There are many airborne contaminants floating around our indoor air that cause illness. Viruses, fungi, bacteria, and toxic particulates make our air less then fresh. In recent years, many people have turned to essential oil diffusers because they believe it kills the pathogenic microbes found in indoor air. The problem with this idea is that the 1000’s of studies demonstrating antimicrobial actions of essential oils are not airborne measurements. Identifying an essential oil’s in vitro actions or topical antimicrobial activities does not translate to how effective it will be against microbes in the air.
Fortunately, in the past few years, researchers have begun to create lab environments to test the antimicrobial actions of essential oils in the air. Certain essential oils have shown promise against airborne pathogens. Research has only just begun in this field, and it is also important to figure out the safe dosage amount for humans and pets. In other words, research needs to answer the question: What is the correct dosage to kill microbes without harming people and pets?
Too much essential oil diffusion actually contaminates the air. Excessive exposure to essential oils diffused in our air can lead to respiratory issues like bronchial constriction, asthma attacks, and increased mucus production. Other health concerns are skin sensitizations, cardiac issues, neurotoxic reactions such as seizures, and psychological issues like increased symptoms of anxiety. In extreme cases of airborne overdose, death can occur. Sadly, very small children and pets are the most susceptible.
With essential oils, a very small amount goes a long way and experts in the aromatherapy industry share the phrase: less is more, to describe safe use of essential oils. Each oil has a therapeutic margin, where the correct dose is healthful, but an amount exceeding the therapeutic margin can be hazardous. For example, bergamot is considered a calming essential oil. In a recent study of 100 spa workers in Taiwan, inhaling bergamot essential oil for one hour reduced their blood pressure. But they were exposed to the aroma all day, and inhaling beyond one hour, actually began increasing their blood pressure, potentially having a negative effect on their cardiac health.
Use your diffuser sparingly, for less than one hour at a time. Do not diffuse in a small enclosed space. Certainly do not leave a diffuser on all day long at risk of overexposure! In a cool mist diffuser, use about one drop of essential oil per ounce of water. Make a blend with three to six of the following essential oils: pine, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, oregano, thyme, lemon, and anise. Decrease this amount with children based on body weight. Avoid diffusing around babies. With pets, offer them an escape route to a room that does not have any essential oil aroma, especially with cats as they are more affected than dogs and overexposure can lead to death.