Pure essential oils do not contain water but definitely possess antiviral/antibacterial properties. It is these traits that prevent the growth of mold, yeast, or mildew in them over the long-term.
But unfortunately, these powerful oils too go bad after a certain period. So, how long do they really last? What steps should be taken to extend their shelf life? Let’s dive right in.
Sealed bottles that are kept in dark and cool places can have an extensive shelf life. But the problem starts when they are exposed to outside elements that can impact their therapeutic properties, scent, and safety.
The active ingredients in the essential oils set the base for their therapeutic properties and benefit. However, two of their several important ingredients, namely sesquiterpenoids and monoterpenoids oxidize when exposed to the air. Oxygen present in the air spas electrons from these key ingredients and changes their chemical composition. Though it wouldn’t lead them to become rancid or spoiled but would necessarily evade their benefits.
Light and Heat
Even a short exposure to UV light can cause the formation of oxygen-free radicals in the fragrant, which ultimately, alters their chemical composition and in fact, forms a brand new one.
Some evidence also shows that exposure to heat can change the chemical balance and composition of the essential oils dramatically. Therefore, most manufacturers recommend keeping these luxuries away from high temperatures or sunlight.
So, How Long Do They Last?
The shelf life of essential oils differs from one another. While one might last for at least two years, some can last for as long as 15 years without losing their effectiveness. Contrarily, some exceptions like patchouli, ylang-ylang, vetiver, and sandalwood actually improve as they age.
The best practice to determine the shelf life of essential oils is to know their chemical family. So, let’s analyze them.
- Sesquiterpenes (8-10 years)
Rich in anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, cooling, and sedative properties, these tend to expire in 8-10 years. These include black pepper, cedarwood, spikenard, patchouli, opopanax, myrrh, German chamomile, and ginger.
- Sesquiterpenols (10-15 years)
Possessing properties like anti-spasmodic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, grounding, immune-stimulating, and skin healing, these are heavier in terms of energy and emotional grounds. Sandalwood is one such example.
- Monoterpenes (2-3 years)
These airborne purifiers and deodorizers are also energetically and emotionally uplifting. Unfortunately, they only work effectively for only 2-3 years. This family includes lemon, sweet orange, Siberian fir, Ravintsara, juniper berry, grapefruit, cypress, frankincense, bergamot, and black pepper.
- Monoterpenols (5-6 years)
Anti-infectious, antispasmodic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral, these tend to last only 5-6 years. Often used for skincare, nervous system, emotional balance, and immune system, this chemical family incorporates thyme, peppermint, palmarosa, tea tree, lavender, rosewood, rose absolute, basil, and geranium.
- Esters (5-7 years)
Having a shelf life of 5-7 years, these fruity or floral aromas are balancing, calming, uplifting, and soothing in nature. Besides, this family is good for the digestive system and the skin. Watergreen, Roman chamomile, helichrysum, jasmine absolute, and birch are some of its major family members.
- Ethers (5-7 years)
Having the aroma of anise or licorice, ethers tend to have antispasmodic, calming, and carminative properties. They help reduce spasms and pain. These include tarragon, nutmeg, fennel, and anise.
- Aldehydes (4-5 years)
Aldehydes are used for cooling and toning the nervous system. But, once oxidized, they can be irritating to your skin. Two of their main family members are Melissa and lemongrass.
- Ketones (5-7 years)
Usually used for cold and flu, these effective mucolytics and expectorants can relieve pain and reduce mucus. Ketones include thuja, spike lavender, sage, pennyroyal, mugwort, hyssop, and clary sage.
- Phenols (4-6 years)
Phenols lead to toxicity when used over long periods. Thus, essential oils like clove bud must be used meticulously.
- Oxides (3-5 years)
Helpful in aiding respiratory illnesses, oxides are mucolytic, expectorant, and antiviral. Some of their examples are rosemary, laurel leaf, and eucalyptus.
This concludes that essential oils can have a shelf life anywhere between 2-15 years. But, that fact adds up only when you choose pure-grade Young Living essential oils as they are known for the longevity of their effectiveness.