Yuzu, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, orange… Known for their freshness, citrus fruit pulp is found in both food and beauty product recipes. Citrus essential oils have several things in common but also particularities of their own. For example, grapefruit essential oil has a more effective action on the digestive system, whereas mandarin essential oil will be more suitable for the nervous system. Although all of them are more or less cleansing and purifying, what are their specific virtues?
What are citrus essential oils?
Essential oils and essences and/or citrus expressions have very different modes of extraction:
- The essences come from citrus and are obtained by a process of cold expression consisting of mechanically breaking the zest pockets of these citruses. In most cases, the zest that will be used, either through cold pression, or by a system of “grating” rollers that allow to collect the essence.
- Essential oils however are extracted from different parts of the plant and/or flower and are obtained by water vapour distillation.
Zest! When we talk about them, we say “essential oils” but in truth we should say “citrus essence”.
According to a report about world trade, the production of citruses has almost doubled in the last decades. The annual world production would be of almost 103 million tons (source www.leconomist.com).
Citrus essential oils are made from lemon, lime or bergamot for example. One hundred kilos of fruit is needed to produce about four kilos of lemon essence or one kilo of orange or mandarin essence.
What they have in common:
All citrus fruit is made of one:
– rind (pericarp)
– superficial rough and resistant layer that can be either yellow or orange (zest). The colour of this superficial layer is due to its content of flavonoids.
– internal, white and spongy layer
– juicy pulp containing pips and rich in vitamin C
The chemical composition of citruses is, among others:
- Terpenes (about 90%)
- Vitamin C
- Flavonoids: very effective for venous tonus and lymphatic drainage. They help reducing inflammation and preserve good circulation while helping the healing of ulcers on legs.
- Limonenes: molecules well known for the allergenic effect
- Furo-coumarines make citrus fruit photo sensitive.
Citrus essences are very volatile and their use by date is shorter than for other essential oils (about 2 years). It is advised to keep them away from heat.
Citrus essences are particularly recommended for children. They have a soothing perfume and have very few counter-indications. They also are very affordable.
The different citrus Essential Oils
1/Bitter orange essence: Citrus aurantium ssp aurantium
The bitter orange tree (or bigarade orange tree) is a small tree cultivated in subtropical climate. Its flowers are very white and have a fragrant scent.
The essential oil of petit grain bigarade like the neroli essential oil are relaxing (if you feel oppressed) and anti-depression.
Bitter orange provides three different essential oils:
The flowers provide the essential oil Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) ; the leaves and young branches bearing fruit provide the essential oil Petit grain bigarade (Citrus aurantium ssp aurantium) and finally, the zest of the fruit provides the bitter orange essence.
- Tonic and general stimulant (revitalising)
- Soothing and sedative
2/Sweet orange essence: Citrus sinensis L. Persoon
It also provides soothing virtues and offers a true regulatory effect on the nervous system. Its scent is often preferred to that of the mandarin.
On the cosmetic side, it tones the skin
On the health side, it offers sedative, relaxing and soothing virtues.
- Mixed to a shampoo or a shower gel and to make your own masks
- Added to a VO as night cream
- Added to some food recipes (cakes for example).
- In diffusion in both the home and the car
- To fight insomnia for adults and children over the age of 6
3/ Grapefruit essence: Citrus paradisii (zest)
The grapefruit, or pomelos, originates from tropical and semi-tropical regions.
The essence of grapefruit is a tonic, an appetite suppressant and energising. It is often used in the making of cosmetic products for its anti-cellulite properties. Indeed, its active ingredients stimulate blood circulation and thus is beneficial in fighting rebellious zones of cellulite. It also has a very pleasant scent that boosts the morale and gives you a good start to the day. Is cleanses the scalp for those who have a tendency of having oily hair.
- Draining (alleviate heavy legs ; varicose veins)
- Regulates digestifs problems (slow digestion, nausea, over-eating)
- Digestif stimulant
- Tonic and general stimulant (revitalising)
- Lipolytic (destroys the fatty cells of cellulite)
- Purifying (cleanses the atmosphere)
Counter-indications : Do not use if suffering from gallstones.
- Mix it with your shower gel for a good mood feeling
- 1 drop in a dollop of shampoo to cleanse the scalp
- In diffusion throughout the home. It will bring a happy note and relax the atmosphere
- In dietetics for its appetite suppressing effect
A scientific study* has put forward the efficient use of grapefruit expression in helping with weight loss in the area across the waste for post-menopausal women: a mixture of 3% cypress essential oil (Cupressus sempervirens) and grapefruit essence diluted in grapeseed vegetable oil.
