By Hwaa Irfan
As the summer approaches, one of life’s natural sweeteners are oranges. However, when I was growing up, it was the bitter orange that my mother used for its medicinal properties, especially the peel. Oranges are native to China. It was introduced to the rest of the world through Moorish Spain. The sweet orange is distinguished through its Latin name, Citrus sinensis, and the bitter orange through the Latin name Citrus aurantium. The bitter orange has a greater medicinal value, from which can be produced three different types of essential oils (the oils used in aromatherapy).
The fruit contains:
• Acids: Citric, ferrulic, glutaminic, linoleic, oxalic, serine
• Amino acids: arginine, asparagine, histidine, proline
• Alkaloids: Betaine
• Sugars: Fructose, galactose, glucose, sucrose
• Vitamins: carotene (A), thiamin (B₁), riboflavin (B₂), B₆, ascorbic acid (C), vitamin K
• Minerals/Metals: Aluminium, calcium, barium, cadmium, copper, chrome, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc
Together the ascorbic acid, potassium and the caffeine in the fruit acts as a good diuretic; whilst ascorbic acid helps to dissolve small kidney stones.
The peel/rind contains flavanoids: tangertin, nobilitin. The flavanoids are active principles in the reduction of cholesterol. From the bitter orange a decoction of 60 grams in a liter of water for 15 minutes helps to settle the stomache.
Hesperindine found in the peel and the pith is used in phytotherapy to inhibit the release of histamine for those who suffer from allergies such as hay fever. In a study by Hiroshige Chiba et al is was found to prevent bone loss, and to lower liver cholesterol.
Pectin is also found in the peel of citrus fruits, and its gel has been used in modern medicine to help target a drug to the gastrointestinal tract, and is used to lower blood cholesterol, and to remove lead and mercury from the gastrointestinal tract, and the respiratory system.
In industry, the seeds are used in making soaps, cooking oil, and plastics. It is also beneficial in cattle feed, and the hull is added to fertilizers.
The leaves contains alkaloids: Betaine, caffeine. As an infusion of two leaves in a cup of water, the nerves are calmed.
The flowers contain alkaloids: Betaine, caffeine. An infusion of 6 flowers in a cup of water helps ease stomach spasms.
As a flower essence in Vibrational Medicine, the focus of citrus sinensis is the emotions. This flower essence works to calm the nerves by helping to release stored tensions, but it is advised not to take this before going to bed as the tensions could release themselves in the form of nightmares.
From the bitter orange tree, Bitter Orange Essential Oil is produced from the fruit of the tree. Petitgrain Essential Oil is produced from the leaves of the tree, and Neroli Essential Oil is produced from the flower of the tree. Limonene comes from the fruit.
Pettigrain has an invigorating smell, and is useful in relieving painful indigestion, as a tonic, as an intellectual stimulant, and strengthens the memory.
Neroli is also used in perfumery, especially the expensive ones, but medicinally it acts as an antidepressant and as a sedative. It as aphrodisiac properties, and stimulates the energy point/heart chakra. It relieves insomnia, hysteria, depression, palpitations, stress-related diarrhea, is useful for dry or sensitive skin, and is soothing in cases of grief or shock.
From neroli orange flower water is hydrolated and is beneficial in skin care and relieving colic in infants. It is also used in pastry making.
In phytotherapy, an orange oil from the fruit of the sweet orange i.e, citrus senenis is used ease bronchitis.
The juice makes a good diuretic, and replaces ephedra which has been banned in the U.S.
The European Journal of Nutrition indicated that a 240 ml glass of the flavonoid-rich orange juice was associated with significantly improved scores for attention, executive function, and psycho-motor speed in healthy middle-aged men without mild cognitive impairment six hours after consumption, compared with placebo.
Orange juice contains lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds believed to play an important role in preventing age-related macular degeneration (loss of vision) and cognitive impairment in the elderly.
In aromatherapy, the orange essential oil is used lot in perfumery, but it is also useful in cases of:
• Indigestion (gastric)
• Skin care (wrinkles and dermatitis)
A Good Buy!
With all the modern processes involved in the food industry, it can sometimes be difficult to know when you are buying value or buying garbage, as looks can be deceiving. When buying oranges, I like to know that they are fresh, and have not been smothered with pesticides etc. So the first trick is, is to buy in season, and to not buy imported fruits, because the journey alone will tell you something is involved to keep those oranges in the market. A healthy orange tends to say “Buy me” because they look as nature intended – ready to eat. They should be firm and heavy for their size, and the sweet smell will entice you. If the oranges look dull, then they have aged a bit, and the nutritional content has deteriorated. By teaching the children to make their own orange juice, they will learn to appreciate anything of value does not come ready made, besides they will be drinking a high quality nutritious drink that will improve their metabolism, and they will learn that oranges do not begin life at the supermarket.
Gurudas “Flower Esssences and Vibrational Healing” 1989. Cassandra Press, U.S.
Lavabre, M. “Aromatherapy Workbook” 1990. Healing Arts Press, Canada.
Properties of Orange Tree. http://www.botanical-online.com/medicinalstarongerangles.htm
Sriamornsak, P “Chemistry of Pectin and Its Pharmaceutical Uses: A Review”