Petitgrain Essential Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Blends
Scientific Name: Citrus aurantium
Plant Part: Twigs
Scent: Floral, orangey, fresh and light
Perfumery Note: Middle
Initial Aroma Strength: Moderate
Extraction Method: Steam distillation
Suitable Blending Oils:
Breaking Down the Petitgrain Essential Oil’s Chemical Components
Linalyl acetate 47.4–58.0%
Geranyl acetate 2.9–4.5%
Neryl acetate 2.1–3.0%
Tisserand, Robert; Young, Rodney. Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals (p. 1509). Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.
Petitgrain Essential Oil Uses and Benefits
Beautiful for skin care, especially for greasy and inflamed skins
What is Petitgrain Essential Oil?
Actually, there are several different types of petitgrain. Petitgrain means the essential oil, distilled from the buds, twigs and leaves of a citrus tree. The name comes from the French description of the small buds and unripe fruits used to make the oil, which look like little seeds.
Petitgrain is primarily a perfumery ingredient, although it does have important therapeutic traits. To get the very best from a citrus harvest, only the best fruits are chosen. To optimize their nutrition, smaller unripe fruits are discarded. Distilling these offshoots means that Petitgrain essential oil gives an opportunity to sacrifice these early fruits without too much of a dent in revenue.
Ordinarily, when we say petitgrain, we mean the essential oil distilled from the twigs from the bitter orange, and indeed this is the one we have here. However, you can get mandarin, grapefruit, bergamot and lime petitgrain essential oils, amongst others.
To reiterate, our petitgrain essential oil is a bitter orange petitgrain essential oil.
You may also see petitgrain essential oil labeled as Bigarade. Bigarade delineates that it comes from the bitter orange plant, however this is a French term to describe petitgrain (and neroli oils) that come from France. Our Petitgrain essential oil comes from Paraguay.
Petitgrain Essential Oil Uses
It’s very difficult to talk about petitgrain essential oil without saying it is like another essential oil.
It smells like oranges, but softer.
It acts like neroli but perhaps a little stronger.
Oddly it is extremely similar, chemically to lavender. High in linalool and linalyl acetate.
To make things harder still, there is very little scientific investigation into petitgrain. There are, however huge numbers into the main constituents, linalyl acetate and linalool.
What does Petitgrain Essential Oil Smell Like
Almost like a herbaceous version of orange. It is lovely and fresh and fruity. Not dissimilar to neroli but stronger and more robust.
Petitgrain Essential Oil Benefits for Anxiety
Petitgrain essential oil is incredibly useful for stress because of its effects on the parasympathetic nervous system, the part responsible for allowing the body to rest and restore.
Understanding Fight And Flight
The Fight and Flight response triggers if we perceive something stressful. The stress pathway is often activated by something we see. The amygdala takes information from the eyes and registers seeing people we don’t want to see, red letters or the boss heading our way.
The amygdala is responsible for activating a cascade of hormonal instructions to protect the body. This pathway is known as the HPA axis - speaking of the Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenals.
The hypothalamus signals to the pituitary, which changes its normal hormonal balance and sends messages to the adrenals to secrete stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
Cortisol gets a very bad press, being blamed for pretty much everything from pain to heart attacks. This is because long term cortisol secretion activates an inflammatory response causing nasty health conditions. But this reputation as a bad guy is somewhat unjustified, since in its correct balance cortisol protects the body with an anti-inflammatory response.
Our bodies are designed to flee from scary situations. Cortisol tells the body to move all processes towards being able to run or jump up a tree (away from saber tooth tigers!) Anything extraneous is changed to convert energy into glycogen, to fuel the muscles.
Ideally, of course, after a couple of hours the tiger will either have been harpooned for dinner by the cave dweller next door, or he’ll get bored and hunt somewhere different for his meal. Either way, eventually, you should be able to come down from the tree and relax.
When that happens, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and switches off the fight or flight response so the body can rest and repair.
The Role of Cortisol in Long Term Stress
Consider though, that saber tooth tigers are not the usual worries a person has in the twenty-first century…and money problems don’t tend to get bored and walk away. Deadlines get closer, and being a parent only gets a new set of stressors when you can finally convince them to move out!
The problem is, that for most people, stress never switches off.
That brings its own set of problems.
As stated, short term cortisol has an anti-inflammatory action, but after a while, it turns on its axis, becoming inflammatory. This is why long term stress often presents as inflammatory disorders. This might mean internally and externally. You might think of sore joints or eczema flare ups, for example.
What also happens is that worry becomes a habit. It becomes ingrained and becomes difficult to switch off.
Our Friend, the VmPFC
The amygdala has a relationship with a part of the brain called the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (VmPFC) The VmPFC is like a patient companion, always reassuring the amygdala that everything is going to be Ok.
When it chips in, the amygdala breathes out and relaxes, but when there is a lot of cortisol, it’s like it senses the anxiety (you know that feeling, right?) and looks for something else to worry about. It inevitably finds something, and kicks off again.
