The aromatherapy term “botanical” refers to the botanical name that describes a plants species and genus.
The common names we know plants by, such as Lavender, Lemon, Tea Tree, etc., are great for describing the plant to someone in general conversation. But this can create problems when you are choosing an oil for a specific aromatherapy application.
Oils from the same plant species but from a different genus can have very different constituent chemical compounds that make them up.
Botanical naming refers to the Latin names given to plant species to differentiate them from each other. The botanical naming system assigns names to plants so that no two plants have the same name. The first word in the botanical name is the genus and the second is the species. The Genus should always be capitalized and the species should always be in lower caps. The whole name should be italicized. See the caption under the photo of Lavender above.
It is important to check the botanical name on any essential oil you buy because the essential oils of the same genus are not the same when it comes to the oils from the specific species.
Let’s take Chamomile essential oil as an example. We offer two types of essential oil that are both Chamomile. One is Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) and the other is Blue Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), also known as German Chamomile.
Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)is rich in esters, which gives it antispasm and relaxing properties. Blue Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is rich in sesquiterpenes. While both have relaxing properties, the different constituents in the two oils mean they are applied for different reasons in aromatherapy.
This is why you should always check the label of the essential oil you intend to purchase for the botanical name so you are assured you are purchasing the oil you intend to. This is also why reputable essential oils suppliers place the botanical name on the oils they sell.
It is also important to note that botanical nomenclature can change over time. Some oils are known by more than one botanical name. That is why you should still check a trusted source such as the book written by Tisserand and Young called “Essential Oils Safety”. In it you can find out if an essential oil is known by more than one botanical name.
I hope this helps you as you learn and begin to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. There is a lot to learn but the good thing is that you don’t have to know everything to begin using essential oils. Start with one or a few and learn from there.
Nature has supplied us with an abundant source of natural compounds that we can use for our mental and physical needs. Learning to use them is one of the greatest journeys you can undertake to get closer to nature and a natural way of living.