There are various types of orange essential oils that are used in aromatherapy; three types of orange oil are extracted from different parts of the orange tree. In addition, another type of orange oil is extracted from a different species of orange tree. Orange oil is a popular essential oil that is used in aromatherapy to treat various health problems, so understanding the differences between the orange oils is useful to know.
Bitter Orange Oil
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara) oil is extracted from the the fruit of the bitter orange tree by cold expression. The bitter orange tree is an evergreen tree that is hardy and resistant to most diseases (source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless). The bitter orange tree is native to the Far East but today it is commonly found in the Mediterranean region and the the warmer states of the United States. Use bitter orange oil in aromatherapy for skincare problems, digestive problems and to treat colds and flu.
Sweet Orange Oil
Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) essential oil is extracted from a species of orange tree that is smaller than the bitter orange tree. The fruit of the sweet orange tree is larger than the bitter orange variety (source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless). However, the sweet orange tree is found in more or less the same places as the bitter orange tree. Sweet orange oil is extracted from the fruit of the tree via cold expression; it is also possible to distill sweet orange oil.
Use sweet orange oil in aromatherapy for the same problems as bitter orange oil; the main difference between these two oils is that bitter orange oil is photo-toxic whereas sweet orange oil is not photo-toxic (unless it is distilled). Both types of orange oil are predominately composed of similar chemical components, giving them the same therapeutic properties.
Orange Blossom Oil
Orange blossom (Citrus aurantium var. amara) essential oil, also known as neroli oil, is extracted from the flowers of the bitter orange tree by distillation; it takes its alternative name of neroli from an Italian princess (source: Aromatherapy: An A-Z by Patricia Davis). The flowers of the orange tree produce essential oil in small quantities and therefore this is an expensive essential oil because of the difficulties and labor required to extract it. Use orange blossom oil in aromatherapy for skincare problems, digestive problems, anxiety, stress, shock – and as an aphrodisiac!
Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara) essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the bitter orange tree by distillation. Petitgrain oil takes it name from the “petit grains”, meaning “little grains”, of the fruit of the tree; originally the oil was distilled from the green, unripe oranges of the tree (source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless). Petitgrain oil has similar uses to orange blossom oil in aromatherapy, although it is a lighter oil than orange blossom in fragrance.
Other Citrus Oils
Do not confuse any of the different types of orange oil with other citrus oils such as mandarin, tangerine or bergamot essential oils. Although the fruits of these trees are similar in appearance to the orange tree, they are different in both species and essential oil. However, they do all belong to the same botanical family, the Rutaceae plant family.
General Information About Citrus Oils
Citrus oils are well liked in aromatherapy because of their light, uplifting aromas. They are also relatively safe to use with children and the elderly. The main difficulty with citrus oils (extracted from the fruits of the tree) is that they are usually photo-toxic which means that you should not use them if you are going to have prolonged contact with sunlight. Remember to dilute essential oils in a carrier lotion or oil base before applying them to the skin. For further information consult an experienced and qualified aromatherapist.
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