I have two miniature citrus trees that bloom in August and set glorious fruits that finally ripen close to Thanksgiving. As I write, the stems of the Meyer lemon, a cross between a lemon and an orange, bend with the weight of the ripening fruit. When afternoon sun fills the room and warms the fruit, the scent of lemon fills the air.
Often foods naturally mature precisely at the time when its particular nutrients or healing properties are most needed. The citrus family is no exception. During the autumn when colds and the flu virus are on the rise, citrus essential oils offer antimicrobial support. As the nights grow longer and the days shorter, many people suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The citrus family of essential oils lifts moods, improves concentration, and soothes anxiety, just in time for the holiday season.
While most essential oils are extracted through steam distillation, citrus fruits are so rich in essential oils that the peels are simply pressed to extract the oil. Because the oils are pressed, they have tiny remnants of peel that are prone to deteriorate over time. To minimize the possibility of the oils spoiling, store them in the refrigerator and discard any citrus oils more than one year old.
Antibacterial and antiviral activity
Recent research demonstrates orange essential oil (Citrus aurantium L.) have moderate to strong antimicrobial activity against 13 strains of bacteria and 8 fungi.[i] Another study found that Neroli essential oil, made from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree, is also effective against yeast, performing as well or better than Nystatin in inhibiting yeast growth. This same study found that Neroli oil has marked activity against the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, many strains of which are resistant to pharmaceutical antibiotics.[ii]
Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix de Candolle) essential oil, made from leaves and peel, kills bacteria that cause periodontal disease within 2 – 4 hours of treatment. Ideally the Kaffir lime essential oil would be used in a mouthwash, not ingested. Remember that essential oils generally are not taken internally except under the guidance of a specially trained physician.[iii]
Calming and improving moods
Traditionally citrus essential oils have been used to soothe jangled nerves and lift moods. One research study reviewed trials from 1990 – 2010 and found that citrus and lavender essential oils were effective in quelling anxiety with no adverse effects.[iv] An animal study compared the effects of sweet orange and tea tree essential oil on moods. Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis ) reduced anxiety while tea tree oil exposure had no effect on anxiety levels.[v]
Using citrus essential oils at home
You can enjoy the benefits of citrus essential oils by creating a mister to disperse essential oils in your home or office. Often within 15 – 20 minutes of spraying this combination of essential oils, you will not longer smell the scent, yet the effects of the essential oils linger much longer.
Misting essential oils: Fill an 8 ounce spray bottle with water. Make a 1-2% dilution of essential oil in the water. For a 1% solution, add 48 total drops of essential oil (a single oil OR combination of 2 or 3 oil); for a 2% solution add a total of 96 drops.
Example of a great combination of essential oils to disinfect the air and improve mood:
- 24 drops of orange(Citrus aurantium L.) essential oil
- 24 drops of black spruce(Picea mariana) essential oil
- Add to 8 ounces of water in a spray bottle.
- Add 2 tablespoons of vodka (dispersant, to mix essential oil into the water)
- Shake before using
Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO
[i] Hsouna Ben, N. Hamdi et al. Characterization of essential oil from Citrus aurantium L. flowers: antimicrobial and antioxidant activities. J Oleo Sci. 2013;62(10):763-72.
[ii] AH Ammar, J Bouajila. Chemical composition and in vitro antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Citrus aurantium l. flowers essential oil (Neroli oil). Pak J Biol Sci. 2012 Nov 1;15(21):1034-40.
[iii] K Wongsariya, P Phanthong et al. Synergistic interaction and mode of action of Citrus hystrix essential oil against bacteria causing periodontal diseases. Pharm Biol. 2013 Oct 9.
[iv] YL Lee, Y Wu, et al. A systematic review on the anxiolytic effects of aromatherapy in people with anxiety symptoms. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Feb;17(2):101-8.
[v] CB Faturi, JR Leite et al. Anxiolytic-like effect of sweet orange aroma in Wistar rats. Prog Neuropsychopharacol Biol Psychiatry. 605-9.