When the Kingston Trio sang about the flower of the lemon tree, they could just as easily have been singing about neroli, which also has sweet blossoms with sour fruit.
Neroli, the flowers from the bitter Seville orange, however, are as sweet as lemon blossoms. Their oil produces a blend of floral and citrus that is not only one of the most popular perfume ingredients but is also rich in health benefits, most notably in alleviating stress and anxiety.
Neroli is precious among the essential oils. A pound of it is produced from about 1,000 handpicked blossoms—flowers so delicate that even slight bruising can release their oil.
The History of Neroli
Neroli is indigenous to many countries, including Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Spain, although the oils from France and Tunisia are considered to be the most prized.
It is believed that Citrus x aurantium, the bitter orange tree, was first discovered in southeast Asia, then spread to India, Burma, and China. When traders eventually discovered the benefits of the tree, they brought it to Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean.1
The bitter orange tree produces three different essential oils. Bitter orange oil comes from the peel of the fruit when it is ripe, petitgrain oil is pressed from the leaves, and neroli oil is distilled from the flowers of the tree. Of the three, neroli is the most prized.
In ancient times, neroli essential oil was used to help fight the plague. Ancient Egyptian priests and priestesses used the oil in the same way incense is used in churches today. During the 12th century, Seville, Spain, became a major cultivator of the bitter orange, resulting in the common name for Citrus x aurantium, the Seville orange. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers brought the tree to St. Augustine, Florida.
By the end of the 17th century, the princess of Nerola, Italy, made neroli fashionable as a fragrance by using the oil to perfume her bath, as well as her clothing. In fact, it was her use of the oil in Neroli that inspired neroli’s distinctive name.2
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Recognizing the benefits of the essential oil, Italian perfumer J.M. Farina of Cologne, Germany, created a blend of essential oils inspired by the princess of Nerola. The blend included neroli, bergamot, lemon, petitgrain, lavender, and rosemary, and Farina dubbed it Eau de Cologne. The scent became so popular, in fact, that it gave rise to the word “cologne” used today.
Today, neroli is one of the most common floral-based essential oils used in perfume, not only because it blends well with other citrus scents, but because its origins from the orange blossom make it a great pair with spiced and floral aromas.
Phytonutrients and phytochemicals in neroli, including the monoterpenes limonene and camphene, may prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.3 Additionally, they act as immune system boosters, helping protect against illnesses.
The sesquiterpene nerolidol gives neroli its antioxidant qualities, allowing it to fight free radicals that can damage healthy cells. Free radicals, which come from toxins like pollution and cigarette smoke, especially affect the proteins collagen and elastin in the skin.
Furthermore, the terpene linalool has been linked to neroli’s anti-anxiety properties. Another terpene, alpha-Pinene, also may protect against cancer, ease inflammation, and act as an antibiotic, protecting against even the toughest of bacteria.4
Uses for Neroli Essential Oil
Aside from its role as an aphrodisiac, neroli is rich in nutrients that alleviate stress and anxiety as well as control inflammation. Below are the key benefits of neroli essential oil.
Neroli essential oil seems to increase the absorption of vitamin C, which, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, increases collagen production. Vitamin C can also help fight signs of aging, including dark spots caused by sun damage and fine lines and wrinkles associated with free radical damage.5
- Acne-prone skin – Pair neroli with ylang-ylang or myrrh and a carrier oil of choice, as all three have antiseptic properties that fight bacteria that may cause acne.
- Skin showing signs of aging – Combine neroli with patchouli or rose oil and a carrier oil of choice to help reduce the appearance wrinkles.
- Under-eye circles – Mix neroli oil with almond oil as a carrier oil (almond oil is rich in vitamin K) to help strengthen blood vessels. Dark circles appear when weakened blood vessels leak small amounts of blood, which becomes visible because the skin beneath the eyes is so delicate. Stronger blood vessels are less likely to leak, leading to a reduction in the darkness of under-eye circles.
Use of carrier oil is important because undiluted essential oils can irritate sensitive skin. Good carrier oils include jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, or rosehip oil.
When used in a vaporizer or diffuser, neroli essential oil can help alleviate anxiety and stress. Paired with lavender, the two oils can ease insomnia and enhance sleep quality. The scent of neroli essential oil reduces levels of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone responsible for elevating blood sugar and heart rate.
Reduces Menopause Symptoms
A 2014 study by researchers at Korea University found that when neroli oil is used in aromatherapy, it can help improve the symptoms of menopause while increasing sexual desire and reducing blood pressure.6 Neroli essential oil creates these effects by acting on the endocrine system, regulating hormone production.
Eases Pain and Inflammation
In a 2015 study, Iranian researchers at Islamic Azad University found that neroli essential oil significantly reduces acute and chronic inflammation, making it an important natural remedy for the alleviating the symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
Decreases Frequency of Seizures
For those with epilepsy, a 2014 Iranian study found that the scent of neroli oil may control seizures by preventing the changes in the electrical activity of the brain that trigger convulsions.7
Provides Relief for Sore Muscles
A few drops of neroli oil mixed with a carrier oil or body butter can help relieve muscle tension. Not only does the aroma reduce the rigidity that causes muscle tension, it also relieves the stress causing body aches and pains.
According to The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Amazonian tribes use neroli essential oil to help ease gastrointestinal issues. One drop of oil in tea or water can ease a wide range of stomach problems, including menstrual cramps, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
Heals Cuts Faster
Neroli acts as an antibacterial well-suited for wound care because of its antiseptic and pain-relieving properties. In fact, a study from researchers in Pakistan in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences found that neroli effectively killed several types of yeast and fungi.8
Reduces the Appearance of Stretch Marks
In addition to reducing signs of aging, neroli essential helps boost blood circulation, which brings healthy cells to the skin’s surface, and encourages collagen production, which boosts the skin’s elasticity.
Remedies a Cold
Neroli essential oil may act as a natural remedy for relieving cold or flu symptoms. In addition, the scent of neroli may help reduce mucus production, allowing for easier breathing through the night.
Applying a few drops of neroli essential oil to a cold or hot compress can help reduce headache pain, especially when caused by stress.
How To Use Neroli Essential Oil
Though Neroli essential oil is most effective when used in aromatherapy, it also provides a range of benefits when applied topically or consumed. Some common remedies using neroli essential oil include:
- To treat acne, add a drop of neroli oil to a dampened cotton ball and dab directly on the blemish.
- Mix a few drops of neroli with a favorite skin cream or lotion to boost the cream’s regenerative powers.
- Add neroli essential oil to a diffuser to help relieve anxiety and stress, while promoting deeper, healthier sleep.9
- For relieving sore muscles, mix a few drops of neroli oil with a carrier oil and massage onto those areas. This will boost circulation to the area, reducing soreness.
- For alleviating anxiety, add a few drops of neroli essential oil into a diffuser or use in a personal essential oil diffuser like Sleepy or Ocean MONQ.
- Add a few drops of neroli essential oil to your bath to fully experience its relaxing and restorative benefits.