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Aromatherapy is a popular form of alternative, natural therapy. It's based on the theory that different aromas can benefit our bodies, minds, and spirits. There are several common vehicles for dispersing these aromas, including scented candles, smoke-generating incense, and essential oil diffusers.
If you’re in the market for an essential oil diffuser, you may have noticed the plethora of products from which you can choose. At BestReviews, we recognize the dilemma that situation creates for consumers, and we’re here to help.
There’s no need to sift through product after product; we’re committed to finding and evaluating the best product offerings for you.
To identify the top essential oil diffusers on the market, we performed deep product research and consulted real-world owners for their opinions on various oil diffusers.
The result of our labor is the product matrix at the top of this page. Please click on any of the links to learn more about our five favorite essential oil diffusers.
And if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy in general, please continue reading this shopping guide.
Many people use essential oil diffusers simply to add a pleasant background fragrance to a room. But for practitioners of aromatherapy, the use of different essences goes beyond simple air-freshening.
There are a number of health and wellness benefits associated with different blends of herbal and floral scents. Although we cannot verify or endorse any health claims made by manufacturers, here are some common benefits many users claim to experience with essential oil diffusers.
Familiar aromas, such as the smell of pine during the holidays or the scent of cookies baking, can evoke an emotional response. Other scents, such as peppermint and spearmint, can create a positive, fresh atmosphere in the room. Many professionals use mood-elevating oils to calm anxious patients or clients.
Some essential oils are touted as mood elevators. Consider using one of these oils in your air diffuser to help improve your mood.
Much like an antiseptic aerosol spray, some essential oil diffusers deliver a fine mist that attaches to pollutants in the air, such as smoke, dust, and mold spores. As these trapped particles fall to the ground, the air becomes more sanitized and less likely to spread germs and spores to the room's occupants.
Certain essential oils can have an effect on the respiratory system, including the nasal passages. As users enjoy a relaxing aroma, they breathe in oil-infused water droplets. These small beads of water and oil can help loosen phlegm and moisturize nasal passages. They can even help release tension associated with headaches.
The water/oil droplets dispersed by an essential oil diffuser can adhere to pollutants in the air, causing them to fall to the ground. In this manner, the diffuser can actually help sanitize the air.
Many essential oil diffusers can also be used as small room humidifiers. While the effect may be subtle in a large waiting room or den, an oil diffuser placed in an enclosed bedroom can provide the extra moisture a patient needs for improved breathing or sinus relief. Dry offices can also benefit from a humidification boost.
There are several specific essential oil blends recommended for better sleep. These aromas tend to put users in a relaxed frame of mind right before the sleep cycle begins, and they continue to provide a sense of calm throughout the night.
Do not directly inhale the oil-infused droplets from an essential oil diffuser.
While an essential oil diffuser is a popular choice among aromatherapy practitioners, there are other delivery systems designed to fill a space with aromas, therapeutic or otherwise.
These include scented candles, incense sticks, and aerosol air fresheners.
It’s important to understand how these other methods work and how they match up with the performance of an essential oil diffuser.
An essential oil diffuser equipped with soothing lights encourages users to feel calm and relaxed at night.
Scented candles are readily available in many department stores, gift shops, and mall kiosks. They come in a variety of fragrances, from straightforward floral scents to complex seasonal blends. Some are designed to duplicate familiar aromas, such as fresh fruit or baked goods. There are also therapeutic blends that can be used in aromatherapy sessions.
However, scented candles do have a few issues not found with essential oil diffusers.
Scented candles depend on an open flame to deliver their fragrances. This could pose a safety hazard if small children are present or the candle is not properly supported during use.
The amount of fragrance released into the air while burning can be negligible. Many people purchase a scented candle based on the strength of its aroma on the store shelf but are disappointed when they discover that the actual fragrance is much more subtle.
An essential oil diffuser disperses more fragrance into the air than most scented candles are designed to deliver.
Incense sticks are a popular choice if you want to fill the air with a strong, complex fragrance. These sticks are generally inexpensive, but they’re not quite as easy to find on store shelves as scented candles. They require some form of holder to protect surfaces from burns and ash residue.
To use an incense stick, you light one end and allow it to smolder as it delivers scented smoke into the room.
Incense cones are more compact than incense sticks. You can burn an incense cone in a ceramic or metal holder for the same effect as an incense stick.
While the fragrance of an incense stick may be very pleasant or therapeutic, the smoke particles may not be as agreeable. Some people find the scent of incense smoke to be too intense.
Aerosol air fresheners can be found in virtually every grocery or department store. With the press of a button, you can use them to refresh and sometimes even sanitize the air.
While aerosol air fresheners may not offer the exotic or therapeutic fragrances designed for aromatherapy, they do offer an array of odor-masking scents for everyday use. There is no open flame, no lingering smoke, and no need to refill a container regularly. Some aerosol cans can also be attached to timers and automatically dispersed throughout the day.
But the odor-masking effects of most aerosol air fresheners are only temporary. Once the larger droplets of fragrance dissipate, the unpleasant odors often return. Repeated sprays can also leave noticeable residue on furniture, food, and other surfaces. Furthermore, most aerosol cans are designed to look functional, but they’re not especially decorative.
Essential oil diffusers, on the other hand, often have artistic designs and decorative elements that combine form and function. Spraying a room with air sanitizer or deodorizer may be pragmatic, but displaying a decorative essential oil diffuser accomplishes the same goal with a little more style.
