Sunday, November 05, 2006

Essential oil storage, shelf life, old oils, and also use in pregnancy (Aromatherapy)

What is the shelf life of essential oils?

Depends on the essential oil. Citrus oils have the shortest shelf life of about 6 months to a year, so be sure to buy from a reputable dealer which has a high turnover rate. For citrus essential oils I highly recommend not buying them in a store (unless it is a store like Enfluerage) but rather an online essential oil dealer, since essential oils in a store may have been sitting there for a while. Most essential oils will last anywhere from 1 to 2 years, some people say they are good for up to four years, with a slight loss of quality. I tend to agree with the 1-2 year opinion, because I have a couple essential oils that are pushing 2 years, and the smell has changed. If you aren't using them often, be sure to refrigerate them, which will extend the shelf life, as much as twice as long. A few essential oils, such as vertivert, frankinscene etc (most of the resinous or heartwood ones) may have a shelf life of several years.

What is the best way to store essential oils?

The best way is to refrigerate them and make sure that there is no space in the bottles so there is no room for air in the bottles (which causes degradation). If they are in the fridge, it won't matter if the glass is clear. But if you store them elsewhere, it is better to have colored glass. If you can't store them all in the fridge than any cool, dark (but not damp/humid) place will work great! Do not store them in the bathroom--too humid. I personally don't store my essential oils in the fridge but I generally use them within a year or two (or less, especially like citrus essential oils).

What do I do with old oils?

I think either a lot of people use or just throw away old oils (moaning and complaining of course since some of them are quite pricey). Though I wouldn't use old essential oils for cosmetic or medicinal uses (old essential oils may undergo some chemical changes and lose their cosmetic/medicinal properties) there is no reason why you can't use them to scent your clothes (place a few drops on a cotton ball), letters, ink etc.

Can I use essential oils during pregnancy?

I'm not an expert in this (since I've never been pregnant) but I have read some about the topic. Generally a lot of aromatherapy authors have stated that essential oils should be used at lower concentrations (1/2 to 1%) and list only a few that can be used during this time, and many should be avoided. Different authors have different lists, but most of the lists of essential oils ok to use include some of the citrus peel oils (like mandarin or tangerine) or lavender (depends on the species; recommended is L. angustofolia. You probably shouldn't use Lavendula latifolia aka spike lavender since that is high in camphor; all camphor rich oils should be avoided). But there seems to be conflict with many authors lists from what I've seen. Like several authors list chamomile and rose as okay to use, but then another listed it to be used with caution during pregnancy (though it can be used). Geranium has been cited by many authors as safe to use; but that never made since to me since geranium can have hormone-like activity. (Tisserand and Balacs listed both chamomiles, rose, and geranium as safe to use, and I generally trust their suggestions since they have conducted a lot of scientific tests on the essential oils; though their book is from 2000 so may be a little dated)

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