What’s the difference between essential oils and plant extracts?

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How are essential oils made?

Because there’s kind of a mystical thing happening with the oils right now - everyone wants to use them and learn more about them but sometimes, we don’t even know where to begin. 

The health and beauty industry is full of fads and trends, each one replacing the last. But essential oils aren’t one of those trends. In fact, essential oils have been used for at least 4000 years (yes, your grandmas were onto something!).

At Grow Fragrance, we are committed to providing you with the safest, most effective, and high quality products. As part of that commitment, we use both essential oils and plant extracts in our products. 

Although there may be some confusion about the difference between these two, here is a breakdown of what they are, how they are different, and why each one is important for your scent profile.

How are essential oils made?

To understand the difference, you first have to understand how essential oils are made.

An essential oil is simply an oil obtained by distilling (most commonly by steam or water) or extracting the different parts of plants. These oils include the base chemicals (constituents) that make up the plant's aroma and overall performance. 

Essential oils are generally extracted directly from a plant's flowers, fruit, peel, seeds or bark — so it is easy to see how they are considered one of nature’s most powerful ingredients.

How are essential oils made?

The "essential oil" is the transparent liquid that is distilled from a plant. When distilled in this way, by law it must comprise 0.8% or greater of the flowering plant's dry weight. It is the concentrated form of compounds in a plant and it is what gives plants their smell, flavor and various health benefits.

So how are plant extracts different?

Essential oils and distilled plant extracts (those not having a common name) can often be used interchangeably. However, there is a difference in the quality, quantity and concentration of each of these which will make them most effective under different circumstances.

Some of our "plant extracts" are actually distilled from the same plants as traditional essential oils. However, when it comes to the aromas that we use, we have a wide range of extraction methods and many things are not distilled at all.

What are plant extracts?

Some of the most well-known ingredients we use in aroma oils are terpenes. These are derived from the same source as essential oils - botanical plants. 

And since many essential oils don’t smell good (or smell like much of anything) on their own, we can clean some of them up to remove traces of the less pleasant ones and blend them to make a usable pure oil that smells nice.

How are plant extracts made?

Plant extracts are made using solvents, which may be water or alcohol, but are often other chemicals like hexane and acetone. The goal of the process is to pull out as much of the aroma as possible. This creates a tincture (i.e., a plant extract), which is essentially a super concentrated and highly aromatic version of an essential oil.

We often extract using a technique called CO2 extraction which has been compared to making "a cup of coffee." While this is a bit more "processed" than an essential oil, it is still made from plants, which is absolutely not the case with traditional fragrances. 

What makes them safe?

Some of our additional processing actually allows us to make things even safer than essential oils alone. Some essential oils have some base components that are safe, and others that are not (basil oil, or cinnamon oil for instance). 

With traditional EOs, you either have to use the whole oil and be exposed to the risk, or avoid it and miss out. We can use the part that is safe and avoid the part that isn't. 

And while we totally support the idea of eating whole, unprocessed foods for optimal health (due to how they are processed in the body), there are no similar health dynamics or issues associated with smell.

The best of both worlds!

Unlike so many other companies, we do not use synthetic fragrances in any of our products. The reason is that we use extracts and essential oils means that with our products, you're getting the best of both worlds! 

The beautiful scents that come along with all that nature has to offer us, along with the peace of mind that you’re bringing a product into your home that you know is safe.

At our core, we believe in creating products not only for you, but for your family too. That includes your furry friends! Our products are pet-friendly as well, so no need to try and hide them from your animal family members. We also understand how precious our environment is, so we work hard to make sure our products are environmentally conscious.

If you’d like to try 100% plant based fragrances, our sampler pack is a great place to start!

Fragrance Sampler Pack

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