What Are Botanicals?

Published June 20, 2022
What Are Botanicals? - Secret Nature

From gin to tinctures, botanicals have found their way into quite a few different types of products over recent years. In fact, it’s far more common to find botanicals in an unexpected product than it is to fully grasp what a botanical actually is. In this guide, we’ll explain what botanicals are, discuss where they came from, consider their benefits, and answer a variety of related questions.

What is the definition of a botanical substance?

The term “botanical” is used to refer to a plant substance that is believed to have medicinal qualities. Botanicals generally consist of extractions or distillations of particular parts of a plant, and many of the reported benefits of botanicals are supported by both scientific research and ancient wisdom.

Are botanical medicines considered drugs?

Some botanical medicines are considered to be drugs some of the time. The FDA has recognized a variety of botanical substances as having medicinal properties, and even if it is only under research and not yet approved, botanical substances often fall under this regulatory agency’s investigative new drug guidelines.

What makes a substance botanical?

Any substance can generally be considered a botanical if it has been extracted from a plant and has not been substantially altered. The definition of “botanical” is much broader than the average person believes — it isn’t limited to a certain type of extract or related to any particular regulatory nomenclature.

What are botanicals made from?

Botanicals are made from plants. However, most botanical substances don’t consist purely of compounds extracted from plant material. They’re accompanied by various carrier ingredients that make them easier to use.

One of the most time-honored carriers used to make botanical products is alcohol. These days, though, botanical tinctures more commonly have oil bases, and botanicals are frequently used in alcohol products intended for drinking to provide enhanced flavor.

Examples of botanicals

Botanicals are so common that you may have used them without even knowing it. Some of the most popular botanical substances offered on the market today include:

  • Echinacea
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Valerian root
  • Kava
  • Calendula
  • Feverfew
  • Saw Palmetto
  • Ginkgo
  • & many more

What are botanical ingredients?

When used as additives in other products, botanical extracts are often referred to as botanical ingredients to indicate that they do not compose the entirety of the product. Botanicals are still botanicals, though, even when they’re just added to other formulations.

What are botanical supplements?

Botanical products that you take orally are sometimes referred to as botanical supplements. Regulatory agencies have also recognized certain botanical substances as dietary supplements, so you may find botanicals referred to using this term in scientific literature.

What is botanical food?

As early as 2012, over 250 botanical substances were already commonly added to food products. Adding botanicals to food is clearly quite widespread, and food products that are infused with botanical substances are often referred to as “botanical foods” in both regulatory and marketing contexts.

Are botanicals natural?

Yes, to be classified as a botanical, a substance must be entirely natural. Regulatory agencies generally consider products to be natural when they consist of entirely naturally occurring substances that have not been synthesized or chemically altered in any way. A substance cannot be botanical and synthetic at the same time.

Are botanicals safe?

Most botanical substances are considered to be safe to consume in officially suggested doses, but despite being all-natural, botanicals commonly have significant side effects if consumed in excess. Nature provided us with many incredible healing tools, but it also only equipped our bodies with a limited capacity to process these substances efficiently enough to avoid toxicity. If you’re unsure regarding how much of a botanical substance you should use, consult official regulatory agency guidelines, or ask your doctor.

What are the benefits of botanicals?

Botanicals generally provide natural healing and improve well-being. Each botanical substance is unique, however, and both modern medical science and traditional healing practices concur that their range of benefits is considerably wide.

Some botanicals might help you get to sleep for instance while others are good for pain. Still others could be used for neurological diseases or even liver conditions.

What are botanicals in skin care?

Botanical ingredients are commonly used in skin care to both provide natural aromas and improve the beneficial properties of products. Some examples of botanical topical products include rosehip seed oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, green tea, and hyaluronic acid.

Are botanicals good for your skin?

Many botanical products are so clearly good for your skin that regulatory agencies have officially recognized their medicinal properties. Research is currently underway that will establish the regulatory status of many other botanical substances widely believed to have skin-boosting benefits.

Why are botanicals good for your skin?

No two botanical substances are exactly alike, but many appear to have antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties. Both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances reduce damage to skin and help it regenerate itself, which goes toward explaining why botanical medicines have continued to amass greater and greater popularity over the last few decades.

The bottom line: Should I try botanicals?

If you’re looking for help with a specific condition or hoping to improve your life in a particular area, there’s generally no reason you shouldn’t try a botanical substance widely believed to help with your issue. Some botanicals carry with them certain risks, but potential dangers can easily be avoided with proper education and a doctor’s expert assistance.

Even though we’ve made vast leaps forward in the field of synthetic medicine, it’s becoming abundantly clear that nature has already provided us with much — if not all — of the healing power necessary to keep us happy and healthy all of our lives. Do plenty of research, and then discover the benefits of botanicals for yourself today.

Botanicals FAQ

We’ve barely scratched the surface of everything there is to know about botanicals in this introductory guide. Deepen your knowledge with the answers to these frequently asked questions:

1. What is the difference between herbal and botanical?

The terms “herbal” and “botanical” are often used interchangeably, and they usually refer to the same thing. From a regulatory perspective, however, many substances are herbal without being botanical. Agencies like the FDA usually reserve the term “botanical” for the substances that have been officially recognized as having medicinal or therapeutic benefits.

2. What is the difference between botanical oils and essential oils?

An essential oil is a particular type of concentrated botanical product that consists of a distillation of a plant-derived substance believed to have medicinal properties, usually suspended in an alcohol or oil base. More concentrated than other types of botanical extracts, essential oils are often used as additives to other products or for their aromatic benefits.

3. What is a “natural botanical?”

The term “natural botanical” is somewhat redundant since all botanicals are, by definition, natural. Botanical products are sometimes referred to as natural botanicals, however, to reinforce the fact that they are not synthetic or artificial in any way. Consumers are far more likely to know the meaning of “natural” than they are to fully grasp the definition of “botanical,” after all.

4. Do botanicals have any side effects?

While members of this class of substances are generally believed to be safe when used in officially recommended doses, every botanical is unique, and some botanicals have the potential to cause serious side effects in certain individuals. Botanicals can sometimes interact negatively with prescription drugs, for instance, and others might just be inherently more dangerous to use. Instead of lumping all botanicals together, learn the specific traits of each plant-derived therapeutic substance you intend to use.

5. Are botanical drinks good for you?

Some drinkable products infused with botanical substances might be good for you. Others, however, may still be dangerous even when botanicals are added.

Alcoholic drinks, for instance, have well-known and significant side effects. Adding botanicals to alcohol won’t suddenly make drinking good for you even if it imparts the benefits of the specific botanical substances that are added. Carefully check the ingredients of each botanical drink you’re considering imbibing to determine if it’s truly safe.

6. What are botanicals in alcohol?

When you see the term “botanical” associated with an alcoholic drink, that means the drink has been infused with plant-derived substances believed to have medicinal qualities. Gin is the alcoholic drink most commonly infused with botanicals, and gin brewers have a long history of augmenting the effects and flavor palates of their beverages using concentrated plant extracts. As the overall popularity of botanicals has increased over the last few decades, plant-derived medicines have started making their way into other alcoholic drinks as well.

7. How do you make your own botanicals?

Certain methods of making botanical extracts at home are quite simple. Just by suspending a medicinal plant in alcohol for an extended period, for instance, you can create a simple extract that imparts the botanical’s beneficial properties.

Making a refined botanical product, however, requires advanced production equipment that isn’t suitable for home use. It’s generally best to trust the experts to make advanced botanical extracts like isolates and distillates.

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