Using Essential Oils In Nebulizers – Medical Vs Diffusers


Essential oils must never be used in a medical nebulizer, which are devices designed to deliver medication directly to your lungs. However, essential oils can be used in nebulizing diffusers, which are aromatherapy devices designed to spread fragrances around the surrounding space or room.

Essential oils are potent liquids created by distilling the essence of various plants and plant products. These oils are believed to carry not only the smell but also the therapeutic properties of these herbs, which is why they are so commonly used in aromatherapy through soaps, perfumes, or diffusers. Many people therefore wonder: can essential oils be used in a nebulizer as well?

In this post, we are going to talk in detail about the different types of nebulizers and also show you how you can use essential oils in a nebulizing diffuser. We also talk about a few fantastic nebulizing diffusers available today in case you are looking to purchase one. Let’s get started!

Medical Nebulizer vs. Nebulizing Diffuser

Before we get into the details of using essential oils, it is extremely important that you understand the difference between a medical nebulizer and a nebulizing diffuser.

Medical Nebulizer

A medical nebulizer is a special device whose purpose is to disperse medication and deliver it to directly to your lungs.

It normally consists of a compressor that converts liquid medication into a mist. This mist will then be dispersed over a very small area. In fact, you are often required to use some sort of an airway equipment, like a face mask with tubing, to ensure that the mist goes into your lungs and does not escape around the room.

Medical nebulizers are most commonly used for patients with respiratory illnesses like asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema to deliver life-saving medication.

Nebulizing Diffuser

Non-medical nebulizing diffusers, however, are the exact opposite in the sense that their purpose is to distribute the liquid (in this case, essential oils) all over the room that they are in. They disperse the liquid much more slowly, and the dispersed particles are much less concentrated in the room air. 

Can I use essential oils in my medical nebulizer?

Never use essential oils in a medical nebulizer.  Despite conflicting information you may find online, it is never recommended that you use essential oils in your medical nebulizer. This is because of the following reasons:

  1. There is very little evidence to support adding essential oils to your medical nebulizer has any health benefit.

Whenever anything is recommended to you medically, it has usually gone through a series of very rigorous experiments, trials, peer reviews, and expert meetings. This is to ensure that the product being recommended is effective and safe for use to the public.

To date, no essential oil has passed these tests for it to be medically recommended to use via a nebulizer. There is anecdotal evidence of people suggesting certain essential oils could be beneficial for certain diseases, but this is not solid, peer-reviewed evidence.

  1. Using essential oils in your nebulizer could actually harm your health.

Your lungs are delicate organs that are mostly sterile, i.e., there shouldn’t be microorganisms present on the inside of your lungs. 

When you use a nebulizer, you break medicine into very small particles that directly enter the inner airways. Medical pharmaceuticals are therefore manufactured to be sterile and safe for entry into your lungs, otherwise tiny micro-organisms could also enter your lungs along with the drugs. 

Essential oils are not manufactured with the same rigorous standards for sterility, so there may be micro-organisms present in them, and they could easily reach your lungs via the nebulizer and cause diseases.

Even without the micro-organisms intervening, we do not have enough evidence to believe these concentrated essential oils are actually safe for the delicate tissues of our lungs. In fact, there is a possibility of them causing something called chemical pneumonitis, or lipid pneumonia, by irritating your lungs’ linings. 

Can I use essential oils in my nebulizing diffuser?

Essential oils can usually be used safely in nebulizing diffusers.

This is because nebulizing diffusers distribute essential oils slowly and over a large area. As a result, the oils are never concentrated enough in the air to actually enter your lungs in significant amounts and cause damage.

There is still a caveat, though: some people may have sensitive airways that may not respond well to essential oils, especially asthmatics. We thus recommend using all aromatherapy products with caution.

Three amazing nebulizing diffusers that you can use with essential oils

1. ArOmis Aromatherapy Diffuser (Orbix Nox Merus)

With a sleek design, reliable functioning and a reasonable price tag, ArOmis Aromatherapy Diffuser has truly got it all, making it one of the best rated nebulizing diffusers that you can find today.

The device has a rather striking look to it. There is a wooden base shaped like an inverted bowl, on top of which you will find a long, curved glass body that releases the nebulized essential oils.

The best part is that ArOmis offers a wide range of colors and shapes for both the wooden base and the glass top with some subtle but noticeable variations, which really shows their attention to aesthetics.

While these designs don’t necessarily fit the clean, minimalistic look of offices or professional spaces, they can make a wonderful addition to bedrooms or living rooms.

This nebulizing diffuser also excels in the performance department. With no heat or water needed, you get the full strength of the aroma of the essential oils that you are using, and that too without the use of any plastic or artificial materials. You also get a timer and are given control over the intensity of the aroma.

Most user reviews have been fantastic, with numerous mentions of the longevity and the hassle free usage. You also get a one year warranty, making it a great purchase for first-timers.

2. Opulence Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser

While the ArOmis diffuser had more of a warm, cozy vibe to it, the Opulence Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser offers a clean, sophisticated yet whimsical look to it, making it an excellent choice for offices or minimalistic living spaces.

The base is formed by white ceramic and a glass housing rests on top of it, giving the whole device a flask-like appearance.

