Are Essential Oils Safe to Inhale? (Explained for Beginners)

Essential oils are marketed as products that provide health benefits. Health gurus, corporations, and influencers promote these products as a benefit to the entire family, but are essential oils safe to inhale?

Inhaling essential oils might be the safest way to use them, but you must exercise caution. For some people, inhaling essential oils can worsen a medical condition, like asthma. Depending on your health status, inhaling essential oils might be unsafe.

Keep reading to understand how to best care for yourself when diffusing essential oils.

Are Essential Oils Safe to Inhale

Are Essential Oils Safe to Inhale?

Since water is used to dilute essential oils in most diffusers, this is one of the safest ways to handle pure essential oils.

Proper Ventilation

Although essential oils are natural, they are also powerful and should be used sparingly. It’s still important to only diffuse oils in a room with adequate ventilation. Oils are highly concentrated, and you don’t want an excessive amount to flood your bloodstream. 

Also, some scientists have concluded that using essential oil diffusers can reduce the air quality in a room. Thus making sure that clean air is circulating in the room is essential. 

Intermittent Exposure

Another suggestion is to diffuse oils on an interval setting. Most modern essential oil diffusers have this as an option. 

Interval exposure is safer than continuously inhaling an essential oil mist. Excess inhalation can lead to illness and other negative bodily reactions.  In extreme cases, if too much oil enters into your bloodstream, it can lead to tumor development, organ damage, and more adverse outcomes.

This concentrated botanical matter can interact with dietary supplements and prescription medication. 

Prescription Medication Interactions

For instance aniseed essential oil can make some medications less effective. In this study, imipramine and fluoxetine, antidepressant medications, were less effective when patients were exposed to the oil before taking their prescription.

In some cases, medication side effects are enhanced. For instance, the sedative midazolam causes motor impairment in the individuals who’ve been prescribed this medication. Aniseed essential oil worsens the impairment. 

Aniseed is just one essential oil that can badly impact the central nervous system by interacting with prescription medication. It’s important to be aware of this if you have been prescribed any medications. Always speak to your prescribing doctor before diffusing or otherwise using essential oils.

Children and Pets

Also consider the safety of your children and pets when inhaling essential oils. Them along with the elderly have more sensitive bodily systems. Not only might they be more negatively impacted, it might take longer for them to recover. 

Overall, essential oils are safe to inhale when used properly. But you may want to avoid diffusing essential oils altogether if you’re taking medicines, just gave birth, or have young children in the home. 

Can You Inhale Essential Oils From The Bottle?

Inhale Essential Oils From The Bottle

After opening a bottle of essential oil, you may turn your head away and scrunch up your nose. This normal, automatic reaction indicates that the scent is much too strong for you to inhale.

You have to remember that essential oil bottles contain a highly concentrated substance. It’s been said that the concentrated liquid inside those bottles can be fifty to one hundred times more concentrated than the actual plant. This is because so many plants are used to fill one small bottle. 

Inhaling essential oils at this high of a concentration can more severely trigger an allergic reaction.

Cross-sensitivity is a term used to describe an allergic reaction to a substance that’s similar to what you were originally allergic to. For instance, many people with ragweed allergies begin sneezing, coughing, etcetera when exposed to essential oils like chamomile or echinacea. 

You might also get a headache or experience nausea. But if you must have that opened bottle experience with your essential oil, here are some suggestions:

  • Hold the bottle inches away from your nose and be sure not to touch your lip or nose with the bottle. Sometimes there’s oil along the edge, and it can burn your skin. Slowly move the bottle from side to side to produce gentle wafts of the fragrance.
  • Another option is to place a few drops onto a cotton pad or ball; you can even place drops on tissue. Keep it near you throughout the day, inhaling the oil as needed. (Just be sure not to make contact with your skin since it isn’t diluted.) 
  • The last suggestion is to get a personal diffuser. They come in many different forms – bracelets, inhaler tubes, necklaces, and handheld devices that that operate by diluting the oils in water.

