It is winter season in Bangkok, and it hits us again. The pollution. The number of harmful micro particles in the air is rising, and here I am, checking Bangkok air quality index (AQI) every day on my Air Visual app.
Yes, I am worried about breathing bad air and making my son breathe some too when I take him out to play, no matter how close to the trees we are getting!
What can we do about it? I believe we can contribute to making Bangkok a less polluted city by consuming less and better. But there is still a long way to go for our individual steps to have a positive impact on the air we breathe outside.
When it comes to the air contained in our homes though, its quality has a lot to do with our lifestyle. Things like circulating the air often, getting our A/C units checked regularly, and avoiding the use of chemical detergents & cleaning products. All of that matters.

While we will be sharing soon about more actions we can take to fight pollution in Bangkok and protect ourselves from it, here is specifically to talk about one way to purify the air you are breathing in your own home, using natural aromatic extracts from plants: essential oils.

Photography by Ploy PHUTPHENG

Aromatic molecules contained in essential oils are what matters 

Aromatherapy implies using essential oils in view of our well-being.
How does that work? All essential oils contain aromatic molecules. They can be classified according to their “families” and thus properties, and many of those molecules are known for their antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, and even anti fungal properties. Those are the ones we want to focus on for this matter.
We will go more into details about the main essential oil biochemical families and their properties in another article! But for now, for each essential oil presented below, the predominant aromatic molecule is mentioned for reference. 

6 essentials oils to diffuse to purify the air at home

We are focussing here on the use of essential oils through atmospheric diffusion, that is to say, propelling essential oils in the atmosphere by the mean of a diffuser. 
While many essential oils could serve the purpose of purifying the air brilliantly (in Natural medicine, there are often more than just a few good answers), here is my selection, based on my University knowledge, my experience using my nose and very importantly, as a mom looking after my child’s well-being. Indeed, using essential oil through atmospheric diffusion is one of the safest way around children, when used properly and carefully, always. 

1. Eucalyptus radiata (Eucalyptus radiata) 

Thanks to its high concentration in 1,8 cineol, Eucalptus radiata essential oil is a quality choice to deal with ENT issues such as colds, cough, clear sinuses, and to help decongest your respiratory system. A tip for diffusion, is not to use it on its own but as a minor component of a blend to avoid risk of irritation.
Expectorant ★★★★
Anti fungal ★★★☆
Anti bacterial ★★★☆
Antiviral ★★★☆
Boosts immunity ★★☆☆
Predominant aromatic molecule: 1,8 cineol (60-75%)

2. Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) 

Grapefruit essential oil is obtained by expressing its peel, from which fresh, sweet and tart notes rise! It is to me an obvious choice for diffusion for several reasons: it contains antiseptic properties, it diffuses well in the atmosphere, and its high content in limonene will at the same time work on decreasing stress and anxiety if any!
The smell of citruses is usually widely appreciated, for the entire family.
Antiseptic ★★★★
Sanitizing ★★ ★★
Predominant aromatic molecule: Limonene (84-95%)

3. Java Citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) 

Living in this region, we know well what is a lemongrass-y smell, don’t we?!
There are many types of lemon-grasses, so it is important to refer to the latin name provided with any quality essential oil, to make sure you are getting the one you are looking for as they each have their own aromatic identity.
The Java Citronella (from Indonesia) contains a high concentration of citronellal and geraniol. It is commonly used as an insect repellent, which will come handy when you open your windows to get that air ciculating at home.
Antiseptic ★★★☆
Desodorizing ★★★☆
Sanitizing ★★★☆
Insect repellent ★★★☆
Antibacterial ★★☆☆
Anti fungal ★★☆☆
Predominant aromatic molecule: Citronellal (35-65%)

4. Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora)

Ravintsara essential oil is very efficient when dealing viral infections of all types, including those affecting your ENT and respiratory system. It is one essential oil I almost always include in blends when addressing colds or even when you feel you are “coming down” with something physically as it is a great ally to boost your immune system. Back in the West, I would say it is a winter must have! I sure always have some in my bag.
Antiviral ★★★★
Boost immunity ★★★★
Antibacterial ★★★☆
Expectorant ★★★☆
Predominant aromatic molecule: 1,8 cineol (50-65%)


5. Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)

The sweet smell of orange peel makes it a quality choice of essential oil for diffusion, to please the entire family. Orange essential oil is (surprisingly to some) a calming one. It contains a very high amount of limonene and not only it is relaxing but even sleep-inducing so its best diffusion time is the end of the day.
It is very volatile and diffuse easily in the air to purity the atmosphere while delicately leaving a pleasant fragrance in your home.
Antiseptic ★★☆☆
Sanitizing ★★☆☆
Calming ★★☆☆
Sleep-inducing ★★☆☆
Active predominant molecule: Limonene (90-97%)


6. Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) 

Last but not least… how not to talk about pine trees less than a month away from Christmas?
Balsam fir trees, out of all pine trees, are some of the most fragrant of all and they produce that distinctive smell that will propel us in the Christmas magic, no matter how far we are from the forest and the snow! Its essential oil is known for its antiseptic properties, especially for the respiratory system. It helps deal with mold, viruses and bacterias. It also helps lower anxiety.
Antiseptic ★★★☆
Tonic ★★☆☆
Active predominant molecule: beta-pinene (28-56%)


A few tips for proper diffusion of essential oils at home

As mentioned above, diffusion is one of the safest way to use essential oils. Why so?
Because it is one of the least “invasive” methods, let’s say compared to applying some essential oils on your skin or taken orally, which in both cases should always be under a professional’s supervision and with clearance of your healthcare professional.

While most essential oils are reserved for certain groups (adults only or children of a certain age), their diffusion in the air is actually possible.
Having said that, using essential oils should never be done by moms-to-be before their second trimester of pregnancy, nor with infants of less than 3 months old, even through atmospheric diffusion.

Here are the tips …

– Diffuse in a room that has been well aerated,

– Use a quality diffuser, either an atomizer (using water mist to propel the essential oils in the air), or a nebulizer (dry diffusion, propelling essential oils as micro droplets),

– Don’t heat the essential oils (ever)!

– The time of diffusion and quantity of essential oils to use both depend on the size of the room, and type of diffuser. This should be advised case by case, but as a general guideline, it is recommended to diffuse for short periods of time and never continuously.

– Some essential oils, even in diffusion, can be a bit irritant, so it is better not to use those on their own, but as a minor component of a blend.

– If any discomfort occurs, stop diffusing!

Essential oils should always be handled with care, and out of reach of young children.
Although this article refers to the use of essential oil only through diffusion, here is an important reminder not to apply nor ingest essential oils without professional supervision.

You can read more about what essential oils are and how to choose them right here.

Also, please take not that any well-being and heath advice on My Healthy Bangkok are to be understood as lifestyle tips and never substitute to your health care provider advice, whom you should always consult.

Article written by Joëlle Smaniotto
Aromatherapy, Aromachology, Emotional Health – Founder of My Healthy Bangkok and Essentially Me

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