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Essential Oil Shelf Life

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Essential oils will not go rancid as many carrier oils can; however, they do have a finite shelf life and will continue to degrade, lowering their healing value.

Over time, all essential oils will begin to degrade. A process in which a chemical substance changes because of external factors such as temperature, light, and oxygen are recognized to have a crucial impact on essential oil integrity.

Reasons for Essential Oil Instability

Degradation of essential oils depends on several chemical and edaphic factors that influence both the possibility of the essential oil to oxidize as well as the course of the reaction. External factors such as temperature, light, and oxygen availability are recognized to have a crucial impact on essential oil integrity.


A temperature rise of 50 degrees F approximately doubles chemical reaction rates, a relation that can be consulted to predict stability at different temperatures (Glasl 1975).

Light Ultraviolet (UV) light and visible (Vis) light are considered to accelerate auto-oxidation processes.


The major players for corrosion and oxidation are oxygen and atmospheric moisture. Oxidation reactions are among the leading causes for spoilage of essential oils, if not even the most frequent ones, it is evident that oxygen access plays a decisive role in essential oil stability.

“The shelf-life of essential oils can vary tremendously from one botanical to the next, from one distillation to the next, from one supplier to the next, and to the care, you give the oils.

Key factors that can directly affect the shelf life of an essential oil include the following:

  • Quality of the raw plant material used for distillation.

  • Naturally occurring chemical constituents that are present in the essential oil. Citrus fruit oils are high in limonene, which is particularly susceptible to oxidation.

  • The method of distillation.

  • The distillation conditions, method, and process.

  • The quality of the botanical plant used.

  • Care in bottling, storage, and handling of the essential oil by the distiller and supplier.

  • The storage conditions of the oil once you have received it.

Because many of the factors that impact shelf life begin with the botanical planting/harvesting, distillation, and initial handling/storage of your essential oil, it is important to purchase essential oils from a supplier that you trust.