Crude oils derived from citrus fruits are among the most loved and most used by aromatherapists, whether beginner or expert. Many of us can recite their uses for physical ailments by rote, but when it comes to emotional and spiritual applications these oils begin to blend together. All seem to be useful for anxiety and depression, and all seem to be uplifting. This is not surprising because citrus oils have more commonalities than differences. This article will discuss key common psychospiritual properties of the most frequently used citrus oils, and further expound on this family by delineating the subtle differences among them.
Essential oils which are composed almost entirely of monoterpene hydrocarbons, be they citruses, conifers or the like, largely have to do with some form of cleansing or purification. In the case of citrus oils, this purification occurs by physically freeing up blood and lymphatic circulation, and by purging toxins via high levels of antimicrobial activity. However, this cleansing property also extends to emotional and spiritual levels. Citruses are simple and strongly nurturing, feeding our souls equally as their fruits feed our bodies. They allow us to honor and enjoy the sweetness of life.
From an energetic standpoint, all citrus oils support the solar plexus chakra and a few of them have an affinity for multiple chakras. The solar plexus chakra is our center of self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, personal protection, and the source of our personal power in terms of how we as individuals relate to groups. This chakra also manages the often complex relationship with our chosen profession, life’s work, or legacy. Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit and Mandarin all reflect the very colour of this energy center, variously described as bright yellow or brilliant yellow-orange.
All citrus fruits share a common ancestor, Mandarin (Citrus reticulata). This forebearer fruit originated in the vicinity of southern China and Southeast Asia where it was heavily documented in medicinal use and regarded as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Mandarin was brought to the Mediterranean centuries ago by Arab and Persian traders, and careful cultivation by Arab gardeners produced several distinct crosses and hybrids. By the Middle Ages, North African peoples had introduced oranges, mandarins, lemons, and citron to Spain and Sicily, and by the Renaissance these and several additional species were cultivated throughout the Mediterranean basin.
Bitter orange is thought to have been the original “golden fruit” grown by a miraculous tree in the mythical Garden of Hesperides. The tree was gifted to Hera by the great mother Gaia upon Hera’s marriage to Zeus. As a gift, this magical tree was prized, symbolizing the union of earth and sky, spirit and matter. Its precious fruit was reflective of the alchemical aur, or gold, believed to be sunlight condensed into earthbound matter. All citruses share this solar property making them an energetic bridge between body and soul.
Sweet orange, the Zest for Life
Pharmacist and aromatherapy pioneer Paolo Rovesti cited Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) oil as an effective antidepressant, and the peel was used to treat melancholia in Europe for at least three centuries prior to Rovesti’s findings. Sunny and cheerful, Sweet Orange seems the essential oil of the eternal optimist. Its bright hue is the colour of joy and it can be used to alleviate stress, anxiety, tension, irritability, and frustration.
The Sweet Orange characterology is that of a young person: one who is eager, loves challenges, is excited about his work, and wants to have it all, ideally as soon as possible. In many respects, he resembles the archetype of the Fool, a sensitive innocent who has yet to emotionally mature but who has set out very independently on a grand adventure. In his inexperienced youth, the Sweet Orange person wants to create and maintain his identity but doesn’t know how to handle power inside or outside the workplace, and doesn’t understand the concept of sharing. He doesn’t yet have a framework on how to properly relate to others because he has yet to achieve the wisdom of experience, and this gets him into trouble. Like the Fool, he can be charming and good-natured one moment, cranky and petulant the next.
A person who resonates with Sweet Orange can be a youthful Type A in the making. He often throws himself into his work, where he develops perfectionist tendencies, intolerance of mistakes and a tendency to judge. Consequently, he is prone to health issues related to overwork and rigidity such as headaches, eyestrain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nervous indigestion, extreme anxiety, and poor appetite. When out of balance, he is given to nervous fidgeting, impatience, snappishness, bouts of aggression, loss of spontaneity, tossing about during sleep, and feelings of helplessness (which he abhors). His overactivity puts a strain on the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and he begins to burn out. This constitution can work productively in short bursts but has no stamina, so prolonged heavy activities result in asthenia and depression. When in this state, a Sweet Orange type loses his enthusiasm and starts to expect obstructions and difficulties at every turn. Wherever he looks, he sees Murphy’s Law.
Incorporating Sweet Orange oil into such a person’s treatment regimen will bring back a sense of ease and alleviate frustration, as well as the exhaustion and boredom of burnout. Citrus sinensis gently tonifies the SNS without overstimulating the nervous system. When in balance, the natural, sunny optimism of this archetype returns. His big heart and giving spirit come back into play, he becomes less thin-skinned, and obstacles disappear. His will to succeed strengthens and, most importantly, he is able to take a more mature view toward his life’s work by getting back in touch with the joy it brings him. A somewhat wiser Fool is ready for his next adventure.
The Happy Family
There are many other members of the citrus family that yield beneficial essential oils: Mandarin (Citrus reticulata Blanco var. Mandarin; Citrus deliciosa Tenore), Tangerine (Citrus reticulata Blanco), Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Citron, Yuzu (Citrus junos) and Combava/Kaffir Lime (Citrus hystrix). Each of these oils has its own special ability to banish the blues and uncover the optimist in all of us. Together they truly constitute a happy family. Whether bitter or sweet, citruses collectively cleanse us and joyfully lift our bodies, minds, and souls to the light.
Author’s note: Although citrus oils are primarily neutral in terms of male/female characteristics, they are given gender specific pronouns for narrative purposes.
Written by Kathatine Koeppen, RA, LMT, NCTMB
This article appears in its entirety in the Spring 2013 Issue of the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy. For more information visit http://www.ijpha.com
Image: Citrus fruits © Holistic Photo
Disclaimer The editor/publisher does not accept responsibility for the opinions, advice, and recommendations of its contributors. Furthermore, the IJPHA accepts no responsibility for any incident or injury to persons or property resulting from the use of any method, products, instructions or ideas contained within this publication.