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Caring For Your Oils

Written by Yeri Wolcott

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Plants are delightfully complex organisms. They manufacture all kinds of compounds that provide a variety of benefits to the plant—and to us! Each species makes its own unique blend that depends on its own metabolic process, and according to its environment. When taken as a whole, these compounds seem to be the “essence” of the plant—hence why we call them “Essential Oils”.

Essential Oils are carefully extracted from plant materials so that the therapeutic compounds are undamaged. But after the extraction, it’s up to us to make sure we keep them safe!

How long will my oils last?

Essential Oils are natural products, and as such they do have shelf lives. The shelf life of each oil varies depending on the ingredients in the blend, as well as the carrier oil or mixture containing the Essential Oil. Some oils such as Lavender can last as long as 4-5 years, while others (citrus blends in particular) should be used more quickly, ideally within a few months.

As long as you use your oils regularly and don’t just store them on a shelf, you shouldn’t have to worry about them going bad before you run out.

Can my oils become rancid?

If you let your oil sit for too long, especially when it’s exposed to the open air and in sunlight or extended periods of heat, it can begin to oxidize. When an oil oxidizes it can create a variety of unpleasant-smelling compounds such as aldehydes and carboxylic acid, forming free radicals in the process—molecules which you want to avoid putting on your skin or in your body.

Storing your essential oils

Your Essential Oils are precious plant extracts that should be kept safe. Since essential oils are natural products and do not contain preservatives, they can become rancid. Here are a few things you can do to prolong the shelf life of your oils and keep them fresh:

  1. Avoid high temperatures. Room temperature—even a warm room—is just fine for storing oils. If you start getting about mid-eighties then you’ll want to think about moving your oils someplace cooler. You can even refrigerate them if you want (although be aware that many oils become cloudy below a certain temperature—this is normal and does not harm the oil in any way). Storing your oils in a car is usually not a good idea since cars sometimes act like greenhouses!
  2. Avoid direct sunlight. The delicate compounds found in Essential Oils can be sensitive to UV rays. Too much direct light can break the compounds down over time, reducing their therapeutic benefits.
  3. Keep them closed when you are not using them. Essential Oils have volatile compounds that will release into the air if they are not contained. You want to keep them locked in so they can be released when you can benefit from them!
  4. If you know you will be storing your oils for a long period of time, you can add antioxidants to your blends to help delay rancidity. Some readily available antioxidants are Vitamin E, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Grapefruit Seed Extract, and/or Rosemary Oleoresin Extract.

If you follow these easy, basic rules, then you should never have to worry about the quality of your oils. Your oils are valuable and require only basic care to maintain their therapeutic qualities. Use them and enjoy them!

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