.
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By the Way...
We aren’t doctors or health experts. We just have a passion for wellness, and educating others on how to maintain it through the goodness of essential oils. Please know that any information provided on the B.Well website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to prescribe, diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, nor replace current medical treatment or drugs prescribed by your healthcare professional. The statements made have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is your responsibility to educate yourself and address any health or medical needs you may have with your physician. Please seek professional help when needed.