Many of us who use essential oils in diffuser, complain about the scent fading away after a few minutes of starting the diffusion process. Not only that, many of the essential oil diffuser manuals remind us to use water soluble essential oils with their diffusers for best results. Unfortunately, there is not so much content available in open about water soluble essential oils. There are a few companies selling water soluble essential oils as well. But many people remain unconvinced about such oils containing harmful chemicals and harmful to health. In this post, I take a detailed look at water soluble essential oils.
What are water soluble essential oils?
Before we start our discussions about water soluble oils, let us recap our high school science. Oil floats on water. It does not mix freely with other liquids like water. A common example of something that mixes well with water is alcohol. It mixes with water in all proportions. Oil floats in water because the density of water and essential oils are both different. Essential oils are lighter than water, and hence float on water. However hard we try to mix things, it will float on top.
If the science says so, how are water soluble essential oils possible? It is possible because of some clever chemistry. The mixing properties of oils can be altered. Many people suspect that such oils also contain added chemicals which give the oil water soluble property and are harmful to human beings.
However, this is not the case, every time. It is possible to change the properties of essential oils without adding harmful chemicals to it.
Why additives are added to essential oils?
There are many reasons to add additives to essential oils. Additives may reduce:
- Viscosity of the oil
- Surface tension of the oil
- Skin irritation from oils like orange and grapefruit peel oil
How to dissolve essential oils in water?
There are many ways to make water soluble essential oils. However, not all of them produce effective mix of essential oils and water upon mixing. The manufacturer may add either organic or inorganic compounds to the essential oil to improve the water solubility. The effect of addition depends on the compound added.
One of those organic additive is alcohol. Alcohol, can improve the water solubility of essential oils in the water. In some cases, a mix of multiple alcohols are added to achieve the desired effect.
Another method is to add plant based emulsifiers. Coconut based emulsifiers are one of those emulsifiers which improves the water solubility. Most plant based emulsifiers do not alter the chemical properties of the essential oil. It is worth noting that essential oils mixed with plant based emulsifiers do not make the oils water soluble. Rather, they improve the solubility. You may still find deposits of essential oils floating on top of the fluid mixture.
There are many other combinations which are available. Many manufacturers do not disclose the additives in their essential oils. Some other additives, while improving the solubility, changes the appearance of the mixture. The resulting solution may not be clear and transparent.
Benefits of water soluble essential oils for diffusers
Essential oils are never meant for internal consumption. It is dangerous to both humans and pets, if taken inside in sufficient quantities. However, with essential oil diffusers, the amount of essential oil reaching inside is very minimal. Here is how.
- Atomization converts essential oil water mixture to mist
- Mist mixes with atmospheric air
- Humans inhale the scented air
The amount of essential oils in the mist is low. When it further reaches our body, after getting mixed with atmospheric air, the amount of essential oil is minuscule. However, any external body entering our body causes some effects. So the essential oils also cause some effects. Even if you inhale something like Vicks™, it causes some effects. Some of the effects produced by external agents are on the beneficial side while some others are not. Most of the time the benefits outweigh the undesired effects. Similar is the case with essential oils.
In case of usage in diffusers, there is an advantage of using water soluble essential oils. With pure essential oils in diffusers, the oil floats on the surface of the water. The ultrasonic atomization causes floating essential oil drops to atomize fast. This is the reason why you would notice the aroma effect fading away fast. In addition, some of the atomized particles stick to the top lid of the diffusers. In such cases, the entire essential oils added may not reach you.
As I said earlier, there is an undesired effect of other particles entering your body as well. However, in normal use cases, the effects are negligible and the positive effects outweigh the negative ones. Some people may become uncomfortable with added compounds. Such people may evaluate other brands of oils which are water soluble. While they are good for use with diffusers, they are not good for use with nebulizers for obvious reasons.