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Why I Stopped Using Aromatherapy Inhalers ( + What I Use Instead)

A couple of years ago, our little family started to transition away from single-use plastic products. I had been advised to stop drinking water from plastic bottles to help facilitate healing in a certain area of my body and had recently seen a documentary that was all about plastics and their effect on the environment. I’m a bit of a research nerd, so I did a lot of reading about plastics and their impact on health and the planet. Ultimately, we decided that the right move for us would be to start to replace the plastics in our lives with non-plastic alternatives that would be more friendly for our bodies & more sustainable for the earth. It wasn’t easy (plastics are in a lot of things!), but moving away from single-use plastic products was a good start.

One of the last things to go in this single-use plastic category for me was aromatherapy inhalers. Aromatherapy inhalers are little plastic tubes that house a cotton wick that holds essential oils. They are sometimes referred to as aromasticks. They’re discreet, personal use items that make using essential oils convenient when you're on the go or in public. The trouble is that you can only use them once. They might last for a month, but once their effect starts to dissipate, they’re usually just tossed in the bin. If you’re lucky (or determined) enough to be able to pry the outer shell apart, you might be able to recycle the tube, but it’s not very easy to take apart and you can't recycle them without removing the cotton wick from the inner tube.

The first alternatives I turned to were glass / metal aromatherapy inhalers that are fully reusable. I really wanted to love them, but they all smelled metallic (not in a nice way) because of an odd coating on the applicator and I always thought they were going to spill on me (some of them did leak). They didn’t last nearly as long and I was going through essential oils much more quickly with them than I was with plastic inhalers. They just weren’t good enough to win me over. Carrying a cotton ball or hankie around in my purse for inhalation purposes on the go worked well as an alternative option, but it didn't solve the "not everyone wants to smell my essential oils" dilemma.

I finally settled on an option that really works for me: smelling salts. I filled a 5ml amber glass bottle with some rough, chunky Himalayan salt (which actually brings its own therapeutic effects to the table – have you seen the Himalayan salt inhalers that are available now?), dropped in a bit of herb, added some essential oils, and tested out this “new” old idea. I think you know where this is headed. Ummm, I love this method. It’s pretty, it feels good, the jar / bottle is totally reusable, and it’s still a personal application method that won’t leave the whole room smelling of your oil(s) of choice. I completely recommend giving this method a go if you're interested in a more sustainable inhalation option.

Once in awhile, I'll place a blend in a 1 ounce, clear glass jar to add a bit of 'pretty factor' to the blend (just keep away from sunlight) and it's turned out to be a great conversation starter. I also really appreciate that inhaling an aroma from a glass bottle or jar looks a lot more normal than inhaling an aroma from a tampon-esque plastic inhaler does. ;) (Yes, I have really had clients think the plastic models were tampons.)

If you're interested in moving toward a more sustainable, earth-friendly option for convenient aromatherapy inhalation, I highly recommend giving smelling salts in small glass containers a try. The blends I've been testing have lasted impressively well.

A Few Key Points About Safety

  • 5ml bottles with orifice reducers are a good alternative for children's inhaler blends - the orifice reducer will allow the aroma to escape, but keep the salt inside the bottle so that the child isn't tempted to taste it. Use a chunky Himalayan pink salt that won't come through the orifice reducer and the child can use the smelling salts the same way they would use their custom aromatherapy inhaler. *Children should only use essential oils under adult supervision. Take care to use the smelling salts in an area where the bottle will not break if it falls.
     
  • Smelling salts should still be kept away from pets.
     
  • Keep your jars / bottles clearly labeled and include safety information, such as, "For inhalation purposes only. Not for internal use. Non-edible. Not for use with pets or children."
     
  • Use common sense, as always.

Have you experimented with a different sustainable option for aromatherapy inhalation on the go? Share it with me in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin

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