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Is It Safe to Vape Essential Oils?

The safety and long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or other vaping products still aren’t well known. In September 2019, federal and state health authorities began investigating an outbreak of a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarettes and other vaping products . We’re closely monitoring the situation and will update our content as soon as more information is available.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor from a vape pen or e-cigarette, which are two terms used to describe electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).

Amid all the controversy regarding their safety, some people looking for a healthier alternative have started vaping essential oils.

Essential oils are aromatic compounds extracted from plants. They’re inhaled or diluted and applied to the skin to treat a number of ailments.

Products for vaping essential oils are still very new. Makers of these products claim that you can reap all the benefits of aromatherapy by vaping essential oils, but should you do it?

We asked Dr. Susan Chiarito to weigh in on the risks and benefits of vaping essential oils.

Chiarito is a family physician in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians‘ Commission on Health of the Public and Science, where she’s actively involved in tobacco policy development and cessation advocacy.

Diffuser sticks, also called personal diffusers, are aromatherapy vape pens. They use a combination of essential oils, water, and vegetable glycerin that, when heated, creates a cloud of aromatherapy vapor.

Essential oil vape pens don’t contain nicotine, but even vaping without nicotine can be risky.

Asked if vaping essential oils is safe, Chiarito warned that, “Essential oils are a volatile organic compound (VOC) that when heated over 150 to 180° Fahrenheit can convert to abnormal compounds that can be damaging to our lungs, mouth, teeth, and nose on contact with the burning compound.”

While people heat essential oils in diffusers at home for aromatherapy and to add fragrance to their surroundings, they’re not heated to a high enough temperature to cause problems.

Essential oils can still trigger an allergic reaction, though, said Chiarito. She also pointed out that a person can develop an allergy at any time.

Essential oil vape pens are very new, and there isn’t any research available on vaping essential oils specifically.

According to Chiarito, the side effects of vaping essential oils depend on the oil used, and may include:

  • coughing
  • bronchospasm
  • aggravation of asthma
  • itching
  • swelling of the throat

The long-term effects of vaping aren’t fully understood. That’s even less so for vaping essential oils.

Chiarito believes long-term use could cause symptoms similar to any other type of inhaled product in the lungs, including worsening asthma, chronic bronchitis, frequent lung infections, and immune changes from frequent infections.

While there’s evidence of the benefits of aromatherapy and certain essential oils, there’s currently no proof that vaping essential oil — or vaping anything for that matter — has any benefits.

Chiarito advises waiting for evidence-based research that shows the safety and benefits to a person before trying it. Anyone who’s considering vaping should be aware of the potential dangers.

Chiarito and most experts agree that while nicotine is less safe to vape due to its addictive potential, vaping in general isn’t safe.

Even without nicotine, e-cigarettes and diffuser sticks may contain other potentially dangerous substances. There’s evidence that many of these substances have some level of health risk.

E-cigarette aerosol often contains flavoring chemicals that have been linked to lung disease, metals like lead, and other cancer-causing agents.

Vaping is often advertised as an effective way to quit smoking. Though the results of some studies suggest that this is the case, more evidence exists to the contrary.

There’s limited evidence that they’re an effective tool for helping smokers quit. Neither e-cigarettes nor essential oil vaping pens are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a smoking cessation aid.

As there’s currently no research available on the effects of vaping essential oils, avoiding vaping any essential oil is your best bet. Even essential oils that are generally considered safe for inhalation have the potential to change and become toxic when heated for vaping.

Along with nicotine, other chemicals commonly used in vaping liquid that are known to cause respiratory irritation and other side effects include:

  • propylene glycol
  • methyl cyclopentenolone
  • acetyl pyrazine
  • ethyl vanillin
  • diacetyl

Some e-cigarette and personal diffuser makers have started adding vitamins to their formulations. Vitamins certainly can be beneficial, but there’s no evidence that vaping vitamins has any benefits.

Many vitamins must be absorbed through the digestive tract to work, and absorbing them through the lungs may have more problems than benefits. Like with other substances in vaping liquids, heating them could create chemicals that weren’t there originally.

There’s no research available on vaping essential oils, and personal diffusers haven’t been around long enough to know what the long-term effects may be.

Until enough research is done on what chemicals are created when essential oils are heated for vaping and how they affect your health, you’re better off limiting your use of essential oils to aromatherapy in home diffusers, spritzers, and bath and body products.

Until enough research is done on what chemicals are created when essential oils are heated for vaping and how they affect your health, you’re better off limiting your use of essential oils to aromatherapy.

Vaporizer Buying Guide – Herbs, Oils or Waxes?

Before you buy your first vaporizer, it is worthwhile to consider whether you want to use it solely for dry herbal blends, or whether you also want to be able to incorporate essential oils and waxes.

