Neither a cigarette nor a vape, Ripple+ are a consumer wellness brand creating zero-nicotine, plant-based ‘diffusers’. Their snazzy marketing and naturally-derived formulas promise botanical revitalisation. So just how healthy are these ‘zesty’, ‘blissful’ and ‘detoxing’ sticks?
From fashionable to filthy – cigarette smoking’s public image has taken a U-turn since the days of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While those searching for a cleansing context seek solace in sacred tobacco, the popularity of vaping substitutes has ascended over the years. Leading to a reciprocal surge in research outputs on popcorn lung, EVALI, addictions and explosive devices.
Tobacco and nicotine are multi-billion pound, plant-based industries profiting from this (de)vice. But Ripple+ want to be the solution and not the problem – by changing the way we ‘diffuse’. Its family-run, aromatic alternatives seem a world away: utilising the power of organic remedies that promote performance, attention, and relaxation. With both disposable and rechargeable versions available, it comes in 6 core formulas: Power, Dream, Boost, Relax, Revive and Focus.
‘Ripple+ introduces a new category of lifestyle wellness goods. We designed a product to ease addiction and enable consumers to benefit from the power of aromatherapy + plant extracts. Our diffusers are single-use and recyclable. Our botanical blends and zero nicotine formulas are a non- addictive alternative to smoking & vaping nicotine.’
Ripple+ do not class themselves as an e-cigarette because they contain no nicotine, diacetyl, or artificial flavourings. Instead, their blends use vegetable glycerine and a propylene glycol base – consisting of ‘botanical extracts and aromas, which have been sourced from non-GMO and pesticide-free plants’.
Although the device heats the liquid and turns it into vapour, to be absorbed through the body via inhalation, Ripple+ claim that they are not a vape: requiring less heat. The company was founded and formulated by brother and sister duo Sam and Lucie Beecham, as early as 2019. It was inspired by a family holiday to Greece, where they got their father hooked on vapes. Having helped him to break his smoking habits, they soon realised that these nicotine alternatives still left much to be desired.
After researching the nicotine vape and cigarette industries, they were shocked to see the incidences of addiction, high blood pressure, respiratory problems and carcinogens. Being a market they wanted to avoid altogether, Ripple+ is positioned as a ‘holistic, aromatherapeutic diffuser’.
The delineation between vaporisation and diffusion comes from the notion that each device is designed to heat the formulas to a specific temperature, for ‘an optimum experience’. However, the absence of nicotine is probably a more substantial component. Stocked in over 850 pharmacies and shops across the world, including Superdrug and John Bell Croydon in London, they hope their ‘no nicotine’ movement will have a positive ripple effect.
The team have also collaborated with the organisation Phoenix Futures, helping people to recover from alcohol and other substance abuse. All profits from the products sold in their merch (advertising) line are donated to support the Charity’s ‘Recovery Through Nature’ programme; a therapeutic initiative that aims to provide psychosocial support and empower people with the tools they need to grow their own produce – an intervention that has been shown to aid recovery, provide an enjoyable learning environment, and protect against relapse.
“With over 50 years of expertise fostering the community they nurture and support today, Phoenix Futures has a notable history of taking an innovative approach to support people who are battling drug and alcohol addiction. Their recovery through nature programme was something we particularly wanted to get behind, which is why 100% of the proceeds from our merch line are donated to this incredible cause.” – The Beechams
It’s through partnerships such as these that Ripple+ hope to make a real difference in destigmatising addiction, helping people to overcome unhelpful cycles in the process. In terms of the product itself, the FDA has not yet approved the Ripple+ for use as a medical device in this context, as there’s not enough data to substantiate claims that they’re an effective tool for helping smokers quit. Although it’s not a component of any of the Ripple+ products, there is some evidence for inhalation of black pepper extract. It’s therefore unlikely that they have been formulated with this in mind.
The Ripple+ is also not for everyone. While its alluring wellness branding seems to be popular with millennials and Gen Z, users should be over 18, and it should be avoided by those predisposed to lung conditions such as asthma and allergies, as well as pregnant or nursing women. Along with nicotine, other chemicals commonly used in vaping liquids that are known to cause respiratory side-effects include: propylene glycol, methyl cyclopentenolone, acetyl pyrazine, ethyl vanillin, and diacetyl. The irritation often comes from too much oil residue being deposited on the lungs.
Any product made for vaping essential oils, such as the Ripple+, is still relatively new. Dr. Susan Chiarito is a family physician in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians Commission on Health of the Public and Science, where she’s actively involved in tobacco policy development and cessation advocacy:
“Essential oils are a volatile organic compound (VOC) that when heated to over 150 – 180° Fahrenheit can convert to abnormal compounds that can be damaging to our lungs, mouth, teeth, and nose on contact with the substance.” – Dr. Susan Chiarito
While Ripple+ state that they intentionally keep their temperatures as low as possible, it is not made clear what exactly this figure this is. People heat essential oils in diffusers at home, for aromatherapeutic effects and to add fragrance to their surroundings, but they’re not heated to a high enough temperature, or inhaled directly enough, to cause significant problems. Essential oils can also trigger an allergic reaction in some, which can develop at any time.
According to Chiarito, the side-effects of vaping essential oils depend on the oil used. And recipients should look out for signs of aggravation such as wheezing, restricted breathing, or swelling of the throat. As of yet, there is little research on the potential benefits, and Chiarito advises waiting for a clearer database to be established before giving it a go.
Ripple+ would benefit from being more transparent about their supply chain and processes – providing information on their website that cites where they source their materials from, what the growing practices are, and how oils are extracted and processed to create the final product.
Their ingredients lists should be more detailed, providing links to relevant research and information on strength. Some of the essential oils they use such as peppermint do have positive health potential, but there is very little on this from a vaping or diffusion delivery standpoint.
In addition to this, they should provide more detailed insights into the labs and scientists that they work with, as well as providing Third Party Certificates Of Analysis for each of their ingestible products. In the long run, they would benefit from being more involved in investigating a greater evidence-base, inclusive of both positive and negative effects.
Addiction is also a complex subject and is not just about the substance in question. Many substances with addictive potential are routinely offered in a clinical context. As there is a large psychosocial element, it would still be possible to get into the habit of vaping / diffusing – although the essential oils would seem to have fewer risks such as withdrawal effects.
All things considered, I would probably give Ripple+ the benefit of the doubt if I was desperate to quit nicotine and tobacco, as these diffusers seem to offer relatively fewer drawbacks. Many e-cigarette brands have also started adding vitamins to their formulas, to give them a healthier glow. However this is mostly superficial, and while the Ripple+ seems to offer equally few, tangible benefits (although they do feel nice) – its ingredients sound slightly more forgiving by comparison.
Heating substances drastically alters their chemical composition, and inhalation via the lungs is a very direct route. Until enough research is done on what chemicals are created when essential oils are heated for vaping and how they affect health, it may be better to limit their use to aromatherapy in home diffusers, sprays, bath and topical body products. The benefits of most of Ripples’ marketable components such as Rhodiola, Ginseng, Ashwaganda and Jasmine could be better harnessed through their traditional preparation, as a herbal tea.