Do Herbs, Tinctures, and Herbal Supplements Expire?

Published on February 26, 2024

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Wondering if or when your herbal supplements, tinctures, or bulk herbs expire? 

It can be confusing, given some brands use expiration dates, some use best-by dates, and others print manufactured-on dates. So, how long will your herbs last?

The answer isn’t black and white. 

Some herbs and herbal supplements, especially alcohol-based tinctures and some syrups, can last several years if properly stored, while others are best used within a year or two. 

It all depends on how the herbal products are manufactured, stored, and what (if any) stability testing is used to determine shelf life.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll cover all this and more, including how Gaia Herbs determines best-by dates.

Do Herbs Expire? Decoding Herbal Supplement Expiration Dates, Best-By Dates, & Manufactured-On Dates

Unlike packaged foods, Dietary supplement current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) regulations* do not require dietary supplement products to bear shelf life, expiration, or “best-if-used-by” (“best-by”) dates.REF#3574

*Current Good Manufacturing Practices or cGMP are FDA guidelines that apply to all companies formulating and manufacturing supplements and food products.

cGMP regulations require companies to have designated Quality Control and Quality Assurance departments dedicated to ensuring raw materials and the final products are authentic and safe, as well as strict manufacturing practices.

Therefore, listing an expiration date, best-by date, etc., is voluntary for manufacturers

and packagers of dietary supplements.

Why is this?

Speaking within the context of herbs, it’s because dried herbs, which are used to make the majority of supplements, technically do not expire.

They can lose potency and oxidize over time, compromising quality, but they do not expire like perishable foods.

You may have witnessed this when opening up a fresh supplement bottle, a box of tea, or a bulk bag of herbs versus an older product. 

The newer product likely had a more fragrant smell, potent taste, and/or appearance than the older product.

In the case of bulk herbs, powders, or encapsulated powders, you may also observe clumping or dull color in older batches versus newer batches.

This is why you may see any of the following on an herbal supplement label:

  • No mention of any type of shelf life
  • An expiration date
  • A best-by date
  • Or a manufactured-on date

Let’s break these last three down a little more. 

An expiration date can only be applied to a product that has undergone stability testing. 

These apply more to food products, not herbal supplements, so you typically won’t see expiration dates on herbal supplement packaging, but it’s not unheard of.

A best-by date is determined by specific stability testing, which determines the timeframe in which a product starts losing potency and may become subject to microbial issues. 

Best-by dates can vary greatly depending on the medium in which the herbs are made (tincture, syrup, gummy, capsule, powder). The company assigning these dates must complete stability studies under cGMP guidelines and keep records of their results.

A manufactured-on date is common on supplements where stability testing is not employed. It doesn’t tell you anything except when the product was manufactured.

Again, any of these dates—or no date—are legal and compliant with FDA regulations for herbal supplement labeling. 

Ultimately, it’s up to the company how much they want to invest in testing to ensure their products' freshness, potency, and safety.

How Gaia Herbs Determines Best-By Dates

At Gaia Herbs, we use best-by dates, which, as previously discussed, are determined by in-house stability testing of each herbal supplement. 

The range of best-by dates varies widely depending on the product.

For example:

  • Most (but not all) encapsulated supplements (Liquid Phyto-Caps®) have a best-by date of 2-3 years
  • Tinctures and some syrups may have a best-by date of up to 5 years when stored properly. Remember, syrups should be refrigerated after opening.
  • Gummies also are best used within 2-3 years (but few people can resist them for that long!)

What About New Formulations?

Since stability testing can take 2-3 years, new products and formats are typically assigned a 2-year best-by date based on data from similar products until there is assurance from the stability study that they are stable.

All Gaia Herbs’ best-by dates are printed on the supplement labels or bottles. 

Want to know what date your Gaia Herbs product was manufactured? 

Use the Meet Your Herbs ID number located next to the best-by date to access that information.

Is It Safe To Take a Herbal Supplement Past Its Best-By Date?

Regarding Gaia Herbs products, we cannot guarantee the potency or microbial stability past the studied date/best-by date. 

Therefore, we do not recommend taking our supplements past their best-by date.

We cannot speak to the practices or recommendations of other herbal supplement companies, but when in doubt, ask. 

How Should Herbal Supplements Be Stored for Best Shelf-Life?

This depends on the product. Let’s use Gaia Herbs as an example.

It is always recommended to store the supplements, regardless of the type, in their original bottle, which helps prevent degradation from light.

Most Gaia Herbs supplements, except syrups, can be stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight until the best-by date. Always refer to product labeling for storage directions.

PlantForce™ Liquid Iron, Black Elderberry Syrups, and Cough Syrups need to be refrigerated after opening, and all syrups must be used in the specified amount of time.

Other brands may have specific recommendations, so refer to the packaging.

Let’s Recap What We’ve Learned About If Herbal Products Expire

We hope this article has helped clear up the confusion about whether herbs and herbal supplements expire.

To recap:

  • Supplement companies are not required to list expiration or shelf-life dates on their products.
  • Publishing expiration, best-by, or manufactured-on dates is voluntary.
  • Herbs do not expire like foods, but they lose potency and quality and could grow bacteria over time, which could cause illness.
  • Supplement companies that opt to publish expiration or, more commonly, best-by dates must complete stability studies to determine these dates.
  • Gaia Herbs uses best-by dates based on in-house stability studies. These dates vary from 2-5 years depending on the product type (capsules, tinctures, syrups, gummies, powders) and how it is stored.
  • We cannot guarantee the potency, stability, or safety of Gaia Herbs products past their best-by date.
  • For questions about other herbal supplement brands' best-by dates, please contact the company directly.

Ultimately, think of herbs like any food or beverage; the fresher the product, the better the quality.

By knowing the best-by date or manufactured-on date and what the company recommends for shelf-life, you can be ensured you’re taking a safe and effective product.

Learn more about how Gaia Herbs employs advanced testing and ethical sourcing to ensure the highest quality, most potent herbal supplements here.

Have more questions about our products? Check out our Herbal FAQ page.


  • 1. , "Shelf Life Dating of Botanical Supplement Ingredients and Products", American Herbal Products Association.