Introduced to Europe from southern regions of Asia via the Middle East in the 11th century BCE, many varieties have become naturalized to the Mediterranean and North Africa, while being widely cultivated all around Tropical, Sub-Tropical, and Mediterranean bio-regions on most continents. The word orange is rooted in the Arabic narandj and the word Citrus stemming from late Latin and most likely originally from the Greek word for “Cedar.” It is used today to describe the extremely diverse genera in the Rutaceae family. All Citrus are spiny trees of varying height, with aromatic leaves, high Essential Oil-containing rinds, and fruits best known for being very high in Vitamin C, positively effecting immune response. Stimulating the circulation of Qi, or what is referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine as the vital force that animates an organism, peels of the majority of Citrus are bitter in flavor and typically warming, both qualities increase the production of gastric juices including HCL and bile, and eliminate gas, increasing the absorption of nutrients. Citrus peels are beneficial for venous health as antioxidants and nourish the small capillaries internally and externally. Most commonly known Mediterranean Citrus varieties are Mandarin, Tangerine, Clementine (aka Algerian Tangerine), Bitter Orange, Seville Orange, Lemon, unique cultivars of Citron found in many coastal regions, Sweet Orange, Etrog, Sweet Limetta, Grapefruit, and Bergamot - the latter two are the focus of the following blogs.
Citrus fruits, peels, leaves, and flowers are used medicinally in varying bio-regions and folk traditions as perfumes, flavoring agents, medicines, and cosmetics. Neroli, a popular Essential il in perfumery, is extracted from Sweet Orange blossoms, and Petitgrain refers to the oil extracted from Citrus leaves.
Citrus peels are typically cold-pressed or steam distilled, though they can be infused in oil, vinegar, or alcohol and candied with sugar. Cold-pressed oils, often found in cleansers and bodycare products contain larger coumarine molecules, which are extremely photosensitive, causing rashes, uneven pigmentation, staining, and in extreme cases, burning the skin. The marks can last from weeks to months. Steam distilled preparations do not contain high concentrations of photosensitive agents. Regardless, they should always be diluted in a carrier oil and when freshly applied, never exposed immediately to UV rays. Chose oils specially extracted to be bergapten-free.
Citrus is employed internally, externally in baths, massages, body scrubs, and in aromatherapy as a part of the Traditional Chinese Fuzheng Therapy used to eliminate toxins, strengthen immunity, promote elimination, and support the body—particularly during cancer treatments. The Fuzheng Therapy has been shown to prevent hair loss, esophageal lesions, and increases the body’s resilience and recovery time. Internally and externally, all Citrus lower blood pressure, are uplifting to the spirit, and ease anxiety and stress.
In perfumery, Citrus are Middle Notes that are universally classified as fresh, sweet, spicy, and uplifting. They blend well with complex florals like Jasmine and Lavender, sweetly sensuous Vanilla and Amber, spices like Basil and Rosemary, and deep woody aromas like Cedar, Vetiver, Patchouli and Sandalwood.