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Do Essential Oils Expire? An In Depth Look at Keeping Your Essential Oils Fresh

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Essential Oils: Do They Have a Best By Date or Are They Forever Fresh?


Essential oils have become increasingly popular over the years, and for good reason. These potent, aromatic oils are extracted from plants and have been used for medicinal, therapeutic, and cosmetic purposes for centuries. However, as with any product, it's natural to wonder if essential oils expire. In this blog post, we will explore the science behind essential oils and their shelf life to answer the question, "Do essential oils expire?"


Do essential oils expire infographic

What Does Expiration Mean For Essential Oils?


First, let's define what we mean by expiration. Expiration refers to the point at which the quality and efficacy of a product deteriorate to the extent that it is no longer safe or effective to use.


Essential oils are extracted from plant material through a process of steam distillation or cold pressing. The quality and potency of essential oils are determined by several factors, including the quality of the plant material used, the extraction method, and the storage conditions. Essential oils are volatile compounds that are sensitive to heat, light, and air. Exposure to these elements can cause the essential oil to deteriorate, which can lead to a loss of potency and aroma. This doesn't necessarily mean that the essential oil is expired though, as they can still provide therapeutic benefits even if they have started to deteriorate.


So Do Essential Oils Expire?


The short answer is no, essential oils do not expire in the traditional sense, as they don't become harmful or toxic to use after a certain period. However, this doesn't mean that essential oils will retain their therapeutic benefits forever.


To further understand the shelf life of essential oils, let's take a look at some common factors that can affect their potency and longevity:


Exposure to Air


As mentioned earlier, exposure to air can cause essential oils to oxidize, which can lead to a decrease in potency. To minimize this, always make sure to tightly seal the lid on the bottle after use.


Exposure to Light


Essential oils should be stored in dark glass bottles to protect them from exposure to light. UV rays can cause the compounds in the oils to break down, leading to a decrease in efficacy.


Exposure to Heat


Heat can also cause essential oils to break down, so it's important to store them in a cool, dark place. Additionally, avoid leaving essential oils in a hot car or near a heat source.


Age


While essential oils don't have an expiration date, they can still lose potency over time. As a general rule of thumb, essential oils should be used within 1-2 years of purchase for optimal efficacy.


Quality


The quality of essential oils can vary depending on factors such as the plant source, extraction method, and storage conditions. It's important to purchase high-quality, pure essential oils from a reputable source to ensure their potency and efficacy. If you are looking essential oils, consider checking out our shop page. All of our essential oils and blends are USDA Certified organic, GC/MS tested, and Non GMO.



It's worth noting that essential oils can still be used even if they've lost some of their potency over time. However, it's important to keep in mind that the effects may be less noticeable or effective than fresh oils.


How to Tell if Your Essential Oil is Deteriorating


To determine if an essential oil is deteriorating, you should look for changes in color, smell, and consistency. A change in any of these factors can indicate that the oil has lost its potency and may no longer be effective.


Woman smelling essential oil bottle

Color


Essential oils can change color as they age. For example, citrus oils can become darker or more yellow over time. If an essential oil has changed color significantly from its original hue, it's a sign that the oil has oxidized and is no longer as potent.


Smell


The aroma of an essential oil can also change as it ages. If the oil smells off or has a rancid odor, it's a sign that the oil has oxidized. Some essential oils, such as peppermint or eucalyptus, have a naturally strong and pungent scent.


Consistency


Essential oils can also become thicker or more viscous as they age. If the oil appears syrupy or thick, it's a sign that the oil has oxidized and lost its potency. On the other hand, if the oil appears watery or thin, it may have been diluted with a carrier oil or other additives.


How to Keep Essential Oils Fresh


The best way to keep your essential oils fresh is to store them in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. A cupboard, drawer, or essential oil storage box is an ideal location. Additionally, essential oils should be stored in dark glass bottles with a tight-fitting lid to protect them from exposure to air.




It's also worth noting that certain essential oils may have a longer shelf life than others. For example, oils with a high concentration of monoterpenes, such as lemon and orange, tend to have a shorter shelf life than oils with a high concentration of sesquiterpenes, such as frankincense and sandalwood.


Shelf Life of Common Essential Oils


Lemon: 1-2 years

Lavender: 3-4 years

Peppermint: 4-5 years

Eucalyptus: 3-4 years

Frankincense: 5-6 years

Tea Tree: 3-4 years


Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines and the shelf life of essential oils can vary depending on various factors. Always check the label or consult with the manufacturer for specific storage recommendations.


Final Thoughts


In conclusion, essential oils do not expire in the traditional sense of the word. Unlike food or medications, essential oils do not have an expiration date. However, essential oils can gradually lose their potency over time, particularly if they're not stored correctly or exposed to heat, light, or air. As a result, it's important to take proper care of your essential oils by storing them in a cool, dry, and dark place and using them within their recommended shelf life. Regularly checking your oils for changes in color, consistency, or odor can help you determine their quality and potency. While essential oils may not have an expiration date, they do have a shelf life, and by taking care of them, you can ensure that they remain effective and beneficial for a long time.




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