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The Best Essential Oil Diffusers

By Sarah Metzker Erdemir ; Updated September 03, 2018

Essential oils have been used in aromatherapy to bring about relaxation and treat health problems for centuries. Aromatherapy practitioners believe that inhaling certain scents causes changes in the limbic system (the innermost area of the brain) and affects organ and mental function.

Aromatherapy can also be used to create a calming, relaxing environment with natural scents. Essential oil diffusers are used to spread the scent of the oil around a room.

1. Reed Diffusers

Reed diffusers not only release an aroma throughout a room, they often serve as attractive decorative pieces. A reed diffuser is a vase or jar filled with a carrier oil such as olive or almond oil. Add the essential oil or blend of oils of your choice into the jar and place several tall, thin rattan reeds into the oil.

Within 30 minutes, the oil travels up the reeds' capillaries and the aroma is gradually dispersed into the air. A reed diffuser can scent a room for several hours or several days, depending on the fragrance used. You can find these at stores like Pier1 or Cost Plus World Market.

2. Essential Oil Nebulizers

Essential oil nebulizers are often preferred by aromatherapy professionals because they don't use heat (see below for more on heat diffusers).

Most nebulizers consist of a pump that forces air into the oil and then through a series of twisting tubes. The oil is broken into tiny droplets similar to an aerosol. Nebulizers (like the AroMini from AromaTech, pictured above) can be used to scent a room or they might be used just to inhale a few breaths of pure essential oil.

The AroMini even allows you to control it from your phone and set it to go on at scheduled times throughout the day so you have a relaxing reminder to take some deep, cleansing breaths. Try scents like lavender vanilla or the Unwind blend to help melt away stress and anxiety.

Though these devices might be pricier than the other options on this list, they're the best and fastest way to get the pure essence of your oils into the ambient air so that you can breathe in their scent deeply and relax away the stress.

3. Heat Diffusers

Commercially available heat methods — also referred to as essential oil warmers — usually involve a tea light set underneath a small pot, hollow stone or other container (like this one from Yankee Candle). The candle heats the container, which releases the scent into the air.

Electric diffusers are safer to use than candle diffusers, though they don't have the same ambiance. An electric diffuser can be a small device that sits in a wall plug (like ScentFill), or it can be a machine containing a dish that heats up and diffuses the smell (like eWarm from SpaRoom).

Although heat can destroy the therapeutic constituents of some essential oils such as rose or jasmine, it's a highly effective way of diffusing a scent quickly and for a long time. If you want a comparably priced alternative without the heat, try a fan diffuser like the AromaCube from AromaTech.

4. DIY Diffusers

If you're in a pinch and want some aromatherapy ASAP, try creating your own diffusing method. Sometimes, a simple diffuser is the fastest and easiest way to disperse an essential oil in a room. Here are two DIY ideas:

  1. For a very small area such as an office cubicle, place one or two drops of oil on a tissue or cotton ball.
  2. For a larger room, fill a bowl with two cups of boiling water and add a few drops of oil. The scent will be released with the steam. 

Both of these methods are effective and inexpensive, but the downside is that the scent doesn't last long and has to be replaced often.

You can also make your own heat diffuser by lighting a candle, letting it burn for several minutes, and then blowing it out. While the wax is still melted, add a few drops of oil and relight the candle.

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