Essential oils have become increasingly popular in the last couple of decades. As a result, oil diffusers are now considered common household items. Those who use them know how much they can improve the quality of your everyday life.
Our sense of smell can sometimes have a profound impact on our emotional well-being. Some people find scents to be highly therapeutic.
Besides that, essential oils are also a great way to keep your house smelling amazing. But before I get to that, let’s go back to the basics:
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils, also called ethereal oils and volatile oils, are concentrated liquids containing the fragrance essence of a certain plant. In addition, they’re highly volatile, which means they evaporate quite easily.
Throughout history, people have mostly been using them for medical purposes. The practice of using essential oils to treat various illnesses comes from the Arabian peninsula. Ibn al-Batair, an Andalusian physician, introduced the practice to Europe.
In addition to their medicinal properties, people have also been using essential oils to create perfumes, incenses, flavorings, massage oils and so on. In more recent times, they have gained massive popularity amongst practitioners of alternative medicine and aromatherapy.
How Essential Oils Are Made
Chemists use distillation to extract essential oils from the raw plant material. Once the distillation process has been completed, they mix parts of the plant that contain the oils with water and put it into a distillation vessel. As the vessel is heated, the oils evaporate with the water vapor.
Then, the steam is cooled and it reverts back to liquid state. For most plants, one extraction process is enough to extract all the oil. However, tropical plants like ylang-ylang require a special process known as fractional distillation in order to get the oil.
On the other hand, some people use traditional expression and cold-pressing techniques to extract essential oils. The main advantage of such traditional methods lies in the absence of heat used in the process. Everything is purely mechanical, so the oils remain as natural as possible.
Some other, lesser-known processes used to extract essential oils include solvent extraction and florasol extraction.
Types of Oils
Essential oils can be broken down into two major categories — true oils and plant water essences. While my article is focusing on true oils, I think it would be important to mention plant water essences as well. They’re becoming more and more popular in the cosmetics industry, and you’ve most likely at least heard of them.
Here you can find the most popular types of true oils:
- lavender oil
- tea tree oil
- patchouli oil
- eucalyptus oil
- peppermint oil
- lemon oil
- orange oil
- cedarwood oil
- clove oil
- anise oil
- cinnamon oil
- rosemary oil
And a couple of the most popular plant water essences:
- rose water
- lavender water
- orange blossom water
- lemon balm
- Clary sage
Diffusing Essential Oils
As I previously mentioned, there are a few different methods of using essential oils. Still, using a diffuser is your best option. It ensures that you’re using the least amount of oil possible, and still getting the desired effects.
Essential Oil Diffusers
Following the aromatherapy’s rise in popularity, essential oil diffusers have become more affordable, more available, and much more effective than they were before. In addition, you can find them in every color, shape or design.
Not so long ago, the only way to diffuse essential oils was to put them in a container, most commonly with a flame burning under it. Heated oils get even more volatile than usual, but you don’t have any control over the amount of oil diffused. Such devices can easily produce too much scent, thereby making everyone around it nauseous.
Types of Diffusers
Today, we have two distinct types of essential oil diffusers — ultrasonic diffusers and nebulizers. They both have the same effects, but there are a few key differences between them.
Ultrasonic diffusers use ultrasound to disperse the oil into the air. The sound disperses the combination of oil and water from the reservoir.
The great thing about ultrasonic diffusers is that you have complete control over how much oil you disperse. It’s usually somewhere between 2 and 10 drops of oil per reservoir, depending on its size. In addition, ultrasonic diffusers are quite cheap and readily available.
Nebulizers are not that popular today, although they were once considered medical equipment. These devices use electricity to disperse the oil, not even needing water to operate. However, they use about 3ml of oil per hour, which can be a bit overwhelming. Still, most people who use oils for medical purposes actually prefer nebulizers.
How Long Should You Diffuse Oils For?
One of the most common mistakes that people make with essential oils is turning on their diffuser for the first time and running it for hours, or even overnight. Even if you don’t have sensitive senses, you might feel nauseous, maybe even vomit or faint.
Keep in mind that these oils are highly concentrated, so you shouldn’t put too much in. Five drops for a six-ounce water tank is the optimal amount.
If you think you need to kick it up a notch, feel free to do so. However, keep the diffuser on for one hour max. 20 minutes should be enough, but if you feel like your room could use some more essence, wait for an hour, then run it again for 20 more minutes. That’s enough to give your room a pleasant scent that isn’t too overpowering.
Honestly, the only time you should up your oil dosage is when you’re dealing with high temperatures. Oils evaporate more easily when the air is hot, so you’ll need more oil to achieve the same effect.
When using essential oils, you have to be careful with how much oil you’re using, as well as how you’re using it. For starters, you should use one of the aforementioned devices to disperse the scent. Never put oils in a humidifier.
Also, internal ingestion of even the slightest amount of oil can be highly toxic. For example, ingesting more than 4ml of eucalyptus oil can be fatal. On the other hand, some essential oils can cause skin and sinus irritation.
For example, tea tree oil and lavender oil can disrupt the hormone balance in prepubescent boys. If you use too much of it too often, that can cause the development of gynecomastia (male breast growth). So, you should be very careful when using essential oils near children.
What Are They Used For?
Nowadays, people use essential oils for all kinds of purposes. For starters, they’re the bread and butter of the perfume industry. Similarly, the cosmetics industry heavily relies on essential oils. Why waste time creating scents in a lab when you can take what you need from nature itself?
On the other hand, recent studies have shown that essential oils can also be effectively used as natural pesticides. For example, you may already know that lavender and eucalyptus oils work great as mosquito repellents.
Although they lack the strength of classic pesticides, the ecological benefits of using natural pesticides are huge. You can cover vast areas, while negatively affecting only the unwanted pests.
In addition to the perfume, pesticide, and cosmetics industries, essential oils have worked their way into the food and drink industry. About 100 different types of oils are currently approved by the FDA as flavoring agents.
Over the past few years, a branch of alternative medicine known as aromatherapy has gained a lot of traction. It uses essential oils and other aromas to cure different conditions.
Aromatherapists use the oils in a few different ways — vapor inhalation, massage, etc. The method usually depends on the condition that needs to be treated.
Even though many people practice aromatherapy, scientists are still having trouble proving the efficiency of the medical use of essential oils. For now, aromatherapy can surely improve your emotional state, as well as help with postoperative nausea. All other claimed benefits of essential oils remain scientifically unconfirmed.