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Storage and Shelf Life

“Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions." -Antoinette Brown Blackwell/
 

Storage

  • Essential oils must be stored in dark, airtight, glass bottles. Exposure to light, oxygen, and heat will begin to break the oils down and they can then become skin irritating. Essential oils will evaporate fairly quickly if the bottle is not capped as they are volatile substances, therefore, it is important to replace the cap tightly. Some essential oils, when stored properly the shelf life of oils will increase dramatically. Some essential oil’s aromas and quality actually improve with age.
  • All essential oils need to be kept cold. The ideal temperature for storage is 35 - 40 degrees.  A referigerator designated to only store your essential oils is ideal.  Heat is a huge culprit in the oxidation process of essential oils. Citrus essential oils are the most prone to oxidation, so to avoid the damage caused by temperature variations, you could store them in the refrigerator if you have the space. Massage and most carrier oils will also benefit by this type of cold storage.
  • Never store undiluted essential oils in plastic bottles since most oils will eat into, and in some cases, melt the plastic. Diluted essential oil blends (massage oils and lotions) are fine in plastic since the concentration of essential oil is very low.

Quality

It is essential to buy therapeutic, high quality essential oils; cheap oils or “bargains” are almost always of poor quality. In order for essential oils to have a therapeutic effect they must be pure plant extracts. The best way to assure purity and quality of each batch of oil is by knowing your source and knowing that each essential oil was tested using Gas Chromatography/ Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS).  Testing every batch of essential oil with GC/MS technology assures purity and gives us the exact chemistry of each oil. This process is vital for therapeutic blending and for quality assurance.
 
While GC/MS testing will tell you if the oil is adulterated, it can not tell you the vibration or energetic quality of the essential oil.  For that you must trust the company that you are purchasing from. Here at Stillpoint Aromatics, we know each farmer and distiller that we purchase our essential oil from.
 
Our oils are stored in our cold room until we receive your order. Each bottle is "nitrogen capped" forming an oxygen barrier, which decreases the oxidation process immensely. We do not pre pour any of oils. They are consciously  hand poured for you upon receiving your order.  In this way, you are receiving the freshest oil with the highest vibration which is an energetic match to you.

So how do you know that your essential oil company really knows what they are offering you?

Here are some questions that you can ask your essential oil company…

  1. Are your oils tested with GC/MS technology?
  2. Do you test each batch of oil?
  3. Can you provide the batch specific GC/MS for the oils I buy?
  4. Can you provide the season and year the oil was distilled?
  5. Can you provide lists for which of your current oils are organic?
  6. How are your oils stored?
  7. How are your oils poured?

Shelf Life (with a little bit of chemistry)

Pure essential oils do not go rancid as carrier oils such as sunflower, olive, avacado oils can over time. Certain essentiall oils, however,  can oxidize, deteriorate and gradually lose their therapeutic value and aromatic quality.  Shelf life addresses the question of chemical stability. Aromatic oils are mixtures of many compounds. If a mixture of compounds remains stable, meaning,  if it does not decompose or change its chemistry over a long period of time in storage, then it is said that it has a long shelf life. The "shelf life" of essential oils varies tremendously, and actually their shelf life is directly influenced by many different factors.
 
The lifespan or shelf life of essential oils varies tremendously from one oil to the next, from one batch to the next, and from one supplier to the next. Factors that can directly affect the shelf life of an essential oil are the quality of the botanical used, when and how the plant material is harvested. the method of distillation, the conditions during the distillation, the handling and storage of the distiller, the storage conditions of the company you are purchasing from, and the way in which they are stored once purchased.
 
So the question we are often asked is "What is the shelf life of this particualr oil?" The so-called 'shelf life' of natural products like essential oil can be extremely difficult to predict with any certainty because of the tremendous amount of variables.  Essential oils are not the same as cream. cheese or bread, which follow a predictable and rapid path toward spoiling over a known period of time. The shelf life of an essential oil is governed by its chemical stability, and anything that interferes with this stability  will cause the oil to start the slow process of deterioration.
 
There are some generalizations that can be made based on the chemical make up of an essential oils for reference.  The most important thing is to purchase essential oils from a company that understands the importance of proper storage and imports the highest quality oils from distillers who know their craft. 
 
So for a little bit of chemistry:
Essential oils fall into different chemical families. Knowing which chemical family an essential oil belongs helps you know some of the therapeutic properties that oil has to offer as well as general guidelines for the shelf life of essential oils that fall into that particular family or combination of families.
 

