The benefits of citrus essential oils

written by Anthony Zappia | WELLBEING COMMUNITY BLOGGER


Citrus fruit slices. Image from the US Agricultural Research Service

From my experience, citrus essential oils are probably the least talked about of all essential oils. Yet when we consider that one of the key components in these oils is an antioxidant known as limonene, then they ought be widely discussed. You see, limonene (or D-limonene) has demonstrated anti-tumoral properties in a number of studies.[1]

This kind of research doesn’t get much, if any, mention in the mainstream media, which comes back to what I was arguing about in my blog 4 weeks ago. (We will revisit limonene in more detail in a future post).

Citrus oils also help to neutralise acid in your body and stimulate the immune system to fight infections. Another key feature of the citrus oils is that they have uplifting, invigorating and anti-depressant qualities.[2]

So what are the citrus oils? They are extracts of grapefruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges and tangerines. The essential oils are extracted (cold-pressed) from the rind or skin of the fruit. That’s right, the bit of the fruit we tend to throw away.

Before we look at some of the uses and benefits of citrus oils, a couple of pointers.
Aside from grapefruit, these oils are photo-sensitive, which means they’re sensitive to sunlight. So, as a word of advice, don’t apply them to your skin if you’re intending to be outdoors within the 24 hours after application. If you do venture outdoors, make sure you’ve covered up the area of skin on which you’ve applied the oil.

From the perspective of cost, citrus oils are probably the cheapest essential oils to buy, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before make sure you only use pure therapeutic grade essential oils. If you don’t, you could be doing yourself a great disservice, as a lot of citrus fruits are sprayed with pesticides.

Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi )

Blend classification: Modifier and enhancer
Blends with: Basil, bergamot, cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, rosewood and ylang ylang
Odour: Type: Top note (5-20% of the blend); Scent: Clean, fresh, bitter, citrusy

Grapefruit oil has anti-depressant, diuretic, stimulant and cleansing properties (kidneys, lymphatic and vascular systems). It is uplifting and can help relieve anxiety.

Grapefruit oil is a great complement to any weight reduction plan. Here is something you may want to try for weight loss. Place 7 drops of grapefruit oil in a glass bottle with 7-8 cups of water and shake. Then drink before your meals.

Lemon (Citrus limon)

Blend classification: Modifier and enhancer
Blends with: Eucalyptus, fennel, frankincense, geranium, juniper, peppermint, sandalwood and ylang ylang.
Odour: Type: Top note (5-20% of the blend); Scent: sweet, sharp, clear, citrusy

Lemon oil has antiseptic, antibacterial and immune stimulating properties. Research by Jean Valnet, MD, revealed that vaporised lemon oil can kill meningococcus bacteria in 15 minutes, typhoid bacilli in 1 hour, Staphylococcus Aureus in 2 hours and Pneumoccus bacteria in 3 hours. [3]  Lemon oil is purifying, invigorating and uplifting. Research has shown it to have antidepressant qualities.[4]

This is an excellent oil for cleaning bathroom and kitchen surfaces, or even to clean your hands after you’ve been to the bathroom. You can make up a spray bottle filled with water and just add between 20-30 drops of lemon essential oil. Something we do if someone in my family has a sore throat is to add a couple of drops of lemon oil with a couple of drops of peppermint oil on a spoon, and down the hatch. Or, if you would rather not swallow, try gargling with 3 drops of lemon oil in a glass of water.

Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)

Blend classification: Enhancer and equalizer
Blends with: Citronella, clary sage, lavendin, lavender, neroli, rosemary and other citrus oils
Odour: Type: Top note (5-20% of the blend); Scent: Sweet, tart, intense, lively

Lime oil works well in removing gum, oil and grease spots. Like lemon, it’s also great for infections and sore throats. It has a fragrance that is refreshing and stimulating, so it’s great if one is feeling exhausted or listless.

Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)

Blend classification: Personifier and modifier
Blends with: Lavender, neroli, cinnamon bark, clove, nutmeg and other citrus oils
Odour: Type: Top note (5-20% of the blend); Scent: Very sweet, citrusy, fruity

A useful oil for pregnant women. When combined with either jasmine, lavender, sandalwood or frankincense, it can assist with stretch marks. In fact it’s useful for a number of skin problems eg oily skin, scars and spots. Also useful for indigestion, hiccups, dyspepsia and fluid retention. As it’s quite gentle, it’s suitable for children.
Its fragrance is also refreshing and uplifting. It also has anti-stress properties.

Orange (Citrus sinensis)

Blend classification: Enhancer and personifier
Blends with: Cinnamon bark, frankincense, geranium, juniper, lavender, nutmeg and rosewood.
Odour: Type: Top note (5-20% of the blend); Scent: Fresh, citrusy, fruity, sweet.

This is a great oil to diffuse in a room where children play as the fragrance promotes joy and happiness. Kids love the orange smell. But hey, don’t stop there, it’s good for the “big kids” as well. It can relax you and lift your spirits.

Orange oil has anti-tumoral and anti-coagulant properties. In addition it has been shown to help stimulate the circulatory system. If you suffer indigestion, this is a good oil to have around.

It’s been used to assist people with fluid retention and dull and oily complexions, and to purify water. It’s high in limonene, which as I mentioned earlier has been shown in a number of studies to prevent cancer.

Tangerine (Citrus nobilis)

Blend classification: Modifier and personifier
Blends with: Basil, bergamot, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemon and orange.
Odour: Type: Top note (5-20% of the blend); Scent: Fresh, sweet, citrusy.

Tangerine oil is a calming oil. Try rubbing it together with lavender on your feet if you’re having a hard time getting some sleep or if someone is dealing with a lot of grief, anger or shock.

It’s a nice oil to use as a flavouring with water, when you want to avoid soft drinks but you get tired of drinking plain old water. Try adding a drop of tangerine oil with a drop of spearmint oil to a jug of water.

Tangerine oil helps to stimulate drainage in the lymphatic system. If you are suffering from fluid retention (edema) a few drops of orange oil added to an equal part of cypress essential oil and rubbed on the feet and legs can help.

Further Reading:

Corrigan, Doug. The therapeutic value of citrus oils, 8th August 2012

Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.


[1] Crowell PI. Prevention and therapy of cancer by dietary monoterpenes J Nutr.1999 Mar;129(3):775S-778S.
[2] Komori T, et al. Application of fragrances to treatments for depression Japanese journal of psychopharmacology. 1995 Feb; 15(1):39-42
[3] Valnet J, MD. The practice of aromatherapy, 1980, C.W. Daniel Company, Great Britain, Chapter 3, Nature’s antiseptics, pg36
[4] Komori, op.cit

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Anthony Zappia writes a regular blog about health and social issues, areas that he's passionate about. Twelve years ago he became especially interested in essential oils and their ability to enhance health and wellbeing. Anthony continues to follow the latest research and is himself a distributor of essential oils.