My first assignment when I started working at Plant Therapy was to test diffusers as I did not yet have a computer to work on. I really knew nothing about them. I sorted through a very large pile of diffusers and organized them by brand and style. That night at home I got online to do some research on them.
The definition of diffusion is “the spreading of something more widely”. “The natural process in which the atoms, molecules or ions of different substances intermix due to their spontaneous random motion”. (4)
There are various ways of diffusing essential oils, some of which I will address. Nebulizers, Ultrasonic diffusers, room sprays, aromatherapy jewelry, steam inhalation, personal inhalers, and passive diffusions such as our Lil Stinkers or a simple tissue.
The nebulizer is the most powerful of all and what I found myself to be working with and testing on my first project. With this diffuser you get a continuous and constant flow of essential oil. A 10 ml bottle attaches directly to the diffuser. A jet of air blowing across a small tube creates a vacuum that pulls the oil from the bottle through a tube. The air blowing at the top of the tube blows the oil in a fine mist or spray. This type of diffusion puts the whole oil into the air in the form of tiny droplets. You don’t need heat or water with this diffuser. Be sure to take a look at Plant Therapy’s Advanced Aromatherapy Diffuser.
The ultrasonic diffuser is almost the same as the nebulizer in that it also produces a fine mist, but this one uses water. This unit emits electronic frequencies to cause a small disk under the surface of the liquid (usually water) to vibrate at a very fast rate. These ultrasonic vibrations break the essential oil(s) into tiny microparticles, dispersing the oil in a fine mist. These tiny particles are more easily absorbed by the lungs for a greater therapeutic effect on the body, mind, and spirit. This unit doubles as a humidifier as it uses water. The AromaFuse Diffuser is one of our most popular diffusers.
Room sprays are another way to get essential oils into the air. Simply fill a 4 oz spray bottle with water and/or witch hazel, adding 9 drops of essential oil for every 1 ounce of liquid. Remember that essential oils and water do not mix well, so shake well before using. This is a 1% dilution; to get a 2% dilution use 18 drops of oil per ounce of water. This needs to be stored in a PET bottle or glass bottle as over time essential oils will deteriorate plastic. PET plastics are safe and approved for use with essential oils. If using water, you will also need to add a preservative such as Optiphen Plus if you won’t be using it within a few days.
Diffuser Necklaces are straight forward in their application. Apply 1 to 2 drops of oil on the necklace pad, wood bead, etc. The oils are near the face, they evaporate and you inhale the molecules as the evaporation process takes place. Diffusers that you wear around your neck can be beautiful and functional.
With a tissue, you just put a drop or two on the tissue and keep it near you. You can tuck it in the vent of your car or hold it close to your nose. It needs to be refreshed every hour. The cost is very little and requires no equipment. Plant Therapy also carries a line of Lil’ Stinkers which are plush pals for the children to use. Using essential oils in these ways – by passive diffusion, is one of the quickest methods to disburse aromatic molecules. With this method, the oils evaporate very quickly and the aroma will not stay very long as it will not reach very far. This is great if you are trying to keep the oils in your personal space when traveling on a plane, or in your work space at that office.
I also learned about steam inhalation and personal inhalers. Steam inhalation is a method of introducing warm, moist air into lungs via the nose and throat for therapeutic benefits. This is a method for treating respiratory issues. Heating water in a bowl then adding 1 drop of essential oil and putting a towel over your head while breathing in the mist from the bowl is one way of using steam inhalation.
A personal inhaler delivers scent into the body via the lungs. Inhalation is an effective method of use for essential oils so a personal inhaler is very convenient as they are portable. This is a much more concentrated inhalation application than just putting a drop on a tissue, or in a room diffuser. They are in a protective shell so there is very little evaporation of essential oil and they have a very long shelf life.
“It is not advisable to directly and intensively inhale essential oils for longer than 15-20 minutes, such as with steam inhalation. However, this does not apply to ambient inhalation from essential oils vaporized into the air. If you are diffusing essential oils, it is safer to do this intermittently than constantly, all day long. Ideally, diffuse essential oils for 30-60 minutes. This is not only safer, but it’s also more effective as both our bodies and our nervous system habituate to essential oils after this period. Whenever you are using or diffusing essential oils, some air exchange (fresh air) is advisable.” (3)
When an essential oil is inhaled, the odor travels up the nose to where they are trapped by olfactory membranes. They are then carried to the limbic system. From the limbic system, odor messages are sent to the other parts of the brain like the pituitary, pineal and amygdala. They also travel to the body stimulating the autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, organ functions, secretions of antibodies, hormones and enzymes throughout the body. Smell is the only sense that goes directly to the limbic system. The oils are great for helping and regulating mood. (2)
When choosing essential oils to diffuse there are many things to consider; smell, strength of aroma, properties of the oils and what you are looking for them to assist you with.
All essential oils are not meant to be diffused. Some of the oils are considered unsafe for use around children. Some of the hot oils can be irritating to the mucous membrane at any age and caution should be used when diffusing. Plant Therapy was one of the first companies to develop a KidSafe® line of essential oils. Robert Tisserand, author of Essential Oil Safety worked with us to formulate these oils that are safe for kids ages 2-10. (1)
In conclusion, there are many types of diffusers that can be used and I do not think that there is a right or wrong diffuser to use. The circumstances and personal preference will influence which diffuser you choose. In the office, we try to use personal inhalers as there are some that are allergic or can react adversely to certain oils. On occasion, we will diffuse the oils in an ultrasonic diffuser or nebulizer keeping in mind others at the work place. Because I have children at home, I am very careful of the oils that I diffuse. I diffuse only when needed to avoid over exposure. Everyone’s situation is different so there are different times and places to use each of the discussed diffusers. Learning about diffusers and oils over the past three years has been very helpful in keeping my family safe when diffusing. Happy diffusing!
1 Tisserand, Young (2014) Essential oil Safety: A Guide of Health Care Profesionsals 2nd Edition (add place of publication : publisher)
2 Shanti Dechen: The Nasal Inhaler: Aromatherapy’s unsung Hero https://naha.org/naha-blog/the-nasal-inhaler-aromatherapys-unsung-hero
3 Tisserand institute How to use essential Oils Safely http://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/safety-guidelines/
4 Wikipedia Inhaler definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inhaler