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Best essential oil for diffusers: Aid sleep, reduce stress and sharpen your mind

best essential oils for diffusers
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Get mental and physical benefits from our pick of the best essential oils for diffusers

Smells have the power to lift your mood, relax and soothe you, and even boost your energy levels. The best essential oils for diffusers take full advantage of the power of smell, and they're an easy and cost-effective way to fill your entire home with a glorious scent that can transform your pad into a spa-like sanctuary.

But which essential oil should you buy for your diffuser? Fragrance is a personal choice, but different essential oils have acknowledged properties, such as eucalyptus to help you breathe more easily, jasmine to lift your mood, and of course lavender to help you sleep. Many essential oil blends offer the best of both worlds, combining lavender and lemon to relax and uplift you after a tough day at work.

Read on for our buying guide to choosing the best essential oils for your diffuser. Or, if you know what you're looking for, skip down the page.

READ NEXT: Best essential oil diffuser


Best essential oils for diffusers: At a glance


How to choose the best essential oil for diffusers

What do essential oils do?

Essential oils are distilled from plants to create a potent essence of aroma and flavour. A few drops in a diffuser or massage oil can have a really powerful effect on your mood and energy level.

Aroma is so powerful because smell goes straight to the brain's emotional centres, according to numerous scientific studies. In a recent presentation at Harvard University, Professor Venkatesh Murthy described how smells take a direct route to the brain's amygdala and hippocampus, two areas of the limbic system related to emotion and memory. "Olfactory signals very quickly get to the limbic system," Murthy said.

No wonder essential oils and their olfactory powers have been embraced for millennia. Luckily, these oils are somewhat more widely available than they were in Ancient Egypt, and they've grown very popular in lifestyle products in recent years.

Find out more in our guide to the best essential oils

Why should I buy an essential oil diffuser?

Essential oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang and eucalyptus are used widely in health and beauty products, but they must be used in tiny diluted amounts to reduce the risk of bad reactions. Adding a few drops of essential oil to a diffuser is an ideal way to get the benefits safely without overdoing it. 

You can use diluted essential oils in reed or ceramic candle diffusers, which are safe for the bathroom because you don't have to plug them in. But for best results, add a few drops of essential oil to water in an electric steam diffuser. You don't need more than one drop of essential oil per 100ml of water. The diffuser then fills your home with delicious, mood-enhancing droplets that create an even scent, unlike air fresheners.

Which essential oil is best for me?

Fragrance is a very personal choice, but different essential oils have well-established effects on mood, ambiance and energy. Here are the effects associated with different essential oils...

  • For relaxation and sleep, essential oils of chamomile and frankincense are highly effective, but the real powerhouse in this category is lavender. Lavender extracts have been used for millennia to ease inflammation and relieve sore muscles and aches, as well as for its soporific qualities. It's used in aromatherapy to help combat anxiety, and its blissful smell is wondrously effective at helping you drift off to sleep.
  • For a mood boost, ylang-ylang and delicious-smelling jasmine are the two essential oils most commonly used. Jasmine also has a soothing, relaxing effect that many believe energises the mind as well as enhancing your mood. Basil essential oil is a great mood lifter, especially during the darker months.
  • For mental focus, lemon, lime and mint essential oils are hailed as the ideal scents to deliver a mental energy boost when you're working from home. Patchouli and vetiver are more cooling and calming, helping to balance and ground you in a meditative way.
  • For easier breathing, eucalyptus essential oil is an aromatherapy star, with proven ability to help beat the sniffles and soothe breathing problems such as snoring. It's also thought to help reduce tension and anxiety. Pine and rosemary essential oils are also good decongestant choices.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best reed diffusers

The best essential oils for diffusers to buy

1. Tisserand Aromatherapy Total De-Stress Diffuser Oil: Best all-round essential oil for diffusers

Price: £7.50 for 9ml | Buy now from Amazon

Most of the best essential oils for diffusers are actually a blend of essential oils, a bit like coffee blends. This great value UK-produced blend combines nutmeg, geranium and orange essential oils for a warm and fruity fragrance that creates a soothing, spa-like atmosphere with a seriously calming impact. The delicious smell spreads really well throughout your home, even with just a few drops in 500ml of water.

Key details – Volume: 9ml; Essential oils: Nutmeg, geranium, orange; Benefits: Relaxing and soothing

2. This Works Deep Sleep Super Blend: Best lavender essential oil for diffusers to help you sleep

Price: £17 for 10ml | Buy now from Amazon

This supremely soothing blend of lavender, vetivert and chamomile essential oils was named 'best for sleep' in our round-up of the best essential oils, and it's designed especially for diffusers. The predominantly lavender fragrance may be a little too floral for some, but this essential oil is a tried and tested sleep remedy that can really help combat restlessness and calm your mind and body. And because the diffuser will continue to fill your room with droplets all night, it may help you stay asleep as well as helping you nod off. 