*Source: Pubmed – « Effect of aromatherapy massage on abdominal fat and body image in post-menopausal women » Department of Nursing, Wonkwang Health Science College, Korea – 2007
4/ Lemon essence: Citrus limonum
The lemon tree is a small tree cultivated in the Mediterranean. Its branches have thorns and the leaves are oval. It can bloom up to twice a year. The agreeable flavour of this expression can hide that of other essential oils that are sometimes hard to tolerate, especially essential oils that contain phenols.
Lemon essential oil is undoubtedly the most import of all the citrus essential oils.
- Antiviral (respiratory infections), purifying and antiseptic
- Hepato-protective (protects the liver, appeases liver pain)
- Atmospheric antiseptic
- Digestive tonic, carminatif, it allows the expulsion of intestinal gas and helps the digestion after a heavy meal.
- Facilitates the expulsion of gallstones
- Blood thinner and anti-coagulator, it acts on the micro-circulation. Active on the sealing of blood vessels, it facilitates venous circulation (heavy leg syndrome). However, this can also have the effect of lengthening the duration of menstrual periods and menstrual flow. Lemon essence must therefore not be used by women at the start of their cycle.
- atmospheric diffusion to cleanse the air and avoid the risk of contagion.
- olfaction, against travel sickness or nausea in pregnant women.
- massage, diluted with a vegetable oil in the case of intestinal infection or diarrhea. It will calm the pain and act on the infection by regulating the management of water in the intestine.
Counter-indications: its limonene concentration can be irritating in skin applications. Beware also that lemon essence can worsen a cough in the case of inflammation.
5/ Bergamot essence: Citrus aurantium ssp bergamia
Bergamot is provided from a small tree found in tropical Asia. It has oval leaves and the flowers are white and highly scented. The fruit is small. It is used among other things for making Earl Grey tea and in the perfume industry.
Bergamot essence has soothing and calming properties: anti-stress, it slows down the cardiac and nervous systems.
- Antibacterial (cleanses the atmosphere, acne)
- Sedative (induces sleep)
- Anxiolytic (reduces anxiety)
- Re-balancing (concentration problems, sleeping problems)
- In atmospheric diffusion it brings optimism and « joie de vivre ».
- At night, in a bath with essential oils (for its regulating properties that appease nervousness and favours relaxation).
- In natural perfumery, for eau de Cologne for example.
Bergamot essence is a sedative that induces sleep and acts on the production of melatonin. This is what makes this essence so interesting in the treatment of nervous depression due to lack of light.
6- Mandarin essence
With its floral and sweet perfume, the mandarin EO has a gently action on the nervous system and is a natural sleeping pill ! It helps relaxation and assists in falling asleep as it has a slight muscle relaxant property. Its scent has unanimous agreement: everyone loves it and uses it with pleasure. Green mandarin soothes fretful children or those who are prone to nightmares.
- At night, in a bath with EOs for a little moment of pleasure and the promise of a good night’s sleep.
- In atmospheric diffusion to fight stress.
- In recipes, especially for baking.
What counter-indications are there regarding citrus EOs?
- Photo-sensitive: use it diluted and preferably at night. To avoid any risk of brown stains appearing on the skin, be careful to avoid exposure to direct sun within 12 hours of applying it to the skin. This precautionary measure is also valid for all citrus zests. The wisest solution is to never include a citrus essence in a homemade sunscreen.
- Allergenic: presence of limonene (a recurrent allergenic).
- Irritating for the skin if used long term (especially lemon). Always carry out a skin test before applying it.
How to use citrus essences?
At any time of day, it is a pleasure to think of smelling citrus. Indeed, the concentration of limonene (present in most citruses) provokes an instantaneous nervous stimulation which favours the freeing of endorphins and is responsible for the feeling of well-being.
To feel well, citrus essential oils are used in several ways:
In a diffuser, to aromatise the air:
- bergamot in a work space to reduce stress.
- lemon in a sick room to sanitize the air.
- orange in a Zen beauty parlour to make people feel happy and relaxed.
In inhalation, grapefruit to suppress hunger: breathe in deeply 3 times.
By cutaneous route
In cosmetics, by integrating them in a preparation: 0.5% maximum in products aimed at massaging the face and 1% maximum in products aimed at massaging the body.
By oral route (prudence always)
In cooking, use 1 drop per portion to flavour a cake or a yoghurt, or a custard.
What are the benefits?
- Comforting, balancing and soothing, they act on the whole nervous system.
- Depurative and digestive, they calm nausea.
- On the skin, they stimulate circulation and boost tired skin.
- Agreeable in using for cleansing ambient air.
- For everyone, except pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- And, for children from the age of 3 onwards, only used mandarin EO.
- All oils should also be avoided if undergoing heavy medical treatment (cancer, AIDS) because they hamper the efficiency of many medications.
- In case of gallstones, avoid bitter orange.