Orange Essential Oil
With over 1,600 species in the Rutaceae plant family, the citrus genus makes up approximately 17 species. Similar to tangerines, lemons, grapefruits and bergamots, oranges (Citrus sinensis) are one of the most popular citric fruits.1
Known for their beneficial nutritional properties, oranges have several different varieties including orange and sweet orange. With similar physical characteristics and complementary benefits, both varieties contain potent bioactive components in their rind. In recent years, orange and sweet orange essential oils have become two of the most popular and widely used oils in aromatherapy and natural remedies.1
Due to its pleasant aroma, orange essential oil has often been used to help reduce stress and improve mood. As well, this essential oil has been reported to have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, carminative, diuretic and tonic properties.
Sweet Orange Essential Oil
There is sometimes confusion between the different varieties within the C. sinensis species. The so-called orange essential oil normally refers to the “sweet” orange essential oil. This is actually C. sinensis that has been extracted from farmed oranges. Varieties can either be organic or traditionally grown, but are harvested under controlled conditions.
In contrast, wild orange essential oil originates from the same species, however, this cultivar grows under non-controlled conditions.
The two cultivars produce essential oils with different benefits and slightly different physical properties. Despite these differences, they both have common applications and results when used in aromatherapy as well as topically for different ailments and conditions.
Sweet Orange Essential Oil Uses
In contrast to the majority of other essential oils, for which the preferred extracting method is steam distillation, most of the orange (and Citrus family in general) essential oil is derived from cold-pressing the peel of the ripe fruit.
Bioactive components of orange essential oil are stored in vesicles buried in the rind, making it extremely simple to extract. There have been other methodologies developed to render higher purity and efficiency for extraction, however cold-press remains the most popular.1
While there are numerous uses for sweet orange essential oil, the most common and well-documented are featured below.
Inhalation is one of the most common and powerful uses of orange essential oil. The bioactive components in the oil have often been associated with feelings of relaxation and may help improve mood.
Put 2 drops into a diffuser and let the aroma fill the room, or, add 2 drops of oil to 2 cups of steaming water and inhale.
Alternatively, apply 2 to 3 drops of sweet orange essential oil into the palm of your hand, rub vigorously and then inhale close to your nose.
As with many other essential oils, orange essential oil is a great agent for relaxing muscles and reducing stress. Apply 3 drops of orange essential oil to approximately 1 Tbsp. of a carrier oil, and rub on the affected area.
Natural Insect Repellent
The strong aroma of orange essential oil can be used as a powerful insect repellent, and may help keep bugs away from people and plants.
Combine 4 drops of sweet orange essential oil, 2 drops of grapefruit essential oil, 2 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops of chamomile essential oil in to a spray bottle and apply to plants you’d like to protect from insects.
Known for its revitalizing fragrance, orange essential oil can be used as a natural air freshener. Mix 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil with 3 drops of peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle and spray around the house.
For a natural fabric freshener, add several drops inside the dryer to freshen up linens.
For a soothing experience, add approximately 4 drops of orange essential oil to a warm bath and mix well. The warmth of the water will help open pores and allow the skin to absorb the essential oil, leaving your skin feeling refreshed.
The antiseptic effects of C. sinensis essential oil may help eliminate household germs that cause bad odors to form on washcloths or other kitchen and bathroom cleaning tools.
For a natural cleaning mixture, add several drops of orange essential oil into a spray bottle, or bucket of water. This mixture can be used to spray down surfaces before wiping, or added to water prior to mopping.
The top notes of pure sweet orange essential oil make it the preferred oil for using in the perfume industry worldwide. The base of some of the most famous men’s and women’s fragrances are based on scents derived from C. sinensis oil.
For a natural, homemade perfume, mix 2 drops of orange essential oil with 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil. Apply to the neck and underside of wrists.
Orange Essential Oil Benefits
Recently, clinical studies have investigated the highly concentrated biochemical compounds found in orange essential oil. While more research in the field of essential oils is needed, preliminary studies suggest that there’s more to orange essential oil than its pleasing aroma.
Antibacterial and Antifungal Activity
Orange essential oil has been tried against several pathogenic species of bacteria and fungi, and has been found effective for the majority of them. In a 2009 clinical study, orange essential oil was shown to demonstrate antibacterial activity against a common species of Enterococcus.1
Further studies have noted that some types of C. sinensis have also demonstrated antimicrobial effectiveness against Salmonella species. Individual studies showed that the antimicrobial effect is due to two bioactive compounds, terpenes and d-limonene.1
Orange essential oil has been observed to have potent antifungal activity against a wide variety of everyday species. Compared to several other citrus essential oils, orange was found to be the most effective at inhibiting the growth of a disease-causing fungal species. For other strains, orange essential oil was shown to help delay development and reproduction at low concentrations.1
Both results show the great potential this oil has for topical application to skin wounds or cuts in order to avoid fungal growth.
The preservative capacity of orange essential oil resides in its volatile compounds, most of which are biologically active against microorganisms.
Several studies have revealed that the use of orange essential oil may be an effective preservative for dried fruit, juices, milk, salads, seeds, meat, poultry and vegetables if the active components of the oil are kept properly in their packaging.1
Regarding the current urgency in the food industry to substitute the use of antibiotics for natural counterparts, this could be a promising area for future essential oils research.
Inhalation of orange essential oil has been demonstrated to have powerful, calming effects on individuals and may help alleviate anxiety or stress.2
D-limonene and other volatile components of tangerine oil have been said to have a restorative effect over the cognitive and nervous systems, providing a state of tranquility and calmness.
In 2009, researchers examined the therapeutic effects of aromatherapy on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. The study used a blend of orange, lavender, rosemary and lemon essential oils.3
At the end of the 28-day treatment, patients scored significantly higher on dementia tests and had increased personal orientation, compared to scores recorded prior to the inhalation of the essential oils.3
The combination of essential oils and traditional therapy may have positive effects on patients with Alzheimer’s or other neuro-degenerative diseases. However, more research is required.
Spasmodic acts such as coughing, vomiting or convulsions are continuous muscle contractions that may have a damaging effect on the body if left unattended. Inhalation of orange essential oil may help reduce muscle spasms and calm the individual.2
Side Effects of Orange Essential Oil
Although it has been reported as non-phototoxic, it is recommended to use caution when applying orange essential oil topically before direct sun exposure. Avoid use of orange essential oil if you plan to be in the sun for long periods of time.
Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil or cream before applying directly on the skin.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated and can be toxic if ingested. Do not ingest essential oils unless under the direct supervision of a health care provider.
The use of orange and sweet orange essential oil should be avoided by small children, pregnant or breastfeeding women. There is currently not enough scientific literature to identify if these essential oils are harmful for the developing fetus or newborns.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Mustafa, N.E.M. (2015) Citrus Essential Oils: Current and Prospective Uses in the Food Industry. Recent Patents on Food, Nutrition & Agriculture. 7:115-127. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2lpJ5cv
- Jafarzadeh, M., Arman, S., & Farahbakhsh Pour, F. (2013) Effect of aromatherapy with orange essential oil on salivary cortisol and pulse rate in children during dental treatment: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Adv Biomed Res, 2: 10. doi:4103/2277-91 75.107968
- Jimbo, D., Kimura, Y., Taniguchi, M., Inoue, M. & Urakami, K. (2009) Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychogeriatrics, 9(4):173-9. doi: 1111/j.1479-8301.2009.00299.x.
- Forbes, P.D., Urbach, F. and Davies, R.E. (1977) Phototoxicity testing of fragrance raw materials. Food and Cosmetics Toxicology. 15(1), 55-56. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0015-6264(77)80264-2