The orange tree is unusual in the fact that it produces three essential oils from the various parts of the tree. Although similar in therapeutic properties, you might prefer to use one type of orange essential oil over another, depending upon the circumstances. Here's a quick look at the three essential oils that the orange tree produces.
Botanical Profile of the Orange Tree
First of all, it is important to note that there are two main types of orange tree for aromatherapy purposes; bitter orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara) and sweet orange (Citrus aurantium var. sinensis). Although it is possible to extract a less qualitative orange blossom essential oil from the sweet orange tree, in addition to the essential oil extracted from the fruit, it is usually the bitter orange tree that is noted for its production of three essential oils.
The bitter orange tree belongs to the Rutaceae plant family, noted for its citrus members. It is a hardy, evergreen tree with glossy, dark green leaves that are oval in shape, sharp spines, and fragrant, white flowers. The orange-colored fruit is slightly smaller than that produced by the sweet orange tree.
Neroli Essential Oil
Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara (flos)), also known as orange blossom, essential oil is extracted from the fragrant, white flowers of the orange tree. It has a deep, heady, floral aroma. The flowers produce a minute quantity of essential oil by steam distillation, so it is priced highly because of this fact. An absolute is also produced from the flowers.
Neroli essential oil contains a high percentage of alcohols and esters, with monoterpenes, making this a gentle oil to use. It is a very versatile essential oil and can be used for such problems as menopause, PMS, stress, depression, anxiety, all types of skincare problems, wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, poor circulation, and rheumatism.
Neroli is a base note essential oil.
Petitgrain Essential Oil
Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara (fol)) essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the orange tree via steam distillation. It has a fresh, floral aroma with hints of herbaceous.
Petitgrain is composed of a high percentage of esters, and also alcohols and monoterpenes. Its content of esters make it a calming, balancing and useful essential oil for skincare. Use petitgrain essential oil for acne, perspiration, skin toning, insomnia, stress, and emotional exhaustion.
Petitgrain is a top note essential oil.
Bitter Orange Essential Oil
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara) essential oil is cold pressed from the fruit of the bitter orange tree. It has a citrus, floral aroma, although it is not as sweet as sweet orange essential oil.
Bitter orange essential oil is composed predominately of monoterpenes, making this a stimulating and calming essential oil for digestive issues, anxiety, stress, and oily and dull skin.
Bitter orange essential oil is a top note essential oil.
CAUTIONS: Photo-toxic; do not use in sunlight or with other forms of ultra-violet light.
Other Types of Orange Essential Oils
Because of the high price of neroli essential oil, it is sometimes combined with petitgrain essential oil to produce a distilled mix of both essential oils. Petitgrain sur fleurs – or Petitgrain over flowers – essential oil combines the therapeutic properties of both essential oils, and at a lower price than neroli essential oil alone.
If you do not like the bitter aroma of bitter orange essential oil, you may prefer the sweeter aroma of sweet orange essential oil. Having similar therapeutic properties, expressed sweet orange essential oil is also not photo-toxic, unlike bitter orange essential oil (note: distilled sweet orange is photo-toxic).
Cautions for Using Essential Oils
Check cautions for all essential oils, before using them, if you are unfamiliar with the use of essential oils.
Consult a certified aromatherapist for further information.
This article is for educational purposes only and it is not a substitute for medical advice.
- Falsetto, Sharon, 2014, Authentic Aromatherapy, US: Skyhorse Publishing
- Caddy, Rosemary, 1997, Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Colour, UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd.
- Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons
- A decade of the international training and experience of a certified aromatherapist.