The benefits of essential oils are hard to dispute.
These oils distilled from plants are revered in the homeopathic and natural health communities because they can serve a number of important roles:
- improving mood
- sleep and relaxation
- pain relief
- fighting inflammation
- immune system support
- creating a peaceful ambient environment
There are several ways to use essential oils for health and well-being. They can be diluted and used topically. They can (under strict supervision and under strict rules) be used internally. The most common method of utilizing essential oils, however, is to release their scent into the air via what’s known as aromatherapy.
The most effective and most popular way to do that is by using what are known as essential oil diffusers (and sometimes called aromatherapy diffusers) that spread scents throughout a room or home.
How Essential Oil Diffusers Work
The theory behind a diffuser is simple. It disperses either a mix of water and essential oil, or just fine particles of the oil itself, into the air surrounding the machine. Air currents or a fan then circulate the essential oil throughout a room or house, where it can be inhaled.
There are three different types of diffusers, each with their pros and cons.
The most common type of aromatherapy diffuser, these machines work much like a humidifier, mixing water placed into its water reservoir with essential oils to create a mist that’s dispersed into the air. In fact, these diffusers can often double as humidifiers for use in dry climates or enclosed buildings.
- Relatively inexpensive
- relatively quiet
- lots of alternatives on the market
- Must always be filled with water
- require regular cleaning
- not ideal for citrus oils that can erode interior parts
Evaporative Fan Diffusers
These diffusers rely completely on evaporation. A few drops of essential oil are dripped onto an absorbent pad inside the machine and then left to evaporate, with the oil’s molecules blown by an internal fan into the room. These simple diffusers can become even more simple, because some don’t even have a fan. Instead they rely on ambient air currents to carry the oil’s aroma.
It’s worth noting that not all evaporative diffusers come with a fan. If you want the fan feature, make sure it’s mentioned in the product description.
Don’t want the fan on all the time? That’s OK, too. You can order a version that only evaporates. Then you can buy the fan separately.
- Small coverage area
- absorbent pads must regularly be rejuvenated with oil or replaced
- usually only powered by batteries
The most powerful and fastest-acting diffusers, nebulizers are best used for oils intended to provide physical relief, rather than those used for mood or emotional support. An atomizer creates tiny particles of the essential oil and immediately releases the fine mist into the air. Because these diffusers don’t require water or another medium, the oil isn’t diluted and provides the most benefit to those inhaling it.
- doesn’t require water or setup
- ease of use
- Most expensive
- uses oil more quickly
- can be loud
Features of the Best Essential Oil Diffusers
You usually get what you pay for. The more you pay for an aromatherapy essential oil diffuser, in most cases, the more bells-and-whistles you’ll get.
But here are the most important features to look for when you go shopping for a diffuser at your local big box store or on Amazon.
It makes a big difference if you want your diffuser to cover an entire floor of your house, or just the living room. Nebulizing diffusers typically cover between 400 and 1,000 square feet of space, perfect for very large spaces; ultrasonic and evaporative models will ordinarily provide coverage for larger rooms and small spaces, respectively.
Good nebulizers and some ultrasonic models allow you to adjust the amount of mist the machine is diffusing into the air; the more mist settings, the better. Evaporative diffusers may let you adjust the speed of the fan dispersing the oil, but that’s about it.
Nebulizing diffusers are the only units that come with timers as standard features, although some high-end ultrasonics will include timers as well. Good ones will allow you to set the run time on the diffuser for one, two or four hours at a time, and to either operate continuously or cycle through on/off functions until the oil is gone.
Most diffusers are relatively quiet (although the fans on some evaporative models can get loud). Nonetheless, it’s good to know if this aspect will be a problem before you turn it on, try to go to sleep and realize your diffuser is not whisper-quiet.
Many nebulizing and ultrasonic essential oil diffusers will have LED colored lights that may flash, rotate or do other “tricks” you might find cool — or might find annoying. It’s best to know in advance about your light options (especially if the lights can be turned off, or if the LEDs simply provide mood light or a night light).
This is a factor for ultrasonic diffusers that have differently-sized water tanks. The bigger the tank, the less portable the machine will be when full, but the less often you will have to refill it.
The length of the power cord, the type of batteries used, or whether there’s a USB power option can matter greatly when it comes to convenience.
An aroma essential oil diffuser should have an automatic shutoff function. Less important features — from the design of your diffuser (some are wood-grain, some are available in different colors) to the footprint it will occupy on your nightstand or coffee table — should also be considered if those factors are important to you. A good warranty is also something to look for.
The Best Essential Oil Diffusers to Consider
There are dozens of excellent diffusers on the market, making it difficult to select the right model for your needs.
To help, here are a few of the best aromatherapy diffusers currently available that are worth considering:
Tank holds 300 milliliters, classic and functional, seven LEDcolor options. Good for small (200 sq. ft.) rooms.
Tank holds 500 milliliters, can run up to 16 hours, faux wood base, seven colors. Coverage up to 300 sq. ft.
Tank holds only 90 milliliters, only suitable for small rooms, attractive black ceramic design.
Includes cool mist humidifier, tank holds 300 milliliters, adjustable mist, 15 light modes, wood grain design.
Other ultrasonic models to consider include the InnoGear Aromatherapy Diffuser, Stadler Form Julia Diffuser, SpaRoom Aromifier, and the HoMedics Ellia Gather Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser.
Evaporative Fan Diffusers
More than 100 square feet coverage, pads hold 20-80 drops of essential oil, two speed settings, .75-1.3 ml output every 15 minutes.
Best for small spaces or travel, color changing LED light, single setting.
Unlimited continuous mist, small room size, rotating color light mode, includes USB power cord.
Covers up to 800 square feet, selectable mist and power cycles, long-life white LED light, made from real wood and Pyrex.
Professional grade, covers large rooms up to 900 square feet, power cycles as long as twelve hours, made from Beechwood and hand-blown glass.
Other nebulizers to consider include the Pilgrim Collection Sofia Nebulizer, the doTERRA Petal Defuser, and the Organic Aromas mini-USB Car Nebulizer.
Diffusing Your Health Concerns
No matter what product you choose, remember to take care of your health and consult both traditional medical professionals and aromatherapists. A diffuser should be one of many tools you rely on to feel good and live your best life.
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