Is It Safe To Inhale Essential Oils From A Diffuser?

For many people, it is safe for them to inhale an essential oil mist from a diffuser. Diffused essential oils have been shown to aid those with mild sleep disorders, and some oils can have a calming or invigorating effect on you.

But consistent exposure to an essential oil mist would be excessive in most cases. It’s suggested that you limit diffusion to 20 to 30 minutes at a time, with a rest period of the same length. Your body actually becomes stressed if a diffuser is left on continuously throughout the day.

Overexposure to essential oils from a diffuser can lead to respiratory and/or neurological challenges. You might have trouble breathing, experience coughing or shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, or burning sensations in your throat or eyes. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, turn off your diffuser and immediately get some fresh air. But if fresh air is insufficient, then contact emergency services or the Poison Control Center.

Some essential oils, like lavender, have been found to disrupt hormone levels, which can affect people with diabetes, as well as teens. For instance, teen girls constantly exposed to lavender essential oil prematurely developed breasts. Both lavender and tea tree oils can potentially cause hormonal disruptions in teen boys as well.

Lastly, pregnant women should avoid using essential oil diffusers, particularly in their first trimester. Avoiding their use keeps the baby safe. If you diffuse essential oils during the second or third trimesters, it should be done sparingly.

Safely Using Your Diffuser

If you use a diffuser that releases essential oil vapors, be sure to follow their dilution guidelines. Pour the suggested amount of water into the reservoir before adding in essential oil drops. Only add the number of drops suggested. 

Adding in more oil might not even lead to beneficial health outcomes. Olfactory fatigue might even prevent you from smelling the oils after a period of time, anyway. 

But even if you can’t smell the oil, your body is absorbing the molecules. And this is what needs to be moderated for your safety.

The amount of oil to add will vary by diffuser type and size. For instance, nebulizing diffusers release even more essential oil molecules in the air than ultrasonic diffusers because there’s no water to dilute the oils. When using a nebulizing diffuser you should pay even more attention to interval settings and limiting your exposure to the essential oils. 

It can also help to regularly clean and sanitize your diffuser to avoid the inhalation of mold spores.

Is Diffusing Essential Oils Safe For Your Lungs?

If you do not have a preexisting lung condition, it’s generally safe to use an essential oil diffuser. 

Individuals with respiratory conditions, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more vulnerable to the negative effects of being exposed to essential oil mist. Your airway passage might become inflamed. As a result, you might experience difficulty breathing. 

In a small study published in The Journal of Asthma & Allergy research participants with seasonal asthma were exposed to the biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) found in essential oils. After exposure to BVOCs like linalool, camphor, pinene, and so forth, respiratory symptoms, like nasal congestion, increased. 

Avoiding asthma triggers is one of the best ways to manage asthma. There is no scientific evidence that supports the claims that certain essential oils can actually help treat asthma.

Diffused essential oils are a form of air pollution for asthma sufferers and might trigger an asthma attack. It’s best for you not to diffuse essential oils if you or someone in your home has asthma or a sensitive respiratory system. 

In Conclusion

There can be many benefits to diffusing essential oils. Some help to reduce anxiety and sleeplessness, and others can help enhance focus, and more. Using an essential oil diffuser for short periods of time won’t harm most people. 

Inhaling essential oils is safe in most cases but the safest way to use essential oils is to educate yourself on how to properly use them. Seek more personalized guidance from professionals who are experts on the topic.

This article is not meant to offer any medical advice or treatment suggestions. Please contact your physician for specific questions about your health as it pertains to the use of essential oils. 

With careful use, essential oils are not only safe, but can offer many different health benefits to you.

Grace Young

I love candles! I have personally tried over 100 brands of candles. The total burn time of these candles is over 5000 hours. I also talk about essential oil diffusers and reed diffusers. Essential oil diffusers and diffusers are also an important part of the scent in my home.

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