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Why Holistic Doctors Want You To Stop Burning Candles + What To Use Instead


Caitlyn Martyn

Medical reviewer:

Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS

February 12, 2023


By Caitlyn Martyn


Caitlyn Martyn is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Byrdie, InStyle, Popsugar and more.

Medical review by

Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS

Board-certified Family Physician

Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS is a family physician and HIV specialist in California. He takes a holistic approach to healthcare, incorporating principles of functional medicine and using food as medicine when working with patients.

Image by mbg creative

February 12, 2023

Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Whether you’re trying out a new at-home fitness program, deepening (or starting!) your meditation practice, splurging on a game-changing skincare device, or finding ways to make your living space more zen, small acts of self care can have a big impact. Essential oils are a great way to make self care a more continuous practice–and the best essential oil diffusers aim to utilize the potential benefits of aromatherapy1 to calm your body and your mind, and improve your overall well-being.

Aromatherapy is a form of holistic healing that relies on scents from essential oils and plant extracts to ease a number of afflictions including anxiety, stress, insomnia, and brain fog. Aromatherapy is also often used for pain relief from migraines and other chronic conditions.

To learn more about essential oils and their benefits, we tapped Lana Butner, N.D., a holistic health doctor based in New York City. Below, find our picks for the best essential oil diffusers of 2023, along with expert advice on how to choose the best diffuser for you.

What is an essential oil diffuser?

An essential oil diffuser is an electric device that utilizes essential oils to transform the air in your space. Diffusing essential oils is one of the easiest ways to incorporate aromatherapy into your everyday life. On a scientific level, diffusers break the essential oils down into smaller molecules, dispersing them into the air. Each essential oil offers different benefits: some (e.g. lavender) promote deep sleep, others (such as eucalyptus) reduce anxiety, and a few (like lemongrass) are even natural bug repellents. By diffusing essential oils, the particles are dispersed evenly throughout the room at a comfortable concentration that’s easy to breathe and not overbearing.

Who should use an essential oil diffuser?

According to Butner, anyone with stress, anxiety, or insomnia can benefit from an essential oil diffuser. “Diffusing essential oils can help regulate the nervous system by decreasing sympathetic nervous system overdrive (fight, flight, freeze, and fawn) and help regulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, digest, sex, and sleep),” she explains. “By balancing these two opposite–but equally important–systems, essential oils bring people a sense of calmness, relief, ease, and peace of mind.”

These devices aren’t for everyone, though. Burnet advises those carrying a higher toxic load or who have an overburdened liver not to use essential oil diffusers. “If you can’t go into a Bath and Body Works or a nail salon without quickly getting a headache, migraine, or feeling lightheaded, it’s best to skip essential oil diffusers,” she adds as a rule of thumb.

Benefits of an essential oil diffuser:

Essential oil diffusers are ideal because of how easy they are to use and incorporate into any space in your home. They don’t take up too much space and offer a lot of variety since you can swap different oils in and out, depending on your needs at the moment.

Types of essential oils

There are plenty of essential oils, each having a different effect on the body. To name a few:

Lavender essential oil is recommended for relaxation. Research has shown it to be a helpful treatment for stress and exhaustion. By diffusing lavender oil, you’ll help put your nervous system in a parasympathetic rest-and-digest state.

Peppermint, on the other hand, is a popular essential oil to stimulate the mind. Diffusing this oil has mental and cognitive benefits (i.e., improved memory, focus, and concentration).

Lemongrass is one of Butner’s favorites, specifically for its uplifting and centering effects. “I love using lemongrass oil as an air purifier,” she says. “I like to diffuse this for my acupuncture patients, as well as in my home.” And, according to a clinical study, it can also help mitigate test anxiety.

You may recognize the scent of eucalyptus oil, as it’s often used in spas, saunas, gym locker rooms, and wellness clinics. This oil is invigorating, stimulating, and can be fairly potent–which is why it’s best used in a diffuser. “Medicinally, [eucalyptus oil is] great to diffuse when dealing with respiratory issues such as coughs, colds, and excess mucus,” Butner adds.

How to choose an essential oil diffuser.

Ready to buy an essential oil diffuser of your own? Consider these factors when choosing the right one for you:


Butner says size is one of the most important factors to consider before purchasing an essential oil diffuser. Go with one that fits nicely in your space to avoid clutter.


Since diffusers utilize water, make sure the one you have your eye on can hold enough to last the length of your ideal session, whether it be one hour or several hours overnight.


Pick a model that relaxes you. Focus on high-quality materials that blend in with your space and are pleasant to look for.

How we picked:


Because essential oil diffusers come in a range of sizes, we selected options that will fit in most spaces and look nice with a variety of aesthetics.


Each essential oil diffuser on our list has received positive recommendations from real-life users. We used any negative reviews to inform potential cons for each product.


The essential oil diffusers on our list offer a slew of features that amplify the overall experience. We’ve called these out below.