A spray-can air freshener has its perks — namely masking odors — but an essential oil diffuser serves the same purpose and a whole lot more.
While there are other methods for dispersing aromas into the air, such as scented candles and evaporative sticks, many aromatherapists prefer using essential oil diffusers in their practice. Before you invest in something new, however, it pays to consider some of the pros and cons of these devices.
Unlike scented candles or evaporative sticks, an essential oil diffuser will eventually deliver all of its contents into the air. Nothing is wasted.
When you use an essential oil diffuser (as opposed to a scented candle, incense stick, etc.), there is no ash, melted wax, or oil residue to clean up.
Many people use an aerosol air freshener to combat unpleasant odors or stale air. But the effects of a spray deodorizer are notoriously short-lived. An essential oil diffuser, on the other hand, delivers a steady mist of oil-infused water into the air.
Incense sticks and scented candles often emphasize a single aroma or a blend of similar aromas. However, many aromatherapists recommend using several different fragrances to create a specific mood or treat a specific condition. With an essential oil diffuser, you can experiment with different oil blends to find a background fragrance that satisfies you.
If you think you might forget to refill your diffuser, consider purchasing one with an automatic timer or sensor that powers off the machine when the oil runs out.
An incense stick or scented candle will eventually burn out on its own, but an oil diffuser requires refills. Some oil diffusers have timers or automatic sensors that power off the machine when it becomes empty, but others continue to operate in a dry state, which could lead to damage.
Unlike an incense stick or scented candle, an oil diffuser can require an electrical power source. As such, finding a place for it in a room can be challenging. Some people prefer to camouflage their essential oil diffuser by surrounding it with a floral arrangement or other decorative element. Others choose to place their diffuser in a specific area, such as a bathroom or bedroom. All of these locations would require a supportive surface and access to an electrical outlet. Battery-powered essential oil diffusers do exist, however.
Many essential oil diffusers require access to an electrical outlet. However, there are some battery-operated essential oil diffusers on the market.
Mastering the art of aromatherapy is not a requirement for essential oil diffuser ownership, but it does help to understand the basic principles behind the practice.
One potential source for more information about aromatherapy is your local health food store or alternative medicine shop. These stores tend to carry a large assortment of essential oils, and they may have an experienced aromatherapist on staff.
A trained aromatherapist can suggest specific essential oil blends for specific purposes. Some aromas are better for inducing sleep, for example, while others are known to improve focus or alleviate the symptoms of depression.
Online pharmacies and natural remedy shops often provide detailed information on the benefits of every essential oil they offer. When in doubt, it is usually possible to order a sampler kit containing small doses of the most popular essential oils. Aromatherapists and alternative medical practitioners may also have their own websites filled with advice on the effects of aroma on both body and mind.
Some people find that mint-infused fragrances elevate their mood. Others feel uplifted by the scent of pine trees or cinnamon. Still others find that medicinal scents (like eucalyptus) improve their mental focus or lessen the effects of a cold.
An essential oil diffuser can add some much-needed humidity to a small, dry room.
For best results, experts recommend that you use pure essential oils in your diffuser — not cheap synthetic copies that cost less.
Essential oil diffusers are just as much about art as they are science. As such, an important consideration is overall aesthetics. Some essential oil diffusers employ special lights to create a pleasing visual environment during aromatherapy sessions. Some are designed to be functional pieces of sculpture, blending in with other meditative elements in the room.
Proper maintenance is important when using essential oil diffusers, especially when transitioning from one oil blend to another.
All essential oil diffusers use roughly the same technology to disperse their contents into the air, but differences exist in the aesthetics of each product. High-end diffusers tend to emphasize form as well as function.
Some essential oil diffusers feature soft pastel lighting and/or minimalist artwork. Others are more functional than decorative, but they're still capable of delivering therapeutic aromas.
If you like the smell of incense but don’t want to deal with smoke or the potential safety hazard of a burning stick, consider an essential oil that’s scented like patchouli or another popular incense fragrance.
Q. I want to put an essential oil diffuser in a small guest bathroom. Can the residue stain the walls or leave a sticky mess?
A. The answer depends largely on the type and capacity of your chosen diffuser model. The microdroplets created by most diffusers should evaporate while suspended in the air, creating minimal residue. However, the area immediately around the diffuser may receive a higher concentration of oil-infused mist, which should be wiped periodically with an absorbent towel.
Q. Is it possible for essential oils to trigger allergies or create health problems?
A. Although anything is possible when it comes to allergic reactions, most users should not experience the same reaction to diffused essential oils as they might with the real source. A rose-scented essential oil, for example, does not contain the pollen responsible for an allergic reaction.
The concentration of oil in the dispersed microdroplets is so diluted that inhalation should not pose a hazard, either. That said, we do not recommend direct inhalation of the oil-infused droplets, since an oil diffuser should never be confused with a room humidifier or steam vaporizer.
Q. Are essential oil diffusers noisy to operate? I want to put one in my bedroom so I can sleep better at night.
A. Again, the answer depends on the particular make and model of the diffuser. Some models use ultrasonic vibrations to convert liquid into microdroplets. People with sensitive hearing may be able to detect these high-frequency soundwaves. Other models contain a small pump to disperse the mist into the room.
When some oil diffusers run dry, they can become noisy until the power is turned off or the supply is replenished. If you intend to operate an oil diffuser overnight, be sure it is completely full and has some sort of automatic shutoff feature.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.