Herbal Wisdom: Whole Plant Extractions vs. Essential Oils

Herbal Wisdom: Whole Plant Extractions vs. Essential Oils

Today, we are delving deeper into herbal medicine and the important difference between whole plant extractions and essential oils. Both leverage the medicinal power of herbs, yet the processes and resulting products are entirely distinct.

For newcomers to the world of herbal medicine, it’s easy to confuse essential oils with other herbal extractions. Let’s start by laying a solid foundation of understanding about what plants offer as medicine.

Imagine a medicinal plant as a complete puzzle, composed of numerous puzzle pieces. These pieces represent the phytochemicals or biologically-active compounds, such as polysaccharides, terpenes, volatile oils, and alkaloids, which provide health benefits.

For example, take ginger: this remarkable plant is rich in compounds like gingerols, shogaols, and zingerone, which aid digestion and circulation. It also contains protease, an enzyme that helps the body digest protein, and volatile oils like zingiberene. Each of these components plays a role in ginger’s overall medicinal profile.

By now, you can see the complex picture that is herbal medicine. Plants are incredibly wise and function synergistically, meaning their phytochemicals work together, offering greater benefits than when isolated.

While some of these compounds can be absorbed by simply eating the plant, it is often more effective to extract them, enhancing their bioavailability. This is where whole plant extracts come into play. Despite sounding sophisticated, whole plant extraction is straightforward, involving methods like brewing tea or making tinctures by infusing plant matter in alcohol. These extracts are easily made at home and allow you or your dog to consume a full spectrum of phytochemicals.

This brings us to the key difference between whole plant extracts and essential oils. Essential oils are volatile oils, which are just one type of compound within plants. These oils give plants their aromatic qualities (think mint, rosemary, or sage) and are generally antimicrobial.

Volatile oils constitute a tiny fraction of the plant, only about 1-2% of its matter. This means producing essential oils requires a vast amount of plant material. For example, it takes about 15 pounds of lavender to produce just one ounce of lavender essential oil. Conversely, infusing the entire lavender plant into tea, oil, or alcohol extracts not only the volatile oils but also other valuable constituents.

At Fido's, we exclusively use whole plants in our bone broths for dogs. In our liquid bone broths, plants like calendula, chamomile, and ginger are gently infused over low heat, releasing a full spectrum of beneficial phytochemicals into the broth. In our powdered broths, whole powdered herbs are blended with bone broth powder. When mixed with hot water, these herbs release their phytochemicals, enriching the broth.

We believe this approach is the most sustainable and effective way to harness the power of herbs. Essential oils, while potent, can be overwhelming on their own. We recommend only using them topically, diluted in a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil.

Thank you for joining us on this journey of herbal wisdom. Your dog’s health is our passion, and we’re grateful for your continued support!
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