When to Use Whole Parts Verses Essential Oils
By Coco Pile
There are a variety of ways to use plants for health promotion and body care. You have the option of using the plant’s whole parts, such as the leaves, roots, flowers, and berries; or you can use plant extractions such as essential oils and absolutes.
When considering making herbal remedies or products for ingestion, such as tinctures, teas, or honey infusions, it is safest to use whole plant parts. In lavender’s case, you would most likely use the flowers. This practice is more beneficial because the infusion will be more balanced, and offer a wider spectrum of compounds. Using the whole plant may take more time to process and be less powerful as essentials oils but they still have a medicinal affect and a more stable shelf life. Whole parts are also used for oil infusions for this same reason.
Ingesting herbs is typically done for its stronger influence on the body, so taking proper precautions to practice botanical medicine safely is necessary. Our bodies manage thousands of chemical reactions every second of every day to maintain internal balance. If you were to add too much of anything into your body, you would disrupt the balance of the chemical environment and could potentially really hurt yourself. This is the main reason by consuming essential oils or absolutes are contraindicated for ingestion.
The concentration of herbal constituents in essential oils is drastically more potent than its whole parts. For example, it takes 100 pounds of lavender flowers to make one pound of lavender essential oil. That is why essential oils are safest to be used as additives to enhance your recipe. If you wanted to make a cream, salve, oil, etc. for topical uses, you would want to use the proper dilution ratio of 3% essential oils for your product. This is approximately 15-18 drops of essential oil per ounce of whatever medium you are adding the essential oils to.
It is extremely important to note that more is not better when it comes to using essential oils. Although Lavender essential oils are known to be safe in topical application without a carrier, there are incidents where people have adverse side effects. Essential oils do have greater potential to hurt you because of their high concentrations, so use them wisely and start small. Rule of thumb when using essential oils is to always dilute them in a carrier (vegetable or nut oil, salts, or butters) before using them on your body.
As always, when in doubt, ask for help. There are countless botanical resources out there to educate you on how to use plants safely with the greatest success!