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August 07, 2020

Essential oils are having a moment. More and more people are turning to these concentrated, plant-based oils as stress relief supplements and to improve sleep, mitigate headaches, and relieve sore throats. Some studies, such as one study conducted in the U.S. at Johns Hopkins University, even found that some essential oils could kill a strain of Lyme disease bacteria even better than antibiotics could.

Essential oils are a great form of natural therapy and are free of many of the negative side effects associated with synthetic medications. They are also an investment—especially if you are buying top-quality essential oils—so you want to make sure that you are getting the most for your money. One of the best ways to do that is to store your oils properly so that they last longer.

You may have heard that essential oils last forever. It is true that they are impervious to mould, mildew and yeast, which is why they do not technically expire. They do, however, have a shelf life. Over time, the chemical composition of essential oils can change. They can become less effective, and, in some cases, they can even become harmful.

So how do you make sure that your essential oils stay good for as long as possible? And how do you know if those essential oils on your shelf are still OK to use? We’ll explore those questions further in this article.

Buy quality

You probably know that not all essential oils are created equally, so you want to ensure that the oils that you are purchasing are made from good stuff. Pure essential oils are made from distilled or pressed plants, but imposters can be made from synthetic oils with a series of chemicals engineered to mimic plant scents. Another way that companies cut corners is to dilute pure oils with cheaper oils (such as those from nuts and seeds). These products are more likely to expire quickly.

Check the carrier oils

Even when you buy the best quality essential oils, they may contain carrier oils that can affect an oil’s shelf life. There’s nothing wrong with carrier oils—in fact, they’re necessary for diluting some essential oils that are inherently too strong for human use. But while these oils don’t affect the quality of your product, some expire earlier than others. For example, black currant oil is a perfectly good carrier oil, but it can expire in just several months. Coconut and jojoba oils, on the other hand, can last for several years. Pay attention to the carrier oils and know how long they are good for.

Keep the lid on

Exposing essential oils to oxygen in the air can shorten their lifespan. Oxygen is a thief, and it likes to steal electrons. A prime example of this is rust, which is the result of oxygen stealing electrons of iron that has been left out in the open air. When oxygen comes in contact with essential oils, it depletes electrons and causes it to lose potency. And, as with lavender and tea tree, some essential oils have been shown to cause skin irritation once they have been oxidized.

Keep it out of the light

There are a lot of studies that show that when essential oils are exposed to UV light, their chemical composition can change significantly. Thus, the oil might not hurt you, but it may not do what you purchased it to do. Obviously, you won’t want to set your essential oils in the windowsill, but you should also ensure that they are stored in dark glass bottles to keep out even normal household light. Fortunately, most high-quality essential oils are sold in amber-coloured bottles.

Keep them cool

Heat can also have a compromising effect on oils. Make sure to store them in cool temperatures; you can even keep them in the refrigerator. Some oils will solidify a bit when they are chilled, but that shouldn’t hurt anything. Just make sure to remove them from the fridge an hour before use.

Ask about their shelf life

We have heard people recommend that you replace your essential oils every three years, but that may be too soon for some oils that have significantly longer shelf lives. To avoid wasting perfectly good oils, the best thing to do is ask about their “best when used by” date when you purchase them (or do your research online).

Here’s a look at the longevity of some popular oils:

  • 2 years: Frankincense, lemon, sweet orange
  • 4 years: Eucalyptus, rosemary
  • 5 years: Clove, oregano, lemongrass
  • 6 years: Sage, peppermint, hyssop, tea tree, basil, thyme, spike lavender, tarragon, chamomile, fennel
  • 10 years: Ylang ylang, myrrh, ginger
  • 10+ years: Sandalwood

Watch for changes in smell, colour and viscosity Some oils will smell different when they are too old. Others will take on a different colour or change viscosity. For examples, some might become thicker and gooier with time. If you notice these changes, it is probably best to replace your oil to avoid losing effectiveness.

The list of benefits for aromatherapy essential oils is practically endless. Just make sure that you are taking practical steps to keep your oils at their best.

 

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