How Long Should You Diffuse Essential Oils?

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Essential oils are natural oils extracted from the rinds, leaves, nuts, roots, petals, leaves, or bark of a plant; distilling the essence through a cold-press method or steam distillation. These aromatic oils have many uses but the most popular is to inhale the scent for its calming and therapeutic properties. The safe way to inhale essential oils is to use a diffuser

How long should you diffuse essential oils? Essential oils can be diffused throughout the day on an intermittent schedule. It is recommended to diffuse for 30 to 60 minutes on, then for 30 to 60 off.  This is because our bodies get used to the oil. When the body is acclimatized, the positive effects of essential oils are decreased. Alternate between diffusing and letting fresh air circulate is advisable to get the most out of the benefits of using essential oils.

Is It Safe To Diffuse Essential Oils?

The use of essential oils is generally safe when safety guidelines are followed. It is important to remember these safety tips when diffusing oils to ensure that its benefits are maximized.

  • Do dilute essential oils in carrier oil or water before use.
  • Do not diffuse for more than  60 minutes at a time.
  • Do place the diffuser as high up as possible so the oil mist falls down through the air.
  • Do not use too many combinations of oils to avoid overwhelming your senses.
  • Do let your body and mind get used to the essentials oils. Start with 15 minutes and increase in increments of 5 minutes daily.
  • Do take note of how your body reacts to the essential oils you diffuse.
  • Do not fall for lower-priced essential oils. With essential oils, you get what you pay for. Quality is compromised with the lower-priced alternatives as it has additives and is not really pure. The distillation process may also be suspect and not follow safety standards.
  • Do check with your doctor for contraindications with any medication you are taking and/or conditions you might be enduring.
  • Do not use essential oils directly on the skin or ingest it. Although safe, people react differently to skin contact. Perform a patch test to check for sensitivity. Ingestion is not advised as some of the oils are not food grade. For food-grade essential oils, again it is highly advised to check with your medical professional to see if it will have any negative effects with any medication you are taking.
  • Do take caution and consider the age of who will be using the essential oils. The elderly and babies are highly sensitive and may react with rashes, hives, or have respiratory difficulties when exposed to higher concentrations of essential oils.
  • Do not expose pets to essential oils as it is very toxic to them. Animals have an enhanced sense of smell and exposure to essential oils with strong scents will be overwhelming for them. Pets also cannot properly metabolize the compounds in essentials oils and may die from poisoning if exposed to these compounds.

Is Diffusing Overnight Safe?

Robert Tisserand, one of the world’s leading aromatherapy experts, suggests intermittent diffusion of 30 to 60 minutes followed by 30 to 60 minutes with the diffuser turned off.

A study of 100 healthy spa workers from Taiwan made to sit in a room diffused with essential oils found the health benefits of diffusion decreases after an hour and prolonged exposure to the essential oils may cause the body various respiratory and vascular stresses.

Think of it as diminishing returns.

You enjoy the maximum benefits at the beginning of the first hour of diffusion but the effects taper off with the subject exhibiting increased pulse rate and blood pressure the longer they are exposed to the oils.

How Long Do The Oils Last In A Diffuser?

A typical diffuser can hold 100 ml of water. Into the water add 3 to 5 drops of essential oil and diffuse for 30 to 60 minutes.

Although essential oils can be added directly to the water, not all oils have the same viscosity.

This means the diffusion of the oils in the air will not be consistent. Thicker oils may also clog your diffuser.

A solution for this is to dilute the essential oil in a base oil or carrier oil.

The ratio for diluting essential oils to carrier oil will depend on the age of the person using it and what the oil will be used for.

Typical dilution ratios are .05% to 1%, 2% and 4%.

.05% to 1% dilution is for babies, the elderly, and pregnant women.

Although essential oil use in babies and expectant mothers are not really recommended and is a topic of debate among aromatherapists and medical practitioners.

Remember to exercise caution when using essential oils for this age group.

A 2% dilution is for topical applications on the skin. These essential oil dilutions can be mixed into creams and lotions and applied to the face.

Do not apply oils directly on the skin without doing a skin patch test first to avoid irritation and reactions.

The 4% dilution is used for massage oils and applied to larger areas of the body.

Massage oils have higher concentrations of essential oils and should not be used on the face.

Caution should be taken in the type of essential oils used to avoid skin irritation, toxicity, and contraindications to certain conditions and medication.

Carrier oils are also called base oil and are made from cold-pressed vegetables.

Some examples of carrier oils are olive oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil.

When choosing a carrier oil, opt for one that is cold-processed or fractionated.

This means the oil is processed without heat and retains all its flavor and nutritional value.

The simplest way to remember the ratio for dilution is to think 1-2-3.

The basic ratio for 1% dilution is to mix 2 teaspoons of carrier oil to 3 drops of essential oil.

For other dilution ratios refer to the chart below.

