Flower Essences vs. Essential Oils: What’s the Difference?

an unlabeled dropper bottle next to flowers in a bowl

Flower essences, essential oils, herbal tinctures, herbal oils, floral water… they’re all made with botanical materials and come in little glass bottles, but that is where the similarity ends. Find out the differences between these products – how they’re made, how they’re used, and what they’re used for.

Flower Essences vs. Essential Oils

Most people have heard of essential oils, but haven’t heard of flower essences, or if they have, assume it’s the same thing. The names sound similar, and to complicate matters, some perfumers refer to aromatic liquids as essences.

Essential Oils (EOs) are aromatic plant constituents that are extracted and concentrated by distillation or expression (pressing). They are highly concentrated and it takes massive amounts of plant material to create each drop. They’re typically inhaled, misted, or applied externally and used for a variety of health and sensory benefits. Because they’re so concentrated, it’s important to follow proper usage guidelines and safety protocols when handling and using them. Qualified Aromatherapists and Aromatic Medicine Practitioners are trained in how to mitigate these risks and use them properly.

Flower Essences are made from an imprint of the life force of plants into water. It takes very little plant material to do this, so they pose no sustainability issues. The final product contains only microscopic amounts of plant material, if any, and there is no scent. Because of this, they are extremely safe to use for people of all ages, pets, and even other plants.

Rather than working through scent and the olfactory system like Essential Oils, or with the body’s physiochemistry like herbal medicines, Flower essences work on more subtle energetic levels. These are “vibrational remedies” and act through a process of resonance to convey information to the subtle levels of the body-mind-spirit complex. Flower Essence Practitioners are trained to address emotional root causes of complaints and create appropriate combinations that help the client over time.

Infographic displaying different kinds of plant medicines relative to how much concentrated plant material they contain with homeopathic remedies and flower essences on one end and essential oils at the other.
Plant Medicine Comparison Infographic by Rochana Felde.
Note that this is a simplified representation because a.) different extraction methods pull out different constituents, and
b.) strength is also dependent on the dose.


Rochana Felde

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By Rochana Felde

Rochana is a Flower Essence Practitioner, Herbalist, and Plant Spirit Researcher — creating flower essences from the wild coastal cliffs, forests, and meadows of Northern California. With an extensive background in information technology and user interface design, she creates graphics, websites and content for the school and related projects. Rochana co-hosts The Flower Essence Podcast and The Flower Essence Conference.

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