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Essential Oil Vaporizer vs Diffuser

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Essential oils are some of the most popular tools to use when it comes to living a natural lifestyle. They’re similar to incense, but you’re not dealing with smoke and the potential harms there.

In most cases, essential oils need to be evaporated in some way. Two of the more common ways to expel essential oils are vaporizers and diffusers.

In this article, we’ll look at Essential Oil Vaporizer Vs Diffuser, and explain what these terms mean. The long and short of it is that most manufacturers refer to machines that turn essential oil into nice-smelling mist as various items, including diffusers, vaporizers, nebulizers, humidifiers, etc. There’s tons of overlap in these terms, and most amazon listings through multiple variations in the descriptions.

We’ll try to break it all down here. But first, we’ll start with a short introduction to essential oils, and then we’ll discuss vaporizing and diffusing.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are hydrophobic liquids taken from plants. These compounds not only have aromatic properties, but numerous healing powers as well. To extract essential oils from a plant you must either use a distillation process or cold-press it.

Because essential oils tend to be very strong, they sometimes need to be diluted in a carrier oil, like coconut oil or jojoba oil. See our overview of essential oil starter kits to get oriented.

The Benefits of Using Essential Oils

Essential Oil and Light

There are plenty of benefits that come with using essential oils. 

They Improve Your Mood

One of the biggest benefits of using essential oils is that they can boost your mood. This is because they trick your brain’s stress and emotional receptors to be more positive. In other words, when you smell essential oils, their scent makes its way to the brain’s limbic system which is where memories and emotions are stored.

It then influences that system to be more positive which boosts your mood and makes you motivated. Some of the top essential oils for this are bergamot, rosemary, and ylang-ylang. 

They Work to Reduce Tension

Fingers on Water

Another unique benefit of essential oils is that they reduce tension. Our body can become overwhelmed with worries which can cause us to tense our muscles too much, something which can sometimes result in pain.

Essential oils work to calm the body by encouraging it to relax. Because of this, essential oils are often used in anxiety and stress treatments. 

They Can Help with Digestion

You might be surprised to learn that essential oils can help with improving your digestion. Essential oils like ginger and fennel not only improve the functioning of the digestive tract, but can reduce nausea.

They can also stop and heal stomach spasms, heartburn, and constipation.

They can Improve Sinuses

 This is a big one, especially for vaporizer users. If your sinuses are clogged, essential oils can really help. Eucalyptus is especially good in this case and is commonly used in saunas.

They Encourage Better Sleep

peaceful sleep

Essential oils can also encourage you to have a better night’s sleep. This is because they relax the body by calming the nervous system. Because essential oils are so powerful in doing this, many have been used to treat insomnia. 

What is an Essential Oil Vaporizer?

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Vaporizers heat water using an electric heating element. The water is heated into steam, which then floats into the room, or is inhaled directly as is the case here. The Vicks Vaporizer shown above is designed for Vicks packets, but many people add essential oils to the vaporizer instead.

The unit above produces actual water vapor by heating the water. The confusion comes when sellers describe room diffusers and humidifier as vaporizers.

What is an Essential Oil Diffuser?

Exqline Large Diffuser for Essential Oils

An essential oil diffuser is typically a larger tool that needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet (or sometimes car outlet, in the case of car diffusers). Essential oil diffusers typically don’t heat the water to turn it into steam, but rather diffuse the water and oil into the air without heating it into steam.

Many find diffusers to be helpful in office environments, and larger units can handle large rooms.

Essential Oil Vaporizer Vs Diffuser

The confusion comes when sellers on sites like Amazon throw every word under the sun in their description in order to get more clicks. For example, here’s a listing for an Asakuki diffuser

ASAKUKI 500ml Premium, Essential Oil Diffuser with Remote Control, 5 in 1 Ultrasonic Aromatherapy...
  • PATENTED WATER BAFFLE: With the upgraded...
  • BPA FREE MATERIAL: The diffuser is made...

Last update on 2022-06-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

We’ve got ultrasonic, diffuser, vaporizer, and humidifier all on the same listing. The bottom line with this unit is that it uses water mixed with essential oil, and that oil is ultrasonically diffused into the room. The oil is not heated in this case, unlike the Vicks personal vaporizer above.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re interested in investing in either of these options. Below are some tips you can use to determine the right one for your needs. 

Resperatory Issues

If you’ve got respiratory issues, you’ll probably want a vaporizer compatible with essential oils. A diffuser doesn’t produce hot water vapor, and won’t do much to combat those clogged sinuses. But a vaporizer, especially a personal one, will make a big difference when it comes to loosening phlegm.

How Strong You Want the Scent

One thing you should consider is how strong you want the essential oil scent to be. If you prefer a powerful scent a diffuser might be ideal. This is because a diffuser can hold more oil and will emit more steam into the air filling it with the essential oil.

On the other hand, if you want just small whiffs of the essential oil, a vaporizer is probably the tool to use. A vaporizer can only hold a few drops of the essential oil and usually only runs for a few minutes. 

Do You Want Hot or Room Temperature

Many use vaporizers with essential oils to help loosen sinuses, as the warm steam is more effective than room-temperature diffused water. See our article on essential oils for bronchitis and cough for more details.

Personal or Room-Scale Essential Oils

IF you’re looking to inhale essential oils, you’ll want a personal vaporizer. If you want to expel essential oils into a room, you’ll want to stick with a humidifier, diffuser, or nebulizer.

Basically, if you want something that is a substitute for incense, you’ll want a diffuser of some sort.


Another thing to consider is the safety of the device. While these two are pretty safe to use, they do have safety precautions you need to be aware of. For instance, for both devices, you need to be careful when putting the essential oils into them. If the oil directly touches your skin, it could cause severe irritation (this depends on the oil, of course!).

Additionally, if a vaporizer is producing hot water, there is a risk of burns if the vaporizer is spilled or knocked over.


Essential oils are a great tool to use not only for relaxation purposes but for numerous health issues as well. By keeping the tips mentioned above in mind, you’ll be able to invest in the right device to use for releasing their powerful healing properties. Many wonder about essential oil vaporizers vs diffusers, and it is unfortunately many manufactures use the terms interchangeably.