Have Your Essential Oils Gone Bad?

Jul 27, 09:24 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Judging from the unusual number of social media posts on this subject in recent weeks, everyone believes (or is being advised) they should throw out their essential oils after a certain date, whether or not the oils have deteriorated. In many cases, the near hysteria regarding "spoiled oils" is unnecessary, because their essential oils are just fine, and will be for quite a few years.

I've seen posts advising people to throw out lavender oil after 1 year, and on one list serve, a member nearly wept over throwing away a half ounce of 10 year old rose otto which she had kept carefully stored in the refrigerator because "it's so old it can't possibly be any good." These people are either fabulously wealthy or seriously out of their minds.

Essential oils can and do oxidize, but it's not nearly as rapid a process as everyone would have you think. You need to be careful with expressed oils (citruses) and those which are composed almost exclusively of monoterpene hydrocarbons (i.e., pine), because those have a shelf life of approximately 2 years. However, if kept refrigerated, that shelf life will be easily doubled. If properly stored, the majority of essential oils will be good for 7 or 8 years before fading in efficacy and/or possibly oxidizing. Some, such as patchouli and sandalwood, actually improve with age and can last for decades.

Many new users are concerned that they will not know when an essential oil has peroxidized. Believe me, it's very clear: the oil will create a burning, stinging or pins-and-needles sensation when properly diluted and applied to the skin. Time to throw that oil out.

Don't buy into the expiration dates and batch numbers on your essential oil bottles, because those are mostly a marketing ploy designed to get you to buy more product, or to believe that your favorite essential oil company has 100% inventory turnover annually in the warehouse and sells only essential oils that were distilled less than a year ago. Anyone who works in the industry knows that isn't even remotely true... price fluctuations, growing practices, global politics, natural disasters, hedging by the distilleries, and the long arms of the fragrance and flavoring industries prevent it.

Do ask how your supplier stores their stock. Aromaceuticals stores all of our oils under both refrigeration and nitrogen to insure that product stays fresh. Many companies reserve that treatment only for their most expensive or most perishable oils.

Help prolong the life of your essential oil collection by keeping bottle caps tightly closed, and don't leave bottles open longer than necessary. Don't leave essential oils standing for days or weeks in your diffuser. If you don't make daily use of a particular oil, store it in the refrigerator. Buy citrus or conifer oils in quantities you'll use up within 2 years. If you don't think you'll be using a new essential oil very frequently, don't buy it in a 15ml bottle when a 5ml bottle will do. Follow these guidelines and you'll have used up your oils long before they deteriorate. Don't toss out perfectly good essential oils... enjoy them!

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