Citrus Oils for Weight Loss, Stress Relief and Much More!
Citrus fruits are like the sunshine of the produce world. They are colorful and bright, fresh and juicy – the perfect sign that summer is here. Their essential oils bring a similar cheer, whether cooking, cleaning, bathing or simply breathing, citrus oils can be part of the process, refreshing and revitalizing along the way.
How Citrus Oils are Manufactured
While most essential oils are produced via steam distillation, citrus oils are different. The leaves, bark, roots, and seeds aren't the source of the oil – it's the fruit itself! More specifically, the peel of citrus fruit provides the essential oil. If you've ever been sprayed in the eye when peeling an orange, or felt the oily residue on your fingers afterward, you've encountered a citrus essential oil already.
To produce citrus essential oils, the peel is usually cold pressed, extracting the oil without the application of heat or solution, otherwise called “expression.” The peels can be steam distilled or extracted with a solution, though they are less common methods, and the latter is known as an absolute rather than an essential oil and is not used in the same ways. (1)
A note to remember about citrus oils: we often think of foods with thick peels as less dangerous when grown conventionally because the peel protects the edible part from toxic pesticides. The opposite is true in this case. The peel is in constant contact with sprays, so the concentrated essential oil product would be, as well. Always trust your essential oil provider to bring you toxin and residue free oils!
Cancer-Fighting and Phototoxicity
Since we are looking at an entire family of fruits and their essential oils, shared features are to be expected. Notably, with shared antimicrobial benefits, citrus oils are almost universally good in cleaning formulations and they are generally regarded as being mood boosters in traditional folk medicine.
The most prominent and noteworthy component of citrus oils is d-limonene, confirmed to be a potent cancer-fighting agent.
“D-Limonene is an oral dietary supplement containing a natural cyclic monoterpene and major component of the oil extracted from citrus peels with potential chemopreventive and antitumor activities. Although the mechanism of action has yet to be fully elucidated, limonene and its metabolites perillic acid, dihydroperillic acid, uroterpenol and limonene 1,2-diol may inhibit tumor growth through inhibition of p21-dependent signaling and may induce apoptosis via the induction of the transforming growth factor beta-signaling pathway. In addition, they inhibit post-translational modification of signal transduction proteins, resulting in G1 cell cycle arrest as well as differential expression of cell cycle- and apoptosis-related genes.” (2)
Other commonly shared chemicals in the citrus family are furocoumarins like bergapten, notable for their phototoxic effects. When bergapten is left on the skin, then exposed to the sun, it amplifies the effect of the sun and can leave burns. Some people like to avoid using bergapten-heavy oils topically altogether, but simply avoiding the sun after use (such as using it at night before bed) is sufficient. Alternatively, steam-distilled citrus oils have lower concentrations of bergapten and mitigate this effect.
This list of photosensitizing and non-photosensitizing came from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapists. (3)
|Essential Oil||Latin Name|
|Angelica root||Angelica archangelica|
|Distilled or expressed grapefruit (low risk)||Citrus paradisi|
|Expressed lemon||Citrus limon|
|Expressed lime||Citrus medica|
|Orange, bitter (expressed)||Citrus aurantium|
Non-Phototoxic Citrus Oils
|Essential Oil||Latin Name|
(FCF: Furanocoumarin Free)
|Distilled lemon||Citrus limon|
|Distilled lime||Citrus medica|
|Mandarin – Tangerine||Citrus reticulata|
|Sweet orange||Citrus sinensis|
|Expressed tangerine||Citrus reticulata|
|Yuzu oil (expressed or distilled)||Citrus juno|
Great care should be taken when using citrus oils during summer months and with your children, but you don't have to avoid them all together. Many aromatherapists agree that heavily diluting citrus oils minimizes the risk.
- Cold Pressed Bergamot — 2.4 drops (I just consider this 2 drops per oz)
- Cold Pressed Lemon — 12 drops per oz
- Cold Pressed Lime — 4.2 drops (I just consider this 4 drops per oz)
- Cold Pressed Grapefruit — 24 drops per oz
Citrus Oils for Everyday
There are few things citrus oils cannot remedy. From the countertop to your intestines, they clean, detoxify and are wonderful additions to any home!
Officially named Citrus Bergamia, bergamot differs from the other citrus oils in that it's not a familiar fruit. In fact, it's not even an edible fruit in any practical sense. Still, its oil has been used for some time now, flavoring black tea and appearing in traditional Chinese remedies.
Bergamot essential oil is an important oil for stress relief. In one very recently published study coming out of Japan, mood, cortisol levels, and fatigue were all relieved in a short amount of time after inhaling bergamot essential oil. (4)
Another strong benefit of bergamot is its antibacterial activity, not only good for surface cleaning but also implicated in food safety. Researchers are focusing heavily on citrus oils to inhibit E. coli and other bacteria, and bergamot is one of the most promising. (5)
The grapefruit is an undersold tool for weight management. If you struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, no doubt you've seen grapefruit recommended in every diet, from the healthier “eat well” varieties to the dangerous crash diets. That's because every part of the grapefruit is good for your metabolism and body composition, right down to the essential oil.
One mechanism of the benefits may be connected to an internal reaction to the scent, that basically tells the body it's time to burn fat. (6) Topically, massages including grapefruit oil have shown reduced cellulite and body circumference, as well as increased self esteem. (7) There are internal benefits, as well, though it should be noted that doses are quite important – no essential oil should be taken in high quantities, regardless of recommendations from friends, family, or blogs. Always consult with a professional, especially when weight management is the concern and goal.
Lemon contains the highest levels of limonene, the active component that brings us most of the benefits from citrus oils. Aside from the benefits for ourselves, limonene and lemon essential oil are excellent options for DIY cleaning recipes. Limonene is so beneficial, in fact, that commercial cleaning products synthesize it for their formulations! (8)
Use lemon essential oil in sprays for countertops, faucets, doorknobs, and any other surface that comes into contact with germs for a strong antimicrobial, protective effect.
Lime essential oil is quite similar to lemon in composition, which makes it an effective option for cleaning as well as for synergistic blends. A noteworthy finding on its cleaning abilities, lime essential oil was shown to be an effective surface antifungal in addition to its antimicrobial effects. (9)
For the body, combine lime with other citrus oils in diffuser blends to boost their combined benefits. Cleanse the air, energize your spirits, and lift your mood with the bright scents and powerful composition.
Orange essential oil can be found as sweet, bitter, or wild, depending on the variety of the plant and the time of harvest. The components and fragrance will vary between each, but at least one component is shared among them – orange oil is the most commonly studied and used oil for food safety. One in particular blended orange with thyme to marinate chicken, finding significant protection against Salmonella growth. (10)
Recommendation: Add one drop of a citrus oil to a tsp of honey, maple syrup, and/or coconut oil then mix with morning water or afternoon tea for a refreshing pick-me-up, spritz down counters with citrus oil and vodka blends where food preparation occurs, and marinate dinner with a citrus oil infusion. In other words, citrus oils should be used daily!
Safety & Contraindications
When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety, and I must defer to the chemists, pharmacists and experts who understand this complicated topic more than I.
With that said, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. Essentially, what this means is that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.
Let common sense be your guide. Still, be sure to maintain proper dilutions, and general safety considerations still apply. As always, discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.