The Question

Essential Oils are all the rage right now!  But, by golly, how do you use them?  Not only how do you use them, but how do you use them safely? 

“Essential Oils are the volatile (meaning they evaporate easily), sometimes colorless, non-oily, and insoluble in water (they do not dissolve in water) substances that are extracted from plant material using either steam or water distillation or expression.” (Peterson; 2016)

The fact that essential oils are volatile is of great importance as the fastest way for the therapeutic chemical constituents to enter your blood stream is through your nasal mucosa. 

Nasal Mucosa

What the heck does that mean?!?!

Inside your nose is an area, about the size of a postage stamp, where all of the odors that you inhale begin to be processed.  There are about 40-million sensory neurons, in this tiny area, that detect fragrance.


Some people have lost their sense of smell.  Have you ever had a sinus cold?  Did you lose your sense of smell during that time? (as I write this, I’m recovering from an upper respiratory infection and I cannot smell a thing!)  That is what is known as Acute Anosmia and it only lasts for a time.  I have a friend, a firefighter, whose breathing apparatus failed him during a rescue and he’s lost his sense of smell permanently: He has Chronic Anosmia.  Now, just because people with Anosmia cannot smell, does not mean that they cannot inhale…right?  They can still use their nose, they just don’t get the added bonus of smelling (well, that could be a good thing too).  So, even if you can’t smell, you CAN reap the benefits of essential oils.


Passive vs. Active Diffusion

Whenever you think of diffusion, what do you see in your mind’s eye?  I think most people see the diffusers that blow out “steam/smoke.”  Am I right?  There are actually two main types of diffusion; passive and active.  

Active Diffusion

The one that most people are familiar with is active diffusion.  In active diffusion, the molecules in the essential oils are picked up in water droplets and dispersed throughout the air.  I like to think of watering my plants; I turn on the hose and force water through the nozzle onto the plants.  They’re getting watered in an active way.


Passive Diffusion

In passive diffusion, you are simply allowing the molecules of the essential oil to evaporate into the air.  A light ring, an aromatherapy candle, reed diffusers, stone/lava rock/necklace diffusers, etc.  For this I like to think of watering my plants with a soaker hose; I turn on the hose and the water seeps through the hose onto the ground.  The plants are getting watered in a passive way. 

Great, so now there’s even more information about diffusing! 
I’m still not sure what to do with this bottle I have in my hand

DANGER (Will Robinson)

Ok, a couple of safety concerns before we get to the good stuff! 

Essential oils are made up of chemical constituents.  Yes, chemicals!  I shake my head whenever I read an IG post or FB post or something on the internet where people are besmirching putting chemicals on their bodies and choosing a natural option like essential oils. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re choosing a natural option, but essential oils are made up of chemical constituents also.  They are chemicals!  

Just because it’s natural does not mean it is completely free of harm which is why I always, always, ALWAYS tell people to seek out the advice of a Registered Aromatherapist before using essential oils.  Keeping that in mind, it’s really important that you don’t overload your body with the chemical constituents found in essential oils. 

Another thing to remember is that just because you can’t smell the aroma of the oil you put into/onto your diffuser
does not mean that it’s not working! 
Remember Anosmia?  You can totally have temporary Anosmia. 

If that postage stamp inside your nose becomes overwhelmed with a particular scent it will stop recognizing it for a time. 

Have you ever smelled someone before you even see them? 
Like, they have so much perfume on that you’re surprised they’re not face down with a headache!  That’s temporary Anosmia; they can’t smell that smell because they’ve overwhelmed their senses.  It’s the same with essential oils.  You may not be able to smell them because your nose has decided that it doesn’t need to register that scent anymore…at least for that day.

Finally, always and only use undiluted essential oils in/on your diffusers. The base oils that are used to dilute your oils will destroy your diffusers whether they are active or passive.

When Should You Use Active Diffusion vs. Passive Diffusion?

I’m glad you asked! I like to actively diffuse if anyone in my house is struggling with some kind of bug, cold, or infection.  

 I like to diffuse essential oils that could target those issues; diffusing in the bedroom while sleeping, putting a diffuser next to your chair as you read, or simply in the room that you’re hanging out in while nursing your cold.  Active diffusion spreads the essential oil constituents out over a large area just like the hose watering the garden; I want to force those essential oil molecules into the air so that everyone can receive the benefit of the chemical constituents.

