Inhalation is a very popular approach to take in the benefits of essential oils. After all, we all need to breathe. 12 to 16 times per minute, in fact. We may as well breathe in something that improves health while performing an action that's absolutely necessary to live.

Inhaling essential oils typically requires a diffuser. There're many diffusers out there but they all fall into one of just four categories. Each category diffuses oils in a different way, and there're pros and cons for each.

Let's explore the four diffuser categories.

Evaporative Diffusers

Evaporative diffusers work by drawing room-temperature air through a pad or filter that contains the oil. The air then vaporizes and diffuses the oil molecules.

Examples of diffusers that fall into this category are:

  • Inhalers
  • Clay diffusers
  • Diffuser necklaces
  • Reed diffusers
  • And at a pinch, you can use tissue paper or a towel as an evaporative diffuser too.

Main advantages of evaporative diffusers:

  • They do not require heat to diffuse the oil. This is good because it means the chemical composition and the therapeutic properties of the essential oils will not be damaged.

  • They do not require water or a carrier oil to act as a base. So what you breathe in will be purely the essential oil goodness (and air) and nothing else.

  • They do not need electricity. Which means evaporative diffusers are typically more portable. You'll also have more flexibility on where you can place the diffusers.

  • They're simple to use. All you need to do is put a few drops of oil in or on the diffuser (depending on its design) and that's it.

Main limitations of evaporative diffusers:

  • They typically have a small area of ​​diffusion. For instance, you'll pretty much have to hold an inhaler to your nose to smell anything. Similarly, the standard clay diffusers only diffuse within your immediate vicinity, say around three to six feet.

  • It's harder to change oils. Because the essential oils are “absorbed” into evaporative diffusers, it is harder to switch oils.

  • The rate of diffusion is different for different oils. As the oils are diffused only by room-temperature, non-pressurized air, each oil will diffuse at its own natural rate. This means that if you diffuse an oil blend, the aroma you inhale could be inconsistent. The scent of lighter oils will be stronger initially and disappear more quickly than the scent of heavier oils.

Evaporative diffusers are best used:

  • In your office, where you probably can not use diffusers that require fire or electricity, and you'll also need to keep the area of ​​diffusion to within your immediate vicinity.

  • When you need to run around, and want a diffuser that can be thrown into your bag and used whenever and where you want.

Heat Diffusers

Heat diffusers use, well, heat, to vaporize and diffuse essential oils. The heat is supplied by fire or electricity, depending on the type of heat diffuser. A base is also needed to mix the oil in. The base can be wax, water or a carrier oil, depending on the diffuser.

Diffusers in this category include:

  • Aromatherapy candles
  • Tea light burners
  • Vaporizers.

Main advantages of heat diffusers:

  • They diffuse quickly. Heat speeds up the vaporization process and helps the aroma to spread more quickly through the room.

  • They enhance the mood by creating a warm and cozy environment. This is specific to heat diffusers that use candles. The warm light from candles helps create a cozy and relaxing ambience.

Main limits of heat diffusers:

  • They require heat. Heat degenerates the chemical composition of many essential oils and can reduce their therapeutic value.

  • They could be a fire hazard. Naked flames could be a fire hazard, especially if you have young and active children or pets around.

Heat diffusers are best used:

  • When you want to create a warm and cozy atmosphere, say for a dinner with friends or for a romantic date.

Ultrasonic Diffusers

Ultrasonic diffusers use high electronic frequencies to vibrate water that contains one or more essential oils. The vibrations then send a fine mist of water and oil mix into the air.

Main advantages of ultrasonic diffusers:

  • They do not require heat to diffuse the oil. Here is the theoretical properties of the essential oils are not destroyed.

  • They do not require much oil. You only need to add a few drops to the water every time.

  • It is easy to clean and change oils. Just pour away the old water and oil mix, add new water and oil and that's it.

  • They have a medium to large area of ​​diffusion. Most ultrasonic diffusers can quickly and effectively diffuse over the average-sized living rooms or bedrooms.

  • There's a wide range of choices in the market. This is a popular way to diffuse essential oils. There's more ultrasonic diffusers in the market than most other types of diffusers.

Main limitations of ultrasonic diffusers:

  • They run on electricity. They're there less less portable and you have less flexibility in where you can place them.

  • They require more water as a base. In ultrasonic diffusers, the proportion of essential oil to water is very low. Here, what you inhale is actually more water than essential oil.

  • They increase humidity. This can be an advantage if you live in a drier climate. But it could be a problem if the area you live in is already humid, or if you have possessions in the room (such as books) that deteriorate more quickly in humid conditions.

Ultrasonic diffusers are best used:

  • At home, when portability is not as important.

  • In drier climates or in rooms where increased humidity is not too much of an issue.

Cold Air Diffusers / Nebulizers

Cold air diffusers (also known as nebulizers) use pressurized room-temperature air to atomize essential oils into micro molecules. The micro molecules are then emitted into the air.

Main advantages of nebulizers:

  • They produce the smallest oil molecules compared to other diffusers. Small molecules enhance your inhalation and absorption of the essential oil aroma and benefits.

  • They do not require heat to diffuse the oil. The fact that the properties of the oils are not destroyed.

  • They do not require wax, water or carrier oils as a base. So what you breathe in is only the essential oil goodness (and air).

Main limits of nebulizers:

  • They run on electricity. They're there less less portable and you have less flexibility in where you can place them.

  • They require more effort to clean. The cleaning process is not complicated. But it does take a little longer to clean than, say, an ultrasonic diffuser.

  • They're more expensive. Nebulizers are more expensive than the other types of diffusers.

Nebulizers are best used:

  • At home, when portability is not as important.

  • When you want to maximize the therapeutic benefits from essential oils.

Which is the Best Way to Diffuse Essential Oils?

If we're talking about diffusing oils for the therapeutic purposes, the best way is the way that:

  • Produces the smallest oil molecules, so that they can be easily inhaled and absorbed into your body,
  • Diffuses only the essential oils and nothing else. No water, carrier oil or wax,
  • Does not change the chemical composition of essential oils at all, and
  • Has a large enough area of ​​diffusion to cover the average-sized living room or bedroom.

The nebulizer is the only way that fulfills all these conditions. So if you're serious about diffusing essential oils for health purposes, this should be the way to go.

But if you're not yet ready to splurge on a nebulizer, or want a diffuser that you can carry around while on the go, consider giving the other diffusers a try.