Practically all organic compounds have an expiration date. It’s just the chemical composition that determines how short or long that takes. For example, withessential oils, the shelf life is anywhere from two to eight years. There are also a few oils that can last even longer and actually get better with age. Resinous oils like Frankincense and Patchouli, similar to a fine wine, tend to mature in complexity over time.
But what determines the expiration date, and how can you tell if an essential oil has indeed gone bad? Read on to uncover everything you need to know about expiration dates.
The Chemistry of Expiration
To answer the question of how long do essential oils last, you have to factor in:
The variety of essential oil
The chemical family of the essential oil
The storage method
How long it takes for the deterioration process to occur depends heavily on what chemical family the essential oil belongs to. What does that mean? There are three primary chemical families to consider with essential oil shelf life:
Monoterpenes – Monoterpenes are a family of naturally occurring compounds that are found in many essential oils extracted from fruits, spices, herbs and more. They have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that are useful for general health and wellness. Monoterpenes are commonly found in citrus oils. Examples include:
Monoterpenes have a low molecular weight, which causes them to be unstable. As a result, they’re quicker to oxidize or decay whenever they frequently interact with heat or oxygen. Essential oils such as Blood Orange and Bergamot have high monoterpene concentrations, which cause them to have a shorter shelf life of one to two years.
Monoterpenols– Monoterpenols are generally great at refreshing the skin and providing emotional balance. They are immune system boosters and useful for fighting infections. Common essential oils that are high in monoterpenols include:
Because they have a higher molecular weight and increased chemical stability, their shelf life typically lasts three to five years.
Sesquiterpenols– At the other end of the spectrum is the sesquiterpenol family. They are known for having anti-inflammatory and sedative properties. Sesquiterpenol-rich oils include Patchouli and Sandalwood. Because they have a higher molecular weight, they tend to get better with age.
How Can You Tell if Essential Oils Have Gone Bad?
As discussed, when essential oils go bad, it’s not as apparent as with other products. That said, there are three things you should check for to help you determine whether or not your essential oil is safe to use:
Aroma – With certain essential oils you can tell if they’ve lost some of their pungency. Give each essential oil a sniff test before use to see if you can notice any changes in the aroma. This should be more apparent with essential oils that you’re more familiar with due to frequent use.
Oil appearance – Some essential oils, particularly any type of citrus oil that is high in monoterpenes, separate and grow cloudy as the compounds go through oxidation. Be sure to check out the color and clarity of the oil when you first get it, so you can see if changes are occurring. If so, this is a sign of an expired essential oil.
Check the essential oil bottle or product page – At Edens Garden, every single one of our essential oils and blends has a section on their product page devoted to “Safety and Shelf Life.” Confer with this page so you know the expected shelf life. Compare that number with the date when you purchased the products online. If you’re unsure when you purchased your product, you can contact our customer care team and they will look up your past orders.
How to Preserve Your Essential Oils and Maximize Shelf Life
Did you notice how the shelf life has a range? For instance, theCassia essential oil has a shelf life of two to three years. If you want the bottle to last longer, you can take steps to maximize essential oil shelf life, including:
Store it properly – Proper essential oil storage simply comes down to keeping the bottle sealed when not in use. The less exposure they have to oxygen, the longer they’ll last.
Keep it at the right temperature – Essential oils that are prone to oxidation such as citrus oils, blue oils and those rich in monoterpenes are best kept at temperatures around 32° F (the approximate temperature of the inside of your refrigerator) with little light exposure. If you do put them in the fridge, be sure to double bag your oils and seal the containers.
Use smaller containers – To prevent oxygen from interacting with your oils, you may continuously move oils to smaller containers to keep oxygen out. For example, when you use half of a 10 ml bottle, transfer the rest of the oil to a smaller bottle, such as a 5 ml bottle, to keep out as much oxygen as possible. This is not necessary but suggested if you wish to extend the shelf life of your oils that are prone to oxidation, like those mentioned above.
Edens Garden Essential Oils
The shelf life of Edens Garden essential oils is highly dependent on the type of essential oil you use and the way you store it.
To be safe, check the bottle or webpage for more details on safety and essential oil shelf life or reach out to our customer care team who is happy to help.
PubMed. Monoterpenes in essential oils. Biosynthesis and properties. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10335385/