The chemical families are monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenols, sesquiterpenols, aldehydes, esters, oxides, ketones, and phenols. Please not that the shelf life listed below if from our experience with our own oils.  We can not make this a generalization for other companies. As there are many many factors that influence shelf life as mentioned above.

The best way to know if your oil is at the end of a shelf life is to know your oils.  Essential ois do not know your timeline and they do not expire becasaue they are supposed to becasue a certain amount of time has passed. 

Monoterpene rich essential oils are effective airborne deodorizers and purifiers. They are emotionally uplifting & energetic and often provide an analgesic effect where muscle pain and stiffness are present. They help to reduce stagnation, both physically & energetically, as they support movement & change in the body. Monoterpenes are small molecules, so they are great skin penetration enhancers. 
Monoterpenes are unsaturated and and are considered unstable & prone to oxidation. It is important to store monoterpene rich oils well, sealed tightly, away from heat & light. 
              Shelf life of Monoterpene rich essential oils generally 2-3 years (some a bit longer)

Sesquiterpene rich essential oils cover a large group of oils and their therapeutic effects cannot be generalized. Within this family, there are oils that are analgesic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, cooling, and sedative. Sesquiterpene rich oils tend to be emotionally, energetically grounding, calming & centering. Most often they are middle & base notes, and are notably heavier oils. 
Shelf life of Sesquiterpene rich essential oils is 8 -10 years (usually longer)
 
Monoterpenol rich essential oils are often effective anti-infectious agents; being antibacterial, anti-spasmodic, anti-fungal and/or antiviral. They have the advantage of being non-toxic, mild on the skin and mucous membranes. They are great for long-term use. Oils high in Monoterpenols are great for skin care, because of their antiseptic and often anti-inflammatory properties. They nourish and support the nervous system, supporting emotional balance & they are strenghtening to the immune system. 
Shelf life of Monoterpenol rich essential oils is 5 - 6 years
 
Sesquiterpenol rich essential oils, like sesquiterpenes, have varied therapeutic properties. Within this family there are oils that are grounding, sedative, anti-spasmodic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, skin healing, and immune stimulating. Generally considered to be base notes, these heavier oils are energetically & emotionally grounding. Individual components have unique effects, so each oil should be looked at for the specific properties it offers. Some sesquiterpenol rich oils offer long term support of the terrain, and act as a tonic for the veins and lymph system.  Sesquiterpenols are generally safe oils and not known to be skin irritants.
Shelf life of Sesquiterpenol rich essential oils is 10-15 (usually longer)
 
Aldehyde rich essential oils have sedative, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and anti-infectious properties. They are cooling & calming. They are great antifungal agents and can also be tonifying to the nervous system, temperature reducing and cooling. They are middle notes with a typical lemony aroma. Aldehyde rich oils can be irritating to the skin, especially if oxidized. 
Shelf life of Aldehyde rich essential oils is 4-5 years
 
Ketone rich essential oils are valuable in respiratory infections such as colds and flu, as they are highly effective mucolytics and can also act as expectorants, reducing mucus and relieving pain. Ketones are also analgesic. Some ketones are wound healing, others have a circulatory effect. Ketone rich oils tend to be middle notes.  Note: please check safety concerns of individual oils containing high levels of ketones. Look to the specific component to determine the safety of the oil. Camphor should be avoided with infants & young children.
Shelf life of Ketone rich essential oils is 5 -7 years
 
Oxide rich essential oils have antiviral and mucolytic & expectorant effects. They can be effective aids in any respiratory illness. Some are anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antifungal, antibacterial and analgesic. They tend to have a stimulating effect on the mental process.
Shelf life of Oxide rich essential oils is 3-5 (closer to 5)
 
Ester rich essential oils are antispasmodic. They tend to be sedative, balancing, analgesic, calming, soothing & uplifting. Some ester rich oils are good digestive aids, many are anti-inflammatory, analgesic and most are great for the skin. Their aroma tends to be floral & fruity middle notes.
Shelf life of Ester rich essential oils is 5 -7 years
 
Ethers tend to have an aroma like licorice/anise. They are calming, antispasmodic & carminative. They help to reduce pain & spasms. Look to the specific chemical components to determine safety of the ether rich oil you are using. Some Ethers can be skin irritating. 
             Shelf life of Ether rich essential oils is 5 - 7 years
 
Phenol rich essential oils have great antiseptic, rubefacient, anti-bacterial, antiinfectious & disinfectant qualities and also have greatly stimulating therapeutic properties.  Please note: Essential oils that are high in phenols should be used in low concentrations and for the short term; they can lead to toxicity if used over long periods of time. Known to be the most irritating to the skin & mucous membranes
Shelf life of Phenol rich essential oils is 4-6 years