Essential oils are being used more often, by health care practitioners, aromatherapists, and individuals at home. This is great news, since essential oils, when used properly, can offer help with a wide variety of issues. Essential oils can alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms, provide a sense of calm, improve sleep, assist in hormone balancin and much more. However, do you know that essential oils do not last indefinitely, and that each oil has its own average shelf life? When an oil becomes oxidized it can cause minor to severe skin irritation. In addition to skin issues, oxidized oils can also cause respiratory issues and will lose their therapeutic benefits.
Oxidation occurs when an essential oil has been exposed to light and/or heat, or it occurs simply over time as a reaction of oil molecules with oxygen molecules.
How do you know when an essential oil is oxidized? Generally, oils higher in monoterpenes, phenols, and oxides have a faster oxidation rate than those with a higher percentage of other chemical families. Lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil, for example, has a shelf life of approximately just two years.
When purchasing oils, look for a distillation date, which will help. You will also notice a loss or change of odor, and the oil may become viscous or cloudy. If you are familiar with a particular oil and use it a lot, you will know something is “off”.
Some common oils which are most prone to oxidation are: Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Lemon (Çitrus limon), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata var mandarin), Melissa (Melissa officinialis), Neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara), Orange (Citrus sinensis), Rhododendron (Rhododendron anthopogon), Tangerine (Citrus reticulata), and Yuzu (Citrus junos).
What to do with an essential oil which has oxidized? You can often use it to make cleaning products (just wear gloves in this instance to avoid possible irritation), or just toss it. Always store your oils in a cool dark place to keep them active for a longer period of time. If you are purchasing a large bottle of essential oil, always decant into smaller bottles to prolong shelf life.
Essential oils are an amazing addition to your optimal health. Treat them right and they will return the favor. In addition to making customized essential oil products, I can also assist you in understanding how to utilize the essential oils you own.