Orange essential oil regularly shows up in scented candles and perfumes, thanks to its crisp, zesty, and refreshing aroma, but there’s more to the compound than what meets the nose: Research has shown orange essential oil benefits are broad, including being able to help ease stress and combat acne.

Before we get ahead of ourselves with intel about orange essential oil benefits, though, let’s get back to basics. Orange essential oil is made by cold-pressing the rind of an orange and extracting the oil, says Tara Scott, MD, chief medical officer and founder of functional medicine group Revitalize Medical Group. And according to David J. CalabroDC, a chiropractor at Calabro Chiropractic and Wellness Center who focuses on integrative medicine and essential oils, the cold-pressing element of orange essential oil production is especially crucial. It’s how the oil “retains the purifying properties,” he says.

From there, the essential oil is bottled up and used for a variety of different purposes, including making your home smell amazing. But, as previously noted, orange essential oil can do so much more. Keep reading for a breakdown of the potential orange essential oil benefits to keep in mind, how to actually use the essential oil, and how to select the right one for you.

Orange essential oil benefits to know about

While fans of orange essential oil may claim the concoction can ease constipation and symptoms of depression alike, there isn’t much by way of scientific data to support that assertion. That said, there are some studies that reflect orange essential oil being helpful for combating certain health issues. Here’s a breakdown:

1. It might fight acne

The link between orange essential oil and acne prevention isn’t entirely clear, but it could be due to limonene, one of the main components of orange essential oil, which has been found to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, says Marvin Singh, MD, founder of Precisione Clinic, an integrative medicine center, in San Diego.

One animal study published in 2020 found that orange essential oil helped reduce acne by decreasing cytokines, proteins that cause inflammation in the body. Another study published in 2012 had 28 human volunteers try one of four different gels, including two that were infused with sweet orange essential oil and basil, on their acne for eight weeks. The researchers found that all of the gels reduced acne spots by 43 percent to 75 percent, with the gel that included sweet orange essential oil, basil, and acetic acid (a clear liquid that’s similar to vinegar), being one of the top performers. Of course, both of these studies are limited, with the first not being done on humans and the second being limited in scope, so more research is needed.

2. It may help ease anxiety

Research has linked the use of orange essential oil to feeling more relaxed. One small study had 13 students in Japan sit with their eyes closed for 90 seconds in a room that was scented with orange essential oil. Researchers measured the students’ vital signs before and after keeping their eyes closed, and found that their blood pressure and heart rate decreased after exposure to the orange essential oil.

Another study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine measured brain activity in subjects and found that breathing in orange essential oil changed activity in the prefrontal cortex, which impacts decision-making and social behavior. Specifically, following the orange essential oil exposure, participants experienced an increase in oxyhemoglobin, or oxygenated blood, enhancing brain function. The study participants also said that they felt more comfortable and relaxed afterward.

Okay, but…why is that? Environmental researcher Yoshifumi Miyazaki, PhD, a professor at Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences who worked on the studies, says this could be partly due to the limonene. “In a stressed society, our brain activity is too high,” he says. But limonene, Dr. Miyazaki says, seems to help “calm” the brain activity.

Dr. Miyazaki isn’t the only researcher to make this connection: A randomized controlled trial published in the journal Advanced Biomedical Research in 2013 exposed 30 children to rooms infused with orange essential oil during a dental visit, and no aroma during another visit. The researchers measured the children’s anxiety by checking their saliva for the stress hormone cortisol and taking their pulse before and after their visit. The end result? The children had lowered pulse rates and cortisol levels that were “statistically significant” after they hung out in the orange essential oil rooms.

How to use orange essential oil

Most preparations of orange essential oil are “super concentrated,” Dr. Scott says, which is why she recommends using just a few drops at a time. If you want to use orange essential oil for acne, Dr. Calabro says it’s best to dilute it in a carrier oil, like fractionated coconut oil, to lower the risk that you’ll have any skin sensitivity,  Then, just dab it on your problem spots.

To try the oil for reducing symptoms of anxiety, Dr. Calabro recommends putting about six drops in a diffuser filled with water and enjoying the scent this way. You can even try using it in the shower or bath as aromatherapy, Dr. Singh says.

The biggest precaution Dr. Singh has to offer regarding orange essential oil use is to never apply it to your skin before exposure to the sun. “Essential oil of orange can be phototoxic,” Dr. Singh says. “This means that you should avoid exposing your skin to sun for 12 to 24 hours after it has been applied to the skin.”

What to look for in orange essential oil

Every brand is slightly different, but Dr. Singh suggests reading the labels and doing a little research before you buy. “Always use organic, pure products to reduce your risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides,” he says.

Finally, Dr. Scott recommends that you “look for brands that assess purity and state a ‘therapeutic’ grade. Otherwise, it is just fragrance.” For a few options to buy, check out the links below.

Make the most of orange essential oil benefits with these 3 options to buy

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