These fragrant citrus oils may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and depression
Citrus essential oils, extracted from the fruits’ peels, offer an efficient way to access the mood-lifting benefits of oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits. And their abilities extend beyond lifting mood.
Let’s see what enjoying these luscious scents can do for your health.
Protect against neurodegenerative diseases
With Alzheimer’s disease affecting nearly 7 million Americans, scientists are particularly interested in safe and effective therapies for this debilitating condition. Citrus oils have serious potential in this department - primarily due to their high limonene content. This compound, which makes up 95 percent of citrus essential oils, has been impressing researchers with its health-promoting properties. A recent (2021) review published in Molecules credits limonene with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects, with the authors adding that limonene may even help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.
Preliminary studies on animals have shown that limonene may inhibit the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaque implicated in Alzheimer’s disease while promoting the activity of acetylcholine, a brain chemical vital for memory and cognition. Although more study is needed, this research is highly encouraging. Many researchers believe limonene in citrus essential oils can also benefit neuroinflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, ischemia, and reperfusion injury.
Citrus oils may improve your sleep and help tame “the jitters”
Aromatherapy with citrus essential oils is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to enhance sleep and prevent insomnia. As it turns out, limonene in orange, lemon, and other citrus oils can help support the activity of a calming neurotransmitter known as gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA). Limonene can also ease symptoms of stress-induced anxiety - meaning citrus oils may be worthy allies in these tension-ridden times.
In a placebo-controlled clinical trial published in 2018 in Complementary Medicine Research, a limonene-rich essential oil caused participants to report lower level of anxiety on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, a scientific scale for measuring anxiety and tension. Orange, lemon, and lemongrass essential oils are all believed to offer relaxant effects. And don’t overlook oil from bergamot oranges, traditionally used to flavor Earl Grey tea. The prestigious Cleveland Clinic endorses bergamot essential oil for easing anxiety - and reports it may even lower blood pressure!
Citrus essential oils may help brighten up outlook
The cheerful colors of lemons and oranges may hint at their ability to support a sunnier mood. Citrus essential oils appear to restore the activity of mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters that have been compromised by stress, thereby acting as mild natural antidepressants. Researchers report that they work in a way similar to fluoxetine, a pharmaceutical drug used to treat depression - without the harmful side effects. One study published in Physiology and Behavior showed that aromatherapy with orange essential oil was linked with a “more elated mood” and “higher level of tranquility” in patients awaiting dental treatment. (As the experience of awaiting dental treatment is not usually accompanied by joy or tranquility, this is a compelling finding!)
Incidentally, citrus essential oils can inhibit disease-causing bacteria - including E. coli and S. aureus - and can be used to address minor skin irritations. Many integrative healthcare practitioners advise using lemongrass oil topically to discourage the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, while lemon essential oil seems to be the oil of choice for treating acne.
It’s easy to use citrus essential oils
You can access the benefits of citrus oils with an aromatherapy diffuser. (If you don’t have a diffuser, no worries. Simply apply the essential oil to a cotton ball and sniff the fragrance as it disperses).
Before being applied to the skin, citrus oils should be diluted with a carrier oil - such as olive, coconut, or jojoba oil - at about 12 drops of citrus oil to every ounce of carrier oil. Keep the solution away from your eyes, and avoid direct sunlight after use. (These oils can make skin more sensitive to the effects of the sun). Check with your integrative doctor before using citrus oils.
Like other essential oils, citrus oils aren’t meant to be ingested orally.
Important: The limonene in citrus essential oils can be toxic to animals and may be especially harmful to smaller pets such as cats, birds, and ferrets. To be safe, keep all members of your “fur family” (and your feathered and finny pals) away from citrus oils.
Whether you prefer the scent of orange, lemon, grapefruit, or lemongrass, these fragrant oils are ready and waiting to give you a lift!
Sources for this article include: