Is it true that essential oils never expire?

Essential oils that are approved for internal use are required to have a printed expiration date on their packaging. However, beyond this date, one cannot guarantee the oils because essential oils naturally lose some of their potency over time.The shelf life of essential oils, carrier oils and massage oils varies tremendously, and their life expectancy can be influenced by many different external factors. Despite what you may have been told or read in books, the so-called ‘shelf life’ of natural products can be extremely difficult to predict with any certainty because there are so many variables.

The shelf life of a natural oil is governed by its chemical stability, and anything that interferes with this stability will cause the oil to start the slow process of deterioration.Heat, sunlight and air can all have a detrimental effect on the chemistry of essential oils, carrier oils, and mixtures of both such as massage oil blends. In addition, the complex and varying chemistry of natural essential oils means that the rate of deterioration will be different for every individual botanical species of oil, even when kept under ideal conditions. This means that some oils will last far beyond what many books claim, whilst others may deteriorate earlier than stated. The latter is true for Citrus oils which are much more volatile than other oils and so should be consumed within 2-3 years of purchase. Other oils with bigger compounds, such as sesquiterpenes (as found in Frankincense, Myrrh and Sandalwood) actually get better with age!Keep in mind that, even when kept under ideal conditions, essential oils do not last forever. According to Robert Tisserand, consider discarding opened bottles of essential oils after:

  • Citrus, Lemongrass, Frankincense, Melaleuca, and Spruce oils – 1-2 years
  • Virtually every other essential oil – 2-3 years
  • Sandalwood, Vetiver, Patchouli – 4-8 years

Properly stored essential oils will maintain their potency for a long time.

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