In a previous blog article, I talked about the three main routes of essential oil administration. Inhalation is by far the fastest route because it is the most direct. The molecules of the oil gain quick access to the bloodstream and within 21 minutes, the molecules will have been distributed throughout the entire body. With topical application, the process takes longer.
There are a number of different ways to inhale essential oils. The fastest and easiest is simply removing the cap from the bottle and gently breathing the aromas from the orifice of the bottle through a nostril.
Another way is to place a drop or two in the palm of the hand, cup them together over the nose and breathe. This is not the best method of inhalation. It isn’t very efficient and exposing bare skin to an undiluted essential oil can result in dermal irritation and sensitization, as explained in my NEATness Doesn’t Always Count article. You would need to thoroughly remove the essential oil from the hands afterwards because of the risks of undiluted essential oils remaining on the skin.
You could purchase inhalers that are specifically designed for inhalation. They are worn around the neck and are available on Amazon and through the websites of companies that sell essential oils. You can buy these relatively inexpensively.
A fourth inhalation method is to use a diffuser. These are also available on Amazon and through the websites of companies that sell essential oils, such as Plant Therapy, Eden’s Garden, etc. There are four types of diffusers on the market: nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic or humidifying diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat diffusers. (1)
This article will focus mainly on nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers. Nebulizing diffusers operate in the same way as a perfume atomizer. A stream of air pulls the essential oil out of a tube in the form of a fine spray or mist. This type of nebulizer consumes a greater quantity of essential oil, but also can disperse a large amount of oil into the air. Ultrasonic diffusers use electronic frequencies to cause a small disk under the surface of a liquid (usually water) to vibrate. These ultrasonic vibrations break the essential oil into tiny microparticles, dispersing the oil in a fine mist. (2), (3)
Nebulizer diffusers run louder and consume greater quantities of essential oils than their ultrasonic diffuser counterparts. Nebulizer diffusers work better in larger spaces, whereas ultrasonic diffusers are better for smaller areas. Nebulizer diffusers tend to be more expensive than the ultrasonic types. Because nebulizers are noisier, I don’t recommend them for overnight usage in bedrooms. I tend to run a nebulizer during the daytime and an ultrasonic diffuser overnight. I also have a small, electric plug-in diffuser in my bathroom. These work by using electricity to create heat, which warms up a pad full of essential oil, thereby causing the essential oil to evaporate into the air. These are super quiet and inexpensive, although not ideal for larger rooms. They are better for small spaces.
The website Natural Living Ideas reviews five different essential oil diffusers. These appear to be of the ultrasonic type. I recommend ultrasonic diffusers for people who are making their first purchase, due to their lower cost, ease of use and simple maintenance, which only involves cleaning the water reservoir periodically.
A newer type of diffuser on the market is essential oil diffuser necklaces. These work similarly to the essential oil inhalers described above; add a few drops of the essential oil or blend of your choice to the pad, insert the pad into the locket pendant, and then wear the necklace in the usual manner. This link describes these necklaces in more depth. Amazon sells a variety of these types of diffusers.
Diffusers are an effective way to take advantage of the benefits of inhaling essential oils. They range from simple and inexpensive to complex and pricey. Your personal needs and budget will dictate which type of diffuser is best for you. Do shop around and read product reviews before buying. Do you own an essential oil diffuser? Do you prefer one type over another? Feel free to comment in the form below. And please feel free to share this blog with anyone who may be in the market for a diffuser or is new to aromatherapy.
Thank you for your time,