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Petit Grain Bitter Orange

Citrus aurantium ssp. amara

Native to Asia, the bitter orange tree (Citrus aurantium ssp.amara (folia)) is a member of the Rutaceae family, with spiny branches and alternate, persistent and coriaceous brilliant green leaves.

It bears fruit called sour oranges, that are unfit for consumption, smaller than sweet oranges, with a thick rough peel and bitter and acidic flesh.

It is used in two forms in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive and cardiac disorders: zhi shi (green fruit) and zhi kiao (zest).

Main aromatic molecules: Terpene esters (linalyl, geranyl and neryl acetates), monoterpenols (linalool, α-terpineol).
Family: Rutaceae.
Productive organs: Leaves and small branches.
Yield: 700g of essential oil per 100kg of plants.
Equivalence: 1ml → 31 drops (dosage calculated for a calibrated dropper European Pharmacopoeia).


Skin application

Oral route

Respiratory route

Like several other oriental fruit trees, bitter orange was brought back by the soldiers of Alexander to their respective countries and, fifteen centuries later, reintroduced by the crusades to a Western world that had largely forgotten it. Its fruit, the bitter orange, was known to our ancestors long before it was cultivated. They justifiably praised its peel, that they used as a digestive tonic, serving it as an entrée to their copious feasts and protecting them from the consequences of over-indulgence. The Greek Theophrastus, founding father of botany thanks to his treatises Enquiry into plants and On the causes of plants, praised the virtues of this fruit as early as the 4th century BC. Six centuries later, Galienus, physician to the emperor Commodus, prescribed it for a great many ailments. In Chinese traditional medicine, it is used to treat digestive and cardiac disorders: zhi shi (unripe fruit) and zhi kiao (rind). Combining sweetness with bitterness, this exquisite and paradoxical fruit inevitably inspired poets. Thus, Aragon sang his ”sombre amour d’orange amère” (dark lover for bitter orange).


Extracts from the book ’Aromatherapia – All about essential oils’, by Isabelle Pacchioni, watercolors by Patrick MORIN, Aroma Thera Editions . Extracts from the book ’41 essential oils essential for treating yourself differently’ and ’48 essential oils which every home needs to be healthy’ by Isabelle Delaleu and Isabelle Pacchioni, Publications of the Mandadori France group. Botanical illustrations by Agathe Haevermans.

The properties, benefits and method of use are given for information; they cannot in any case constitute or replace medical information that only health professionals can provide. For any use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes, please consult your GP or pharmacist.

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