The orange tree is something of a superstar in the essential oil world. Producing not one but three types of oil, each from two different tree types (sweet and bitter orange), these oils are not only effective, but generally cheap (with the noteable exception of Neroli) and possessed of an intoxicating aroma. Here I am focusing on both the sweet and bitter orange plants, known to botanists as citrus sinensis and citrus aurantium, respectively.
Many variteties of orange originated in China (or in the case of Bitter Orange, Vietnam), where there are records of them being cultivated as far back as 2500 BC. The plant is thought to have been introduced to Europe by Portuguese traders around 1500, and is now cultivated in warm countries the world over. The orange has long been venerated for its 'sunny' disposition, its bright, uplifting smell and delectable flavour reminding one of warm sunshine. For the Chinese, the orange symbolises good luck and prosperity around New Year celebrations, and even the mandarin word for 'wealth' has an aural resonance with the word for 'orange', drawing a favourable connection between the two.
There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal proof for the anti-depressant qualities of citruses, especially bergamot and sweet orange. It is also useful as a calming, yet uplifting oil: one 1998 study of British children showed that when sweet orange oil was used during and immediately following a dental procedure (quite a stressful situation, even for many adults) the children were generally calmer and more co-operative. Two further studies conducted in South Korea, one in 1996 and the other in 2001, focusing on one component of bitter orange, p-synephrine, found it had antidepressent-like effects. Bitter orange oil is also useful as a weight loss aid, helping to reduce bloating and decrease appetite.
Orange essential oil can be used in a number of ways. Burn the oil when you want to lighten the atmosphere: for example on a grey winter's day or for a party. The antiseptic properties of orange mean it's also excellent for cleaning your home: use 3 drops diluted with 10 mL of carrier oil (like olive or sunflower) to clean cooking oil off your cutting board, or to remove grease from your cooktop or oven. Click here for more uses for orange oil.
Please note: This oil can have phototoxic effects: do not apply to the skin if going out in the sun for an extended time. Never apply neat orange oil to the skin: dilute with carrier oil first (about 1 drop to 5 mL of oil).