Sweet Orange Essential Oil- Benefits, Uses, and Origin

The sweet orange essential oil is one of the most widely commercialized citrus oils due to its health benefits and distinctly pleasant aroma. Its versatility gives it a wide range of uses, from treating colds to serving as food flavouring agent and cleaning supply.

With its dark green leaves and bright orange fruit, the sweet orange tree is easily recognizable. It is native to a region that cuts across Southern China, Northeast India, and Myanmar. According to historical sources, Christopher Columbus carried orange seeds to Haiti and the Caribbean. Portuguese explorers introduced orange trees to the west, while Italian traders brought them to the Mediterranean region. The orange tree reached Europe where it came to be cultivated by the wealthy in their private “orangeries”. By the 1800s, the orange tree became the most widely cultivated tree in the world.

The sweet orange essential oil is extracted from the rind of the sweet orange through a process called cold pressing, which uses pressure to squeeze oils from the rind. The essential oil produced contains limonene, monoterpene hydrocarbons, alcohols, and aldehydes. Limonene is believed to have antioxidant properties and is an appetite suppressant.

Ancient Uses of Sweet Orange

In the Mediterranean region, sweet orange was used in folk remedies against common colds, skin infections, and spasms. In China, the sweet orange symbolizes good fortune and is often given alongside gifts and traditional offerings. Oranges were considered a “fruit of the gods” and are pictured in the story of Hercules and Titan Atlas as “golden apples”.

Benefits of Using Sweet Orange Oil

More than its sweet, tangy taste, the sweet orange has a variety of benefits and uses, from food, cleaning, and medication.   

Fights bacteria and fungi

Orange essential oil has been tested against several bacteria in various studies. It was proven to prevent the cultivation of E.coli in beef at refrigeration temperatures. Orange essential oil was also proven to kill antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It may also be used to prevent the growth of fungi that can cause food to spoil.

Reduces anxiety

When used in aromatherapy, sweet orange essential oil reduces pulse rate and stress hormone levels. A study exposing men to orange essential oil found that the test subjects experienced less anxiety, greater alertness, and a more positive mood than those who were not. Inhaling orange essential oil was found to alter activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which improves decision-making and helps moderate social behaviour. Women in labor also experienced less anxiety after inhaling orange essential oil in a 2015 study.

Improves cognitive function and sleep

The scent of sweet orange essential oil is believed to enhance cognitive function, making it easier to recall memories, especially for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, diffusing or spraying diluted orange essential oil into the air induces sleep and enhances sleep quality. This facilitates the body’s detoxification process and balances hormones.

Relieves pain

Orange oil is also used in massage oils as it improves blood flow, relieving discomfort associated with inflammation, headaches, menstruation, and low libido. It is believed to soothe pain in bones, joints, or any site of injury and infection by decreasing the swelling that causes aches and soreness while reducing redness. Blended with ginger, sweet orange essential oil can be applied to the skin to help provide short-term pain relief.

Anticancer and antioxidant activity

The limonene in sweet orange oil has important antioxidant properties. Laboratory studies found limonene to be potent against the growth of colon, lung, and prostate cancer cells in culture.

Improves exercise performance

A small study tested the effect of inhaling orange essential oil on the exercise of student athletes. The researchers found that people who inhaled the oil ran faster and had increased lung function that those who did not.

Improves skin and reduces acne

Sweet orange essential oil is also known to maintain the health, appearance, and texture of skin by promoting clarity, radiance, and smoothness. It is used as a tonic that cleanses and detoxifies the skin while diminishing the appearance of pores. In improving skin health, orange oil also reduces signs of acne and other uncomfortable skin conditions.

Safety and Precaution Tips

The sweet orange essential oil can be used with a diffuser to improve mood and give the room a refreshing scent. It can be used with water as a spray or with carrier oils for massages.

Like other essential oils, using orange oil should be practiced with caution.

Before applying orange essential oil topically, the oil should be diluted and a skin patch test may be done on the side of the elbow before use on larger areas. Avoid using essential oils near the eyes.

Oxidized orange essential oil may cause dermal sensitization, which is a type of allergic reaction that becomes noticeable after several uses. It is best not to use old essential oils especially those not properly stored.

Some citrus essential oils are phototoxic, which means they can cause a painful skin reaction if used on the skin and exposed to the sun. While orange essential oil has low risk of phototoxicity, caution should still be observed.

When using orange essential oils for aromatherapy, the space should be well ventilated.

Orange essential oils should be stored out of reach of children and pets.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women and those taking prescription medications should speak to their doctors before using orange essential oil.

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