Expert advice

We used our expert’s advice and insights to guide our selection process.

Our picks for the best essential oil diffusers of 2023:

Best budget: Urpower 300ml Diffuser


LED lights add to ambianceSmall and compact60, 180, or 360 minute timers


Only one speed setting

Dimensions: 4.33″ x 4.33″ x 6.06″

Materials: Plastic

Capacity: 300 mL

Power source: Corded

Automatic shutoff: Yes

This device proves you don’t have to spend a ton of money for a quality diffuser. For just under $30, you get a multifunctional device with four mist timer modes, seven changing LED light colors, and four setting options (continuous, 60, 180, and 360 minutes). The unit runs until there’s no more water and essential oil to pull from–and, should you leave it on when you’re not home, there’s an auto-off feature for your peace of mind. Just note, with only one speed setting, there’s not much room for customization.

That said, over 5,000 Amazon shoppers have given this diffuser a perfect five-star rating. One person writes, “I use this diffuser in my office and usually have an uplifting scent to keep me energized and focused during the workday. I like that the color changes and that it’s really quiet…It lasts for about six hours, which almost covers my full work day. I like the timer setting and the automatic shut-off when empty.”

Best for small spaces: Asakuki 500ml Premium Diffuser


Has a nebulizer mode that adds mist to the airRemote-controlled


Can leak if you use too much water

Dimensions: 6″ x 6″ x 5″

Materials: Polypropylene

Capacity: 500 mL

Power source: Corded

Automatic shutoff: Yes

With a decently large (and easy to clean) water tank, a mist nebulizer mode, seven LED light options, auto-shut off, and four remote-controlled timer options, this diffuser leaves little to be desired. You can select the continuous “on” mode, or set a precise timer to 60, 120, or 180 minutes. What really makes this pick stand out is the option to run the diffuser and humidifier separately or simultaneously.

Given the diffuser’s compact dimensions, it’s perfect for smaller spaces, such as apartments, bathrooms, or tiny kitchens. The best part? The brand recently upgraded to an ultra-quiet fan for hum-free humidifying and diffusing–so even in close proximity to the diffuser, you won’t hear a peep.

With over 36,000 ratings, this device has proven to be a fan favorite for those who appreciate peace and quiet. One reviewer shares, “I wasn’t expecting this level of quality for such a good price. I’m going to end up buying a couple more for other rooms in our home. Big water reservoir, quiet, and adjustable. The night light is awesome.”


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Best humidifier diffuser combo: Canopy Humidifier


Doubles as a humidifierNight mode for sleepDishwasher safe


Oil runs out quickly

Dimensions: 10″ x 7″ x 8.5″

Materials: Plastic

Capacity: 2.5 L

Power source: Corded

Automatic shutoff: No

The Canopy has become one of the most popular devices on the market due to its efficacy as both a diffuser and a humidifier. It’s available in two sizes (regular and plus), to suit a variety of room sizes, with a modern design and multitude of colors that fit any decor. You can buy the diffuser-slash-humidifier on its own, with a filter subscription, or with an aroma subscription. You don’t need to buy the brand’s signature essential oils, but they do smell lovely and fit perfectly in the well (located at the top of the unit).

Since it doubles as a humidifier that disperses microscopic water molecules into the air, you might notice a subtle hum–but not so loud that it would wake you up in the night. The device has built-in sensors to help optimize the humidity in the room, depending on the time of day. Plus, with dishwasher safe parts, cleaning couldn’t be easier.

Our commerce editor, Carleigh Ferrante, recently added the Canopy to her home and can attest to how low-maintenance the upkeep is and how soothing the oils smell. She loves that you get two devices in one, and says not a single person has walked into her apartment without commenting on the air quality since she plugged this device in.

Best for large spaces: Saje Aroma Om Deluxe


Sleek designLong run-time


Some say it runs loud

Dimensions: 3.5″ x 8″

Materials: Ceramic concrete coverBPA-free plastic reservoir

Capacity: 88 mL

Power source: Corded

Automatic shutoff: Yes

Cool mist diffusers are best for dispersing highly concentrated scents into large rooms, as the cool mist respects the integrity of the oils. This pick relies on tiny vibrations to create a cool, odorless water mist that breaks down the essential oils into microscopic particles and disperses them into the air.

Recommended for medium to large-sized rooms, this diffuser can run for 11 to 22 hours and is whisper-quiet.

Fans love its sleek design and large reservoir. One shopper shares, “I’m on my second diffuser and I just love them. I like that it has a larger volume capacity and that it runs for a long time. It does exactly what I want it to and it’s rather inconspicuous with my decor.”


