PETITGRAIN (Citrus aurantium bigaradia Rutaceae)

Petitgrain, produced by Citrus aurantium, is yet another essential oil obtained from orange trees. It is distilled from the leaves, and from the twigs and tiny green unripe fruit. Grasse in the south of France was once well-known for the large quantities of high-quality oil coming from its distilleries. Petitgrain oil was particularly rich in olfactives, and was used for high-quality perfumes and cosmetics of all sorts. The Grasse industry has since diminished, and the main producer now – of an inferior and cheaper essence ¬is Paraguay. About 190 tonnes are exported every year, most of which goes to the food industry as flavouring for drinks, the majority of the rest into perfumery and cosmetics. Very little is destined for aromatherapy. Petitgrain oil is also produced in southern Italy (that from Calabria is good), Egypt, Tunisia and other northern African countries.
(See also bergamot, neroli and orange.)


Description: The pure essence smells sharp and green, with a hint of the richness of orange. For use in perfumes, theessential oil is often stripped of its terpenes and mixed with fresh orange flowers, when it acquires a very much subtler fragrance, and can then replace the very expensive neroli, as it is richer in linalyl acetate and linalool.
The principal constituents: Genaniol and geranyl acetate, limonene, linalool, linalyl acetate, and sesquiterpene.

Danger: All citrus oils are very difficult to preserve, so store in dark bottles, cork very carefully, and keep in the dark. Only buy when they are fresh.


In illness
The properties of petitgrain are very similar to those of neroli. It is a sedative, relaxant, tranquillizer and a cardiac tonic. Petitgrain can be used to calm anxieties, to prevent insomnia, and to help patients come off tranquillizers. I use it as a bath essence, as a massage oil and as a tisane.

For a tisane, simply infuse some orange leaves in boiling water for 7 minutes, then sweeten with honey (preferably orange-blossom). This is very relaxing and, diluted, can also help young children who have stomach pains or colic, or who can’t sleep.
To relax after a hectic day or a long journey, lie in a warm bath containing 10 drops petitgrain, then follow that with a tisane as above.

For a massage oil to relieve fatigue, mix together 10 ml (2 tsp) soya oil and 10 drops best-quality petitgrain. Massage into the lower spine, nape of the neck, solar plexus, chest, stomach, hands and feet. This can be used for young children as well, but halve the proportion of petitgrain.
An even simpler solution for fatigue, tension or nervousness, is to buy a little orange tree in a pot. You get flowers and fruit, it is good to look at, and if you have it in the room near you, its perfume can act as a sedative. I once fell asleep in a grove of orange trees in blossom, and awoke amazingly refreshed.
(See also backache and stress.)

In beauty
A drop of petitgrain added to a facial sauna is good for skin problems like acne; it could be used in a facial oil as well. Neat, it can be applied straight on to pimples or pustules on a cottonwool bud. It is also good for oedema and general puffiness brought on by PMT or digestive problems.

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