The VmPFC keeps trying, but eventually thinks “what’s the point” and gives up.
If the VmPFC stops trying to intercede, there is nothing to switch the sympathetic system off, or perhaps nothing to switch the parasympathetic system ON.
What we have then is a stew of cortisol running rampant, negatively affecting health, ramping up anxiety, and making our poor person depressed.
What we need then, is something that can substitute for the VmPFC in his absence.
To return to where we came in petitgrain essential oil is useful for stress because it interacts with the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to rest and restore. This is thanks to two chemical constituents found in petitgrain essential oil, linalool and linalyl acetate. You might recognise these as also being present in another soothing essential oil, lavender.
Petitgrain Essential Oil and Serotonin
So how does petitgrain essential oil affect the VmPFC, and what other benefits might that have?
We’ve talked about how the VmPFC plays nursemaid to the amygdala. This job has important ramifications about how clearly we can think when our mind is calm. As such it has wide ranging effects on cognition, mood and decision making.
It too, obviously gets its information and power from other places, and one of the most important data comes from a neurotransmitter called serotonin.
Serotonin is a busy molecule, involved in around 300 biological processes but specifically mood modulation. Our bodies make it through a complex set of processes from tryptophan, and amino acids found in some foods.
Tryptophan is converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) which is then converted to serotonin.
Serotonin has several subtypes of receptors, each of which do different things.
The VmPFC is rich with a serotonin receptor called 5HT1a.
5HT1a receptors influence anxiety and depression by impacting either 5-HT levels or the limbic response to serotonin released into the system. (Garcia-Garcia, 2013).
Petitgrain essential oil is made up mostly of linalool and linalyl acetate.
In 2018, a study was done into the effects of linalyl acetate and linalool on anxiety.
The study used a medicinal synthetic of lavender essential oil called Silexan which also has high levels of the same constituents, on healthy human volunteers. The researchers focused their attention on the changes brought about by linalool and linalyl acetate.
The study showed that linalool and linalyl acetate, reduced 5HT1A receptor activity, and increased parasympathetic tone.
Toning the parasympathetic nervous system makes it stronger and more able to balance out the nervous system, to activate rest and restore. (Malcolm, 2017)
Petitgrain Essential Oil - An Energetic Conundrum
Petitgrain is relaxing, but yet stimulating. This means it is great to calm you before a meeting or a driving test, but there might be better oils to help you sleep. (Lavender or Geranium, for example. Frankincense is also lovely if you have lost a few days of sleep, because it restores sleep deficit.)
Petitgrain Essential oil and Digestion
As seen, the nervous system is made up of two parts, the sympathetic, which responds to threat, and the parasympathetic, responsible for homeostasis after the threat has passed.
There is another aspect of the nervous system, called the enteric nervous system which is related to the other two, but also can function independently. It runs from the gut, sending messages from the brain. To know this makes so much sense of why we get butterflies when we are excited and that horrible churning sensation of your stomach turning over when we feel dread.
However, when we think of how stress can affect digestion (or cause diarrhea) we can see that there are close links with the sympathetic and parasympathetic.
Fascinatingly, even though serotonin is such an important brain messenger, it is not made by the brain. Neither does it even live there, oddly. Around 90% of all serotonin is found in the gut.
So, since petitgrain essential oil influences serotonin, and serotonin influences the gut, we can see that it can be extremely useful for stress exacerbated conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Petitgrain Essential Oil For Skin Care
Petitgrain essential oil is lovely to add to cleaners and toners especially. It has a slightly astringent nature, cutting through grease and grime, but it is gentle enough not to strip the skin.
Linalyl Acetate and Linalool in Petitgrain Essential Oil
Linalyl acetate and linalool are both proven to be antipsoriatic in nature. They were shown to reduce hyper immune responses and to reduce skin inflammation. (Kumar Rai, 2020)
Geranyl Acetate in Petitgrain Essential Oil
Geranyl acetate is also a great skin healer. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties soothe skin irritations, reduce redness and promote skin recovery. When petitgrain essential oil is incorporated into skincare routines, geranyl acetate can contribute to overall improved skin appearance.
Neryl Acetate in Petitgrain Essential Oil
Another component of interest in petitgrain essential oil is neryl acetate. This is a component that aromatherapists get very excited about because it can be quite fickle. It appears in helichrysum essential oil in varying amounts depending on where the plant has grown. Levels of neryl acetate are much higher in helichrysum grown in Corsica and Sardinia. Consequently, these types are highly sought after and expensive.
Neryl acetate also appears in petitgrain essential oil to around 4% of its composition.
We have always known that this was a super-ingredient when it came to skin healing and as an anti-aging skin care ingredient, but it has only been in 2023 that it has been carefully studied.
Understanding Petitgrain Essential Oil and The Skin Barrier
When the skin ages, or has any kind of eczematous aspect, the barrier function gets disturbed. The surface is characterized by dryness, it has a reduced immune response and slow wound healing. The main job of the skin is to protect the body from the external environment particularly from pathogens and allergens, whilst simultaneously preventing water loss.
