Botany for Aromatherapists: What is the Difference Between Nut and Seed (Oils)?

Posted on: October 12th, 2015 by
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Nuts and Seeds for Aromatherapy Oils: Photo Credit, Fotolia

Nuts and Seeds for Aromatherapy Oils: Photo Credit, Fotolia

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, are 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, nut refers to most hard-shelled fruits. You may also find the term kernel used interchangeably with nut.

The 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 a 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

To put nuts into context, for aromatherapy purposes, some carrier oils that are extracted from nuts include:

  • 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 indicum)

  • 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).

Learn More About Aromatherapy with Sedona Aromatherapie

If you would like to learn more about aromatherapy, consider one of the Sedona Aromatherapie aromatherapy home study courses. Visit the courses home page to learn more!

References:

  • Falsetto, Sharon, 2014, Authentic Aromatherapy, UK: Skyhorse Publishing

  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons

  • Oregon State University, Botany Basics: Master Gardener Online Short Course, accessed October 12, 2015

  • Price, Len, 1999, Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage, UK: Riverhead Publishing

  • Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist with a decade of training and practical experience in aromatherapy, published author and editor in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.

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