Having a basic understanding of botany is, in my opinion, good knowledge to have as an aromatherapist. After all, the very source of essential oils, carrier oils, and infused oils, plants! Plants can be complex and botany can become complicated for the novice, so sometimes it is good to take a look at the parts of a plant, from an aromatherapist’s “need-to-know” view. Here is a quick look at the difference between a nut and a seed, and putting it into context with oils.
The Definition of a Nut
Simply put, a nut is a fruit – with a hard shell; the seed is also contained within the nut. In botany terms, there are other requirements as to what qualifies as a “nut” but I think that this simple definition is sufficient for most aromatherapists to understand. In common usage, different types of nuts refer to most hard-shelled fruits. You may also find the term kernel used interchangeably with nut.
The Nut fruit is the part of the plant that contains the seeds, required for the “next life cycle.” Fruits can be divided into simple, aggregate, or multiple classes. Examples of simple fruits include peaches, walnuts, and cherries and they develop from just one ovary. Aggregate fruits form from several ovaries within a flower; examples are blackberries and raspberries. Finally, multiple fruits are formed from a cluster of individual flowers on one structure, such as a pineapple.
The Definition of a Seed
A seed is important to a plant because it is the “blueprint” for the next generation. Gymnosperm (conifers) and angiosperm (flowering) plants bear seeds for germination but ferns, liverworts, and mosses do not bear seeds. “Seeds” are often encased in a hard, outer casing (for example, sunflower seeds) but in reality, the actual “seed” is within this casing.
The difference between angiosperms and gymnosperms is that angiosperms produce fruit to enclose the seed whereas the gymnosperms do not (commonly called “naked seeds”); you can see examples of these two different types of seed structure by comparing a sunflower seed to a pine cone.
Nut Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy
- sweet almond (Prunis dulcis)
- apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca)
- peach kernel (Prunus persica)
- cherry kernel (Prunus cerasus)
- hazelnut (Corylus avellana)
- kukui nut (Aleurites moluccanus)
- walnut (Juglans regia).
Seed Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy
To put seeds into context, for aromatherapy purposes, some carrier oils that are extracted from seeds include:
- sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
- sesame (Sesamum indicium)
- pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima)
- borage (Borago Officinalis)
- rosehip (Rosa canina)
- safflower (Carthamus tinctorius).
Seed Essential Oils
Essential oils are also extracted from seeds; some examples include:
- dill seed (Anethum graveolens)
- fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare)
- nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
- carrot seed (Daucus carota).