I like to use passive diffusion for when I want to receive the benefits gently; like when I have a headache or nausea or even for simply adding a scent into the air.  I have a passive diffuser in my car, at my desk and a light ring.  If you have company coming over, some passive diffusers set up strategically will add a lovely ambiance and isn’t as forceful as an active diffuser might be.  **Some people are really put off by an active diffuser thinking that you’re pumping the air full of things they might be allergic to.**  (side note; most people who struggle with scent allergies are allergic to synthetic fragrances)

Passive diffusion is also a great option if you have pets in your home. Check out our pet safety presentation here.

Don’t Overwhelm Your Body

The thing that’s important to remember, whether you choose to actively or passively diffuse, is DON’T OVERWHELM YOUR BODY. . 

  • For your active diffuser, in general, add no more than 4 drops; those 4 drops are being spun around and thrown about then spit out into the air into microscopic particles that will last the entire time your diffuser runs. 
  • For your passive diffuser add no more than 4 drops; those 4 drops will slowly evaporate over a 24-hour period. 
  • Your Registered Aromatherapist may give you different instructions regarding the amount of essential oil to use for what you’re struggling with- ALWAYS err on the side of caution.

**really cool thing about passive diffusion, throughout the evaporation process, if you’re diffusing a blend of oils, you will notice different aspects of the blend throughout the day depending on what your sense of smell picks up at any given time…seriously, really cool!**

So, just keep in mind, whether you’re actively or passively diffusing, those chemical constituents are entering your blood stream through your nasal mucosa and it takes time for your body to clear those chemical constituents out.  You can overdo it with essential oils.  When that happens, your body becomes toxic and that’s not a good thing.

True Story

My oldest son asked me about diffusing once.  He told me about a family friend who “diffused all the time” and, yet, they were always sick.  Now, I’m not a medical doctor (and I don’t play one on TV), but if they really are diffusing all the time, they could be doing more harm than good.  Our bodies need time to clear out and detox whether they are natural or synthetic chemicals that we are ingesting.  (One of my cornerstone beliefs is that “Our bodies heal themselves.” You should be looking to essential oils when your body needs some help figuring out how to re-balance)

 OK, So Let’s Get Down to the Nitty-Gritty! 

You now know how to diffuse; WHAT should you diffuse?  Remember, you should always diffuse undiluted essential oils.  Geez, now what???!!!

FYI: The market for essential oils is not regulated.  Anyone can sell them and label them pure and therapeutic.  So, how do you know what oils to buy?  I always suggest contacting a Registered Aromatherapist for their opinion, but since you’re one of my peeps now, I’m going to give you a list of trusted sources and a list of some of my favorite oils to diffuse!

My Top 5 Trusted Suppliers

DISCLAIMER- I do not receive any compensation for mentioning any of these companies.  I just like the quality of what they sell and you can purchase oils that are not diluted.  I am not a fan of MLMs as I do not know the quality of the essential oils they sell and many of them are diluted for safety.

The Apothecary Shoppe
Aromatics International
Nature’s Gift
Mountain Rose Herbs
Desrosiers International

My Top 5 Essential Oils to Diffuse

  • Eucalyptus (E. globulus)- for the most obvious of reasons; it is an expectorant and also good for asthma, bronchitis, and all kinds of respiratory and viral infections 
  • Lavender (L. angustifolia)- A great antidepressant, sedative and is hypotensive, so if you’re stressed…
  • Peppermint (M. piperita)- so good for asthma, bronchitis, colds and cough.  Also helps to fight mental fatigue.
  • Lemon (C. limonum)- An excellent anti-bacterial, disinfectant and expectorant.
  • Thieves- Now, this is a blend of Cinnamon (C zeylanicum), Clove (S. aromaticum), Lemon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary (R. officinalis).  If you’ve never experienced Thieves, I highly suggest heading over to the Apothecary Shoppe and picking up a bottle.  Legend has it that there were some grave robbers during the time of the Black Plague who never got sick because they used a concoction of herbs and spices.  They were guaranteed lenience if they would share their secret and the Three Thieves blend was born.  This is a POWER HOUSE!  I use it for deep cleaning, diffusing, gentle cleaning etc.

OK, now it’s your turn!  Pull out your favorite active or passive diffuser, drop on 4 drops of your favorite undiluted essential oil, breathe deep and enjoy!

Let me know how you liked this reference.  Maybe I missed something that you’d like to know.  


Petersen, D. (2016). Aromatherapy materia medica: Essential oil monographs. Portland, Oregon: American College of Healthcare Sciences.

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