Understanding How Essential Oil Diffusers Work & 4 Diffuser Types

At the most basic level, essential oil diffusers work by dispersing essential oils into the air to be inhaled and easily absorbed by the body. As an added benefit, most essential oils also emit a pleasant scent into the air when distributed via diffuser, also purifying the air - killing bacteria and fungus.

There are 4 basic types of oil diffusers.

Each of these diffusers uses a different process to disperse the essential oils into the air and come with their own unique benefits, and in some cases, limitations.

  1. Ultrasonic (Ultrasonic Vibration)
  2. Heat (Heat)
  3. Evaporative (Wind/Fan)
  4. Nebulizer (Force/Atomization)

Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffusers

What is an ultrasonic diffuser for essential oils?

Ultrasonic diffusers dispense healing essential oils into the air as negative ions. These diffusers get their name from the ultrasonic vibrations used to break down the essential oils into microparticles, allowing the oil to be dispersed as a very fine mist, mixed with steam, into the air. The process does not create a lot of noise, allowing the diffuser to run extremely quietly - ideal for relaxing, sleeping and working.

Does an ultrasonic diffuser use heat?

The ultrasonic diffuser process is adiabatic, meaning that the oil changes states without the use of heat. Because no heat is used in process, the integrity of the oil is fully preserved upon dispersal.

Can an ultrasonic diffuser double as a humidifier?

Yes, an ultrasonic diffuser uses water as part of the dispersal processes, adding the benefit of humidifying the room. Added water is sometimes criticized as it dilutes the potency of the oils, but for those who do not prefer overwhelming smells and for their oils to last longer, mixing them with water for dispersal can be seen as a good thing.

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Heat Essential Oil Diffusers

What is a heat diffuser for essential oils?

A heat diffuser heats the essential oils until they evaporate into the air. Thicker oils, like Sandalwood, can be well-dispersed into a room when using a heat diffuser. Heat diffusers come in many types, including electric heat diffusers, candle heat diffusers and lamp ring. All models of heat diffusers use a tray where the oil is held next to the heat source so that it will heat and evaporate.

What are the disadvantages of heat diffusers?

While heat diffusers are an economical option that do a good job of their basic function - dispersing the essential oil - the use of heat changes the essential oils at the chemical level - changing and in many cases, limiting, the health benefits of the oils.

Evaporative Essential Oil Diffusers

What is a evaporative diffuser and how does it differ from a heat diffuser?

While heat diffusers also distribute the oils via evaporation, evaporative diffusers use a fan to generate a wind vs. heat, to cause the oil to evaporate into the air. The oil in an evaporative diffuser is held in an absorbent material - usually a pad or a wick - so that the wind causes the oil to evaporate in a controlled fashion.

Nebulizer Essential Oil Diffusers

What is a nebulizer for essential oils?

A nebulizer is sometimes said to release the purest form of the essential oils, for the best in aromatherapy. This is because of the concentration that a nebulizer produces by breaking down the oils into atoms by force, much like a perfume bottle.  

How are nebulizers used for aromatherapy?

Unlike other diffusers, Nebulizers require no heat and no water. They deliver a concentrated and pure stream of essential oil dispersion, though you will likely need to place it on a timer in order to prevent the oil from quickly running out. This concentration and purity makes nebulizers a great option for aromatherapy.

Why should I use a diffuser?

Aside from being a great smelling alternative to candles or wax melts, essential oil diffusers can help you to relax with calming lavender, lift your spirits with a fun vanilla scent, remove airborne pathogens with tea tree or thyme, open your airways with cooling eucalyptus and more. The health benefits of using a diffuser that contains water also include doubling as a humidifier to help your dried out airways.

About the NOW brand.

NOW is well known for its affordable line of natural products. Ultrasonic diffusers, like NOW brand’s ultrasonic wood grain oil diffuser, have the benefit of breaking down the oils into particles tiny enough to be easily breathed in and absorbed by the lungs. Each type of essential oil has its own health benefits!