There are many vaporizers on the market that claim to be able to vaporize all three, but the truth is that these vapes generally cannot deliver consistently good results accross all three materials. This is because dry herb and liquids require dramatically different conditions to vaporize and effectively release their active compounds. For this reason, many people invest in pen-style vaporizers that claim to be able to vaporize dry herbs and oils, and find that while their oils perform well, their herbs are being burned by the element inside.

If you think you may want to use your vaporizer with dry herb as well as oils and concentrates, there are some things to consider, including:

  • The difference between herbs, oils and waxes
  • Flavour and potency
  • Ease of use

The Difference Between Herbs, Oils and Waxes

There are distinct differences between dry herb, essential oils and waxes when it comes to how each one vaporizes and the types of results they produce. Dry herb, as expected, is a dried herbal blend or tea, whereas an essential oil is a concentration of the herb’s active properties inside a viscose liquid. Waxes, as the name suggests, are very thick and sticky in consistency and are super concentrated. They are often the most potent choice.

Generally speaking, dry herb is much more volatile than liquid preparations, and requires much gentler and more consistent heating to vaporize effectively. Oils and waxes are often placed directly onto a red hot titanium nail or metal coil, which completely melts away the liquid and releases vapour. Because these preparations are liquid in nature, there is no risk of combusting them like with dry plant matter. This is why so many people who invest in vape pens find their herb combusting – the coil used is just too harsh to vaporize dry herb.

Similarly, most oils and waxes will not perform to their fullest potential inside a dedicated herbal vaporizer. For starters, placing a liquid or wax directly inside your herb chamber can ruin your device! The last thing you want is to ruin your expensive vape by getting liquid inside the electronics, which will void the warranty. Secondly, most herbal vapes run at lower temperatures that may not get high enough to vaporize oils, so it is definitely worth investing in a vaporizer with a high max. temperature if you want to be able to use concentrates inside it.

As the popularity of oils and concentrates expands, more vaporizers are incorporating accessories such as liquid pads and special oils chambers that can be placed inside your herbal vaporizer’s existing chamber. There are more and more options to customise your favourite vape and make it suitable for enjoying different materials.

Flavour & Potency

One of the key differences between herbs, waxes and oils is the comparative potency of the three different mediums. Oils and concentrates are both made using the same ingredients that are found in their herbal counterparts, but they’re often distilled three or four times during the manufacturing process, which means that they tend to contain a much higher percentage of the volatile aromatic compounds responsible for their special effects.

This means that the more-concentrated waxes and oils tend to deliver a much greater impact than their herbal cousins, irrespective of whether that effect is encouraging relaxation, managing stress levels, or enhancing your mood.

In fact, scientific analysis suggests that oils and concentrates are around 20-30% more potent than herbal preparations.Dry herbs and oils can also be used together, so don’t be afraid to find ways to mix them (safely) inside your chamber!

There are also some differences between the kind of flavours that you can expect from herbs, oils and concentrates that may well have an impact on the kind of vaporizer that you choose, especially if you’re looking for a very particular or specific type of vaping experience.

Oils and waxes tend to have a much more intense flavour, due to the fact they’re more concentrated than dried blends. In fact, many people report finding the flavour of some oils and concentrates ‘overwhelmingly rich’ at first, although it doesn’t take long to adapt to the enhanced taste.

Dried blends tend to have a much more mellow and more floral profile that tends to be preferrable to people used to the traditional combustion experience.

Ease of Use

Another important factor to consider is ease of use. Do you want to be able to just fill the chamber and go, or are you someone who doesn’t mind tinkering with and customising their vape to make it suitable for more than just dried herb?

If you are a tinkerer at heart, then there are ways to enhance your experience by using things like organic cotton wool or special concentrates attachments for your herbal vaporizer. Most people choose this option to start out with, as it is a lot cheaper to buy a simple accessory than to buy a whole new vaporizer for essential oils and waxes. Most people also want to just be able to use one device for all their herbal preparations, rather than having to switch between different vapes for different substances.

If this is you, it is worth doing a lot of research on the manufacturer’s website and various online forums before choosing a vape. Is it designed for use with oils and concentrates or just dry herb? Does the manufacturer make accessories and attachments for different substances, or are they available from other retailers? Have other users had positive experiences using this particular vaporizer for oils and waxes?

Users are always coming up with techniques to improve and enhance their vaporizing experience, but if you want to be able to use your vape with a variety of substances straight out of the box, then you are better off choosing a vaporizer designed to handle multiple materials at once, such as the Haze.

Top 5 Vaporizers for Oils/Concentrates

Read more about the best vaporizers for oils and concentrates.

Read On Herbs, Oils or Concentrates? Before you buy your first vaporizer, it is worthwhile to consider whether you want to use it solely for dry herbal blends, or whether you also want to be able to incorporate essential oils and waxes. There are many vaporizers on the market that claim to be able to vaporize all thre ]]>