It’s an exciting moment when a person has made selections and now looks admiringly at the new oils purchased. Still sealed in shiny bottles and perfect labels – of course a person can’t resist popping them open to take a sniff. The aromas are so amazing, so joyful, and then the realization dawns...”now what do I do with them?”
One of the first accessories purchased for essential oils is a diffuser or vaporizer of some sort – something that distributes the aromatics.This only makes sense – after all, it is called AROMAtherapy, right? But the selection of diffusers can be overwhelming – which is the right one, what’s the difference? There is a variety to choose from, and it helps to know the attributes and characteristics of each.
Probably the easiest, safest method for small areas is the aromastone. Barely 4" in diameter, they don't take up a lot of space. The base is low and sturdy and a few drops of oil in the well disperses aromatics in the immediate area. They are perfect for the bedside, on the desk, or anywhere that the goal is for the aromatics to be for the individual. Since the stone does not use high temperatures, there is no danger of overheating.
Along the same concept is the car diffuser, which plugs directly into the cigarette outlet of vehicles, and also has a replaceable wick within to apply oils. These are especially helpful for long or early morning commutes.
Clay diffusers can also be used in the vehicle, or a closet, or other areas where a slow, natural release of the aromatics takes place as the oils are absorbed and diffused through the porous clay material.
Ultrasonic diffusers operate by diffusing the aromatics with water into the air. It is similar in concept to using an ultrasonic humidifier, but much smaller and without parts that will be corroded by the oils. The benefits of these diffusers is that there is no heat being used, they have various time and rate settings, they diffuse into a larger area, and they turn off automatically. If living in a humid climate, one may not want that added humidity in the atmosphere. They are perfect in the winter when indoor heated air is dry. Simple cleaning is required to prevent bacterial growth.
Nebulizing diffusers use compressed air to flow through liquid, changing it to a very fine mist. The aromatic molecules are broken down until they are small enough to pass through in this mist. Thiscan be the most preferred way to diffuse essential oils. These diffusers come in varying sizes to accommodate different areas of space. It is also recommended that the glass nebulizer be cleansed with alcohol after use to maintain proper operation, and the glass nebulizer is very fragile.
The most personal of diffusing options would be sniffy sticks, aromatic patches, or aromatic jewelry, such as a necklace or bracelet. The aromatics are applied to the jewelry in a designated, porous area, and worn by the intended individual.
The aromatic patches are NOT dermal patches. An oil is applied to the target area of the patch. The patch is then applied to a clean, dry area of skin where the aromas can be inhaled throughout the day.
“Sniffy Stick” inhalers are an option for direct personal inhalation. There are two options for this – one time use, where you apply the oil, snap it together, and use it until it is no longer aromatic. Or the reusable model, that has a small vial inside that can be washed and refilled.
Now, those of you who are parents know that the reason you are able to tell your children, “I know what you are thinking before you think it,” is because at some point, YOU already thought it, or DID it. So in full disclosure, I will admit that I do not have a third eye, nor can I read minds. But I am stubborn and have to learn things the hard way, most of the time.
So – “why can’t I just use my ultrasonic humidifier then?” I did that, once. I had to buy a new humidifier after that. The one I purchased next was much more expensive, called an evaporating humidifier – and I did it again (told you I was stubborn). The oils did NOT destroy the evaporating humidifier. But I did have to spend some time with vinegar scrubbing out what I THINK were calcium or salt deposits that grew overnight. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but I wouldn’t want to have to clean that daily.
An easier solution that doesn’t require intensive labor afterwards and works just as well is to apply the oil to a paper towel or filtering medium such as those they sell to put inside of heat registers, and place that on TOP of the humidifier where the intake of air is at. The aromatics are drawn and dispersed, but you don’t grow a crystal garden in the meantime.
While we were in Atlanta, someone taught Marge to remove the air filter from the hotel room’s air conditioner and wash it out. Before replacing the filter, set a tissue on top of it that has had a few drops of essential oil applied to it. Not only did this work well in the hotel room, when I stood on my balcony next door, I could smell the aromatics out there!
“Why can’t I just put essential oils in my CPAP machine?” Since most manufacturers’ directions now explicitly say “do not put essential oils in your machine,” doing this pretty much guarantees that your warranty will be null and void. In addition, there is such a thing as too MUCH of a good thing, and with the cpap set up, there would be no way to get away from the oil except to tear off the mask, which defeats the purpose.
I looked into this, and one thing I found being sold for an outrageous price was a piece of cardboard that folds to stand on the table or surface behind the intake filter of the cpap machine. The oils are applied to this cardboard and then drawn, supposedly, into the cpap machine. I think a more functional option would be to use an aroma stone, and I don’t think it wise to put it directly behind the air intake.
“What if I don’t have all of these gadgets yet?” – My very first “diffuser” was a pan of water warmed on the stove with a few drops of essential oil in it, allowing the steam to disperse the aromatics. Obviously, this is not something you would do and leave unattended, and one needs to know which oils are appropriate for any form of diffusion. But for a quick atmospheric diffusion in a pinch, it works. For those with wood stoves in their homes, having a pan of water on top of it is always a good idea.
Applying a bit of aromatics to a tissue for personal inhalation also works. I’ve applied the oils to an inconspicuous area of a shirt collar or cuff in order for the aromatics to be inhaled while the shirt is being worn. By applying the proper aromatic to the correct amount of carrier oil to dilute it, it can be applied to the skin and inhaled in that fashion.
(Marge's note: in our Aromatic Medicine class, Mark Webb shared a formula for a respiratory chest rub, fixed oils, thickened with beeswax, with a skinsafe dilution of essential oils. Since the balm does not penetrate the skin, but rather sits on the surface [remember your mom rubbing your chest with that commercial product when you were a sick little one?] the use of an aromatic balm turns the human body into the most basic and oldest diffuser of all.)
For more information on diffusers, please read about diffuser choices here.