What are Aromatherapy Diffusers?

aromatherapy diffuser
A candle diffuser uses heat to disperse the oil. Glow Wellness/Glow/Getty Images

Aromatherapy diffusers are small devices that are used to disperse essential oils into the surrounding air. They are used to add fragrance to a room and are also used in aromatherapy for a variety of therapeutic purposes.

There are a number of different kinds of diffusers:

Evaporative Diffuser

Examples: clay pendants, reed diffuser

A diffuser that allows essential oils to be exposed to air so that the oils naturally evaporate and are dispersed into the air.

Placing a drop of essential oil onto a tissue and inhaling the aroma is one of the most simple methods of passive diffusion. Other common diffusers include terra cotta and ceramic diffusers. Reed diffusers often use rattan sticks, which have small channels which allow the essential oil to travel up the stick and scent the room.

These diffusers are good for personal use in a small area, but may not be ideal for large or outdoor areas. The lighter oils (e.g. bergamot, grapefruit or lemon essential oil) tend to diffuse faster than the heavier oils (base notes) such as patchouli and sandalwood essential oil.

Heat Diffuser

Examples: lamp rings, candle diffusers, electric heat diffusers, steam diffusion

These diffusers heat the essential oil to promote diffusion throughout the room. Some heat diffusers are a relatively inexpensive option for making a space smell nice, but they are not optimal when the therapeutic properties of the essential oil are desired.

Heat can change the chemistry of the oil, which may affect any therapeutic properties. 

Nebulizer Diffuser

Nebulizer diffusers use break the essential oils into tiny molecules before dispersing them into the room. These devices have motors and a glass cylinder or bottle. The smaller molecules are said to be more easily absorbed, increasing the therapeutic benefits.

They can be more difficult to clean than other types of diffusers and the glass containers can be expensive to replace if broken. Nebulizing diffusers may not be suitable for certain situations due to the noise level of some devices. 

Ultrasonic Diffuser

Ultrasonic diffusers use electronic frequencies to create vibrations in water, which creates a fine mist of water and essential oils that is released into the air. Since it uses water, some people use them in the winter to help humidify dry air. Some of them turn off automatically to prevent the control the amount of essential oil that gets dispersed into the air.  They tend to be less expensive than nebulizing diffusers and more study. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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