The most common way to use essential oils is by diffusing them. Sure, OK, but what does that really mean?
Diffusing is simply allowing the components that are in the oil to get into the air. Technically, you could leave the bottle open on your desk and be “diffusing”, but don’t do that. You risk letting some of the more volatile components out and reducing the quality of the remaining oil. So, what can you do?
I’ve included this here, though it isn’t really “diffusing” as the term is most commonly used. Some oils, like lavender, can be dropped onto the palm of your hand, just one drop. Rub your hands together, bring them to your face, and inhale deeply. This is for when you need a quick fix, like during a panic attack or if you’re experiencing immense stress and need something immediately.
You should not do this with “hot” oils, like cinnamon or black cumin, because they can cause real sensitivity (aka “pain”) on your skin and sensitive membranes. Also, be judicious in which oils you use this way. With some oils, even one drop all at once could have ill effects – like rose, which could cause a headache in that concentration, so you’d need to dilute them first. Other oils aren’t recommended for topical use at all. Be sure to check reputable websites or the manufacturer’s site for specifics on your chosen oils.
Again, not what most people think of when they talk about “diffusing”, but relevant. You can use essential oils to make scented candles, wax melts, incense, scented Christmas tree ornaments, and a host of other neat projects. In some cases, such as dropping oils onto a clay ornament, the oils retain their full benefits when used. In others, especially those like candles that are heated, they might not. Either way, you’re technically diffusing the oil, so if you can’t swing an electric diffuser, or don’t want to, you have options.
Jewelry and Accessories
A simple locket-style necklace with a cut-out design in front holds a felt pad on which you drop the oil of your choice. Lava rock or clay are used to make bracelets, necklaces, and even earrings with the same purpose, minus the felt. There are all sorts of ways to wear your oils without using them topically. Hence, diffusing wherever you are, whenever you’re there! This method has the added benefit of being personal to you, helpful if the girl next to you in the office doesn’t like your chosen scent. You’re not purposefully spreading it into the room.
Downside? You’re going to smell like what you chose. So if you happen to need Eucalyptus, you’re going to smell like cough drops. Personally, I don’t much care as long as it’s not lavender. But you might, and so might those who need to stand close. I do use this method, I’m just careful with my scent choices. Also, the little felt pads are almost single-use. They retain the scent of the oil for weeks or months, but the components that evaporate most quickly are gone, meaning you can’t just stick it back in the locket because it still smells good. I mean, you can, because do what you want, but you won’t get the full benefit. You either need to keep track of which oils go with which color pad (meaning you can’t match colors to clothes), or use a new one each time.
That’s it. Just put a couple drops of the oil or blend you want to use on a cotton ball, and set it close to where you are working, studying, sleeping, or just being. You may not smell a strong scent, and that’s OK. The important thing is that the essences, the chemicals that you’re trying to get into your body, are allowed to evaporate. All you have to do is breathe.
You can also tape the cotton to a fan or heating/cooling duct to help spread the love a little more efficiently.
Just like the ones you see in stores, only without the lab-created scents and potentially harmful chemicals. Know what’s in your room fresheners! Find a suitable bottle, or re-use one from the store. Use bamboo skewers (like, from the cheap-o aisle at the grocery store) or rattan reeds (available online). Add about 1/4 cup of fractionated coconut oil and 20-40 drops of essential oil. The amount of oil will vary based on what you use, and how big your space is. Then add a couple drops of rubbing alcohol – this helps the oils blend a little better and to help them be absorbed into the skewers.
The downside to this is that it is more difficult to change the oil you’re using, because once it’s absorbed into the reed you can’t just add a different oil to change it. Also, it’s not nearly as powerful as diffusing with an electric diffuser. This application is best used in place of scented candles or other air fresheners, and not if you’re trying to diffuse for a mental or physical health purpose.
Heat or Hot Water
Some folks diffuse essential oils with heat. One way is with the popular wax melt set-up, with a tealight candle or small light bulb situated under a dish to hold scented waxes or oils. You can simply use a little water with a few drops of oils in the bowl to diffuse in this way. Other people like to set a pan of water on the stove and simmer the water with a few drops of oils.
This method does risk destroying some of the compounds in the essential oil, so it’s also best for replacing other room scents. Not so much for the purpose of getting the right components for what you need.
