Do your essential oils have an expiration date? The short answer is, 'Yes'. While the quality of an essential oil can vary from company to company based on many factors, once we open our bottle, all oils degrade the same way, some faster than others. The main factors that cause oil degradation are oxidation due to persistent opening and closing, warm temperatures, and sunlight.
Every time we open our essential oils, they are susceptible to oxidation. Over time, oxidation does not only decrease the therapeutic, chemical constituents inside each essential oil, but it can also be a catalyst for the formation of harmful chemicals within the oils, too. Certain oils oxidize faster than others, especially those that are high in monoterpenes. What can we do to slow the oxidation process down? Ensuring lids are seated tightly a top of bottles, only opening for short periods of time, decanting half empty bottles into smaller vessels with less oxygen inside, and adding natural antioxidants, such as rosemary antioxidant or mixed tocopherols to our essential oils can slow the oxidation process.
Temperature and light can also quicken the degradation process of our oils. Oils do not like heat or sunlight, so this must be considered when we are storing them. We recommend storing oils in the fridge, in a closed container to avoid contamination, for extended shelf life. Because we have learned that temperature change from the fridge to room temperature does not negatively affect the essential oils, we recommend fridge storage for all. While amber bottles provide the strongest UV protection, if bottles are stored in a dark place, glass type does not really matter.
So, when is it time to say farewell to our oils? Signs of oxidation include colour change, increased viscosity, and a change in the overall odour. Typically, most essential oils will expire 2 years after the bottle is opened. With this fact in mind, dating oils after opening and batching out our recipes accordingly will help us to not waste these precious plant medicines. A safe way to dispose of any expired essential oils is by returning them to the earth from which they were created. You can safely pour oils into a dug hole in the ground and cover with soil, without harming the environment, and recycle your bottles as you see fit.
Ensuring we are using fresh, properly stored oils is the best way to reap the full therapeutic benefits of our essential oils in the safest possible way. So, we’ve dug our hole, ridded our collection of expired oils, and we are getting a bigger fridge! Happy blending and stay safe.