There seem to be a lot of confusion between the two. This blog post is dedicated to show the difference between Macerated (Infused) Oil and Essential Oil, so you can understand these better and use safely in your homemade formulations.
Essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic (‘water fearing’) liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils. An oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the "essence of" the plant's fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. The term essential does not mean indispensable as with the terms essential amino acid or essential fatty acid which are so called since they are nutritionally required by a given living organism.
Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam. Other processes include expression, solvent extraction, absolute oil extraction, resin tapping, cold pressing or through a labor-intensive process called enfleurage, in which fresh blossoms are delicately pressed into a screen that is first layered with fat. Creating essential oils, even in minuscule amounts, takes a lot of raw plant matter, hence why these are very expensive. Essential oils are only the very light or scented portion of the plant and often lack many of the qualities that the whole herb possesses. Many herbs if distilled will not have the same healing properties as the herb because the healing properties of the herb do not distill. Many variables go into creating a proper essential oil; scent varies dramatically depending on the time of day that the plants are harvested, heating temperatures during distillation, etc. So it is important that you buy high quality essential oils from a reputable seller.
The guideline for formulations containing essential oils is 0.5-3%. Essential oils are highly concentrated and although they do have lots of amazing powerful therapeutic properties, and there are lots of scientific studies to back that up, but they aren’t 100% safe and therefore are regulated. Essential Oils have to be always diluted in carrier or macerated oil. Undiluted or used in high quantities these can provoke a skin reaction, such as:
Essential Oils should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women, babies and children.
Macerated oils, also called infused oils, are carrier oils that have been used as a solvent to extract medicinal, therapeutic and aromatic properties, impart rich colours and beautiful fragrances of herbs, plants and flowers. The end result varies dramatically, depending on what you are using. A process of double or triple maceration can be applied (all Herbowski Oils are triple macerated!), which means that plant matter is replaced twice or three times into the same solvent for the purpose of extracting maximum amount of beneficial properties. The process of extraction works by molecular diffusion, which is very slow, so it can take a few months to obtain a premium maceration.
Oil macerations being more complex than essential oils contain flavonoids and glucosides. Flavonoids and glucosides are soluble in fat just like essential oils but they are too heavy to be distilled. Flavonoids give the plant its colour. They are also very powerful antioxidants and metal chelators. Glucosides can be powerful healers and pain killers. Flavonoids are also antioxidants. Antioxidants naturally occur to protect the body from harmful free radicals. Some flavonoids are called bioflavonoids. They can also be called vitamin P. Bioflavonoids strengthen the capillary walls and increase the body’s ability to make use of vitamin C. Sometimes you will see flavonoids grouped with glycosides or a sub group of glycosides.
Macerations are usually safe and can be used as often as you like as they are not as caustic to the body as Essential Oils and so there is usually no need to dilute them (Cayenne Pepper maceration would be a noted exception).
Applications of Macerated and Essential Oils
The more ways you have to extract the properties of a plant, the closer you get to accessing everything that plant has to offer, so by adding essential oils to fat macerations, instead of a carrier oil, you will achieve a more powerful or broader spectrum product. Essential Oils are used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and other products, for flavouring food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products. Both macerations and essential oils can be used in massage oil formulations, can be created into ointments, balms, lotions, creams, salt scrubs, bath salts, bath oils, scalp conditioners, dry hair conditioner, and lip moisturisers.