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Health Benefits of Orange Essential Oil

What Should I Know About It?

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Updated July 14, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Orange essential oil is a natural product commonly used in aromatherapy. Thought to possess healing properties, orange essential oil contains the aromatic compounds of the sweet orange plant (Citrus sinensis).

Health Benefits of Orange Essential Oil

To date, research on the health effects of orange essential oil is fairly limited. However, some preliminary studies suggest that orange essential oil may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some findings from the available research:

1) Anxiety

Breathing in the scent of orange essential oil may help alleviate anxiety, according to a small study published in Physiology & Behavior in 2000. For the study, 72 people (ages 22 to 57) were placed in one of two waiting rooms prior to undergoing a dental treatment: in the first waiting room, an electrical dispenser was used to diffuse the aroma of orange essential oil; in the second room, there was no ambient odor. Study results showed that participants exposed to the aroma of orange essential oil (especially females) had lower levels of anxiety and a more positive mood than those in the control group.

In a more recent study (published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry in 2010), scientists found that exposure to the aroma of orange essential oil significantly reduced anxiety in rats during a maze-based experiment.

2) Food Poisoning

A number of laboratory studies suggest that orange essential oil may possess antibacterial properties that could be useful in destroying bacteria known to cause food poisoning. For instance, a test-tube study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2008 determined that orange essential oil helped inhibit the effects of Salmonella.

Since there is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the use of orange essential oil against foodborne pathogens, it's too soon to recommend orange essential oil for prevention or treatment of food poisoning. It's also important to note that orange essential oil should not be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional.

Uses for Orange Essential Oil

According to aromatherapy practitioners, inhaling essential oil molecules (or absorbing essential oils through the skin) transmits messages to the limbic system (a brain region responsible for controlling emotions and influencing the nervous system). These messages are believed to affect biological factors such as heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.

Proponents claim that using orange essential oil in aromatherapy can treat or prevent the following health problems:

  • acne
  • anxiety
  • colds and flu
  • constipation
  • depression
  • inflammation
  • stress

In addition, orange essential oil is said to improve mood and promote detox.

How to Use Orange Essential Oil

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), orange essential oil can be applied directly to the skin.

Orange essential oil also can be inhaled after sprinkling a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue (or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer). Several drops of the oil can be added to a warm bath.

Sources

Faturi CB, Leite JR, Alves PB, Canton AC, Teixeira-Silva F. "Anxiolytic-like effect of sweet orange aroma in Wistar rats." Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2010 May 30;34(4):605-9.

Fisher K, Phillips CA. "The effect of lemon, orange and bergamot essential oils and their components on the survival of Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus in vitro and in food systems." J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Dec;101(6):1232-40.

Lehrner J, Eckersberger C, Walla P, Pötsch G, Deecke L. "Ambient odor of orange in a dental office reduces anxiety and improves mood in female patients." Physiol Behav. 2000 Oct 1-15;71(1-2):83-6.

O'Bryan CA, Crandall PG, Chalova VI, Ricke SC. "Orange essential oils antimicrobial activities against Salmonella spp." J Food Sci. 2008 Aug;73(6):M264-7.

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