If you are seeking an essential oil that is chock-full of benefits, is sustainable, and has no contraindications, mandarin essential oil is a great choice.
The mandarin is a small evergreen tree which is native to southern China. It is approximately 6 m (20 ft) tall, and has glossy leaves and fragrant flowers. Its fruit is small and resembles that of an orange.
Mandarin trees are thus named because their fruit was a gift traditionally offered to the Mandarins, the name given to scholarly Chinese public officials. 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)
The Chinese have used mandarin for centuries, and in ancient times it was believed to support healthy digestive and liver function. In France, mandarin is considered safe for digestive issues in children and the elderly, such as indigestion and hiccups. When used correctly, Mandarin is considered a gentle, safe essential oil.
Today, mandarin fruit is primarily known as the clementine, a seedless and loosely peeled variety that was created in a cross-breeding experiment in approximately 1900 by Pierre Clément, who led the agricultural school in Oran in Algeria. (Chisholm et al., 2003; see also "Essential oils," n.d.)
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.
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.
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. Additionally, (+)-limonene is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can decrease cytokine release (a systemic inflammatory response syndrome), which can also help with pain or its causative conditions.
When compared to essential oils of lemon, grapefruit, and orange, mandarin has been found more effective in reducing the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus (Viuda-Martos et al., 2008)
Mandarin’s historical and present-day uses both relate 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 peel oil 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.
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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
Essential oils. (n.d.). Bo Jensen's website. https://www.bojensen.net/EssentialOilsEng/EssentialOils18/EssentialOils18.htm#Mandarin
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