Last Updated on 8 July 2021 by Ray Plumlee

Essential Oil Diffuser
Essential Oil Diffuser

So, you’ve heard all the buzz about aromatherapy with essential oils. Or perhaps you’re considering weaning yourself off cigarettes by trying one of those trendy e-cigarettes. But what exactly are we talking about here, and are the benefits worth the risks, if any?

Essential oil diffusion and the use of an electronic cigarette, or vaping, are, essentially, two closely related topics. Essential oils have been used for centuries to treat a plethora of conditions, from skin problems to stress, headaches, and digestive problems. Practically any condition you can name had a correlating ancient natural cure. Peppermint for digestion, lavender for stress.

Modern technology allows us to diffuse these essences right into the air we breathe, where, once inhaled, they bind to receptors in the central nervous system. There are a number of types of essential oil diffusers, but all are relatively simple to use. The basic idea is to get the molecules or the prescribed oil, and its scent, into the air as efficiently as possible.

  • An ultrasonic diffuser uses water and ultrasonic waves to accomplish this.
  • An atomizing diffuser, or nebulizer, breaks the oil down to the molecular level, making it more easily absorbed.
  • The fan variety simply blows a stream of air over the essential oil, allowing it to waft gently into the air.
  • You can heat the oil with a candle type diffuser, or even an electrical device. Or place a simple ring, infused with oil, around a light bulb and allow the bulb to heat it and diffuse it.

Perhaps the simplest method is simply to put the oil in a simple porous pot, made of terracotta or sandstone, and allow nature to take its course. Any of these methods will work, so it is up to you to decide just how simple, or complicated, you want to make the procedure. Do some investigating to find out what oil you wish to diffuse.

Some are recommended for treating certain conditions, while others are simply used to create a pleasant ambiance. Some oils are thicker than others and may require special handling, but if you follow instructions, check the specifications of the diffuser, and look for user safety comments, all types should be safe and easy to use.

As for those e-cigarettes, or vaping devices, there are other things to consider. A vaping device works, essentially, the same way as a diffuser, but with a much more limited delivery system. These devices heat nicotine, water, flavorings, and other chemicals, and deliver the resultant mist directly into your lungs. Many users may have been lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that they are not inhaling smoke, but simply water vapor. And there is no doubt that this vapor is the more healthy alternative. But this does not mean that vapor is not dangerous. It can contain particles so tiny that they are inhaled deeply into the lungs. Some flavorings can contain a chemical called diacetyl, which has been linked to lung cancer. Also, heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and even lead, can be contained in that vapor. That does not seem so healthy now, huh?

But nicotine is still the major culprit, whether delivered on a cloud of water or a dense fog of smoke. Nicotine, no matter how it is delivered, is still a toxin, as well as being highly addictive. The more you use it, the more you crave it. As a toxin, it will raise your blood pressure, spike your adrenaline, increase your heart rate, and elevate your risk of a heart attack. And that simple water vapor also contains harmful chemicals. It may taste like cotton candy if that is your flavor of choice, but it will do far more than rot your teeth. So, if you are considering using vaping to help you break your cigarette habit, you may want to consider other far less addictive methods.

One of the major criticisms aimed at the vaping industry is how the devices are marketed. Gone is the Marlboro Man of old, replaced by sweet-sounding child-friendly flavors. How would you like to inhale strawberry cheesecake? Or puff on a tiramisu? Sounds delightful, does it not? You can of course, still partake of tobacco flavored vapes, but the marketing seems to be suggesting that tobacco is a thing of the past. How about a nice, refreshing mint? No matter what the flavor, that old nemesis nicotine is still worming its way into your life, and your lungs. No matter how good it sounds, it’s still poison. Do not be fooled!

So now that I’ve pointed out the dangers of vaping, let’s look at some of the risks of using essential oil diffusers. Just as with any other substance, there is always a risk for some individuals. Most of the risk involved in the use of essential oils stems from their use on the skin, where they can cause chemical burns, allergic reactions, and rashes if not used correctly. But there is some evidence that inhaling these oils when using a diffuser can cause problems, too. For example, oils like peppermint and eucalyptus can cause respiratory distress in some cases. And lavender and tea tree oils contain an abundance of estrogen, which can encourage unwanted breast development in young boys. Always be sure to follow the manufacturers’ guidelines when using any essential oil, even if you only intend to use it for creating a pleasant aroma in your home, and not therapeutically. And keep these oils away from children and pets, as they could be harmful.

In conclusion, vaping and oil diffusing are, simply put, essentially the same technology. The only difference is the targeted area. We use diffusers to permeate our homes, or other spaces, with pleasant aromas. These aromas may exist simply as a comfortable addition to the ambiance of our spaces, or as therapy for any number of ills. An e-cigarette delivers its content to a much more targeted area, our lungs, and, because of this, should be of much greater concern. 

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I’m Nick Wilkinson. I writer and radio personality who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

With over 14 years of experience in the Behavioral Health Field, I’ve been working in close contact with kids from all walks of life.

Specializing in teenagers and young adults, I’ve been a career long supporter of “verbal de-escalation” and non-violent crisis intervention. I believe that what you say, and how you say it, are the keys to successful communication. I currently write about men's health topics, parenting and child abuse topics, and other social issues. You can visit my blog at

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