Have you ever… left your essential oil diffuser running all night long in the same room where your sick child slept? I have.
Have you ever… diffused essential oils around pets without first checking to see if it was safe for them? I have.
Have you ever… diffused essential oils in your home all day to make it smell good without considering if this constant flow of essential oils was safe? I have.
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you’re diffusing essential oils safely in your home, you’re not alone. Seeing how I’ve wondered this myself, I decided to do some digging. First, I wanted to know how essential oils work in the body once you breathe them in. Next, I wanted to know some various ways to diffuse these oils. And finally, I wanted to know how to go about diffusing essential oils safely in my home.
Today, I’m here to share what I’ve found with you.
How Diffusing Essential Oils Works In The Body
Diffusion is a form of inhalation. When you diffuse an essential oil, it’s estimated that only 50% of the oil molecules you’re diffusing actually make it into the body to be used in the following two ways.
- First, around 95% of essential oil molecules you breathe in are passed into the lungs where they cross over into the circulatory system and are metabolized into molecules the body can use via the liver. This entire process is responsible for the various physical effects essential oils trigger in the body.
- Secondly, the remaining 5% of essential oil molecules go to the brain where first, the scent is recognized and emotion and memory centers are signaled, and next, the molecules are absorbed into the brain where neurochemicals are triggered. This process is responsible for the psychological effects essential oils produce in the body (Tisserand, n.d.).
Let’s look at an example. (The essential oil drops in this example are only used to make this concept easier to grasp. You wouldn’t actually use this many drops.)
Let’s say you diffuse 200 drops of an essential oil in your home over the course of an hour. It’s estimated that you will breathe in the molecules from 100 of those drops. From those 100 drops, 95% will pass into your lungs and 5% will pass into your brain.
Again, diffusing 200 drops of essential oil is a bit overkill, but I wanted to use large numbers to make my point. Inhaling essential oils is a very effective and easy way to benefit from these products.
Again, keep in mind that these amounts are estimates, and absorption rates will vary from person to person and situation to situation. Some things that can affect absorption rates are the health of the individual, the freshness of the essential oil used, the size of the room the person is in, and more.
Popular Ways of Diffusing Essential Oils
When it comes to diffusing essential oils, there are several different ways to go about it.
The simplest way to diffuse essential oils is to open your bottle and smell the oils. The upside to this method is that it’s quick and easy. The downside is that it exposes your oils to oxygen which can lead to oxidization and eventually cause your oils to go rancid.
Personal inhalers can remedy this situation, and they are another great way to use direct inhalation. With personal inhalers, you put a small amount of essential oil on the inhaler pad and then directly inhale it from there. This keeps your essential oil bottles closed more, therefore, reducing the chance of oxidization.
Another way to diffuse essential oils is to use some simple diffusion techniques. One way to do this is to place essential oil drops on a cotton ball, tissue paper, or a clay/stone surface (like a diffuser pendant) and let it sit out in the room. The oils will evaporate into the air where they can be inhaled. You can also make a room spray to spritz in your personal space as well.
These methods are easy to do, but the diffusion is limited to a small area and a short amount of time. This means that in order to inhale the majority of the essential oil, the diffuser needs to be close to you, and if you want this diffusion to last, you’ll need to add additional essential oils hourly.
Heat Diffusion Methods
There are several heat methods that can be used to diffuse essential oils. For starters, essential oil burners such as tea light diffusers and lamp rings are two easy-to-use, inexpensive options. Essential oils are placed on a ceramic or stone surface and heat is applied underneath, usually from a tea light or a lamp light. This too is easy to do, but it’s debatable as to whether or not the heat negatively affects the essential oils. Depending on the diffuser, water can be added and the essential oils can be placed in the water. This allows the heat to slowly warm the water so the essential oils can evaporate without overheating the oils.
Another popular heat diffuser method is the use of a USB diffuser that you can use in your car or take with you wherever you go. These diffusers are easy-to-use and inexpensive. They also use a low amount of heat so the essential oil properties are not damaged. The downside to these diffusers is that you need to frequently add additional essential oil to keep the smell going.
