Grapefruit, Citrus x paradise, is the only citrus species native to the New World and is thought to have originated on Barbados sometime in the seventeenth century. It belongs to the Rutaceae family and is considered to be a stabilized hybrid of Citrus maxima and Citrus sinensis. Numerous cultivars are grown commercially with ‘Duncan’ being the standard grown in Florida. Grapefruit is cultivated in the United States, the West Indies, Nigeria, Brazil, Israel and Portugal. Grapefruit is a large tree, which can grow to a height of 30 metres. It has a single trunk, many branches and if left unpruned can grow into a round or blunt conical shape. Like the orange tree, three different essential oils can be obtained from Grapefruit. Steam distillation of the leaves (petitgrain) and flowers (neroli) and cold expression of the fruit. It is the oil produced from the fruit that is most commonly available and the one highlighted.
A yellow, or pale orange yellow, which might have a greenish tinge, essential oil is obtained from the rind of the fruit through cold expression. The oil content of the fruit diminishes significantly as the fruit matures and can be five times higher in early picked fruit than in fruit that is fully mature and held on the trees. The odor of the essential oil is characteristic of the fruit, sweet and fresh. Like all citrus oils correct storage is particularly important for this oil to prevent oxidization.
Grapefruit consists mostly of the monoterpene hydrocarbon limonene (around 90 — 98%), but it is the presence of the sesqueterpene ketone nootkatone (in very small amounts 0.06% — 0.8%) which is believed to give the oil its very characteristic odor.
Psychologically, grapefruit has been found to have wonderfully uplifting but calming properties. It can be helpful in cases of depression, nervous exhaustion, performance stress, jet lag, PMS, alcohol and drug withdrawal. It can give one a feeling of euphoria.
On the physiological level it has antiseptic, calming, diuretic and stimulating properties. Used in a mister or diffuser it can be an excellent air antiseptic while used topically or in the bath it can help ease muscle stiffness as well as to increase the circulation and stimulate the lymph system. It has also be found helpful as a digestive aid and has been used by sufferers of anorexia and bulimia as well as people wanting to lose weight.
Contraindications: According to Leung and Foster, dermatological studies have indicated grapefruit oil to be nonirritating, non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic to humans based on a report by DLJ Opdyke, in Food Cosmetics Toxicology. However, Martin Watt classifies grapefruit as a mild photosensitizer.
Ernest Guenther, The Essential Oils, Vol. III, Krieger Publishing, Malabar, Florida 1974
E.A. Weiss, Essential Oil Crops, CAB International, 1997
Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics , Second Edition, John Wiley & Songs Inc, 1996
Martin Watt, Plant Aromatics, Appalachian Valley Natural Products, 2001
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 201 Course 2000 rev.2004