Citrus essential oils are both uplifting and vibrant, and can be used for many different ailments. Nicknamed the “happy oils,” citrus essential oils add a variety of therapeutic properties to an aromatherapy blend. Add in their familiar citrus aroma, and you will soon understand why many essential oil blends include one of these family members!
Botanical Profile of Citrus Essential Oils
Citrus essential oils belong to the Rutaceae plant family. Citrus essential oils are usually expressed from the peel of the fruit, although in some cases it is possible to distill an essential oil from the fruit, as well. Citrus trees grow between fifteen and thirty feet, depending upon the species. They are indigenous to a warm, sunny climate and can be found in places such as the Mediterranean region, California, Florida, and South America. They bear different colored fruits, ranging from yellow to orange in color on maturity.
Citrus essential oils are light and are consequently classified as top note essential oils.
Photo-sensitivity of Citrus Essential Oils
The majority of citrus essential oils are photo-sensitive, so do not apply them before going out in the sunlight, or before using a form of ultra-violet light such as a tanning unit. The exceptions to the photo-sensitive rule include expressed sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oil, distilled lime (Citrus aurantifolia) essential oil, and grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) essential oil (Lawless, 1995). Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) essential oil may be photo-sensitive, too.
Orange, Mandarin, and Tangerine Essential Oils
There are two types of citrus orange essential oil – sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and bitter orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara). Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) originates from the Far East and was brought to Europe by the trade routes. Eventually, the mandarin was brought to the United States, with European settlers, and the tangerine (Citrus reticulata var. blanco) emerged.
Lemon and Lime Essential Oils
Lemon (Citrus limon) and lime (Citrus aurantifolia) essential oils are used interchangeably for aromatherapy. The lime is a small, green fruit, a similar oval shape to the lemon, but half its size.
Bergamot and Grapefruit Essential Oils
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) resembles the shape of a small orange, but it is much smaller in size. The fruit turns yellow on maturity – and it shouldn't be confused with the grapefruit.
Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) is a hybrid plant of the shaddock (Citrus maxima) and the sweet orange. It is a large, yellow fruit.
Uses of Citrus Essential Oils
Citrus essential oils share many therapeutic properties and some of the common problems that citrus essential oils can be used for include:
- colds, flu, and coughs
- digestive issues: flatulence, constipation, dyspepsia
- skin care
- anxiety, stress, and depression.
Refer to individual essential oil profiles for specific uses.
Cautions for Using Citrus Essential Oils
As mentioned above, citrus essential oils may be photo-sensitive. In addition, although many citrus essential oils are great to use with children, consult a certified aromatherapist before using for specific problems for children. In addition, use with care with seniors.
- Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons
- Sedona Aromatherapie Certification in Professional Aromatherapy, Sedona, Arizona
- A decade of the international training and experience of a certified aromatherapist.