Essential oils have been a part of traditional wellness practices for generations, offering a spectrum of potential benefits. However, it is important to note that these oils, including mānuka oil, can expire.

Understanding this is as crucial as recognising the differences between remedies in traditional practices to make the most of these oils and ensure their safety and effectiveness throughout their use.


Why Do Essential Oils Expire? 

Essential oils follow a unique ageing process that distinguishes them from perishable items such as food. While they don’t “expire” in the conventional sense, they gradually transform due to oxidisation. This transformation occurs when the oil interacts with the oxygen in the surrounding air. Additionally, external factors, including exposure to light and heat, can notably accelerate this change.

This process resembles a slow and ongoing evolution, where essential oils adjust over time. This adjustment modifies the oil’s chemical makeup, impacting its scent, colour, and, most importantly, its therapeutic qualities. As these oils age and combine with oxygen, their effectiveness and potency may diminish.


What Is Oxidisation? 

Oxidisation, in the context of essential oils, is a fundamental chemical process prompted by the interaction of the oil with oxygen, ultraviolet (UV) light, and heat. This natural phenomenon transforms the oil’s molecular structure, converting oxygen bonds into carbon bonds.

As this oxidisation process unfolds, the intricate chemical composition of the essential oil undergoes subtle yet impactful alterations. Over time, these changes result in a gradual decline in the oil’s potency and therapeutic effectiveness. The oil’s molecular integrity degradation can compromise its aroma, flavour, and, most importantly, its medicinal properties.


How Does Oxidisation Apply to Essential Oils?

When exposed to oxygen, light, heat, or other factors, essential oils undergo oxidation, which alters their composition and affects their quality.

Additionally, it is essential to highlight that oxidation doesn’t solely influence conventional essential oils; it also impacts particular varieties, including mānuka oil. Renowned for its distinctive properties, mānuka oil is susceptible to oxidisation, compromising its unique attributes. Hence, understanding and effectively addressing oxidation becomes crucial when dealing with specialised essential oils to maximise their aromatic and therapeutic benefits.

Read everything you need to know about mānuka oil here.


How To Extend An Essential Oil’s Shelf Life

Extending the shelf life of essential oils is a matter of good practice. These practical guidelines are vital to achieving this goal:

  • Proper Sealing: Always seal essential oil bottles tightly when not in use to prevent oxygen exposure, which can lead to oxidation and alter the oil’s aroma and therapeutic properties.
  • Utilise Dark Amber Bottles: Use dark amber or cobalt blue bottles for storage to shield the oils from light. These dark colours block harmful UV rays, protecting the oils from light-induced degradation and maintaining their freshness and potency.
  • Shield from Light and Heat: Store essential oils in a cool, dark place away from direct light and excessive heat. This method prevents accelerated oxidation, maintaining the oil’s chemical composition and ensuring its longevity and therapeutic benefits.


What Is the Shelf Life of Mānuka Oil?

Small manuka essential oil bottle on decorative tree trunk Does Manuka Oil Expire?

The shelf life of mānuka oil, similar to many essential oils, can vary depending on factors such as:

  • Storage conditions
  • Quality of the oil
  • Whether it’s been properly sealed and protected from environmental factors

Pure and high-quality mānuka oil has a shelf life of 2 to 3 years, given that it has been stored correctly.


What is the Shelf Life of Common Essential Oils?

Typically, essential oils remain in good condition for around 2 to 5 years when stored in dark glass containers, protected from direct light and heat. However, certain oils such as Patchouli, Sandalwood, and Vetiver can often maintain their quality for longer periods, extending to 6 to 8 years.

It’s important to note that these timeframes are general estimates and can vary based on factors


Common Name Scientific Name
Frankincense Serrata Co2 Boswellia serrata
Grapefruit Pink Citrus x paradisi
Lemon Citrus x limon
Lime Citrus x aurantifolia
Mandarin Citrus reticulata
Orange Blood  Citrus sinensis
Orange Sweet Citrus sinensis
Tangerine Citrus reticulata
Yuzu Citrus junos



Common Name Scientific Name
Balsam Fir Abies balsamea
Bergamot Citrus bergamia
Black Pepper Piper nigrum
Camphor Cinnamomum camphora
Catnip Nepeta cataria
Chamomile German Matricaria chamomilla
Chamomile Roman Chamaemelum nobile
Coffee Coffea arabica
Copaiba Copaifera officinalis
Cypress Cupressus sempervirens
Davana Artemisia pallens
Dill Weed Anethum graveolens
Elemi Canarium luzonicum
Fir Needle Abies sibirica
Fragonia Taxandria fragrans
Frankincense Essential Oils (all types)  
Helichrysum Italicum Helichrysum italicum
Jack Pine Pinus banksiana
Juniper Berry Juniperus communis
Kunzea Kunzea ambigua
Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus
Mānuka Leptospermum scoparium
May Chang Litsea cubeba
Melissa Melissa officinalis
Neroli Citrus x aurantium
Nutmeg Myristica fragrans
Pine Scots Pinus sylvestris
Ravensara Ravensara aromatica
Rosemary 1,8 Cineole Rosmarinus officinalis
Saro Cinnamosma fragrans
Spearmint Mentha spicata
Spruce Tsuga canadensis
Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia



Common Name Scientific Name
Balm Mint Bush Prostanthera melissifolia
Basil Linalool Ocimum basilicum
Cajeput Melaleuca cajuputi
Cardamon Elettaria cardamomum
Carrot Seed Daucus carota
Chamomile German C02 Matricaria chamomilla
Cinnamon Cassia Cinnamomum cassia
Cinnamon Bark Cinnamomum verum
Citronella Cymbopogon winterianus
Clary Sage Salvia sclarea
Coriander Seed Coriandrum sativum
Eucalyptus Dives Eucalyptus dives
Eucalyptus Globulus Eucalyptus globulus
Fennel Sweet Foeniculum vulgare
Frankincense Carteri CO2 Boswellia carteri
Ginger Root CO2 Zingiber officinale
Ho Wood Cinnamomum camphora
Jasmine Absolute Jasminum sambac
Laurel Leaf Laurus nobilis
Lavandin Lavandula x intermedia
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Myrrh Commiphora myrrha
Petitgrain Citrus x aurantium
Rosalina Melaleuca ericifolia
Star Anise Illicium verum
Thyme Linalool Thymus vulgaris
Thyme Thymol Thymus vulgaris
Vanilla Oleoresin Vanilla planifolia



Common Name Scientific Name
Amyris Amyris balsamifera
Allspice Pimenta dioica
Blue Cypress Callitris intratropica
Blue Tansy Tanacetum annuum
Cedarwood Essential Oils (all types)  
Cinnamon Leaf Cinnamomum verum
Clove Bud Syzygium aromaticum
Geranium Bourbon Pelargonium x asperum
Geranium Egyptian Pelargonium x asperum
Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini
Peppermint Mentha x piperita
Rose Absolute Rosa x centifolia
Rose Otto Rosa x damascena
Sage Dalmation Salvia officinalis
Turmeric CO2 Curcuma longa
Valerian Root Valeriana jatamansi
Vanilla CO2 Vanilla planifolia
Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
Ylang Ylang Complete Cananga odorata
Ylang Ylang Extra Cananga odorata



Common Name Scientific Name
Buddha Wood Eremophila mitchellii
Patchouli Pogostemon cablin
Sandalwood Australian Santalum spicatum
Sandalwood Indian Santalum album
Vetiver Vetiveria zizanioides


Can I Use Essential Oils After The Expiry Date?

Essential oils do not have a strict expiration date, but they may undergo oxidation over time, affecting their quality and efficacy. Here are some practical suggestions for what you can do with essential oils that have reached this stage:

  1. Diffusion: Use slightly oxidised essential oils for aromatherapy. If you find the aroma pleasant, it is safe to use in diffusers to enjoy the scent.
  2. Laundry: To keep your fabrics smelling fresh, add a drop or two of slightly oxidised essential oil to your laundry. However, avoid applying oils directly to fabric to prevent potential staining or damage.
  3. Cleaning: Repurpose oxidised essential oils for cleaning purposes. You can use them in homemade cleaning products, such as refrigerator deodorisers, window sprays, potpourri, or cleaning fizzes.
  4. Upcycling: Remember to discard empty essential oil bottles. Alternatively, save these for various creative projects and DIY activities, from storing small craft supplies to making homemade air freshener containers.

It is essential to trust your senses when using slightly oxidised essential oils. Suppose the aroma is still pleasing, and they haven’t developed any off-putting odours or colours. In that case, you can find new ways to use them daily, even if they are no longer suitable for therapeutic or aromatherapeutic purposes.


How Can I Tell if my Essential Oil is Expired?

After unsealing a bottle of essential oil, it is advisable to maintain a record of its usage duration. A practical approach is to use a marker to inscribe the opening date on the label. To determine its suitability for use, refer to the provided charts for the estimated shelf life and consider discarding the oil when it expires.

In cases where the oil lacks a date marker, here are alternative signals that might indicate it’s time to dispose of it:

  • Sensory Changes: Be observant of any noticeable alterations in the aroma of the oil. If the scent significantly differs from its initial aroma when uncorked, it may indicate deterioration.
  • Visual Clues: Inspect the oil’s colour and clarity. A shift in hue or the development of cloudiness can be a sign of chemical changes, potentially making the oil less suitable for use.
  • Texture and Consistency: Assess whether the oil’s consistency has markedly changed. If it has become notably thicker or thinner than when first opened, it could suggest a decline in quality.


What Is the Best Way to Dispose of Expired Essential Oils?

When disposing of expired essential oils, it is necessary to follow the correct procedures to avoid clogging pipes or harming the environment. Here’s a guide on how to properly dispose of old essential oils, including mānuka oil:

  • Check Local Regulations: Find out the rules for disposal in your area by contacting local authorities.
  • Contact Waste Services: If you have a waste management service, ask them how to dispose of the oils safely.
  • Recycling Centers: Look for local recycling or hazardous waste centres that accept essential oils.
  • Reuse: If the oil is only slightly expired, use it for non-therapeutic purposes like cleaning or crafting.
  • Consider Donations: Some organisations may accept expired oils.
  • Be Cautious with Mānuka Oil: Given its unique properties, follow disposal guidelines and consult local experts if in doubt to handle it safely.

If you want to learn more about ingesting manuka oil, read this article here.


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