shelf life or expiration date of herbal products, after the jar is opened

Like any other dietary or pharmaceutical product, herbal products also have shelf life, also called as expiration date. We have already learnt about the standard shelf life of Ayurvedic medicines. But the discussion there does not explain, the shelf life of the products once after the jar is opened and the product is exposed to air moisture etc. Let us find out the shelf life of such herbal products. 

Shelf life – Expiration date – General principle: Once after you open the jar of an herbal product, the product is exposed to air, moisture, sunlight etc. This speeds up the degradation of the herbal product, shortening its shelf life. This happens due to

  • probable degradation of active principles of the herbal product due to sunlight
  • Reaction of the active principles of the herbal product with air
  • probable contamination (suppose someone touches the tablets with not-so-clean hands) etc

Based on this principle, if you have opened your jar of Ayurvedic medicine, you should finish it within the below-mentioned time period or you will have to throw the product out.

1. Churna (Herbal powder mix)  - Of all the Ayurvedic products, herbal powders are the least stable products, once after exposure to air. This is because, in Churna, the small powder particles have a very large surface area, that gets exposed to air, inviting easy contamination. For this reason, if you have bought an herbal powder and if you have opened it, please finish this within 2 months or throw it out.

2. Ayurvedic tablets / Vati / Gutika / Kashayam tabletsAyurvedic herbal tablets have reasonably good shelf life, even after exposure to sunlight, due to its compactness and coating. So, once after opening, you can take 3 – 4 months of time to finish the tablets in the jar.

3. Tablets in which mineral ingredients are used, or Guggulu is used (guggulu tablets) - Guggulu tablets are still more compact than regular tablets. Once after opening, do not use it after 4 months.

4. Avaleha / Leham / lehyams/ herbal jams – Lehams like Chyawanprash, Brahma Rasayana etc once opened, better to finish within 2 – 3 months.

5. Louha (Iron containing Ayurvedic medicines) – these can be used upto one year period

6. Ghrita (Ayurvedic Herbal ghee)  - once the jar is opened, please finish the ghee within 2 – 3 months period.

7. Taila (Ayurvedic Herbal Oils) –  same as above. – 2 – 3 months.

8. Arka (Distilled herbal extracts) -  after opening, finish it within 2 – 3 months.

9. Lavana, Kshara, (Salts and Alkalis) –  after opening, finish within 3- 4 months.

10. Lepa  Churna (Herbal powder for external paste application) – As explained for herbal powders, finish it within 2 months.

11. Herbal dental powder / Herbal dental paste – after opening, do not use after 2 – 3 months.

12. Herbal syrups -   3 – 4 months.

13. Kashayam  (Herbal teas)- 4 – 5 months.

14. Mineral preparations, Asava and Arishta – After opening, use it within 4 – 5 months.

15. Ayurvedic ear drops/ nasal drops – use it only upto one month, after opening.

16. Ayurvedic Eye drops - Eye is a soft organ. so, after opening the eye drops, use it only for 15 – 20 days.

Comparison table between normal expiration date of herbal products vs expiration date once after the seal is broken and jar of the product is opened

Name of the herbal dosage form Normal expiration date, if the product is kept sealed Expiration date once after the seal is broken and jar is opened.
1. Churna (Herbal powder mix) 2 years 2 months
2. Ayurvedic tablets / Vati / Gutika / Kashayam tablets 2 years 3 – 4 months
3. Tablets in which mineral ingredients are used, or Guggulu is used (guggulu tablets) 5 years 4 months.
4. Avaleha / Leham / lehyams/ herbal jams 3 years 2 – 3 months.
5. Louha (Iron containing Ayurvedic medicines) 10 years 1 year
6. Ghrita (Ayurvedic Herbal ghee) 2 years 2 – 3 months period.
7. Taila (Ayurvedic Herbal Oils) 3 years 2 – 3 months.
8. Arka (Distilled herbal extracts) 1 year 2 – 3 months.
9. Lavana, Kshara, (Salts and Alkalis) 5 years 3- 4 months.
10. Lepa  Churna (Herbal powder for external paste application) 3 years 2 months.
11. Herbal dental powder / Herbal dental paste 2 years 2 – 3 months.
12. Herbal syrups 3 years 3 – 4 months.
13. Kashayam  (Herbal teas) 3 years 4 – 5 months.
14. Mineral preparations, Asava and Arishta Quality increases with time 4 – 5 months.
15. Ayurvedic ear drops/ nasal drops 2 years 1 month.
16. Ayurvedic Eye drops 3 years 15 – 20 days.

How to know if your herbal medicine is no more good for use:

Observe for these changes. If found, throw it out.

  • Change in its normal taste. Gives foul taste.
  • Change in its normal colour, gives mixed colours or some differently coloured spots.
  • Change in its normal form – powders may role into round masses, tablets and capsules becoming sticky, etc.
  • A white layer formed above the surface of liquids or solids
  • You feel like vomiting or any other symptoms develop, that you were not usually getting, while using the product.

I have an opened product at home, giving these features, but it was opened three days prior.

Even if the product has not crossed expiration date, if you have these features of foul smell, etc, throw it out.

I had opened the jar of a product long back and have been using it even after the mentioned expiration date. But nothing bad has happened.

Better to go with above mentioned expiration dates and throw that product out, rather than waiting till something bad happens.

What to do if you have consumed an expired product?

Consult your doctor immediately.

Dr JV Hebbar is an Ayurveda Doctor, Assistant Professor, From Mangalore, India. Click here to consult Dr Hebbar
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Comments

  1. the knowledge provided is useful

  2. Thanks a lot for this very useful article.

  3. U.K.Nair says:

    I consider this article very useful to know about ayurvedic products. Thanks

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