Mandarin Essential Oil: The Unsung Hero

Aug 13, 2021

Mandarin Essential Oil
Citrus reticulata Blanco (C. nobilis)
Family Rutaceae

If you are looking for an essential oil that is chock-full of benefits, is sustainable, and has no contraindications, mandarin essential oil is a great choice.

Background

The mandarin is a small evergreen tree which grows up to 20 feet in height; it has small orange-like fruits, fragrant flowers, and glossy leaves.

It is native to southern China (a Mandarin was actually a Chinese government official in a yellow dress). The fruit of the mandarin tree was a traditional gift offered to the Mandarins, hence the origin of its European name. The earliest mention of mandarin was in a list of tribute fruits to the Emperor of Dayu ca. 2205–2197 BC in a Chinese imperial encyclopedia entitled Yu Kung. (Wang et al., 2018)

Mandarin has been used in ancient China for centuries; the Chinese believed that mandarin strengthened both the digestive and liver functions. In France, mandarin is used as a safe remedy for children in indigestion, hiccups, and for problems of the elderly, such as digestive problems. Mandarin is considered to be a very gentle and safe essential oil when used correctly.

Today, the mandarin fruit is mostly known as the seedless, loosely peeled variety called a clementine, created by Pierre Clément in a lucky crossing experiment around 1900 when he was the leader of the agricultural school in Oran in Algeria. (Chisholm et al., 2003)

Mandarin essential oil is extracted by the cold-pressing of the peel. You may find that you have a choice between green, yellow, or red mandarin. This is based upon the degree of ripeness with green cold pressed from the unripe fruit, yellow from the partially ripe fruit and red from the fully ripe fruit.

Aroma

It has a lovely sweet, orange-like aroma that, when inhaled deeply, creates a sense of calm and serenity. In France, mandarin essential oil is often referred to as the “child’s remedy,” and it is certainly my go-to essential oil for children who are anxious, overstimulated, or have difficulty sleeping, and for digestive issues in children and adults.

Chemistry

Mandarin essential oil is primarily made up of (+)-limonene (also written as d-limonene). There are two isomers of limonene: l-limonene (uncommon) and d-limonene, which is a major component of citrus essential oils and a minor constituent in many other essential oils.

(+)-limonene has significant analgesic action; in fact, it is considered to be antinociceptive (relates to any unique factor that increases tolerance for, or reduces sensitivity to, a dangerous or harmful stimuli, for example, a stimuli that may cause pain – similar to opioids). Additionally, (+)-limonene is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can decrease cytokine release (cytokine release is a form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome that arises as a complication of some diseases or infections), which can also help with pain or the conditions that cause pain.

Indications

When compared to lemon, grapefruit and orange essential oils, mandarin essential oil was most effective at reducing the growth of Aspergillus flavus (Viuda-Martos et al., 2008)

Mandarin has been historically used, and continues to be used, for issues related to the digestive system. Mandarin is a carminative, can help to relieve hiccups, helps to regulate the metabolic process, calms the intestines, and is a general digestive tonic.

Unlike many citrus essential oils, mandarin is not phototoxic, which makes it safe for facial preparations. Be sure to purchase mandarin peel essential oil, as oil distilled from the leaf does carry phototoxic risk. I like mandarin peel essential oil when used in a skin tonic, especially for oily, acne-prone skin. It can help to reduce the appearance of scars, especially when combined with neroli and lavender essential oils in a blend.

When my oldest granddaughter was born in 2003, I created a nappy rash balm, and the only essential oil used was mandarin. It was so successful that we renamed it Magic Balm because it not only helped with diaper rash, but it also worked like magic on scrapes, cuts, eczema, and other skin injuries and conditions. Magic Balm went on to become one of the best-selling products in my aromatherapy store, and I still make it for friends and family.

Emotionally, mandarin essential oil is uplifting and refreshing, elicits a feeling of tranquility and safety, and can help with mental and emotional stress. The aroma reminds us of childhood, innocence, security and happiness.

What have you used mandarin essential oil for? Share in the comments. 


References

Wang, L., He, F., Huang, Y., He, J., Yang, S., Zeng, J., Deng, C., Jiang, X., Fang, Y., Wen, S., Xu, R., Yu, H., Yang, X., Zhong, G., Chen, C., Yan, X., Zhou, C., Zhang, H., Xie, Z., … Xu, Q. (2018). Genome of wild Mandarin and domestication history of Mandarin. Molecular Plant, 11(8), 1024-1037. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molp.2018.06.001

Chisholm, M. G., Jell, J. A., & Cass, D. M. (2003). Characterization of the major odorants found in the peel oil of Citrus reticulata Blanco CV. Clementine using gas chromatography-olfactometry. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 18(4), 275-281. https://doi.org/10.1002/ffj.1188 

Viuda-Martos, M., Ruiz-Navajas, Y., Fernández-López, J., & Pérez-Álvarez, J. (2008). Antifungal activity of lemon (Citrus lemon L.), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata L.), grapefruit (Citrus paradisi L.) and orange (Citrus sinensis L.) essential oils. Food Control, 19(12), 1130-1138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2007.12.003 

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