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Best smart: Aera Diffuser


Control features with an appFree samples available prior to purchaseAdjustable scent volume


Compatible with Aera fragrances only

Dimensions: 6.5″ x 2.5″ x 4.8″

Materials: MetalPlastic

Capacity: N/A

Power source: Corded

Automatic shutoff: No

A truly unique device, this diffuser highlights the brand’s patented Microdroplet Technology, which allows you to control the diffuser via the accompanying app or an Amazon Alexa. Choose the scent strength (ranging from 1 to 10), monitor the fragrance remaining in each essential oil cartridge, and even schedule run times.

The diffuser works well for rooms of varying sizes (up to 1,000 square feet) and is very easy to move throughout your home. Although it’s only compatible with the brand’s fragrance blends, they’re strong and last up to eight hours. What’s more, each essential oil is ethically-sourced and hypoallergenic, making this an ideal choice for home use (and safer for children and pets!).

Amazon customers love the smart features on this device. One says, “I love that I can use my cell phone to get a nice smell drifting through my home when I’m not there or simply don’t want to go downstairs. While I wish there were more features, it’s worth every penny being able to cover that dog scent before I even walk through the door.”

Best ceramic: Vitruvi Stone Essential Oil Diffuser


Simple pottery-like aesthetic4- and 8-hour run timesAmbient LED light imparts a candle-like glow


Ultrasonic plates can get cloggedRequires a deep clean

Dimensions: 5″ x 5″ x 5″

Materials: Ceramic

Capacity: 90 mL

Power source: Corded

Automatic shutoff: Yes

Diffusers and humidifiers have a reputation for being clunky–but the Vitruvi Stone Essential Diffuser is the complete opposite. Designed to look like a simple piece of pottery, the Vitruvi unit can be placed on display or neatly tucked away. With 4- and 8-hour run times, you can choose whichever setting best suits your needs. The diffuser comes equipped with an automatic shut-off feature and an optional LED light that resembles the soft glow of a candle. Best of all, it has a light-free “night mode” feature so it won’t get in the way of your sleep.

Something to note: Because this diffuser is ultrasonic, it relies on vibrations rather than heat. This means it can get clogged with oil from time to time. If this happens, no need to worry. It simply means it’s time for a deeper clean. Per the brand’s instructions: Fill the reservoir halfway with water, add a tablespoon of white vinegar, and run the diffuser for three to five minutes before emptying and wiping it down.

No matter your aesthetic, this diffuser will blend in seamlessly. One happy Amazon customer writes, “I was in search of a diffuser that was both aesthetically pleasing and smelled great without giving me a headache. This one first the vibe of my room so well it almost looks as though it’s decor, which I love! The smell is just enough and makes walking into my room, working from home, and falling asleep at night so much better.”


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Best portable: Pura Smart Fragrance Diffuser


90-degree rotating plugEasy installationControlled via app or Amazon Alexa


Only works with Pura brand fragrance vials

Dimensions: 10.2″ x 6.42″ x 3.27″

Materials: Plastic

Capacity: N/A

Automatic shutoff: No

Return policy: 30 days

This plug-in diffuser is small but mighty. It’s controlled by an app, so you can schedule diffusing sessions and set timers from afar. Each device holds two fragrances, with the option to toggle between both or create a custom blended scent. Additionally, you can alter the scent intensity and even turn on an ambient LED nightlight to set the vibe.

Just keep in mind: You can only use the brand’s proprietary fragrances, as others won’t fit properly in the device. While the oils smell great, some people complain about the price ($12 to $15 per vial).

Otherwise, there are plenty of pleased customers that swear this diffuser has made a huge difference in the ambiance of their environment. One writes, “For someone who constantly has room sprays, candles, wall plugs, you name it…this is a game changer for me! Being able to control the scent intensity, see when it’s about to run out, and have a cute night light, it’s an instant sale for me. I’ve quickly purchased more and will continue to do so.”


Is diffusing essential oils safe for your lungs?

According to Butner, diffusers are safe for your lungs. There isn’t enough evidence to support the idea that essential oils can promote lung health, but breathing in essential oils can have many positive effects on the body–specifically the nervous system.

Is it safe to have a diffuser in the bedroom?

Yes, it is. Butner recommends considering how big your room is (in square feet) and getting a diffuser designed to work for that size. A diffuser too large for the room might circulate too much of the essential oil, resulting in an overly-potent scent. Conversely, if your diffuser isn’t equipped for a larger-sized room, the smell will be weaker.

Are diffusers better than candles?

According to Butner, diffusers are much better for you and for the environment. Even if the candles are organic or made of soy, she says they can still be harmful. “I’m seeing many people transitioning to diffusers as the research comes out about the potential environmental harm that candles can have,” she adds.

The takeaway.

No matter which essential oil scent you prefer, the right diffuser can bring a sense of calm and relaxation to your home. The best essential oil diffuser is one that fits in your space and supports your lifestyle. Not sure where to start in terms of fragrances? Check out our comprehensive guide for beginners. And, if a few of these picks have you wondering about humidifiers, take a look at the best desktop humidifiers to add to your workspace.

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