The orange tree gives us three different essential oils. Orange essential oil comes from the orange fruit, Neroli essential oil (Orange Blossom) comes from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree, and Petitgrain essential oil comes from the leaves and twigs of the orange tree. Of the three oils Neroli is by far the most expensive, and if you see cheap Neroli essential oil, it is probably not Neroli but the cheaper Petitgrain, or at least diluted with Petitgrain.
Neroli (Orange Blossom) Essential Oil
Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara, sometimes sold as Neroli bigarade) has a most beautiful floral scent and gets its name from an Italian princess who lived in the town of Nerola, near Rome, and loved the oil (or at least that’s how a popular story goes).
Neroli is one of the best oils for anxiety, stress and nervousness. It works on long-term anxiety and also if you’re feeling nervous before an important event, such as an exam. It is a gentle sedative: try a couple of drops in a bath blend in the evening. Neroli oil is used a lot in skincare as it is believed to be cytophylactic – to stimulate the growth of healthy new skin cells.
Neroli oil is safe to use during pregnancy, and creams or oils made with Neroli can be used to prevent stretch marks. Here is a very simple natural anti-stretchmark oil recipe:
- 1 drop of Neroli essential oil
- 1 drop of Mandarin essential oil
- 10 ml of base oil: sweet almond works fine but wheat germ oil is especially good.
Petitgrain Essential Oil
Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium bigaradia, sometimes also called Pettigrain) has a refreshing scent that may remind you of Neroli, but if you smell the two oils one after another, there is no way you can be mistaken. Petitgrain is sometimes used as a cheaper substitute for Neroli, but it is a lovely oil in its own right and mixes well with many other oils, including Lavender, for massage oils and bath blends.
Most people like the scent and Petitgrain is also one of the safest oils with practically no contraindications. Patricia Davis recommends Petitgrain for insomnia, especially one that is associated with unhappiness and loneliness, and for anyone who feels run down, or frequently feels a little down, or is suffering from the winter blues.
Petitgrain oils are sometimes made from the twigs and the leaves of other citrus trees too, including Lemon, Bergamot and Mandarin. The Latin name on the label tells you which species the oil comes from.
Orange Essential Oil
Orange essential oil is one of the most uplifting, happy essential oils you can find. Extracted from the peels of the fruit, Orange oil comes from the Sweet orange tree (Citrus aurantium var. dulcis, or Citrus sinensis) or the Bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium var. amara or var. bigaradia). This joyful oil is an excellent help in the long winter months. If you get the winter blues, burn Orange oil in your aromatherapy burner or mix it into a bath blend. Like Neroli and Petitgrain it can also be helpful in insomnia.
Like all citrus oils, Orange can irritate sensitive skin, so blend it with a base oil before using in massage or baths. Orange blends well with many oils, including Frankincense. And just like most other citrus oils, Orange is photosensitizing: if you use it on the skin before going out in the sun, you may burn easily or faster than usual. This seems to apply especially to Bitter Orange oil.
Sources: Patricia Davis: Aromatherapy: an A-Z (Random House UK, 2004)
Photo: John Wilbanks