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Diffusers generally vaporize and disperse essential oils directly into the air, to suppress unwanted smells and also to use essential oils that promote physical and emotional health. There are many different kinds of diffusers available.
Electric diffusers are powered by a pump (like the kind you find in an aquarium) with an attached tube that goes into a glass container with the essential oil.
One popular type of manual diffuser is a "light ring," a plastic ring that sits atop a standard light bulb; the heat of the bulb disseminates the oil on the ring into the air.
Another is a candle diffuser, which comes with a ceramic jar or holder for the oil, and a candle to heat the oil. Manual diffusers are generally less expensive but not always as effective. Some trial and error might be needed to find the diffuser that best works for you.
"I find the candle ones are the easiest to use," says Barbara Close, a certified aromatherapist and founder and owner of Naturopathica, a holistic spa in East Hampton, New York, "but if you use any of the citrus oils, they tend to be sticky when the candle burns down. Stick with clean scents like lavender or peppermint." For electric diffusers and light rings, be sure to follow the manufacturer's specific instructions.Candles
In recent years, the growth and availability of good quality aromatherapy candles has replaced the popularity of diffusers. When choosing an aromatherapy candle, make sure the product is crafted from pure essential oils for the most therapeutic effect. To make the candle last longer, you can try freezing it before use. Allow the candle to burn at least one or two hours the first time you light it to give the essential oils a chance to be released. Keep the wick trimmed to about one-fourth of an inch for a cleaner burn.Potpourri, Incense, and Room Sprays
Experts caution that many of the potpourri and incense products on the market today are synthetic and will not give the therapeutic effect of pure essential oils. (In addition, allergic reactions are more common with synthetic than natural products.) Unless fragrance is your only concern, you will want to spend the money for better-quality, pure products. Give the same attention and focus when buying other products like room sprays and pillow mists, reading labels carefully for ingredients.
Some (or much) commercial incense contains perfume, bamboo stick, or lighter fluid -- all potential irritants for people with sensitive systems. Some small companies make natural, botanical incense, but they are few and far between. If you've got your heart set on using incense but need an irritant-free product, you might try making your own.
When using a spray or mist, also use some common sense and a light touch; don't saturate materials with the spray. First test the spray or mist on a piece of paper or a dishcloth. When you use it on a pillow, just do a couple of sprits. If the product is made of essential oils, they are light and evaporate easily so it should not stain pillows or fabric. But be aware: Some synthetic oils could cause stains. Rocca-Lundstrom suggests looking for water-based products or products with the smallest amount of alcohol; these are the least likely to stain.
It is possible, though unusual, to have an allergic reaction to an aromatherapy product or ingredient. As with any product careful use, reading any instructions or warnings, and not going overboard are the best things you can do to avoid problems.
If a product is made of pure essential oil, people are less sensitive to it. Synthetic fragrances, however, may present more problems, as people tend to be more allergic to synthetic materials in general.
Keep track of materials or ingredients you've had past reactions to, and read labels carefully. If you develop a reaction, such as sneezing, a rash, or any type of breathing problem, discontinue use of the product and consult your doctor.
Aroma Naturals carries a complete line of pure essential oil aromatherapy candles ($8.50 and up) as well as non-aerosol, nontoxic, pure essential-oil air fresheners ($4.70 to $7). Also popular are their personal purifiers ($7.80), a blend of 10 essential oils with purifying properties that serve as a natural alternative to an antibacterial product; it's also good for helping clear stuffed-up sinuses. The company plans to launch a new line of aromatherapy bath and body products soon. Call 800-462-7662 or visit.
Naturopathica, a full-service, holistic spa in East Hampton, New York, sells pure essential oils, infused herbal and carrier oils, natural remedies, botanical skin care, and more. Call 800-669-7618 or visit.
Williams-Sonoma has a new line of aromatherapy kitchen products, including bar soap, dish soap, and more in Meyer lemon, basil, rosemary, or lavender scents ($8 to $33); and window wash, countertop cleaner, and floor cleaner with lavender and pine or Meyer lemon and mint ($9 to $12). Williams-Sonoma also offers lavender potpourri that's made of whole lavender buds from Provence accented with lavender essential oil ($19.50). Call 800-541-2233 or visit.
Lather is a Southern California-based retailer of all kinds of natural aromatherapy products for the body and home. For example, Lather carries a calming Moroccan rose and lavender room spray ($17) and a wide variety of aromatherapy candles ($4.50 to $18) with a vegetable-based wax that burns more slowly than conventional beeswax candles. The company will also custom-blend their bath and body products with the essential oils of your choice. Call 877-652-8437 or visit.
Avalon Natural Products uses certified organic floral waters and pure plant essential oils in their natural products for the body and home. They carry the popular Tisserand Aromatherapy line that includes a lavender wheat cushion (heat or freeze and apply to sore muscles or joints as an alternative to a hot-water bottle or chilled compress; $24.95), vaporizing light ring ($5.95), ceramic candle diffuser ($12.95), and even a remedies chart detailing which essential oil can help with what ailment ($12.95). Call 800-227-5120 or visit.
Illuminations, a retailer of candles and home accessories, has a new line of spa candles ($1.95 to $19.95) made from essential oils like tangerine lavender, lemon verbena, and lime basil tea. Each scent is offered in filled frosted jar candles in three sizes, a travel tin, and pillar candles. Call 800-226-3537 or visit.
Upscale online retailer RedEnvelope.com carries a number of aromatherapy-related items in their Spa section, including an aromatherapy gift set ($45) perfect for beginners. The set includes a candle, copper ritual plate, five aromatherapy oils (ylang-ylang, lavender, orange, sandalwood, and eucalyptus), an oil dropper, and a ritual beach pebble for balancing energy. The incense trio ($30) comes with three fragrances (lavender, honeysuckle, and sandalwood) and a holder that keeps ash neatly deposited and off furniture. Call 877-733-3683 or visit.
Find instructions for making your own incense at the following Web sites:
This site offers two books on how to make incense, as well as kits and other materials: