Does CBD Oil Go Bad?

CBD oil will “go bad” after a year or two, depending on how it’s stored. You can maximize its shelf life by keeping it away from heat, light and air.

Written by

Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson is the senior editor at CBD Oracle, and has been covering science, vaping and cannabis for over 10 years. He has a MS in Theoretical Physics from Uppsala...

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Medically reviewed byAbraham Benavides, MD

Medically reviewed by

Abraham Benavides, MD

Dr. Abraham Benavides is an international cannabis science advisor, health coach, and full-tuition merit scholar of the GW School of Medicine. Abe pioneered and published first-author research with the Cannabis...

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CBD oil proper storage
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CBD oil doesn’t last forever. While there’s probably nothing to worry about if you find an old bottle down the back of the couch after a month or so, if it’s been over a year you need to really start thinking about whether it’s expired.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple, unambiguous rule you can use, but generally speaking, if your oil hasn’t been in direct sunlight and has remained sealed, it can easily last for over a year and up to two.

But what if it hasn’t been stored optimally? Is there anything you should look out for to see if your CBD is still good? And how should you store it to avoid problems in the future?

Does CBD Oil Expire?

CBD oil stored in ideal conditions will remain reasonably potent and safe to consume for a couple of years, but exposure to heat, light and oxygen can reduce this.

Like essentially everything consumable, CBD oil will eventually “go bad” in one way or another. Technically, the CBD itself doesn’t really go “bad”; it degrades into other chemicals (such as cannabielsoin and CBD-hydroxyquinone), which detracts from the potency of the oil. However, the carrier oil (such as MCT, coconut oil or hemp seed oil) will spoil or “go bad” in a more everyday sense after a year or two.

The shelf life of these base or carrier oils is the main thing to consider if you’re worried your CBD oil will go bad. The shelf lives of the most common components are:

The CBD itself degrades relatively slowly. One study looking at CBD’s stability in ethanol found that it took 117 days (around 4 months) for it to lose 5% of its potency at room temperature (25 °C/77 °F), while it would take 4.8 years to lose this much potency at a fridge-like temperature of 5 °C/41 °F. While this study didn’t test an oil carrier directly, it notes based on other research that CBD has high stability in oil, losing 12% of potency after one year of storage at 4 °C/39 °F.

The researchers found what many sources say about CBD’s shelf life: the main things to avoid are heat, light, and oxygen.

RELATED: Cannabis Shelf Life: Signs That Your Weed Has Gone Bad

Shelf Life of Different CBD Products

CBD oil isn’t the only form of CBD you’ll find in stores, and the shelf life depends pretty strongly on the specific product you have. It’s better to check the expiry date on the product itself, but as a general guide:

  • CBD oils: 1 to 2 years
  • CBD gummy/candy edibles: 6 months to a year
  • CBD brownies/cookies: Up to a week
  • CBD flower: Around a year
  • CBD topicals: 1 to 2 years

Firstly, topicals are likely to be CBD dissolved in a fat or oil in a similar way to CBD oil, and as such the shelf lives are usually pretty similar. Likewise, refrigerating these products may be able to help extend their shelf life.

The shelf life of edibles depends on what exactly it is. Very common types of edibles are gummies or other candies, and these generally last between 6 months and a year. However, brownies are probably only good for a few days out of the fridge and around a week inside it, or up to 6 months in the freezer because of added ingredients like eggs and dairy.

Finally, there isn’t too much evidence addressing the shelf life of flower, but one study from researchers at the University of Mississippi looked at THC levels in stored cannabis and another from the Canadian National Research Council looked at multiple cannabinoids. From these, it can be estimated that CBD flower will keep most of its potency for a year or more. THC levels decreased by about 17% after a year when cannabis flower was stored at room temperature.

Tips for Storing Your CBD: Maximizing Shelf Life

There are three main enemies when it comes to storing your CBD: light, heat and air.

The best place to store your CBD flower is in a sealed container in a cool and dry place, out of direct sunlight. CBD oils and edibles keep best when refrigerated.

Provided you keep each of the three major issues in mind, you’ll be able to find somewhere suitable for your CBD, so here’s a brief discussion of each specifically:

Avoid heat: Excessive heat speeds up the degradation of CBD itself and spurs on the spoilage of other, non-CBD ingredients. Keeping your CBD in a closed cupboard or a drawer away from windows, ovens and sources of heat will prevent it from spoiling quickly or losing too much potency.

Should you refrigerate CBD? You can even refrigerate your CBD, which evidence shows will maintain the potency for longer, but you should let it warm back up to room temperature before using it. You should ensure your refrigerator isn’t too cold so it doesn’t freeze trichomes (for CBD flower), but the standard temperature of around 37 °F/3 °C is good. However, it’s only really recommended to refrigerate CBD if you won’t be using it for at least a few months.

Avoid light: UV-containing sunlight is one big issue for the long-term stability of cannabinoids, and CBD is no exception. This is why most CBD oil comes in dark bottles: it helps to keep out the light and preserve the potency of the CBD. The bottle itself will protect the CBD a little, but in any case it’s best to keep it in a closed cupboard or drawer as an extra layer of protection.

Avoid exposure to air: The risk of oxidation is another major factor for the stability of CBD, and this is one reason CBD oil tends to come in smaller bottles. In short, when there is headspace at the top of the bottle, the air filling it will degrade your CBD. Keeping it in an air-tight container and only storing full bottles long-term is the best approach to solve this issue.

Be wary of humidity (especially for flower): For CBD flower, humidity is an important issue, because too much moisture in the environment could lead to mold or mildew on your flower, and too little could dry it out. The best relative humidity levels for flower are somewhere around 60%, with 55 to 65% being a reasonable range to keep in mind.

Overall, the best way to store your CBD is in a closed, air-tight container away from sources of heat and light, using the refrigerator and only storing full bottles if you want to keep it for longer than a few months. Some edibles may be kept best refrigerated or even frozen because of the additional ingredients (chocolate, dairy, etc.) If you have flower and are storing it long-term, it might be worth looking into getting a hygrometer so you can monitor the humidity of your storage space and adjust it accordingly.

Signs That Your CBD Oil Has Gone Bad

Generally speaking, if there is a change in the appearance, color, smell or viscosity of your CBD oil – much like with a food product that has changed – you should make a judgment about whether it’s still safe to consume.

  • Think about how long it’s been: If your oil is only a few months old, for example, it’s probably still good to use unless you’ve been storing it in the heat and sunlight, and have left the cap off a lot. Best before dates are a good guideline to use (though not perfect, by any means): if it’s within the date and you’ve been storing it in a reasonable way, it’s probably fine.
  • Look at the oil and check the viscosity: Thicker, murkier oil is a sign of degradation. However, if you’ve kept the oil in the refrigerator, it will be cloudy and thick until it has reached room temperature. However, if the oil is at room temperature, the color is notably darker and the viscosity has increased, it’s a sign of bad oil.
  • Smell it: The most useful and important test for both food and CBD oil is the sniff test. Fresh CBD oil (without artificial flavoring) should smell earthy, grassy or nutty – depending on the terpene profile – and anything else is a sign of a potential problem. It’s easiest to make this comparison between how it used to smell and how it does now: if there is a notable difference, it’s probably past its prime.  
  • Taste it: If the oil has passed the last few rounds of checks, you can taste the oil to make the final determination. Again, the taste should be earthy, grassy or nutty, and at least generally pleasant. If it tastes rancid or sour in any way, chances are the carrier oil has gone bad and the oil should be thrown out.

How to Tell If CBD Edibles or Flower Have Gone Bad

For CBD edibles or flower, the same everyday checks you’d perform on food are pretty useful. If it looks or smells weird, throw it out.

  • Check for mold: The simplest – and most important – thing to look for on edibles or flower is mold. On edibles, it’s likely to be the same green or white mold many foodstuffs get. For flower, white or fuzzy spots mean it has caught mold and should be thrown out.
  • Smell it: Whether it’s food or flower, the sniff test has the same principle: if the smell has changed, and especially if it’s an unpleasant change, it’s probably gone bad. Again, the most important factors for edibles are the same as everyday food – any sour, rotten or otherwise unpleasant smells are a sign to run for the hills (or, you know, calmly throw it out and stay comfortably inside your home). For flower, it’s easier to compare it to how it used to smell, with a reduction in aroma or a musty smell being signs of a problem.
  • Feel it: Dryness in either flower or food is a big sign it’s gone bad. Dried out flower will crumble easily and should really be re-hydrated or thrown out (although it probably isn’t dangerous), and a dry edible is a sign it’s been left way too long.  

Can You Consume CBD Products That Have Expired?

If you have a CBD oil or flower that doesn’t have mold or obvious issues (e.g. a rancid or musty smell), then it’s probably not dangerous to consume. Edibles follow the same rules as food and it’s unwise to eat anything that’s expired.

Most of the time, “expired” CBD oil will mainly have lost some potency, and so it isn’t really a big deal if you consume it. However, if the carrier oil has gone bad (possibly after a year or so), then it may have formed some compounds you don’t want to consume and will have a rancid smell.

For flower that isn’t moldy, the main impact will probably be a lower potency. However, you may have missed a mold spot or two, so if the flower seems off, it’s probably better to just throw it out.

For edibles, the situation is just like with bad food. That past-its-prime brownie could easily upset your stomach or worse. The CBD itself isn’t such a big deal.

Conclusion

Telling if your CBD oil has gone bad is ultimately pretty similar to checking any other food, and you should start inspecting it much more carefully after around a year. The good news is that storing CBD oils and products safely is simple, and even if something goes wrong, it’s more likely to be a slightly reduced potency than anything dangerous. That said, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and throw it out if it looks questionable – you can always get more CBD oil!

References

  • Fraguas-Sánchez, A. I., Fernández-Carballido, A., Martin-Sabroso, C., & Torres-Suárez, A. I. (2020). Stability characteristics of cannabidiol for the design of pharmacological, biochemical and pharmaceutical studies. Journal of Chromatography B, 1150, 122188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jchromb.2020.122188
  • Franco, C., Protti, S., Porta, A., Pollastro, F., Profumo, A., Mannucci, B., & Merli, D. (2022). Stability of cannabidiol (CBD) in solvents and formulations: A GC–MS approach. Results in Chemistry, 4, 100465. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rechem.2022.100465
  • García-Valverde, M. T., Sánchez-Carnerero Callado, C., Díaz-Liñán, M. C., Sánchez de Medina, V., Hidalgo-García, J., Nadal, X., Hanuš, L., & Ferreiro-Vera, C. (2022). Effect of temperature in the degradation of cannabinoids: From a brief residence in the gas chromatography inlet port to a longer period in thermal treatments. Frontiers in Chemistry, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fchem.2022.1038729
  • Meija, J., McRae, G., Miles, C. O., & Melanson, J. E. (2021). Thermal stability of cannabinoids in dried cannabis: A kinetic study. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 414(1), 377–384. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-020-03098-2
  • Peschel, W. (2016). Quality control of traditional cannabis tinctures: Pattern, markers, and stability. Scientia Pharmaceutica, 84(3), 567–584. https://doi.org/10.3390/scipharm84030567
  • Schwarzenberg, A., Carpenter, H., Wright, C., Bayazeid, O., & Brokl, M. (2022). Characterizing the degradation of cannabidiol in an e-liquid formulation. Scientific Reports, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-23910-6
  • Trofin, Irenne & Dabija, Gabriel & Vaireanu, Danut-Ionel & Laurentiu, Filipescu. (2012). Long – term Storage and Cannabis Oil Stability. Revista da Chimie. 53. 294. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236170001_Long_-_term_Storage_and_Cannabis_Oil_Stability
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