This is a tree; the bitter orange tree. It yields no less than three different essential oils; from the fruit (bitter orange), the flowers (neroli) and the leaves (petit grain bigaradier). How’s that for abundance?
The tree originated in southern China and northeast India and was later introduced to Italy. It is widely cultivated for its oil in France, Paraguay, Africa, Italy and Tahiti. The name amara comes from the Latin “acrumen”, in French amère, which means bitter. This evergreen tree grows to a height of 10 meters, the leaves are dark green and glossy. Old leaves fall after new ones have grown. The trunk is smooth and greyish as are the branches. It carries fragrant white flowers and fruits that are smaller than sweet orange. It is the hardiest of all citrus trees.
Bitter orange (pomerans and bigerade are other names for it) is the essential oil pressed from the rinds of the fruits. In perfumery it is sometimes called “Seville orange”. The scent is reminiscent of sweet orange but sharper and deeper. It is fresh, dry with a slight floral undertone.
- Skin: It helps balance the sebum-production, making it useful for oily skin. Its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities can be used for acne. Use in massage against stretchmarks.
- Circulation: Can help with water-retention.
- Digestion: tonic and aiding cramps, indigestion, flatulence.
- Emotional: Studies have showed that bitter orange oil can “quiet” the brain which makes it useful against insomnia when there is too much “chatter” in the head. It is helpful against anxiety or feeling low.
- All citrus oils have a shelf life of about 6 months. They oxidize very easily and then turn cloudy. Do not use on skin since they become skin irritants as they age.
Petit grain bigaradier: The name comes from the French “petit grain”, meaning small grains as the oil originally was distilled from the small, green unripe fruits of the tree. Now the oils come mainly from distilling the leaves (and sometimes green, fresh twigs). It is an ingredient in the classic “Eau de Cologne” and sometimes called “poor man’s neroli”. The scent is floral and fresh with a citrusy woody undertone, slightly herbaceous.
- Skin: Balancing and calming, it is helpful with both oily and dry skin. Helps with acne.
- Digestion: Works as a tonic when liver is sluggish and can help with nausea. It is useful for digestive cramps and spasms that have an emotional origin.
- Emotional: Calming, balancing and uplifting. Use for anxiety, depression, shock. It is a good oil to have around when you feel stressed.
NEROLI comes from the flowers which are handpicked. The yield of essential oil is 30 times less from the flowers than the fruits or leaves. The oil is very costly, but as always with the more costly oils, little goes a long way. I have found that with these oils, less is more, the scent as well as the effects are actually magnified in lower dosages. The name is believed to come from an Italian princess, Anna Maria de la Tremoille, Countess of Neroli who used the scent as her personal signature perfume. The scent is rich, deeply floral and sweet with fresh overtones.
- Skin: Improves skin elasticity by helping cell regeneration, use for dry, sensitive skin.
- Emotional: Depression, grief, hysteria, anxiety and shock. It is believed to have an aphrodisiac effect by releasing nervous tension.
- Physical: Neroli can help with a wide variety of physical problems that originate from emotional disturbances. I recently used this oil for a grieving widow. It kept her balanced and calm all through the funeral arrangements and later eased her grieving process.
PERSONAL: I use the Bitter orange oil for people who chatter uncontrollably, often from stress. It helps calm and freshen the mind, allowing a free flow of positive thought-patterns and diminishes the tight feeling around the head, creating a feeling of space. Petit grain is a terrific balancing oil and easily incorporated into blends. It can highlight any aspect of a blend, be it woody, fresh or floral. It calms physical tension and relaxes the spirit. The uplifting, fresh aroma brings a sense of lightness and ease. Neroli is one of the best oils for grief as it is uplifting and gives a feeling of hope, like a ray of light in the darkness. When desperation threatens, Neroli will take you through it by inspiring calm serenity.