Quite often, we are asked the best way to store essential oils. While there are many opinions circulating in the aromatherapy community, all we can do is tell you our preferred process and what has worked for us.
What causes essential oils to breakdown?
So, first some information on essential oils. Essential oils are extracted from various parts of plants and trees: roots, bark, wood, berries, fruit, nuts, leaves, grasses and resins. Essential oils are volatile substances and must be treated with care and respect. The three culprits that are the cause of oxidation (the breakdown of essential oils) are heat, light, and oxygen, so it is important to store your essential oils in a dark glass bottle, keep the lid on tight, and keep them cold. Never store undiluted essential oils in plastic bottles since most oils will eat into, and in some cases, melt the plastic.
The ideal temperature for storage is 35 – 40 degrees. A refrigerator designated to store only 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 should store them in the refrigerator. Massage and most carrier oils will also benefit from this type of cold storage.
The shelf life of essential oils
We are often asked, “What is the shelf life of this particular oil?” This is a very hard question to answer because essential oils have a varied shelf life based on the freshness of the botanical used, how it was distilled, how it is stored and how it is cared for. For example, we have seen orange essential oil oxidize in one year when stored incorrectly, and 3+ years when stored correctly and distilled from fresh vibrant botanicals.
The so-called ‘shelf life’ of natural products, like essential oil, are 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. Conversely, proper storage will extend the shelf life of your oils tremendously. The bottom line is to know your oils, know your essential oil company, and trust yourself.