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Essential Oil Information
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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 citrus essential oils are extracted by 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 actually 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.
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, 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.
Orange Essential Oil (Citrus sinensis)
Bitter Orange Essential Oil (Citrus aurantium)
Essential Oil (Citrus limon)
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.
Essential Oil (Citrus aurantifolia)
Essential Oil (Citrus paradisi)
Bergamot Essential Oil (Citrus bergamia)
Essential Oil (Citrus reticulata)
Essential Oil (Citrus reticulata)
Petitgrain Essential Oil (Citrus aurantium)
Essential Oil (Citrus aurantium)
Many of the citruses oils are phototoxic. Put as simply as possible, phototoxicity is the process in which particular compounds can become toxic when exposed to sunlight. When exposed to sunlight, the naturally occurring chemical constituents found in some citrus essential oils become phototoxic. Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Lemon and Lime are amongst the citrus oils that are generally regarded to be highly phototoxic. I have read conflicting reports as to whether Sweet Orange, Grapefruit, Tangerine and Mandarin are phototoxic. It may be prudent to treat these oils as phototoxic as well. Neroli and Petitgrain essential oils are not phototoxic.
The phototoxicity of citrus essential oils is not of concern when diffusing them or when using them in other room fragrancing applications. The concern comes when incorporating these phototoxic oils in topical blends and skin formulations that are applied to the skin. When using any skin care products that include phototoxic essential oils, it is strongly recommended that you avoid exposure to the sun for at least 24 hours.
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 photoxicity concerns, citrus essential oils can cause skin irritation if used without properly diluting them. 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 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 or dabble in using them within culinary applications without first becoming intimately familiar with Essential Oil Safety. Essential oils are best treated like medicines and can be toxic and fatal if misused.
Important Note: 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.
General Safety Information: Do not take any essential oils internally without consultation from a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Do not apply undiluted essential oils, absolutes, CO2s or other concentrated essences onto the skin. If you are pregnant, epileptic, have liver damage, have cancer, or have any other medical problem, use essential 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 essential oils with children. A skin patch test should be conducted prior to using an essential oil that you've never used before. Instructions on conducting a skin patch test and more safety information can be found by visiting the Essential Oil Safety Information page. For very in-depth information on essential oil safety issues, read Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.
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