By Carolanne Wright

While enjoying your favourite citrus fruit, little did you know that you were tossing out the most powerful, health-enhancing part — the peel. Brimming with beneficial natural compounds, like d-limonene, the skin of citrus helps to discourage inflammation, tame anxiety, improve digestion and reduce excessive weight gain. Not only that, promising research has shown limonene deters and helps to heal cancers of the skin, breast, colon, liver, lung and pancreas.

Moreover, oil extracted from citrus fruit peel exerts a beneficial influence on the lymphatic system. As a result, the body’s natural detoxification mechanism is set into motion. And when the lymph glands are in top form, problems like poor circulation, allergies, cellulite and fluid retention are kept in check.

Citrus oil is also antimicrobial. Research published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology found grapefruit peel essential oil was useful against a range of bacterium, including Staphylococcus aureus,Enterococcus faecalis, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coli,Salmonella typhimurium, Serratia marcescens and Proteus vulgaris. Likewise, this study discovered citrus oil was effective at combating Kleibsellia pneumonia, Pseudococcus species and Shigella flexneri bacteria, as well as fungus like Aspergillus niger, Candida albican, and Penicillum chrysogenum.

With an impressive vitamin C and antioxidant profile, citrus oil supports immunity and assists in fighting free radicals. Because of this, oxidation-related damage is reduced — such as vision and hearing problems, premature ageing and nervous system disorders – among many others.

Dr. Mercola writes in Grapefruit Oil: An Essential Oil with Antioxidant Benefits:

Because of its antimicrobial properties, grapefruit oil can help treat and prevent infections in wounds and cuts. It may also help eliminate microbes that develop in your gut, kidneys, ad excretory system. It supports uour endocrine function, particularly the proper secretion of hormones and enzymes. It promotes the production of gastric juices and bile, which assists your digestive function. Like other citrus oils, grapefruit oil has antidepressant properties that provide a relaxing and uplifting feeling. It also has stimulating effects on your brain, making you more alert.

These benefits apply to all limonene-rich citrus fruits — like lemon, lime, orange, tangerine and mandarin.

DIY Citrus Oil

Making your own citrus oil at home is a straightforward affair. Glenda Taylor offers the following recipe in How to Make Grapefruit Essential Oil. But it’s not just for grapefruit, any citrus rind will work.

What you will need:

• Citrus peel
• Small spoon
• Kitchen grater
• Carrier oil of your choice (almond, avocado, apricot kernel or jojoba)
• Cheesecloth
• Dark bottle with stopper
• Mason jar


1. To avoid introducing toxins and contaminants into your oil, always choose organic citrus fruit. Wash entire fruit with warm soapy water and rinse well.

2. Peel the fruit and scrape away the inside white pith with a spoon. Alternately, you can simply grate the outside rind, taking extra care to only shred the coloured part.

3. Next, you need to dehydrate the peel. Place the rind (cut into small pieces) or zest on a baking sheet and set in a warm place that has good air circulation. Let dry for several days.

4. Place the dehydrated rind in a Mason jar and add just enough oil to cover the citrus peel. Avoid adding too much oil as it will dilute the product. Seal the jar and place on a sunny window sill to cure for two weeks.

5. Once finished, pour the oil into a bowl lined with five layers of cheesecloth. Gather the edges of the cloth together and squeeze to extract as much citrus oil as possible.
6. Transfer the oil into small dark bottles and seal with stoppers or lids. Store in a cool, dark place — but don’t refrigerate.

How to Reap the Benefits of Citrus Fruit

Once you have a supply of citrus essential oil on hand, there are several ways you can use it to enhance health:

• Dilute two or three drops in a carrier oil and massage into problem areas of cellulite and poor circulation.
• To stimulate the lymph glands, apply a few drops under the neck and arms.
• Use several drops in a diffuser or on a cloth and inhale.
• Mix a drop or two into your water, smoothie or juice.

Citrus essential oils are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), but it’s always wise to consult with a knowledgeable practitioner if using essential oils internally long-term. Also be aware undiluted citrus oil can cause allergic skin reactions and photosensitivity. Avoid using citrus essential oils prior to sun exposure. Pregnant and nursing women should check with their physician before use. Also, citrus oil is toxic to cats, but otherwise safe around pets.

If you don’t want to trouble with citrus oil, a simple way to reap the benefits of limonene is to juice the entire citrus fruit, skin and all. Or chop citrus rind and blend it into your favourite smoothie. No need to remove the white pith before using, especially seeing that it’s a wonderful source of pectin — a plant compound that lowers cholesterol and feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Since greater antioxidants are found in the skin and pith of fruit — rather than the pulp itself — it makes sense to find ways to add fruit rind into our diet on a regular basis. Mediterranean cultures are known for their liberal use of citrus peel, which in turn contributes to their robust health. Custards, fruit compôte, grilled meats and baked goods are often embellished with dried citrus rind. Further afield, you’ll find it in curries and rice. And don’t forget the preserved lemons of Persian cuisine.

However you decide to use it, get creative and have fun. Your health will thank you.