 The device uses a whisper-quiet pump to disperse the essential oil into your room air with no use of any heat or water to alter the oils’ therapeutic properties in any way.

Although the brand does not mention the coverage area specifically, independent users have noted that the device can work for up to 2 hours continuously in rooms as large as 800 sq. ft, making it a good choice for those intending to use it in an office or larger open-concept spaces.

There are a few other interesting features with this device, like a touch sensor and a light switch. What makes it truly worth buying, however, is the excellent customer service. There are numerous anecdotes online of the customer service team replacing the devices if they got damaged or offering detailed troubleshooting instructions whenever something went wrong. 

The only major downside is the cost of the device, which is rather expensive compared to many other brands offering similar features. 

3. Uone Essential Oil Diffuser

Design wise, the Uone Essential Oil Diffuser resembles a combination between the two devices we just talked about. It has a warm, wooden base like the ArOmis diffuser, and a flask-shaped glass top like the Opulence. You thus end up with a rather whimsical yet versatile design.

Another thing to appreciate about the design is the fact that it uses no plastic, which is not only sustainable but also safer since certain essential oils may erode plastic with time. 

As a nebulizing diffuser, the Uone diffuser is also waterless and works by directly diffusing the essential oil into fine mist. 

You also get a touch sensor, a timer, and 7 different color changing LED lights. This makes it a fantastic choice for anyone who is looking to purchase a nightlight as well.

The company also provides a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 2 year warranty, making it a very safe option for those who aren’t sure if they need an essential oil diffuser, or are skeptical of nebulizing diffusers in general.

Some users have complained that longevity is an issue with the device. While the warranty does offset this a bit, it can still be a hassle to have to repair or replace your device.

How to dilute essential oils for a nebulizer? 

Essential oils should not be diluted for use in a nebulizing diffuser (and should not be used in medical nebulizers). Unlike regular diffusers, nebulizing diffusers are waterless.

This is because nebulizing diffusers work by directly converting the essential oils into fine particles by passing them through a pressurized air stream. This does not require any heat, ultrasound or vibration. 

You should therefore put in drops of your essential oils directly into the nebulizer, without diluting it in any way.

How much oil do I put in a nebulizer? 

Ten to thirty (10-30) drops of essential oil can be added to a nebulizing diffuser. The amount should vary depending on the quality of the diffuser and oil. Higher quality oils and diffusers require less oil. You should never put any essential oil in a medical nebulizer.

As we discussed earlier, there are no proven health benefits, but perhaps some health risks, of using essential oils in a medical nebulizer. We therefore strongly suggest that you do NOT use essential oils in your medical diffuser.

For aromatherapy, however, you may need to put in anywhere between 10 to 30 drops of essential oils for every session. We recommend starting with 10 drops initially, then you may increase it gradually until you reach a point where you are happy with the duration and the intensity of the aroma. 

Many manufacturers also come with specific instructions on how much oil you should put in your nebulizing diffuser, so we definitely recommend going through the user manuals first.

What are the benefits of nebulizing diffusers?

Compared to traditional aromatherapy devices, like reed or ultrasonic diffusers, there are certain advantages of nebulizing diffusers:

They are waterless

No water means no hassle of having to fill the tank up regularly, checking water levels, or worrying about whether the water you have used is too ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. You directly put the oils in the diffuser and you are good to go!

No use of heat

Essential oils are delicate substances, and many people believe heat may alter the therapeutic properties of the oil molecules. By avoiding heat altogether, nebulizing diffusers help retain these properties.

No use of Plastic

Almost all popular nebulizing diffusers use wood, glass or other natural materials. This is beneficial since essential oils may erode plastic over the long run, which may even be detrimental for your health.

They work fast

Compared to other diffusers, nebulizers can fill the air of your room with aromas much quicker, and they are often more intense as well.

However, there are also some downsides of using nebulizing diffusers:

  1. They use more oil than other diffusers.
  2. They need constant cleaning as there is a bigger tendency for them to get clogged up compared to other forms of diffusers.
  3. They use glass, meaning the nebulizer is prone to breaking.
  4. Nebulizers, in general, are also costlier than other forms of diffusers.

What essential oils can I use with my nebulizing diffuser?

There is almost no restriction to what essential oil you can use in your nebulizer. 

Since there is no water involved, it can be difficult for your machine if you use heavier, thicker oils, like vetiver or benzoin. 

Here are some recommendations based on our experience, but we encourage you to explore the many fantastic essential oils out there and see what you like best.

  1. Orange/Lemon essential Oils: For freshness and cool, spring vibes
  2. Lavender Essential Oil: For a relaxing, easy environment.
  3. Eucalyptus essential oil: For a warm, therapeutic ambience; great for blocked nose.
  4. Rosemary Essential Oil: For a soothing, familiar scent.
  5. Rose Essential Oil: For a floral, romantic environment.
  6. Cedarwood: For an earthy and warm feeling.

Plentiful Air has a complete guide to essential oils with antibacterial and antifungal properties available here.

Theresa Orr

Theresa Orr is an Earth Scientist who specializes in determining past climates from rocks using geochemistry. Her passion for clean water, soil and air drives her to provide easy to understand information for everyone to read.

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