What is the Shelf Life of My Aromatherapy Blend? This is a popular question we get from students and customers. They want to know, “how long will my blend last, shelf life wise?” What they are really asking, is how long will my blend work with the potency it has when you first make it? Well, that is not a cookie cutter answer with just one set amount of time. There are several factors that come into play to determine how long it will hold its potency and have its scent last, without starting to smell funny.
Aromatherapy Blend Potency Factors
Specific essential oils have a certain shelf life. Citrus oils do not last as long as floral, spices and camphoraceous scents. And essential oils that comes from woods and resins, have a longer shelf life than both citrus, florals, camphoraceous and spices.
In aromatherapy, you have top, middle and base notes. This tells you how potent something is, how long it will last, and can guide you on how many drops to add to a formula. For example, frankincense comes from resin, and is considered a base note. This tells you that it is more stable in its scent quality, will last a long time (over two years as long as it is not adulterated) and can overpower a blend if you use too much.
- Top Notes include Citrus oils. These do not last a long time (6-9 months) before the scent starts to “turn” or smell different. The potency also starts to decrease after 9 months-ish.
- Middle Notes include essential oils that come from the leaves, herbs, flowers, berries, grass, roots and spices. These are stronger than citrus scents, and will last longer , up to 2 years in scent power and potency. When you add a middle note to a citrus note, it will extend the shelf life of that blend by a few months. Hence Citrus only blends have a shorter shelf life than blends that contain citrus and middle notes such as florals and spices.
- Base Notes are hearty, strong and deep scents that come from some woods and resins. These have a lengthy shelf life, thus when you combine with top and/or middle notes, it will extend the shelf life by several months, or a year.
Other factors that can affect scent quality and potency are:
- Heat exposure such as high temperatures. Do not keep your aromatherapy blends in high heats such as a parked car in the middle of the summer months.
- Light exposure such as direct sunlight and fluorescent lights. Direct sunlight can heat the blend up too much, causing the scent quality to break down. The EMF’s from artificial lighting can deteriorate the energetic vibration as well as scent quality and potency.
How long does a room spray or diffused scent last in the air?
It depends on the square footage of the room and if it’s an open or closed in area. Ventilation plays a role as well. If you have competing scents, such as a chemical-based cleaning product or food cooking in the kitchen, this can overpower the aromatherapy scent, making it not last long at all. On average, if there is satisfactory ventilation, open area of 400-600 SF, it can linger in the air anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. If you do al all citrus blend, it will not linger very long. If you add in Middle and/or Base Notes, that will extend the scent duration.
There is something called Olfactory Adaptation. This is when you have been around a scent for a certain period of time, then you can’t smell it anymore. Your olfactory nerves have “adapted” or filled up with that scent, so you can no longer detect its odor. If you were to walk outside of the room, and re-enter, you would smell it again because it “cleansed your nose”. Someone with damaged olfaction such as anosmia (no sense of smell), may have a harder time smelling a scent, and the duration may be lighter, or shortened.
How quickly do the essential oils lose their therapeutic quality when diffused?
Well, the short (and obvious) answer is once the oils are burned off and water dissipates. Anytime essential oils are exposed to heat, it starts to deteriorate and break down the scent molecules. Therefore, this will start decreasing therapeutic value. If you use an ultrasonic or nebulizing diffuser, this uses a vibration to emit the scent molecules, thus reducing the rate of deterioration. A necklace diffuser is a great option, because the scent doesn’t get “burned”. However there may be increased olfactory adaptation since it is so close to your nose, with direct and constant inhalation therapy.
If I combine essential oils in a carrier oil or lotion base, how long will it last?
When you combine essential oils in with herbal, botanical and liquid material, you have to take into account the shelf life and quality of those ingredients. To determine overall shelf life, you can average out the shelf span for each ingredient. Of course, the sum of all of the parts create a synergy and can either increase the shelf life or decrease it. For example, if you add in fresh plant material (fresh rosemary infused olive olive), this will decrease the shelf. However, if you use a rosemary tincture or extract, it can enhance it, as it possesses preservative properties. Shea butter or beeswax would have a shelf life similar to Middle Notes. Liquids such as liquid plant enzymes, hydrosols and distilled water would also be in the Middle Note shelf life range.
Of course the goal of any aromatherapy blend is to use it, right? You should make enough to use it up within 3 months, just as you would any personal care product. It works when you use it, not when you store it in a drawer. With that said, I usually plan on 6-9 months of a shelf-life before potency and therapy will start to lessen. Other determining factors to consider for a product shelf life are:
- Quality of the essential oils and ingredients you are using – the better, more organic the quality, the shorter the shelf life as there are no preservatives or synthetics to decompose
- Exposure to heat and sunlight can decrease shelf-life and increase rancidity
- Ingredient integrated together such as all citrus oils or citrus plus flower oils plus a longer shelf life carrier oil such as castor oil. If a blend has some Base Notes in it, it will lengthen the shelf-life. Certain carrier oils are heartier and thicker than other oils, indicating it can have a longer shelf life. Review the carrier section of the course, or in the JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide, page 171.
Make sure when you are “aromatherapy-ing” you follow the proper safety guidelines. This can play a huge role in overall therapeutic value of the aromatherapy experience.
Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. It is recommended that if serious health issues exist, you consult a licensed medical provider. JennScents does not assume liability or responsibility for the use and/or misuse of this information.
References: This blog contains excerpts from JennScents Aromaversity Certification Courses and the JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide.
Article References: JennScents Holistic Comprehensive Guide, JennScents Aromaversity Classes, JennScents E-books and Reference Material
Author: Jennifer Pressimone, Entrepreneur, Formulator, Author
Jennifer Pressimone is an aromatherapy entrepreneur (an Aromapreneur™). She is the founder and President of JennScents®, Inc. and the JennScents Aromaversity®. She is the Vice-President and Regional Florida Director of Central Florida for the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). Jennifer has build, managed and maintained several health and wellness businesses over the last 20 years. She is an incredibly gifted essential oil formulator, aromatherapy educator, public speaker, herbalist, author and philanthropist. She leads with passion, experience and heart to inspire, empower and motivate others to not only follow their dreams, but crush it, realizing more than they ever imagined possible. Jennifer is a life coach and business mentor. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida, and has thousands of hours in continuing education in many health and wellness topics. Her specialties include mind-body health, gastrointestinal health and cognitive aromatherapy for humans and pets.
Disclaimers: Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. It is recommended that if serious health issues exist, you consult a licensed medical provider. JennScents does not assume liability or responsibility for the use and/or misuse of this information.