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Citrus Oil Guide
Have you ever walked into a room when someone is pealing an orange and detected the familiar orange aroma wafting throught the air? What you are smelling is the natural essential oil that is housed within the rind of the orange. It is the rinds of citrus fruits that gives them their highly aromatic and familiar aroma. Although the majority of commercially available essential oils are extracted from the original botanical material by use of steam distillation, most commercially available citrus essential oils are extracted by cold pressing the rinds of the citrus fruits. The next time that you eat an orange or a grapefruit, take a portion of the peel and squeeze it in half ensuring that the colorful side of the peel is on the outside. If the fruit is fresh and healthy, you should notice that the rind squirts a tiny quantity of an aromatic fluid. That fluid is the essential oil.
Citrus Essential Oils are often thought of mostly for light, summery aromas, but I love using citrus essential oils all year round. My use of the citrus oils increases during the colder months as they are energizing and help to uplift the spirits. They are the perfect complement to blends that fight off the winter blues, "cabin fever" and depression. For Winter Blues recipes, visit AromaWeb's Winter Blues Recipe page.
Citrus Essential Oils are also a must to have within your apothecary when experimenting with natural fragrance blends for men or women. Most of the citrus oils are generally regarded as top notes and help lift an aroma and brighten more earthy, deep aromatics like Patchouli, Vetiver and Rose. The exception is the highly floral Neroli Essential Oil which I personally consider a middle note.
Important: The phototoxicity of certain cold pressed citrus oils needs to be carefully kept in mind when planning topical use of particular citrus oils. For more information regarding phototoxicity, read Essential Oils and Phototoxicity.
Below are brief descriptions of the aromatic properties of each of the citrus oils. Each oil also offers some benefit for topical application, i.e. when used prudently and mindfully regarding its phototoxicity, Bergamot can be helpful in controlling oily skin and acne. To learn more about each of the citrus oils, click on the associated links for each oil to be taken to the oil's essential oil profile.
Please note that the aromatic descriptions presented pertain to the cold pressed versions of each citrus oil. Aromatically, most individuals tend to prefer the cold pressed oils, but steam distilled oils have the advantage of not posing a risk of phototoxicity.
Orange Essential Oil (Citrus sinensis)
Limonene is the naturally occurring chemical constituent within Lemon Essential Oil that gives it its distinctive lemony aroma. There are a few other non-citrus essential oils available that include limonene naturally and feature a lemony aroma. Lemongrass and Lemon Myrtle essential oils both include noteworthy concentrations of limonene.
As mentioned, my focus within this article is in focusing upon the use of citrus essential oils for diffusion and room fragrancing applications. When creating blends and topical products that you apply to your skin, remember that in addition to phototoxicity concerns for cold pressed lemon, lime, grapefruit, bitter orange and bergamot oils (See AromaWeb's Phototoxicity and Essential Oils article), citrus essential oils can cause skin irritation if used without properly diluting them or when using oils that have oxidized. For more information, see AromaWeb's Essential Oil Safety article.
The rinds of conventional (non-organic) citrus
fruits are typically sprayed heavily with pesticides. Because of
the cold pressed methods generally used to extract citrus oils, the resulting
essential oils can contain trace amounts of pesticides. Whenever
possible, purchase organic citrus essential oils. This becomes especially
important when using citrus oils in topical applications or when
frequently diffusing citrus essential oils. For applications in
which you aren't actively breathing in the aroma for more than a
moment or two, the need for organic is reduced, but still, choosing
organic remains the ideal.
Although the food and flavoring industries do use citrus essential oils to flavor particular foods and beverages, I strongly encourage you not to ingest essential oils without consulting with a qualified aromatherapy professional or first studying and procuring an adequate and well-rounded knowledge of aromatherapy. Bear in mind that the food and flavoring industries create huge batches and the amount of oil that winds up being ingested per individual serving is miniscule. Despite the claims of some companies/ distributors/consultants/salespeople, adding essential oils to drinking water is not recommended. Become intimately familiar with Essential Oil Safety. Essential oils are best treated like medicines and some essential oils can be toxic or fatal if misused. For more information, see Internal Use of Essential Oils.
Important Notes: The essential oil information provided within the Essential Oil Properties & Profiles area is intended for educational purposes only. This data is not considered complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate. The oil photos are intended to represent the typical and approximate color of each essential oil. However, oil color can vary based on harvesting, distillation and other factors. Profiles for several absolutes are included within the directory, and are denoted as such.
General Safety Information: Do not take any oils internally and do not apply undiluted essential oils, absolutes, CO2s or other concentrated essences onto the skin without advanced essential oil knowledge or consultation from a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. If you are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damage, have cancer, or have any other medical problem, use oils only under the proper guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Use extreme caution when using oils with children and give children only the gentlest oils at extremely low doses. It is safest to consult a qualified aromatherapy practitioner before using oils with children. For in-depth information on oil safety issues, read Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.
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