Vaping essential oils

A question popped up in the EOCR Facebook group yesterday:

“A friend of my daughter wants to buy an essential oil diffuser that is like an e-cigarette or the device used for vaping. Thoughts? Safety documentation?”

The rest of the Facebook thread seemed to focus on two issues:

1) What kind of device are we talking about exactly?

2) Why would you want to do this?

Let’s look at these questions in turn.

There are a bunch of e-cigarettes and vaporizers that have come out on the market in the last few years.

Some can be used with essential oils as well.

But most likely, the device in question is a custom-made essential oil vaporizer.

Two main companies that make these are called MONQ and VitaStik (though they prefer to call them “personal diffusers” or “aromatherapy sticks”).

These essential oil vaporizers are little cylinders with a mixture of glycerin, water, and essential oils inside.

They also have a small battery that’s activated when you inhale, which heats the mix to produce a vapor that resembles smoke.

MONQ advises you to simply roll this vapor around you mouth and then exhale through the nose, while VitaStik advises you to actually inhale into the lungs.

Now the second question: why would you want to do this?

The two companies claim that their EO inhalers lower anxiety, improve mood, and increase energy.

You could also make the case that these inhalers are practical and portable, and that their cigarette-like look is itself a benefit. In fact, I’ve written before about essential oils for quitting smoking, and the method of delivery in that case was “a cigarette substitute delivering a vapor.”

My personal guess is that it mostly comes down to marketing and looking cool.

After all, whatever benefits you could get from this you could get from a home made Vicks-style aromatherapy inhaler, at about 1/20th the price.

The fact is, we know very little about what this kind of essential oil use does to the body.

For one thing, the oils will be heated up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (around 93 degrees Celsius), which could in theory change some of the consituents.

The emulsification and the vaporization process also might impact where and how the essential oils are absorbed (in your nose, further down in the airways, or deep in your lungs).

And that’s just the big picture. We have even less idea of how specific essential oils or blends will behave when vaporized and inhaled.

Does this mean you shouldn’t do it?

I won’t say yes or no.

Personally, I’m all for experimentation, though I find little to be excited about in the case of vaped essential oils.

However, if this is something you are curious about, here’s a good overview article from Rodale’s Organic Life that has some more detail:

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