"What's the best way to look after my essential oils?" This is usually one of the first questions asked by newcomers to aromatherapy, and it is definitely worth knowing a few do's and don'ts on this important subject. Why? Because the way that you look after your oils affects their shelf life, so these two subjects are inextricably linked.
Providing the oils were fresh when you purchased them, correct storage is most definitely the key to getting the most out of your oils. Both essential and vegetable oils do not like extreme, or repeated changes in temperature, and having spent your hard earned cash on all those wonderful oils, you need to make sure you look after them properly or their therapeutic properties may be lost.
There is also another important reason that you should store your oils properly, and this is to do with one of safety. We will come back to this subject a little later.
First things first. Essential oils should be packaged in dark coloured glass, since this filters out the suns ultra-violet light. Until quite recently, dark amber was always the colour of choice in glass bottles as can be seen from old-style medicine bottles. Today, dark shades of blue, green and violet have become more popular and they all offer some protection to your oils.
However, no matter what the colour of bottle is, you should never leave oils in a place where the sun will shine directly on them - like on a window shelf in the bathroom, for example. Over a period of months this will dramatically speed up the process of oxidation (deterioration) due to them continually heating up and cooling down. Choose a cool, dark place to keep them safely away from heat and also inquisitive children - safety point number one.
Citrus essential oils are the most prone to oxidation, so to avoid the damage caused by temperature variations you could store them in the refrigerator if you have the space. Carrier oils and massage oils will also benefit by being stored in this way. Don't have the refrigerator setting too cold, anywhere between 5 - 10 degrees Celsius is fine, and much better than on the window-ledge in the kitchen!
You will find that essential oils of Rose Otto, Aniseed, Star Anise and Fennel may solidify at this temperature. This just means you will need to allow them to warm up before use, and in the case of Rose Otto just holding it in your hand for a few minutes produces enough heat to dissolve the natural waxes which solidify just below room temperature. Other oils may need to stand for a few hours to return to normal.
During the summer when it is hot, it is a good idea to store your Carrier oils in the fridge, since they can be particularly vulnerable. Take them out of the fridge 12 hours before you need to use them to allow them to naturally adjust to room temperature, because when stored at low temperatures some carrier oils form fatty particles which will need to be dissolved again before you can use them. A quick shake of the bottle is all that is needed to ensure that waxy/fatty particles are dissolved back to their normal state.
Jojoba oil will set into a solid, butter-like consistency at cool temperatures, and this is an indication that the oil has not been 'extended' with a cheaper carrier oil. Unrefined Avocado may also react in a similar way, although the refined oil will remain liquid since most of the essential fatty acids have been removed during rectification.
If you do not have the space in your fridge, you may wish to consider a storage box of some type to keep your oils in. It does not have to be a fancy box, just something to keep them all together in one place and away from extreme changes in ambient temperature. Having said that, protecting your oils by keeping them safely in an attractive Quinessence Aromatherapy Storage Box is a wise investment that will soon pay for itself.
Being moderately volatile (most are not highly volatile), essential oils will evaporate fairly quickly so be sure to replace the cap tightly when you have finished using them. You don't want the essential oils evaporating up towards the heavens! Don't leave them laying around after using them, always return them to your place of storage.
And this leads to safety point number two; essential oils are flammable, therefore never leave them near sources of ignition such as cookers, fires, candles or any naked flame. To help put this into perspective - vodka and many other spirits are also flammable, but if you store them safely and sensibly this is not a problem. Since safety is a very important matter when using essential oils, be sure to read our Safety Guidelines in the About Aromatherapy section of our site.
One final but very important point, - under no circumstances should you ever decant your undiluted essential oils into plastic bottles since most oils will eat into, and in some cases, melt the plastic. Diluted essential oil preparations such as massage oils and lotions are fine in plastic since the concentration of essential oil is very low.
To get the greatest benefits from your essential oils and aromatherapy products, be sure to read about the shelf life of oils in this section.
Copyright © Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd 2006. Written by Geoff Lyth
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If you buy larger sizes of essential oils you can extend the shelf life by decanting them into smaller bottles.
For example, 30ml of essential oil decanted into 3 x 10ml bottles will last much longer because there will be less air in the bottles to cause oxidation.
Essential oils should be stored in a cool, dark place, away from sunlight.
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