Despite having existed for thousands of years, there’s still so much that we don’t know about essential oils. This leads to a lot of misinformation and myths that people begin to believe are true. These myths have the potential to cause harm or to cause consumers to make poor investments. Here are three such myths regarding essential oils as well as the truth behind the claims.
Essential Oils Never Expire
Most essential oils do not have labels that display their expected shelf life. This has led many people do believe that the oils will never expire. While essential oils can certainly last a long time, they do have a shelf life that will affect their quality as well as their safety. It’s a good idea to record exactly when you purchased a specific oil so that you can determine when to discard it if not fully used.
The lifespan of essential oils is shortened via contaminants and degradation. Contamination occurs the first time that you open the bottle. Oxygen, light, and heat are constantly causing degradation as well. Oxygen will enter the bottle each time it is opened. Heat and light can penetrate the bottle long before it has been opened.
There are several different factors that will influence the impact of contamination and degradation. For example, the more frequently you open the bottle, the more often the oil will be exposed to contaminants and oxygen. Bottles of a certain color are more effective at preventing degradation from UV light. Oils that are extracted using certain techniques will be more or less prone to heat damage.
The chemical composition of the oil will affect its shelf life as well. A great example of this is sandalwood essential oil. It contains sesquiterpene alcohols. Those alcohols actually cause the oil to increase with potency as it ages until it reaches a certain point. Thus, sandalwood oil will have a longer shelf life than most oils. Citrus oils, on the other hand, will oxidize faster than most oils because of the limonene.
Essential oils like sandalwood that posses sesquiterpenes will have a shelf life of around 6 years. Essential oils with esters, ketones, and monoterpenoids will last roughly 4 or 5 years. Those with a high volume of phenols can last as long as 3 years. Finally, essential oils that are primarily monoterpenes have a shelf life between 1 and 2 years.
Oil Purity Determines Its Quality
Many companies label their oils as “100 percent pure.” In many cases, this is a marketing tactic used to attract new buyers. Even in cases where it is more than a marketing tactic you should not be led to believe that purity is what determines quality. The purity of an oil is an objective quality that means the oil has not been modified or tampered with. But the quality of that oil is subjective and can be influenced by a number of variables.
It is entirely possible for two batches of essential oil to come from the same supplier via the same extraction process and to have different levels of quality. Many different environmental and biological factors will impact the chemical profile of the plant as it grows. Those same factors will influence the quality of the essential oils it produces.
How the oil is extracted from the plant can affect the quality as well. Some extraction methods leave additional plant products in the oil. Others may fail to extract all of the desired chemicals. This would mean that the same oil extracted using two different methods could affect the body in two different ways. One extraction process may produce an oil that is more effective at dealing with your particular issues.
At the end of the day, you will often have to determine the quality of an oil by testing it yourself. You cannot rely on claims or labels. If the oil delivers the results that you want, then it’s safe to claim it is a high-quality oil. Each person will have to determine that for themselves.
Essential Oils Are The Main Component Of Fragrance Oils
The differences between essential oils and fragrance oils have caused quite a bit of confusion. Fragrance oils, also known as scented oils, are most often used in air fresheners and cleaning products. However, some air fresheners use essential oils instead, which has led to many people believing they are interchangeable. Fragrant oils are often sold individually in small bottles designed to imitate bottles commonly used for essential oils.
At any rate, it’s very important that you understand the differences between the two. An essential oil is a natural compound that is extracted from plants. A fragrant oil is a synthetic compound that is produced in a laboratory using a variety of chemicals. Fragrant oils are very cheap to produce, but they have absolutely none of the benefits associated with essential oils. As a matter of fact, many of them contain chemicals that are believed to be carcinogenic.
A recent example of this problem is the 2014 classification of styrene as a carcinogenic substance. Styrene is a widely used chemical in the fragrance world. It’s one of the basic building blocks of many different synthetic fragrances. It’s also found in foam cups and containers.
To make matters worse, it’s nearly impossible to know which chemicals are used in products with fragrance oils. Any number of products in your home could contain styrene or one of the many other chemicals that pose a similar risk.
While fragrance oils can increase a person’s risk for cancer, an essential oil could potentially decrease that risk. Under no circumstances should you view a fragrance oil as a viable replacement for an essential oil. They may be able to perfectly reproduce the aromatic qualities of the essential oil, but they lose all of the health benefits and come with many new risks of their own.
There is now a wealth of information and clinical studies involving essential oils available online. Use this information to learn as much as possible about aromatherapy so that you can avoid falling for myths like those above.