While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Alternative medicine has become a popular option in today’s healthcare world, and with it comes the use of essential oils. These oils can be used for a variety of reasons, from aromatherapy to prevention of illness.
If you don’t use a lot of an oil, you may wonder if they expire. The answer is yes, they do!
We’ll take a look at why essential oils expire, and we’ll review the average shelf life of specific essential oils, as some last longer than others. Read on.
Why do essential oils expire?
As soon as you open a new bottle or container of essential oils and it comes into contact with oxygen, a process called oxidation begins. The oxidation process involves the changes of oxygen bonds between cells into carbon bonds.
Does this mean that essential oils spoil or “go bad?”
Dssential oils don’t spoil like food does, but they do change over time. Because it’s hard to determine what the oils have changed into, it’s also hard to determine whether or not they’re safe to use.
The bottom line is, don’t inhale expired essential oils or use them on your skin after they have expired.
What's the approximate shelf life of essential oils?
Most essential oils have a shelf life, but this shelf life can vary according to the type of oil. These tables show the average shelf life of specific oils.
Citrus family: max 3 years
Floral family: 3-5 years
Leafy family: 3-5 years
Rooty family: 3-5 years
- Among many, essential oils that can be kept 5 years or more are:
a) Black Pepper
c) Clove Bud
Can you extend the shelf life of essential oils?
Here are some tips for how to extend the shelf life of your essential oils.
Reduce exposure to oxygen
To prevent your essential oils from expiring early and to ensure they stay potent, minimize the amount of time the cap is off the bottle. The longer the bottle is uncapped, the more the oil is exposed to the oxygen in the air.
Also, be sure to place the cap back tightly on the bottle. If it’s not screwed on tightly, oxygen may still get into the bottle and begin the oxidation process.
Keep away from light and heat
The best place to store your essential oils is in a cool, dry place like a kitchen cabinet or your bathroom medicine cabinet. Keep your oils away from direct sunlight or any other direct heat and light sources.
It’s also best to buy or use dark-colored glass containers for your oils. The more opaque the glass, the more protection it offers against oxidation.
Use smaller containers to store your oils
Smaller containers will prevent oxygen from being trapped in the bottle when it’s opened. This will prevent oxidation from happening earlier than it should and will extend the life of your oils.
How to tell if your essential oil is expired?
Once you’ve opened a bottle of an oil, you should keep track of how long you’ve had it. A handy way to do this is to take a marker and write the date that you opened it on the label.
Use the charts above for a quick reference for shelf life, and throw out the oil once it hits its expiration date.
If your oil isn’t dated, here are some other indications that it might be time to toss it:
• the smell of the oil has changed since you first opened the bottle
• the color has changed, or it has become cloudy
• the consistency is thicker or thinner than it was when you opened it
What’s the Risk of Using Expired Essential Oils?
Even if you think your essential oil has gone bad, you may be wondering whether there’s any actual risk in using it. When the chemical composition of essential oils are oxidized, it’s not just the aroma that changes.
In certain cases, spoiled essential oils can cause skin irritation, rashes, burns and other adverse effects. Tea tree oil and lavender oil, for instance, are known to cause irritation once they undergo oxidation.
So how long do essential oils last?
The answer is different for different oils, because they all have different chemical compositions. Most will last at least two years before starting to degrade, unless they contain one of the unstable carrier oils mentioned earlier. And some can last for as long as 15 years without losing their effectiveness.
Many experts advise replacing essential oils every three years to be safe. The exceptions are patchouli, ylang ylang, vetiver and sandalwood because they actually improve as they age. But three years is on the short end of the lifespan scale for some other essentials.
Here’s a categorized list of the essential oil shelf life you can expect, as long as they’re treated and stored properly.