Difference Between Bach Flower Remedies, Essential Oils and Herbal Tinctures

Healing Mosaic

Many people seem to have a difficult time distinguishing between Bach Flower Essences, Essential Oils and liquid Herbal Extracts. This is probably because these remedies are liquids and are packaged very similarly. In my practice, I use each of these, so I wanted to share information to help explain what each of these supplements is, how it is used, and how the remedy is made. Each description contains links to some of the most popular remedies of that type. Please consult a trained practitioner before using any of these remedies. As always, these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, are shared for informational purposes only, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Let’s go!

Bach Flower Remedies/Flower Essences

Dr. Edward Bach first began using flower essences in the 1930’s when he realized that his patients’ emotional state directly affected their ability to heal physically. Through his research, Dr. Bach identified 38 different negative emotional states and developed a flower remedy for each. Bach Flower Remedies are used to address emotional states such as depression, obsessiveness, bitterness, etc. The essences are made by infusing flower petals from specific flowers in brandy. (Non-alcoholic versions are available for children and pets.) The beauty of the flower essences is that they have a very gentle impact and do not interact with prescription medications. (The Bach flower remedies cannot be used with prescription Antibuse due to their alcohol content.)One of the most popular Bach Flower Remedies is Rescue Remedy, commonly used during times of extreme stress. Rescue Remedy is often used in emergencies to help people calm down. It is also known to be highly effective for pets who have separation anxiety or storm fear. (Pet Rescue Remedy is alcohol free and very effective.) I often find the Bach Flower Remedy Gorse to be very helpful when addressing long-term depression. Most practitioners use a specific set of written questions to identify which Bach Flower Remedies may be best for emotional issues and then create a customized blend in mineral water that is taken four times daily. It is very important to work with a trained practitioner when identifying which Bach Flower Remedy is best for specific issues. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, please read my post: Stop Seasonal Affective Disorder Now.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the highly concentrated volatile aromatic oils that give plants their aromas. They are highly medicinal and can be used for physical issues and emotional issues. (The chemicals in essential oils can have very powerful and positive emotional effects because they cross the blood-brain barrier.) Essential oils are so versatile they also have culinary uses and a wide variety of uses for cleaning and scenting. The oils are distilled or pressed from the leaves, flowers, stems, barks, roots or seeds of a plant, tree or bush. Essential oils are highly concentrated and have such strong medicinal powers that they must always be diluted before use.
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Very few essential oils are suitable for internal use. There are a few applications that do not require dilution, and several essential oils that can be used internally, but only highly trained practitioners should use essential oils in those manners. Additionally, some essential oils can actually be harmful to health when incorrectly used. Please never use essential oils without consulting an expert or doing extensive research. (On a side note, I am aware there is a network marketing company which claims their essential oils are such high quality they can always be used internally and without dilution. I STRONGLY disagree with this company’s teachings and feel they encourage very dangerous usage of essential oils.)
The medicinal effects of essential oils can be gained through inhalation, balneotherapy (bathing), diffusion, massage, compresses, etc. Essential oils do smell good (most of them, at least) and can be used for scenting, but their potential extends far beyond that. My two favorite essential oils, which I consider “essential” for every home first aid kit, are Lavender and Tea Tree oil. For more information on essential oils and their uses, please read Hand Sanitizer Alternatives with Recipes.

Liquid Herbal Tinctures (Extracts)

Most people now use the term “tincture” to refer to any liquid herbal extract, but this term is actually incorrect. My definition is that a tincture is made using fresh plant materials and extracts are made using dried plant materials. However, everyone seems to have their own definition to distinguish between liquid tinctures and extracts. Since the term “tincture” is commonly used to refer to all liquid extracts, that’s the term I use in this post. Liquid herbal tinctures are concentrated forms of medicinal herbs that contain the beneficial properties of the herb extracted into a liquid. Tinctures are typically made by placing an herb or herbs in a natural solvent, such as alcohol, glycerin or vinegar, and allowing the mixture to infuse for three weeks or longer. The amounts of herb, solvent and water used are very specific and are dependent upon the herb being used. (Some herbs require higher amounts of solvent, some require lesser amounts.)
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It is actually very easy to make your own herbal tinctures. I make them frequently and love being able to make my own in the comfort of my kitchen. For detailed information on how to make herbal tinctures and other herbal products, I highly recommend reading Richo Cech’s book, Making Plant Medicine. The book provides ample information about herbs and provides detailed information about how to use herbs in a variety of ways. Herbal tinctures can be used for any and all conditions which are treated with herbs. They are typically taken internally, although some people use them topically in poultices. Some people even add anti-bacterial herbal tinctures to their neti pot. Why use an herbal tincture instead of drinking teas or taking capsules? Because a therapeutic dose of the desired herb can be obtained in a tiny amount of the tincture instead of having to eat pounds of the raw herb or drink gallons of tea. My personal preference is to use liquid tinctures instead of dried extracts in capsules because I believe they are stronger and because it avoids consuming “fillers” commonly used in capsuled products. Herbal tinctures can have a very strong taste, but diluting them in a bit of water or juice effectively modifies the taste.
Glycerites are herbal extracts made in glycerin  Glycerin is a very sweet vegetable liquid that is often used to make liquid herbal extracts for children. The glycerin is used so that the extracts taste good. The problem with glycerites is that (for most herbs) glycerin is not as strong a solvent as alcohol, which makes glycerites weaker in terms of their medicinal potential. However, glycerites are a good compromise for anyone who cannot tolerate the taste of alcohol tinctures. (For detailed information on one of my favorite herbal tinctures, Goldenseal, please read The Wonders of Goldenseal.)

