Sweet Orange’s official name is Citrus sinensis. As with the Lemon (Citrus limon), there is now a direct link to an original botanical fruit sweet orange. The Sweet Orange plant is again part of an ancient hybrid subspecies called Citrus.
In 1875 Joseph Dalton Hooker , a renowned English botanist, postulated the original species Citrus contained four plants: Lime, Mandarin, Citron, and Pummelo (1)
The original species Citrus is typically divided into two subgenuses: Citrus (yes, a duplicate name) and Papeda.
All citrus fruit that we buy commercially today come from the subgenus Citrus. Sweet Orange is considered an ancient hybrid of the original Citrus species Mandarin and Pummelo. The original species Citrus has a long history of cultivation dating as far back as 4000 BCE.
Because of the highly cross-fertile nature of the genus Citrus as well as its offspring, the number of subspecies is in doubt. Modern-day botanists estimate the number of subspecies to be anywhere from 16 to 162. American botanist, Robert Willard Hodgson, theorized a compromise taxonomy classification of species with only 36 subspecies (or genus). (2)
Still more recent laboratory studies have concluded that Citrus sinensis (Sweet Orange) is not a true biological species but rather a label of “convenience” in efforts to distinguish it from other hybrids of similar characteristics. It was Darwin himself that said,
“From these remarks, it will be seen that I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does not essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and more fluctuating forms.” (3)
Note: As confusing as all this may be, it is important to have at least this basic understanding before purchasing an orange essential oil because not all subgenus or variety of plants have the same health benefits and uses
A natural consequence of all this confusion from cultivating, hybridization, and mutation of the subgenus makes it difficult to trace the origin for Citrus. It is generally thought that the domestication of Citrus was well in hand by 4000 BCE and the origination of the Citrus fruit trees was in the regions of Southeast Asia and India.
While Citrus may have come from a bitter fruit plant near or around what is today Malay Archipelago some 20 million years ago, it would be in the mixed gardens of China that a sweeter form of the fruit emerges. The Chinese hybridization of the original species Mandarin and Pummelo seems to have produced the subgenus species Citrus sinensis and Citrus aurantium. (4)
About Sweet Orange
The Sweet Orange tree is an evergreen that grows to about 30 feet tall. It grows best in temperate climates (60°F – 85°F) with full sun exposure. Like the Lemon tree, it is in a special group of plants called hermaphroditic. All plants have male and female reproducing parts. Where these parts are in the flower determines how they are pollinated.
In the case of the Citrus trees, the orientation of sexual organs of the flowers gives rise to self-pollination or self-fertilization. Other plants in this group include roses, lilies, sunflowers, daffodils, petunias, horse chestnut trees, magnolia trees, linden trees, and mango trees. (5)
The main chemical component of Citrus sinensis essential oil is Limonene (primary). The specific nature and composition of essential oils is what gives them their unique aroma and health benefits. Citrus sinensis is slightly phototoxic which means that skin irritation may arise if used on the skin when exposed to the sun within 12 hours.
Sweet Orange essential oil is cold-pressed from the peel of the orange. The scent is very uplifting and anti-depressive. It helps stimulate creative right brain energy. Its health benefits target the Lymphatic, Nervous, Circulatory, Urinary, and Integumentary systems of the body.
Benefits of Sweet Orange Essential Oil
Limonene, the primary constituent of Sweet Orange, is known for having Anti-oxidant, Stimulant, Digestive, and Detoxifying properties. Some accepted health benefits include:
• Supports the immune system
• Fights bacteria and viruses
• Natural remedy for fighting acne (6)
• Natural oral health remedy (7)
• Stimulates liver and lymphatic system
• Strengthens in the digestive system
• Tonic for the skin. High in vitamin C which is vital in collagen synthesis
• Promotes anti-aging. High in antioxidant vitamin C (8)
• Antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes
• Powerful degreaser
• Helps improve mood
• May decrease blood pressure (9)
• Reduces inflammation (10)
• Eases pain
• Cancer-fighting activity (11)
AIA Internal Use Statement
AIA does not endorse internal therapeutic use (oral, vaginal or rectal) of essential oils unless recommended by a health care practitioner trained at an appropriate clinical level. An appropriate level of training must include chemistry, anatomy, diagnostics, physiology, formulation guidelines and safety issues regarding each specific internal route (oral, vaginal or rectal). Please refer to the AIA Safety Guidelines for essential oil use.
How to Use Lemon Essential Oil
Diffuse – Place 10 to 15 drops in a diffuser. Diffuse 15 minutes every two hours during the day.
Inhale – Inhale from bottle or lid 2 to 3 times a day, Place 2 drops on a cotton ball and inhale, Rub 1 to 2 drops on hand, hold near the face (avoid touching face), and inhale.
Mist – Use a few drops in household cleaning products to disinfect. Add 30 to 40 drops to a half cup of water. Shake vigorously before each use and apply lightly to areas of concern. Avoid getting it in the eyes. (Avoid direct sunlight for 12 hours immediately after applying)
Rub – Place 12 to 16 drops in one ounce (2 TBS) of massage cream or oil. Apply to areas of concern.
Gargle – Mix a drop or two with a little water and gargle after brushing teeth. It helps kill bacteria that cause bad breath and sore gums. Use with salt water to ease throat pain.