Ask An Aromatherapist: Can I Use Essential Oils In My Vape?
At Edens Garden, we’ve heard numerous interesting questions about how to use essential oils. One question that surprised us at first but kept popping up was Can I use essential oils in my vape?
Unfortunately, this isn’t a topic that is covered in many aromatherapy courses (if any), nor is it something that the answer can be easily found to. How then do you respond? You use your instincts, and our instinct was no, you can’t vape with essential oils. However, we felt our readers deserved more, so we sought to answer this question in full. As it turns out, our instincts may have been right.
What’s A Vape?
A vape, vaporizer, vape pen, joule, mod or e-cig is an electric device from which e-juice or herbs are vaporized and inhaled to give off thick clouds of vapors when exhaled. E-juice is a mixture of glycerin, propylene glycol, flavorings and oftentimes nicotine and other ingredients.
Why Vape Essential Oils?
Among vaping forums, the vast majority of those looking to vape essential oils were seeking to use a more natural substance that doesn’t contain nicotine and synthetic flavorings, to make their own flavorings, or for health reasons.
Why Vapes and Essential Oils Don’t Mix
Vapes often contain temperature control settings which can be changed to produce bigger clouds and better flavor consumption. The average recommended temperature for vapes is 250°C. This temperature is much higher than most essential oil flash points, or the temperature at which a compound ignites. Take for example Spearmint with a flash point of 61°C, Lavender with a flash point of 74°C and Cinnamon Bark with a flash point of 87.7°C. Heating essential oils above their flash points will not only lessen their therapeutic benefits, but will also make a device that’s already susceptible to ignition, even more dangerous. You may be able to use a lower setting on your vape that is below the flash point of essential oils. However, propylene glycol and glycerin, which create clouds of vapor, still have a very high vaporizing point, rendering the vape useless for one of its main purposes.
What’s more is that, though most vapes are made of glass and metal pieces, some pieces may be made of plastic and rubber which essential oils can eat away at, causing corrosion and plastic materials to leak into the e-juice. For example, the “o rings” of vapes are made of rubber or plastic and come into contact with e-juice, as its purpose is to keep the liquid from leaking out. Inhaling corroded plastic particles can be toxic and lead to health issues.
Furthermore, vapes alone have been shown to induce oxidative stress, increasing the likelihood of developing pneumonia. There have been numerous cases of vape users developing lipoid pneumonia, a form of pneumonia that occurs from getting fatty substances in the lungs most likely from glycerin found in e-juice. It’s also important to note here that essential oils are often added to an e-juice base of glycerin and propylene glycol, two water-soluble substances. Because essential oils are oil soluble, they will not mix properly in a typical e-juice base. Thus, pure, undiluted essential oils will be inhaled directly into your lungs. To prevent lipoid pneumonia, you will not be able to dilute essential oils and add them to your vape with a carrier oil. At this time, the short and long-term effects of inhaling essential oils directly into your lungs, through vaporization are largely unknown.
Lastly, from a practical standpoint, there are new studies being released continuously about the health issues surrounding vaping. Vapes and e-cig products are currently unregulated in the US by the FDA, and this includes ingredients found in e-juice. As mentioned previously, there are no short or long-term studies on the effects of inhaling essential oils directly into the lungs through vaporization, nor are there long-term studies on the effects of vaping in general. It has been proven that vaping presents a risk to users, and thus, vaping essential oils would present an even greater risk. With this information in mind, our answer still stands, that we don’t recommend vaping essential oils any time soon.
What About Aromatherapy Vaping Devices?
Admittedly, we feel a little better about a device created specifically for the use of vaping essential oils, so long as companies selling these products are doing their due diligence and presenting accurate safety information, research and possible side effects. However, like using essential oils in a traditional vape, there are many unknowns, and thus risks to taking part in a practice that is largely new to the market. It is therefore up to the consumer to use their own discretion.
What are your thoughts on essential oil vaping? Let us know in the comments section below!