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Plant essences and essential oils have long been used to promote health and wellness. Some are most effective when ingested, some are mainly used as a topical, and many can be useful in both ways.
One of the really wonderful things about the tremendous healing in nature is that there’s typically not one lone benefit for any one herbal species. There can actually be many benefits of each plant, which is such a gift! So why do many natural products contain so many similar ingredients? Are the products with fewer ingredients safer, or are they more effective? Is more better?
With the multitude of effects of a single plant derivative comes multiple uses for that derivative as an ingredient. Regina DiSilvestro, Founder & Head of Formulations at RD Alchemy Natural Products, explains. “An extract from one plant can contain a multitude of constituents.” states DiSilvestro. “Normally you would find hundreds or thousands of chemical compounds ranging from vitamins, minerals, primary and secondary metabolites from one single crude extract. Those compounds have different roles within the plant to either keep it healthy, resist disease or predators, improve reproduction or just help it grow in general. Many of those compounds can have a positive effect on humans (or animals) as well. Since there are a number of different compounds from one single extract, multiple, potential benefits can be achieved.”
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Take the Aloe Vera plant for example. It’s widely known that the components from aloe plants can be helpful for soothing burns. But it may be less well-known that it’s also a very powerful wound healer, an excellent moisturizer, can be used in dental hygiene to reduce plaque and gingivitis, and the juice can be consumed and used for digestion improvement.
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Neem leaf essence is another great multi-tasker. It is used in skincare products to aid in healing of eczema and psoriasis, has anti-fungal properties, and is helpful with repelling insects. Because of this, natural products containing plant derivatives can often be used for more than what one may imagine upon first look.
Additionally, an herb or EO can be extremely helpful to heal a wound or a condition like eczema for one person or animal, and be somewhat less effective to another. For this reason, a natural product meant to heal the skin can be more helpful to more individuals if it contains several plant derivatives to achieve a purpose, increasing the odds of a positive change. For instance, in Natural Paws’ dog care products, there are multiple ingredients in each product which all aid in skin healing and cell regeneration. So, if a dog’s skin doesn’t resonate well with aloe barbadensis, then comfrey leaf extract or gotu kola leaf extract will likely prove more helpful, and vice versa. Additionally, these powerful ingredients are best used in moderation.
“Using a combination of ingredients instead of one single compound for a desired effect,” explains DiSilvestro, “ allows one to concentrate the desired results without overwhelming the organism from one ingredient. The synergistic nature of multiple compounds performing a similar task while also helping to subdue side effects creates on average a better, yet more gentle positive response over time.”
But choosing plant derivatives to care for skin, the body’s largest organ, is a very delicate undertaking. This is partly because every individual’s skin is unique, potentially reacting to something that another individual finds beneficial. It’s also tricky because of the differences between species; dogs can use many (not all) of the same essential oils (EOs) as humans (in smaller amounts), but being obligate carnivores, EOs are dangerous and can be life-threatening for cats.
Before beginning any new regimen, it’s always a good idea to check with a professional to ensure the safety of the ingredients and their appropriate concentrations for the person or creature in question.