Application cutanée, massage
Voie respiratoire, diffusion
The orange tree (Citrus sinensis), is a fruit tree of the Rutaceae family native to Asia. It is the result of a natural hybridisation between grapefruit (Citrus maxima) and mandarin (Citrus reticulata).
Growing to a height of up to ten metres, it has spiny branches and leaves of four to ten centimetres. Its fruit – actually a berry – is called sweet orange to distinguish it from that of the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium).
Mignon sang "Do you know the country where the orange tree flowers?". Talleyrand's opinion of life under the Old Regime could be applied to orange, the fruit of happiness: he who ignores its flavour is ignorant of the gentle lifestyle. In Antiquity, the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides were in fact oranges. Introduced to Europe by the Portuguese navigators returning from China – hence its Arabic and Greek names burtughal and portokali – sweet orange in German is a "Chinese apple" (Apfelsine). The glorious fruit overshadows the tree's bark, that can be used to make an excellent aperitif, and the leaves, that Mattioli claimed to promote sweating to "eliminate all the nasty humours through the skin". The fruit have been used to adorn countless chimneys, certifying the bride's virginity.
Cultivation and production
Orange trees are cultivated in hot regions such as the Mediterranean area, the Maghreb, China, South Africa and Australia. Introduced into California and Florida, the intensive production of the "Washington navel" species, developed in Brazil, has flooded the market. Brazil is by far the first orange juice exporter and the world turnover for the fruit, whose expansion has been stupendous, now reaches two billion dollars.
The odour of sweet orange essence is light, fresh and fruity.
Extraction and yield
Cold expression of sweet orange peel (Citrus sinensis) gives a low yield of 0.2 to 0.4%, i.e. two to four hundred grams of essence from one hundred kilograms of plant. A deterpenated essence is used in the cosmetics industry.
The main active constituents of essence of Citrus sinensis are monoterpenes (limonene: 92 to 97%), monoterpene alcohols (linalool), aldehydes and coumarins.
The soothing and sedative odour of sweet orange essence has a calming effect and ensures peaceful sleep. The full potential of its soothing effect is achieved when used in the bath. It re-balances the nervous system and relieves anxiety, agitation and palpitations. Stomachic and carminative, it has an anti-nausea effect and is an excellent digestive tonic. Cleansing when used in diffusion, it purifies and scents the ambient air while relieving tensions. When applied pure to the skin, it soothes wasp and bee stings and combats skin slackening.
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium ssp. aurantium).
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.