Ultrasonic Wicking Diffuser
This diffuser includes a water tank, a wick, and a small plate that vibrates fast enough to create a mist from the water without using heat. In this type of diffuser, the vibrating plate is located at the top, or the end, of your system, near where the mist comes out of the diffuser. The wick draws the water (and the oil you’ve chosen) up to the plate, and it is difused from there. These are frequently found in the form of small diffusers intended for use in the car, though I have a few that are for household use.
I have found that these diffusers are best suited to “scent oils”, not essential oils. Several of the ones I tested came with warnings like “Use only water-soluble oils”. I’m not entirely sure where they were going with that, but my findings backed it up. the wick does a far better job of pulling water than oils. I tried various oils, including a citrus blend, frankincense, and geranium. That’s one cold-pressed, one hydro-distillation of resin, and one steam distilled floral. Pretty much the whole spectrum of essential oil types. I found that even in my car, with the diffuser pointed right at me in a small space, the oils just didn’t come through.
This diffuser has a vibrating plate in the bottom of a water reservoir. There may or may not be a conduit from the water to the opening where the mist is released into the air. Then a lid goes over all of it with a small opening to allow the mist to flow. To use this type of diffuser, you add water to the reservoir, covering the plate and filling the diffuser to the level you desire (within its stated capacity). You drop in your oils or blends, pop the lid on, and press the button. It’s super-simple, and you can change your water and oils anytime you like. You can even save what you haven’t used in a jar for later, if you find you need to empty the diffuser and swap it out.
You do need to be careful to keep these diffusers clean. Because you’re using water, not just oils, it is possible to spread bacteria or other unwanted junk. It’s really unlikely, since most oils kill germs, but it’s possible. Also, you’ll need to use caution when filling or emptying the diffuser so that the air ducts don’t get water in them. But, they’re easy to clean – I wipe mine with a soft cloth between uses, and clean with some diluted rubbing alcohol once in a while to clear out the residue from oils that cling. If you have brightly colored oils, like Blue Tansy or Blood Orange, you’ll be able to see it. Otherwise, just assume it’s there and clean it once in a while.
The original, the great, the aromatherapists’ choice! This type of diffuser is expensive, touchy, and usually breakable. They use up your oils a little more quickly than an ultrasonic diffuser. But, they have some distinct advantages. With these diffusers, no water is used. You simply attach a bottle, either one of your own or one that comes with the set-up, and turn it on. The machine turns your oil into tiny particles and produces them as a concentrated mist. You get pure oils, with no chance they’ll react to something in your water.
I bought one nebulizing diffuser. I got a “great” deal because I had agreed to test it for the company, and was thrilled that its original price was far lower than the others I had seen. It also didn’t work. The mist came out of places it wasn’t supposed to, and it sucked up oil at a rate I’m not going to suggest would be good for anyone. The lesson there is that if you’re going to go for one of these, you should probably buy from a company you know or your aromatherapist suggests.
OK, But How Do I Use THIS Oil?
Each oil has different properties. I can tell you that in an ultrasonic diffuser, you are probably good to add 3-5 drops of most oils for each 100 milliliters of water. But heaven forbid one of you decides to try four drops of rose, or five drops or sandalwood in a small room. Don’t do that! If you’re using real quality oils, you’d likely choke yourself out of the room. It’s also nearly impossible that you’d need that much of either of those oils in a medicinal fashion, and using too much can do harm. Probably not great harm in this case, but harm nonetheless.
So read about the oils you’ve chosen. Look at what other people suggest, or “recipes” for blends that tell you how much is safe or proper to use. Read the directions on your diffuser. Start small and add some as needed. Use the “pulse” function on your diffuser, and allow it to run for a time, rest for a time, and then start again so that you get only as much of that compound as you need. Remember that if you’re using an oil as a room scent, you can use a whole lot less than you might otherwise. Use a little common sense – if an oil has a very strong aroma, you probably need less of it. And have a little confidence in yourself! You CAN figure it all out, and if that’s not your thing, you can use a blend and read the instructions. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of every oil in order to use them well, you just have to trust those who do.
Here’s a little something to get you started. A very basic diffuser blend to help brighten your home, ease congestion, and help prevent some of whatever’s going ’round where you are (that means it has germ-killing properties). This one doesn’t require any extra bottle for blending, or oils from the high end of the price range.
- 2 drops Lemon
- 2 drops Peppermint
- 2 drops Orange (cold-pressed)
Add to 100 ml water in an ultrasonic diffuser. Turn on. Breathe.