Vaping essential oils is the act of inhaling vapor from the oils through a vape pen or e-cigarette. Experts do not yet know the long-term effects of vaping essential oils, but it could cause serious respiratory conditions.

Aromatherapy is a holistic approach to well-being that harnesses the power of botanical essential oils to stimulate the senses and promote relaxation. However, the practice has now evolved to sometimes include vaping essential oils.

Inhaling these aromatic compounds through vaping devices is a relatively new practice, and little is known about its safety, though it is potentially harmful. At high temperatures, essential oils can break down into harmful compounds, which could cause severe side effects when inhaled.

In general, inhaling any substance into the lungs is not good for their health and function. People could risk lung infections, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other serious problems.

This article examines vaping essential oils, their risks, and side effects.

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Vaping essential oils involves inhaling vaporized aromatic compounds extracted from plants using specialized devices — known as vaporizers or vape pens. These devices heat the essential oils to a temperature where they transform into a vapor, which a person then inhales into their lungs.

The aim of vaping essential oils is to deliver the oil’s aromatic and potential therapeutic properties directly to the user’s respiratory system.

While the practice shares similarities with traditional aromatherapy, it differs from conventional methods, where oils are typically diffused in the air or applied topically. One major difference is that vaping devices for essential oils are equipped with a heating element, often powered by a battery, which vaporizes the oil for inhalation.

Essential oils are renowned for their concentrated fragrances and potential wellness benefits.

However, transitioning from using essential oils in a diffused or topical manner to inhaling them via vaping devices introduces a range of concerns and potential risks to respiratory health.

Why do people vape essential oils?

The practice of vaping essential oils may resonate with those drawn to the holistic and wellness-promoting qualities of these natural extracts. The oils have enticing fragrances, which people have long used in aromatherapy for the following perceived benefits:

  • promoting relaxation
  • alleviating stress
  • enhancing mood

Vaping offers a direct and immediate way to inhale these fragrant molecules, allowing individuals to immerse themselves in the soothing scents of different oils.

The variety of essential oils allows users to tailor their vaping experience based on personal preferences and needs. A person may select oils for their purported effects. For example, lavender oil is calming, and peppermint is invigorating.

Some may seek to address specific concerns, such as stress or focus, while others may experiment with different oils to discover their favorite aromas and effects.

The safety of vaping essential oils remains a subject of debate and concern within medical and scientific communities.

While essential oils are naturally derived compounds, their concentrated nature can pose potential risks when inhaled directly into the lungs. The delicate lung tissues may react adversely to the oils’ components, leading to the following:

  • irritation
  • inflammation
  • possible long-term respiratory issues

Additionally, the lack of regulation and standardized manufacturing processes for essential oil vaping products adds to the uncertainty surrounding their safety. As a result, people should exercise caution when considering vaping essential oils.

Inhaling concentrated essential oil vapors directly into the lungs can lead to various adverse effects.

The lung tissues may react negatively to the oils’ potent components, causing short- and long-term respiratory issues. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or allergies, may be particularly vulnerable to these effects.

Additionally, allergic reactions triggered by essential oil compounds can result in symptoms such as:

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath

How it affects the lungs

Vaping essential oils specifically can lead to the following changes in the lungs:

  • malfunctioning immune cells
  • epithelial inflammation
  • altered mucus production

All of which can prevent the lungs from being able to protect themselves and the body from pathogens.

People may vape nicotine to help them quit smoking or as an alternative to traditional tobacco products. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve any e-cigarettes or vaping devices as a smoking cessation aid.

There are various concerns surrounding nicotine vaping, including its impact on cardiovascular health.

Even when nicotine-free, e-cigarettes and vapes can contain other harmful substances that pose health risks. For example, they contain flavoring chemicals linked to lung disease, toxic heavy metals, and other cancer-causing agents.

Learn more about quitting smoking.

When considering vaping essential oils, people should be cautious. Not enough is known about the dangers, so it is safest to avoid the practice.

While certain essential oils might be considered safe for traditional aromatherapy inhalation, vaping subjects them to superheating. The high temperature can transform them into dangerous substances, which cause significant lung damage. Therefore, all ingredients used in vape pens and devices could be potentially harmful.

Experts do not yet know enough about the dangers of vaping essential oils. Vaping essential oils may resonate with those drawn to the holistic and wellness-promoting qualities of these natural extracts. The practice has not been around long enough to know about the long-term effects.

People should therefore avoid vaping essential oils until more is known and limit their aromatherapy practice to home diffusers that do not deliver chemicals directly to the lungs.

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.