Have you tried or used Bach Flower Remedies, Tinctures or Essential Oils? What was your expereince? Please share!

My passion is helping others improve their health using a natural approach to wellness. If you are interested in feeling better and reversing symptoms by addressing their cause, please feel free to contact me. I will work with you to help you reach your goals. I will not let you fail!

The most obvious conclusion I’ve drawn from writing this post is that I need to write many more posts about the uses of specific Bach Flower Remedies, essential oils and herbal extracts! Stay tuned for more!

Photo used by permission courtesy of LaWendula Photography

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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17 Responses to Difference Between Bach Flower Remedies, Essential Oils and Herbal Tinctures

  1. Jan bird says:

    Why are Bach Flower Essence better than do terra essential oils?
    Is there anything available for menopausal hot flushes?

    • I never said flower essences are better than essential oils. They are simply very different products which are used in very different ways. There are a wide variety of natural approaches for eliminating hot flashes. Please discuss options with a trained practitioner.

  2. DVK says:

    I’m wondering if there is a difference between the Bach Flower Essence and the same one that comes as a tincture from other companies. For instance, Olive. Both are made by Bach and also by other companies. Will the non-Bach ones provide the same type of relief, or are they prepared so differently that the effects will be different?

    • There are several companies that make flower essences. They each use a slightly different technique, but their products should have the same effect. Check with the manufacturer to see which emotion(s) their products focus on.

  3. eliza says:

    I have Bach Star of Bethlehem. Using it for my dogs separation anxiety. Can I put it in a diffuser?

  4. […] changes, lifestyle changes, supplements (herbs, homeopathy, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, etc.), Bach Flower Remedies, essential oils, acupuncture or acupressure, massage, detoxification assistance, weight loss counseling, programs […]

  5. thelma says:

    can you give me information on using Star of Bethlehem for horses with some serious behaviour issues?

    • Star of Bethlehem may not be the best remedy. There are equine Bach Flower experts who can test to see which remedies are appropriate for your horse’s specific issue(s). I recommend working with someone who’s equine certified. You’ll have better results that way. I wish you well and hope you find relief!

  6. Micks says:

    Can magnolia bark and/or pine needle be made into an essential oil? What would be good to use for their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammation properties topically?

  7. MsTaurus1970 says:

    I have always been drawn to herbs and natural ways. I have made my own skin care products (Herbal salve that is so much better than Neosporin, eczema cream for my son, natural shampoo/conditioner, soaps, etc.) but have been leery on making my own Internal products. I am at the point now of searching for a natural product to help with my panic disorder; I am ‘sick’ of taking medications that is harming me. I have tried a few years back 5-HTP for a year and I just got immune to it and the panic attacks came back, so… back on prescriptions again. What can I take that will get rid of the panic attacks that will work just as good as, or better than, Zoloft and Buspar?

    Thank you, your site is wonderful.

    • GWWR says:

      Hi. Thanks for sharing your very personal story. I do believe there are herbal combinations that work wonderfully for anxiety, but I recommend you find a practitioner who is comfortable working with herbs and who understands the broad range of dietary and hormonal causes which can cause or exacerbate anxiety. There are typically a variety of causes which need to be addressed differently, and sometimes it takes several “test” doses before the correct combination is found. If you find the right doctor or practitioner, I am confident he or she can help you find the correct combination of approaches that will work for you. I wish you well!

    • Shirley says:

      Ihave been using a Bach Flower Essense called ” Star of Bethlehem” – I find it works very well for me at time of stress. Just 2 dropps in a tall glass of water! Inexpensive and effectual.

      • GWWR says:

        Good for you! Star of Bethlehem tends to be especially effective for people who have experienced trauma. I took it and gave it to my kids after my husband died. I’m glad you found what works for you!

  8. N.Kennedy says:

    I am currently taking the Bach essences Mimulus, Larch and Walnut. I have been using them for just over a month, and am just starting to notice a subtle difference. My understanding is that it could take 6-8 weeks for these essences to take effect. Is that your experience when working with adult clients? I would imagine that children and animals respond quicker.

    • GWWR says:

      Hello. Every person responds differently to Bach Flower Remedies. I usually find people recognize a difference in 1-2 weeks, but some people do not responid that quickly. I recommend you contact your practitioner and discuss this with him or her. There may be other things you can be doing to reduce and improve your symptoms. I wish you the very best!

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