To burn or not to burn…Oil burners and diffusers
Ok, I’m going to cut to the chase on this one. If you want the full therapeutic benefit from your oils, don’t use them in an oil burner. These typically operate by placing the oil in a ceramic dish (or even metal tray), with or without water and using a candle or some other heat source underneath to vaporize the oils into the surrounding room. Yes I know. They look great. I even had one myself many years ago.
However, the heat from the candle will actually damage your oils. Furthermore, the most volatile compounds in the oil will be dispersed first, with the heavier molecules coming later. That means you don’t receive the oil in its natural balance. Aside from not receiving any therapeutic benefits, oils can catch fire in the presence of a flame. And if the essential oil is diluted with an alcohol such as methanol or propanol (as is the case in some dodgey oils), they can become dangerously flammable. 
If you’re only interested in the ‘nice smell’ from an oil in a room, then Ok, use an oil burner. But don’t expect many therapeutic benefits from it. And in that case, don’t waste good quality therapeutic grade oils. Buy a cheap, fragrant oil. The only problem there is that you’re not really sure ‘what else’ is in the oil. You may be using something that could be toxic or become carcinogenic when burnt.
The same goes with incense sticks. They may provide the desired scent, but much of the oil is actually destroyed. If you want more than just a scent from the aroma in an oil, then diffusers are the way to go.
There are a number of different diffusers. There are those that use water. The oil is placed on a water in a tray and a fan blows through to disperse the oil into the air. One problem with this is that the lighter constituents in the oil are blown off before the heavier ones, thus upsetting the balance in the oil. The other problem is that some oils won’t float on water, e.g. Cinnamon and Cassia.
Cold-Air Diffusers or Nebulizers
These operate on the principle of “atomization”, whereby the oils is forced through a pinhole by a stream of air at high pressure. The result is a micro-fine vapor, containing all the constituents of the oil in the same balance as the liquid form, that remains suspended in the air for some time.
Because the oil is forced through at high velocity, it is also energised, with the levels of oxygen carried by the molecules actually increased. This raises the healing potential of an essential oil to a greater level. 
The benefits of diffusing an essential oil in this manner are that you can purify and clean the air in a room and remove airborne pathogens and things like toxic black mold and fungus. I’ve already written of one example in which to use essential oils in this manner (check out my post on Thieves ). In addition to this essential oils can be diffused in this manner to :
- Relax the body, relieve tension, and clear the mind.
- Improve concentration, alertness, and mental clarity.
- Stimulate neurotransmitters.
- Stimulate secretion of endorphins.
The possible applications are endless – homes, schools, offices, factories, clinics and hospitals.
In 2008, Young Living introduced their ultrasonic diffuser. The ultrasonic diffuser operates by atomising both water and essential oils, breaking up the molecules to create like a microscopic mist. It is capable of diffusing any essential oil, has a larger well to allow for less frequent re-filling of oil, a timer and 3 different diffusion rates.
Are the new ultrasonic diffusers better? Well, both diffusers serve a very different purpose. The ultrasonic diffusers are very quiet compared to the cold-air diffusers. Not that they’re loud, but if you want a perfectly quiet room you’ll certainly notice the cold-air diffuser in the background. The ultrasonic diffusers are also cheaper. The cold air diffusers on the other hand are better suited to removing and preventing something like mold and mildew in a room. Research from Dr Edward Close found that the ultrasonic diffusers actually increased the amount of mold in a given space. On the other hand he found the cold air diffusers to be most suitable for eliminating toxic black mold in the home.
So one suggestion might be to use the ultrasonic diffuser when you want the benefits of a diffuser at night time, while you sleep; but use the cold-air diffuser in a room when you’re not present (and so not worried about any noise) and are tackling something like mold and mildew.
Here is a blend you can make to freshen the air. Mix these together and diffuse :
- 20 drops lavender
- 10 drops lemon
- 6 drops bergamot
- 5 drops lime
- 3 drops grapefruit
Till next time
Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.
 The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, by Dr David Stewart, Chapt 12, p436
 Ibid, p437
 Ibid, p444
Filed under: Essential Oils - Techniques for Use
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