Aromatherapy: Orange

Brought to the Mediterranean from Asia by the Saracens during the time of the crusades, the familiar sweet orange used in aromatherapy now comes from Sicily, Israel, Spain, and the U.S., each country’s essential oil offering slightly different characteristics. They are rich in vitamins A, B, and C, flavonoids, and minerals. The Chinese, however, correctly warned in the Chu-lu -- the first monograph describing the various citruses that was written in 1178 -- that they can increase lung congestion.

Oranges were considered symbols of fruitfulness, and the Greeks called them the “golden apple of the Hesperides.” The god Zeus is said to have given an orange to his bride Hera at their wedding.


In 1290, Eleanor of Castile brought oranges to England, where they were grown as luxuries in greenhouses or “orangeries.” In northern climates, only the very wealthy could afford oranges, and they were often given as extravagant gifts at Christmas-time. In European courts they were stuck with cloves and carried as a pomander to dispel disagreeable odors and emotions such as depression and nervousness, as well as to bring more cheer into dreary winter days. The essential oil is cold pressed from the peel and lasts only about a year, so keep it cool and away from direct sunlight.

Principal constituents of orange: Limonene (up to 90 percent), with aldehydes, citral, citronellol, geraniol, linalol, methyl anthranilate, and terpineol

Scent of orange: It has a perky, lively, and distinctively orange scent. The related tangerine is brighter and sweeter, while petitgrain is harsher, sharper, and considerably more herby or “green.”

Therapeutic properties of orange: Sedative; relieves muscle spasms, cramping, and indigestion

Uses for orange: Orange’s greatest claim to aromatherapy fame is its ability to affect moods and to lower high blood pressure. In fact, just sniffing it lowers blood pressure a couple points. It is also a good adjunct treatment for irregular heartbeat. Research at International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., in New Jersey found that orange also reduces anxiety. You don’t even need to buy the essential oil; simply peel an orange and inhale its aroma.

Although not as antibiotic as lemon, it still has some value in fighting flu, colds, and breaking up congested lymph, especially when added to massage oil. The aroma of oranges is a favorite of children, and they will usually be more enthusiastic about an aromatherapy treatment when it is included. Also use the massage oil to ease a bout of indigestion or overcome a light case of insomnia or depression. Cosmetically it is good for oily complexions, although essential oils with more sophisticated fragrances are preferred.

Warnings about orange: The oil is only slightly photosensitizing, but still go easy in baths or any skin preparations since it can burn the skin -- just 4 drops in a bathtub can be enough to irritate and redden sensitive skin. Related oils such as that of tangerine or mandarin (C. reticulata) are milder and safer choices for pregnant women and very young children.


To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.



Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.