I had someone ask me how vaping is different from diffusing, and if vaping essential oils is good for you. Given the recent explosion of news regarding vape-related deaths, I figured I should write a post to explain the difference.
What is vaping?
Vaping is defined as the action or practice of inhaling and exhaling vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device. Vaping creates a substance that has ultrafine particles of particulate matter—which has been found to have glycerin, proplene glycol, certain toxicants, carcinogens, heavy metals, and metal nanoparticles among others. When you inhale this directly into your lungs, it wreaks havoc in your body. Studies suggest that exposure to vaping (particularly through e-cigarettes) disrupts airway barrier function, induces tissue fibrosis in the heart and kidney, and causes systemic inflammation. For example, vaping increases inflammation in the lungs, and can paralyze cilia, the “hair-like” projections in the airways of the lungs that remove microbes and debris. When those cilia become paralyzed, they are rendered unable to do their job protecting the lungs, which can increase the risk for infection and pneumonia. Furthermore, vaping through e-cigs has been found to damage DNA not only at a chromosomal level but also at the gene level, and can contribute to the formation of cancer. Even short-term effects of vaping can wreak havoc on the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular system.
What is diffusing?
A diffuser is a small machine that is powered by electricity to run a small motor that expels particles throughout the air. Generally, a diffuser is used to add a scent to the air of your home but can also be used with essentials oils that promote good physical and mental health. Diffusers are different than vaporizers because they work by using cool air to create a mist which combines the water and another substance (e.g. essential oil) and disperses it into the air. There are no new substances that are created during that process, as they are merely diffused in a different form. Diffusers basically work like humidifiers. Inhalation from diffusers is the safest means of administering essential oils – obviously try to do so in a ventilated area. Overexposure to impure essential oils can be dangerous, which is why the quality of the oil is important.
Why should you diffuse essential oils over vaping?
If you’re not already aware of the benefits of essential oils, here’s a little background. Essential oils have been proven to counter illnesses and inflammation caused by air pollutants, as well as have neuroprotective and anti-aging effects, as well as reducing anxiety, and can have anti-cancer properties, and alleviate fatigue upon inhalation. Some essential oils—notably geranium, frankincense, clary sage, and lavender—have been shown to help balance the body’s estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and cortisol levels. Perhaps one of the most fascinating abilities of essential oils is their neuroprotective effects, particularly for people who suffer from concussions, Alzheimer’s, or other neurodegenerative disorders. Researchers have found that essential oils can reduce inflammation and improve brain function given that they are one of the substances that can cross the blood brain barrier (a semipermeable border that separates blood from the brain and extracellular fluid in the central nervous system) and enter brain tissue.
So, you might be wondering – if essential oils don’t have nicotine, why can’t I vape them? In addition to the reasons mentioned above, I’d also like to point out that while most vapes are made of glass and metal pieces, some pieces may be made of plastic and rubber which essential oils can eat away at, causing corrosion and plastic materials to leak into the e-juice. It shouldn’t be a surprise that inhaling corroded plastic particles is incredibly toxic. Vapes alone have also been shown to induce oxidative stress. Last but not least, because essential oils are oil soluble, they will not mix properly in a typical e-juice base – which means that pure, undiluted essential oils would be inhaled directly into your lungs.
How to choose a high-quality essential oil brand
Although they possess many great benefits, it is important to recognize that the quality and purity of the essential oil plays a significant role in its therapeutic value and safety, especially when diffusing them. The quality of the oil can be compromised as a result of the growing conditions of the plants, distillation and manufacturing processes, distribution, and even storage.
Furthermore, because quality control of essential oils do not currently exist in the U.S., it is important to keep a few considerations in mind when selecting a good brand:
- The essential oil comes from high-quality organic plants (as the quality of the oils can be negatively impacted by pesticide use, other chemicals, and soil conditions)
- The essential oil is pure (as some oils have been diluted with vegetable oil)
- The essential oil is sold in dark amber or glue glass bottles (which will prevent unfiltered light in entering and spoiling the oil)
- The essential oil is priced right (pricing practices suggest that oils can be of low quality—the price of an oil is based on how much of the raw material is needed to create it)
Our personal favorite brand is Rocky Mountain Oils, since all of their oils are sourced from organic practices and pass extensive third-party testing.
Hope this was helpful!