Essential Oil Dilution Ratio
Carrier Oil Volume .05% 1% 2% 4%
½ ounce (1 Tbsp) 1 drop of EO 3 drops of EO 6 drops of EO 12 drops of EO
1 ounce (2 Tbsps) 2 drops of EO 6 drops of EO 12 drops of EO 24 drops of EO
2 ounces (4 Tbsps) 3 drops of EO 12 drops of EO 24 drops of EO 48 drops of EO
4 ounces (½ cup) 4 drops of EO 24 drops of EO 48 drops of EO 96 drops of EO
8 ounces (1 cup) 5 drops of EO 48 drops of EO 96 drops of EO 192 drops of EO
16 ounces (2 cups) 6 drops of EO 96 drops of EO 192  drops of EO 384 drops of EO

The chart was adapted from the American College of Healthcare and Sciences.

A note about measuring drops, take care to make the drops consistent since “drops” are not a quantifiable standard unit of measure.

Is It Safe To Inhale?

Essential oils are safe to inhale.

Direct from the bottle, you can take a few deep whiffs but not for more than 10 seconds.

Your best bet for inhaling essential oils would be to use a diffuser to keep the oil from making direct contact with your skin and mucous membranes.

A diffuser would also make the essential oils diluted consistently in oil or water and dispersed in a controlled stream.

How Long Do Essential Oils Last In The Body?

Essential oils are absorbed into the body in three ways–by inhalation, topical application, and by ingestion.

Of the three ways, only the first two are recommended by aromatherapists and medical professionals.

When essential oils are absorbed into the body, it circulates in the kidneys, the liver, and other areas with high blood flow.

The essential oils do not stay in the body for a long period and will be exhaled through the lungs, secreted through the skin via sweat, or passed through urine and feces.

In a study done in 1940 by a researcher named Straehli for different chemicals absorbed by the body, it was found that these chemicals were exhaled within 30 to 120 minutes after inhalation.

The study is noted in this book, by R. Tisserand and R. Young.

Can You Diffuse Frankincense Oil?

Frankincense oil diffuse

Frankincense is an essential oil derived from the resin of the Boswellia sacra, Boswellia ferreana, and Boswellia carterii trees grown in India, Africa, and the Middle East.

It is used in aromatherapy for its touted health and beauty benefits.

Some of which are:

  • Contains astringent and anti-microbial properties that kill off germs and bacteria
  • Helps to decrease pain and inflammation
  • Speeds up the skin’s healing process and prevents scars from forming
  • Reduces stress and reactions by lowering blood pressure
  • Has a calming scent that aids sleep
  • Improves memory and learning function
  • Helps to boost the immune system keeping you from illnesses
  • Strengthens skin elasticity and improves tone
  • May help fight cancer or ease the effects of chemotherapy

Inhale frankincense oil by putting a drop or two on clean cotton cloth or tissue, or by placing a few drops into a diffuser.

How Long Does It Last Once You Open The Bottle?

dark bottles for essential oils

Essential oils typically have a shelf life of two to three years.

Exposure to sunlight and air oxidizes the oil which makes it less effective.

You can smell and see the difference in essential oils when it has gone bad.

A cloudy consistency, residue build-up, and fainter scents are signs the essential oil has lost its therapeutic potency and efficacy.

Essential oils older than three years should be thrown out as its use would likely cause skin irritations and allergic reactions.

Here are some tips on storing essential oils safely.

  • Store essential oils in dark brown or blue colored glass bottles. The dark colors help to keep sunlight and its oxidizing effects away from the oils.
  • Replace rubber dropper caps with flat screw top caps. The oils will react and eventually eat away at the rubber exposing the oils to sunlight and air. Always keep the cap tightly closed.
  • Store bottles in a cool, dry place or a refrigerator if possible. Stable temperatures help to preserve the oils’ integrity, extending its shelf life. Do not freeze essential oils.
  • Keep essential oils away from direct heat sources. Essential oils are flammable and can catch fire if left near an open flame source.
  • Do not return essential oils back into the bottle once it has been used or transferred to another container to avoid contamination.

Where Should You Place A Diffuser In The Bedroom?

When diffusing in an enclosed space, make sure that there is ventilation so the scent doesn’t get too concentrated.

Remember to practice intermittent diffusing for 60 minutes then turning it off for an hour or so before turning the diffuser back on.

Locationwise, practicality and safety should be on top of the list of things to consider.

Place a diffuser in an area clear of flammable materials if using an oil burner diffuser.

The location should also be low-traffic to avoid accidents such as knocking the burner over.

If you are using an ultrasonic mist diffuser, place the diffuser near a power outlet to avoid running wires and being a tripping hazard.

Mist diffusers should be placed in an elevated area so the mist circulates in the air.

Do not place diffusers near beds and sleeping areas as you run the risk of exposure to overwhelming scents which may trigger asthma attacks, headaches, allergic reaction, and nausea.


Watt, M. (original 1995, revised 2019). Essential Oils Their Lack of Skin Absorption, But Effectiveness Via Inhalation. Retrieved from

Miller, T. (2015, June 2). Dermal Absorption of Essential Oils. Retrieved from

Axe, J. (2018, June 30). What is Frankincense Good For? 8+ Essential Oil Uses & Benefits for Healing. Retrieved from

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Editorial Staff at MindBodyPal is a team of experts led by Tyson Chiu. We love tacos, lattes and Funky Fridays.