If the skin barrier doesn't work properly this can make sensitive skin conditions worse, and exacerbate dryness and infections.
Consider that the skin is made up of cells. We could consider these to be like bricks. The mortar that holds the construction together are lipids (or oils). The sebum glands produce specialized lipids called ceramides which help to moisturize and strengthen the protective skin moisture barrier. When the skin becomes dry, it is usually because there are too little lipids on the surface, which means the “Bricks” crumble, causing flaky skin.
Neryl acetate seems to reinforce the function of the skin barrier, increases water retention, increases lipid production, and reduces the likelihood of skin penetration by allergens or pathogens. (Lamaire, 2023)
This amelioration of the skin barrier is not only useful for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, but also for skin protection from the ravages of seasonal weather.
With a chemical composition of linalyl acetate, linalool, geranyl acetate and neryl acetate, we can see why petitgrain essential oil is so lovely for skin.
Petitgrain Essential Oil Is Deodorant
Not sure much more needs to be said about that aspect of Petitgrain essential oil really, is ther?! Blend with patchouli for a fantastic homemade deodorant blend.
Antimicrobial Research into Petitgrain Essential Oil
In petri dish experiments, petitgrain essential oil also inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. (Ellouze, 2012)
Staphylococcus aureus is a Gram-positive member of the Bacillota bacteria. It is one of the main reasons wounds go septic and become abscesses. It is also involved in cellulitis infections. We all have at least some levels of Staphylococcus aureus in our respiratory tracts and on the skin. But, if the levels become inflated it can cause serious disease threats to soft tissues and runs risks of pneumonia.
Escherichia coli naturally lives in our guts, but can cause food poisoning if it gets onto foods.
- coli infection is responsible for around 265,000 illnesses in the United States annually, and tragically, around 100 deaths each year.
Perhaps less usefully in a domestic settling, petitgrain essential oil was found to be active against Bacillus subtilis (a friendly gut bacteria) Fusarium culmorum (a fungus that causes cereal crop blight. Mucor ramannianus, again a crop spore fungus. (Ellouze, 2012)
Emotional Uses for Petitgrain Essential Oil
Petitgrain is soothing, positive and uplifting. It has a hopeful, smiley-ness about it that makes you feel like your burdens are lighter and nowhere near the challenge they were.
Valerie Anne Worwood cites petitgrain for a whole host of different mental and emotional states.
Feelings of dejection
Exhaustion and misery
Spiritual Uses for Petitgrain Essential Oil
It never ceases to amaze me how many beautiful things come from the bitter orange tree. It has its own lovely essential oil (although sweet orange is more popular), then the gorgeous neroli essential oil which is made from the blossoms and then our beautiful petitgrain essential oil.
As such then, it’s worth considering that each plant has its own signature message which it brings to the world.
In the case of oranges, they say relax and have fun.
It is a very powerful manifestation action, to imagine the colour orange, and to imbue it with the fragrance of oranges when you are writing a business plan…
Orange says attract, attract, attract.
Orange is the fruit though, so what we have here then is the buds of something new. Those kinds of projects that you don’t want to talk about yet, lest you jinx them. Or even those that are bright in your mind, but don’t yet have words enough to clearly explain them, or to get them down on paper.
Petitgrain essential oil is fabulous when you need to explain something to someone, and you worry they might not quite get it. That they will ask complicated questions that undermine you or trample on your idea. Petitgrain essential oil not only helps to settle your nerves, but gives you the tools to communicate clearly, and to use criticism productively to help bring your plan to fruition.
Petitgrain Essential Oil Safety Data
Very little to worry about with this one. Petitgrain essential oil is safe to use on children over the age of six months and is safe to diffuse around animals
Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
Petitgrain Essential oil Blends: DIY Recipes
Why Choose VINEVIDA
At VINEVIDA, we love botanicals and the planet they come from. We believe in stocking the best at affordable prices and supplying to the discerning, which is why we are also members of both the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. In recognition of our excellent standard of product, we are proud to hold a 2021 Certificate of Registration as a Cosmetic Products Establishment with the U.S. Drugs and Food Administration.
Our joy at seeing people make beautiful things means we stock from the smallest amounts to the largest. Our bulk essential oils’ prices begin with our smallest essential oil of 10ml to our largest of 396lb, meaning any manufacturing company can afford to stock as many or as few oils their business can accommodate without running the risk of spoilage of some of nature’s most precious commodities. So why not see if you can save money by buying your Petitgrain essential oil in bulk? Remember how stable it is proven to be, so as long as you store it carefully, it should last and last.
Don’t forget too; we like to look after our customers with reasonable prices and excellent customer service and reward the loyal ones with money off discounts over the year.
So, why not check out if you qualify for our loyalty scheme and start saving today with an environmentally friendly choice of oil for skin, hair, massage oils, and soapmaking? Add VINEVIDA Petitgrain essential oil to your cart today.