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Some wines need decades to reach their full potential. Certain varieties of cheese are left to ripen for years to ensure they're ready for market. Although numerous sources suggest foods like dried beans, salt, vinegar, honey, and granulated sugar retain their best qualities for many years, you'll still find "best by," "sell by," or "use by" dates printed on their labels. Product manufacturers stamp these dates on packages so consumers know how long they can expect their purchases to retain their freshness and flavor.
The products in question are usually safe to eat long after those dates have passed (USDA, 2022). "Expiration" dates are an entirely different matter. Some products can be used past their expiration dates safely, others cannot. However, most expiration dates on consumables that aren't meat, eggs, or dairy are conservative (Ceasrine, 2018). Whether you're purchasing your first CBD product or contemplating the viability of a long-forgotten tincture tucked away behind your gummies, it's important to know how to recognize the signs of an oil gone bad.
While "best by" and "sell by" dates are widely understood indicators of quality rather than safety, manufacturers are more likely to stamp expiration dates on products containing ingredients that can lose their ability to produce their intended effects over time. That's why you're more likely to see expiration dates printed on prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, dietary supplements, and herbal products (Aungst C, 2022).
Like any other plant-based oil in your pantry, hemp-derived CBD oil has a relatively predictable shelf life. It also has active plant components that can degrade over time. You'll typically find CBD oil products have an expiration date calculated anywhere from six to 24 months post-production. The most reputable brands invest in accelerated and real-time shelf-life stability tests to help ensure dating accuracy. While CBD oil can retain its potency for up to two years, the following factors can have a significant impact on overall shelf life.
Industrial hemp is a hyperaccumulator, meaning it absorbs heavy metals, pesticides, and other potentially harmful contaminants from the soil. That's why hemp farmers need to be cautious when cultivating crops for their nutritious seeds and cannabinoid-rich extracts. CBD products made with oil extracted from crops grown in untested soil could go bad rather quickly if they're tainted with mold, mildew, e coli, or salmonella (Montoya et al., 2020).
There are many methods a company can use to separate the plant's cannabinoid-rich oil from its stalks, stems, and flowers. But not all extraction methods result in the type of product you would want to consume. Some leave traces of extraction residue behind. While not necessarily harmful, that residue can have a less-than-optimal impact on product stability. CO2 extraction remains the gold standard for full spectrum (and broad spectrum) hemp oil (Valizadehderakhshan et al., 2021).
Every ingredient listed on your CBD oil has a shelf life of its own. A simple tincture made with hemp extract and fractionated coconut oil (MCT oil) could have a much longer shelf life than a similar product made with less stable oil or a complex blend of flavoring agents. The ingredient that degrades first affects the entire bottle. Some flavoring agents have a shelf life of six months to one year; others remain stable longer.
Even the highest-quality CBD oil can go bad if it's not packaged and stored responsibly. Purchasing CBD oil from companies that don't protect their extracts from heat and sunlight during manufacturing, packaging, and distribution could leave you with a product that goes bad weeks or even months before any date printed on the label. When you're concerned about shelf life, stick with CBD oil sold in brown, blue, or green glass bottles (Duarte et al., 2009).
CBD expiration dates can give you a pretty good idea of how long you can anticipate consistent results. While most CBD users need to replenish their supply long before their products come close to expiring, time can get away from anyone rotating multiple products or reserving their CBD oil for occasional use. If you find an expired bottle, you may still be able to use it. But before you do, carefully examine the product for the following signs indicating the oil has gone bad.
If you have a CBD oil tincture that looks different than you remember after shaking your bottle and measuring your serving size, trust your instincts. Changes in color, texture, or consistency often suggest the oil is past its prime. If the product looks fine, if it isn't darker, lighter, separated, or murky, move on to the next step.
Hemp extract has a distinctive, somewhat grass-like aroma. You may also pick up on the fragrance of its carrier oil or flavoring agents. Oil that has gone bad will have a rather pungent smell. While the contents of a bottle that's lingered too long on your cabinet shelf may not be overwhelmingly offensive, unusual odors should not be ignored.
CBD oil that looks and smells fine probably is. However, you may not know for sure until you taste it. If you've hit your expiration date or have reason to believe your product may have expired prematurely, you may not want to put an entire serving beneath your tongue. Instead, taste a small amount. If the flavor is funky or bitter, it's gone bad.
It can be a bit unnerving to look at a product label and realize you've been using an expired bottle of CBD oil, but it's unlikely to make you ill. But even if the oil has not gone bad, you may find it less potent than you remember. The cannabinoids can begin to degrade before the plant oils or flavoring agents turn. If you bristle at the thought of having to toss a product with several servings left in the bottle, you may want to consider how the following tips could help extend its shelf life.
When storing CBD, temperature matters. Ideally, you'll want a cool location that remains below 70 degrees rather than a shelf in your bathroom, cupboard above your refrigerator, or anywhere near your stove. The heat from your shower or kitchen appliances can cause cannabinoid degradation and premature spoilage.
A dark cabinet or drawer will help reduce exposure to the sun's UV rays much more effectively than an open shelf. Even in a dark-colored bottle or jar, leaving your CBD oil exposed to direct sunlight can cause cannabinoid breakdown and compromise the shelf life of its main ingredients.
Every time you put a CBD oil dropper near your mouth, you risk contaminating your oil when you place that dropper back in its bottle. To eliminate that risk, measure each serving into a spoon instead. Then, take a few seconds to make sure your bottle is sealed tightly to protect the oil from oxygenation.
Refrigerating CBD oil is not necessary, but can be helpful if you live in a warm climate or keep the temperature of your home above 70 degrees. If refrigeration causes your CBD to cloud and thicken, you can avoid any difficulties measuring an accurate serving by letting the oil reach room temperature before each use.
CBD oil that has gone bad, a product that looks dark or cloudy, smells off, or tastes funky, should be tossed. There's nothing you can do. If you have a product that's exceeded its expiration date by a few days or weeks, but seems fine, you'll want to consider how the product has been stored and use your best judgment.
But the best way to ensure you're getting the full benefit from hemp-derived CBD Oil is to purchase a high-quality product, use (or replace) that product before it expires, and use our tips on extending its shelf life so you can enjoy the full potency of every serving. Although many people use CBD oil as needed, most of our nearly 2000 survey respondents report achieving their best results within 7-14 days of consistent use.
A CBD manufacturer's quality control standards can have a significant impact on how long your oil could last before going bad. That's why every CBDistillery® hemp-derived product is rigorously tested. You'll find a downloadable certificate of analysis (COA) on our product pages. That documentation confirms the products you select have undergone an unbiased evaluation from an independent lab and have also been screened for pesticide residue and microbial contamination, the yeast, fungi, mold, and bacteria that could compromise shelf life.
When you choose CBDistillery® products, you'll also have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're CBD oil is made from non-GMO, naturally farmed hemp and 100% clean ingredients. Of our nearly 2000 survey respondents, most report positive results using our hemp-derived CBD products for better sleep, relaxation, mild or temporary anxiety, discomfort after physical activity, and more.
Researchers credit this impressive list of possible benefits to the cannabinoid's interaction with the receptors of the largest regulatory system in the body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Although every CBD user is unique, researchers believe hemp-derived CBD products help support ECS function in a way that promotes homeostasis (balance) (Sallaberry & Astern, 2018). To learn more, visit CBDistillery® to read CBD 101, take our CBD quiz, or schedule a personal consultation.
Aungst C. (2022) Can You Take Medications After Their Expiration Date? Good RX Health.
Ceasrine L. How to Tell Whether Expired Food Is Safe to Eat. Consumer Reports.
Duarte I, Rotter A, et al. (2009) The Role of Glass as a Barrier Against the Transmission of Ultraviolet Radiation: An Experimental Study. 25(4) Photodrmatol Photoimmunol Photomed 181-84. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0781.2009.00434.x
Montoya Z, Conroy M, et al. (2020) Cannabis Contaminants Limit Pharmacological Use of Cannabidiol. 11 Front Pharmacol. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.571832
Sallaberry C, Astern L. (2018) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. 34(6) JYI 48-55. https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator
USDA (2022) Food Product Dating. Food Safety and Inspection Service U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Valizadehderakhshan M, Shahbazi A, et al. (2021) Extraction of Cannabinoids from Cannabis Sativa L. (Hemp) – Review. 11(5) Agriculture 384. https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11050384