Essential Oil Vaping
What’s the deal with “essential oil vaping”? If you’re a social media user, it’s likely that you’ve come across adverts for these portable aromatherapy vapourizers – yes, I’m talking mainly about MONQ, although there are others.
Barely a day goes by without seeing questions about this on Facebook. MONQ adverts are all over the place and – on the face of it – essential oil vaping seems to be the hottest thing in aromatherapy right now.
So, what’s it all about? And is it really safe? Quite a few readers have emailed me about this, so I thought I would investigate.
What is it?
MONQ seems to be the main brand of these, so we’ll focus on them in this article.
Marketed as “therapeutic air”, MONQ describes its devices as personal diffusers, which are used to “experience the most direct form of aromatherapy”. For $20 you receive a battery-powered diffuser, which heats a small amount of essential oil-infused vegetable glycerin. This is converted into an aromatic vapour, which is taken into the mouth and exhaled through the nose.
These cigarette-shaped diffusers are being cleverly marketed as a natural method of enjoying the benefits of aromatherapy in a “cool” way. They’re advertised as a kind of “healthy vaping” alternative for those who want to avoid tobacco, nicotine and synthetic ingredients. By dropping in phrases like “ancient wellness”, it’s sidestepping any potential reservations by using an appeal to nature – in other words, “it’s ok because it’s natural” (click here to read more about logical fallacies used in aromatherapy).
MONQ diffusers are sold as different moods – you can choose from seven altogether (such as Healthy, Zen or Sexy) as well as three nature-themed fragrances. It’s claimed that each diffuser will last 3-4 weeks for the average user.
Why are they everywhere?
MONQ has really utilized social media and understands the importance of persuading bloggers and ‘influencers’ to get on board.
In addition, a tempting rewards scheme encourages as much social sharing as possible. Users are encouraged to post online reviews to earn “seeds”, which can be exchanged for credit to spend in the MONQ store. Film an unboxing video for YouTube and you’ll earn yourself 100 seeds – no wonder these posts are flooding our newsfeeds and timelines!
How is it used?
MONQ Therapeutic Air diffusers are used in a similar way to an e-cigarette or vapourizer. The liquid inside the diffuser is heated to around 215 degrees F (which is around boiling point!) and converted into essential oil vapour.
The instructions are to “breathe in through your mouth without inhaling into your lungs” and then exhale through your nose. Despite appearances, they are not designed to be used continuously. Users are advised to take just 2-3 puffs at a time, a couple of times a day.
Is it suitable for everyone?
There are suggestions that essential oil vaping may encourage smoking in young people. MONQ does not recommend its diffusers for under 18s, on the basis that it “does not want to encourage the familiar ‘hand to mouth’ habit in impressionable children. As an ethical company, MONQ believes that underage children may develop a tendency towards smoking cigarettes, a habit we abhor, and yet we believe that a non-smoking adult who uses MONQ will not be so inclined to smoke.”
In addition, MONQ diffusers are not recommended for anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding, allergic to essential oils or suffering from a respiratory illness.
Is it safe?
Any questions about safety are usually met with the argument that essential oils are natural, therefore they are safe.
Safety is relative – is this safer than smoking cigarettes? Almost certainly! Is it safer than vaping synthetic chemicals? Probably. But is it safer than just inhaling essential oils from a diffuser or inhaler stick? Probably not.
Reported side-effects include dry mouth, sore throat, eye irritation, coughing, headache, wheezing, nausea, diarrhoea and burning sensation. To give credit where it’s due, this is all listed on the MONQ disclaimer page on their website.
While these side-effects are played down, it’s worth pointing out that these are only based on what customers have reported to them so far. It’s possible that there are more adverse reactions that have gone unreported.
Perhaps most concerning is the lack of long-term safety record. MONQ admits that essential oils “have not been heated and breathed directly into the lungs through an electronic device until approximately 10 years ago, and thus there is no long-term experience with vapors of this nature”.
There is also a risk of the device overheating. On their website, it states: “Physical devices similar to those from which our vapors are produced have been known to heat up excessively and/or explode”. Later on, MONQ absolves itself from all liability for any injuries or damages caused by their products.
On the plus side…
This blog is all about honesty and, in the spirit of fairness, let’s talk about some of the positive aspects of MONQ and similar products.
They’re marketing the benefits of aromatherapy to an audience that might not otherwise be interested. Suddenly aromatherapy is sexy, with sultry images of people vaping in nightclubs.
MONQ’s Facebook page has a very youthful following, and it’s great to see more interest and awareness about essential oils. Such products can be a gateway for people to delve deeper into aromatherapy and the benefits of essential oils.
And, in a nod to safety, the MONQ website does list precautions for each essential oil used in its products. In addition, users are encouraged to consult NAHA and Essential Oil Safety (Tisserand & Young) for further information.
I guess a vapourizer could be socially appealing for some people, and it perhaps feels a bit more pro-active than just sniffing from an inhaler stick.
Would I recommend it?
I’m often asked for my opinion about these vaping-style diffusers. Personally, I just think “what’s the point?” To me, it’s nothing more than a gimmick. Why not just use a normal aromatherapy inhaler stick? These are cheaper, safer and longer-lasting. You can buy an inhaler stick for a quarter of the price, or you could even make your own. They don’t require a battery, no heat is involved, and there’s virtually no risk of side effects. Seeing as you’re only supposed to take 2-3 puffs on a MONQ diffuser and then put it away, you might as well just take 2-3 deep breaths from your inhaler stick.
I’m not sold on the idea of essential oil vaping. Fair enough, I’ve haven’t tried them myself, so it’s not possible for me to do a proper review. I never intentionally set out to discredit a product, but many of you have asked my opinion – so here it is:
MONQ diffusers are probably safe, but they just don’t appeal to me. I don’t like the idea of having essential oil vapour in my mouth, and can’t imagine how this would feel pleasant (despite it being described as “tasty”).
There are many ways to enjoy essential oils, and it’s about finding something that works for you. You always need to weigh up the potential risks against the benefits. Personally, I’d rather use my inhaler sticks – but maybe that’s just me! (Find out how to make your own inhaler here)
Have you ever tried MONQ diffusers, or other similar vapourizers? I’d love to hear your experiences! Let me know in the comments below…
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