Key details – Volume: 10ml; Essential oils: Lavender, vetivert, chamomile; Benefits: Aids sleep and relaxation

3. AirWick Essential Mist Relaxing Lavender Refills x3: Best value essential oil for diffusers

Price: £11.48 for 3x 20ml | Buy now from AmazonThis set of three lavender essential oil refills for AirWick's diffuser will keep you in happy slumbers for four and a half months (up to 45 days per refill). Despite being at the bargain bucket end of the price spectrum, these aromatherapy scents are made from quality oils that spread evenly throughout your home. Indeed, AirWick's diffuser bagged the number one spot in our rundown of the best essential oil diffusers you can buy.

Key details – Volume: 3x 20ml; Essential oils: Lavender; Benefits: Aids sleep

4. Amphora Aromatics Focus Aromatherapy Blend (Clarifying): Best essential diffuser oil to soothe anxiety

Price: £8.50 for 10ml | Buy now from Feel Unique

Eucalyptus leads the pack in this blend of essential oils that'll help clear your mind (and maybe your sinuses too). Clove, rosemary, bergamot, lemon and myrrh each have their part to play in the blend, adding warm and citrussy notes that deliver a lovely calming effect without being soporific like lavender. Think of it as meditation in a tiny bottle.

Key details – Volume: 10ml; Essential oils: Eucalyptus, clove, rosemary, bergamot, lemon and myrrh; Benefits: Mental focus

Buy now from Feel Unique


5. Ilapothecary Dream Space Diffuser Oil: Best refreshing essential oil for diffusers

Price: £30 for 20ml | Buy now from Look Fantastic

This delicately-fragranced blend of vetiver, lavender and jasmine is fresh without being too sharp, and evokes the delicious smell of gardens without being too cloyingly floral. Of course, scent is a subjective pleasure, but this lush, herby, refreshing blend really hits the spot for us, creating a refreshing but relaxing ambiance that's perfect for recharging and winding down after a tough day. So it does it all, but it's on the pricey side.

Key details – Volume: 10ml; Essential oils: Vetiver, jasmine, ylang ylang, lavender, patchouli, spikenard; Benefits: Aids relaxation

Buy now from LookFantastic


6. Absolute Aromas Eucalyptus: Best essential oil for diffusers to clear congestion

Price: £7 for 30ml | Buy now from AmazonYou can pay upwards of £25 for 10ml of special congestion-clearing blends for diffusers, but this concentrated essential oil of eucalyptus, just £7 for 30ml, is by far the best-value product for the job. The oil is safe to inhale from a tissue (a couple of small drops only, mind) but the safest and most effective method is to put a few drops in your diffuser. It's remarkably powerful for clearing, for soothing colds and for helping you sleep if you find your tubes get bunged up at night. We also find the fragrance really relaxing and uplifting.

Key details – Volume: 9ml; Essential oils: Eucalyptus; Benefits: Clears congestion and aids relaxation

7. NEOM Scent to Boost Your Energy Essential Oil Blend: Best uplifting essential oil for diffusers

Price: £20 for 10ml | Buy now from Look Fantastic

The promise of an energy boost from a mere scent seems too good to be true, but this clever blend of no fewer than 24 pure essential oils really does help wake up a tired mind and encourage clear thinking. As well as being really effective mind-sharpeners, essential oils including basil and Sicilian lemon create a really invigorating, uplifting atmosphere with their crisp, clean scent. It's one of the pricier essential oil blends on our list, but this is a really high-quality product and you'll only need a couple of drops to lift the vibe in your room.

Key detailsVolume: 10ml; Essential oils: 24 including basil, lemon; Benefits: Invigorates mind and body

Buy now from Look Fantastic


8. AromaWorks Light Spearmint & Lime Essential Oils: Best value essential oil for working from home

Price: £6.75 for 10ml | Buy now from Boots

The sweet mint and zingy lime of this essential oil blend for diffusers are fantastic for boosting your alertness while trying to get your work done at home. There are subtle notes of lavender and bergamot in here, too – far too little to have you nodding off, but enough to soothe anxiety and calm your nerves while you're juggling Zoom meetings and deadlines.

Key details – Volume: 10ml; Essential oils: Spearmint, lime, lavender, bergamot; Benefits: Lifts mood and boosts alertness

Buy now from Boots


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