Electronic Diffusion Methods
When it comes to electronic diffusers such as fan diffusers, ultrasonic mist diffusers, and atomizing diffusers (aka… nebulizers), everyone will have their preferences.
Fan diffusers are similar to plugins except they don’t use heat. Instead, a fan pushes cool air over a pad that contains drops of essential oils allowing them to evaporate into the air. These diffusers are inexpensive and can scent larger spaces, but like many of the diffusers I mentioned above, the oils evaporate quickly and need to be replaced often. I’ve never personally used a fan diffuser, but I’ve heard people comment on how they work well with thin oils but not thick ones.
Ultrasonic mist diffusers use ultrasonic waves to break up the essential oils and pass them into the air in a cool water mist. Most of these diffusers vary in price, style, and available settings. They seem to be the most popular way to diffuse essential oils as they only require small amounts of essential oil, work well for thick and thin oils, and disperse oils steadily over an extended amount of time. However, the downsides would be their cost and the fact that they’re electronic and will eventually need to be replaced.
Atomizing diffusers (or nebulizers) don’t require water or heat. They work by breaking apart the essential oils and dispersing the molecules into the air, making them more bioavailable to the body. The advantages of using atomizing diffusers are that the properties of the essential oils aren’t damaged, they diffuse well in large spaces, and they’re quite, but the downsides are the price and the fact that it’s easy to go through larger amounts of essential oil with them.
Some Precautions To Take When Diffusing Essential Oils
Now that you know how diffusion works in the body as well as some various ways to diffuse essential oils, I’m assuming that you can see how easy it is to absorb essential oils into the body simply by breathing. This is great, but it can also allow a person to be exposed to too many essential oil molecules in a short amount of time so let’s talk about some precautions to take when diffusing.
Like most things in life, moderation is key as well as a little bit of know how. Recently, an aromatherapist friend, Sheri Roach, listed out 5 tips for diffusing essential oils safely in the home, and I wanted to share them with you here.
- Some essential oils (particularly those containing aldehydes and phenols) can irritate the mucous membranes, therefore, they should be used in low amounts or not at all.
- Diffusers should run between 5-30 minutes, not constantly.
- When diffusing strong antimicrobial essential oils that are potentially irritating, diffuse in a closed room for one hour and air the room out before going in.
- Use caution when diffusing essential oils around pets. Mammalian pets should be able to leave the room if the scent becomes too much for them, and oils should not be diffused at all around fish, reptiles, or birds.
- Use caution, being careful to choose safe oils and diffuse at appropriate strength and length of time, when diffusing around children, the elderly, or those with respiratory troubles.
So, Have You Been Diffusing Essential Oils Safely
I’m not new to using essential oils by any means, but diffusing essential oils is the newest way I’ve used them. And, like most things that are new to us, we don’t always understand all the dos and don’ts before we begin. I’m guilty of this as I’m sure you are too, but that’s why it’s important to never stop learning and seeking good information from experts in different fields.
I don’t know about you, but I want to continue using essential oils for psychological and physical needs in my home because I’ve seen what great allies they can be. However, I respect these natural remedies, and I recognize that as much as they can be helpful, they can be harmful if used in the wrong way.
I hope you’ve learned a lot from this post, as I have, and that it helps bring you one step closer to using essential oils safely… especially diffusing essential oils safely, in your home.
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- Roach, S. (2016, December 27). How To Make Your Home Smell Good With Essential Oil Diffuser Blends. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://theherbalacademy.com/essential-oil-diffuser-blends/
- Tisserand, R. (n.d.). How Essential Oils Work in the Body. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://tisserandinstitute.org/how-essential-oils-work-in-the-body/
This post was underwritten by Plant Therapy. All opinions are mine. Plant Therapy offers 100%, pure, undiluted essential oils sourced from some of the top essential oil suppliers in the world. They have single oils and synergy blends, as well as a line of synergy blends specific to children. Not only do they offer high-quality essential oils, but they also offer carrier oils, hydrosols, and other essential oil accessories to help you keep yourself and your home naturally healthy.