When we talk about the essential oil of Petitgrain, we are generally referring to Petitgrain Bigarde. This oil is steam distilled from the leaves, peticoles and twigs of the Bitter Orange tree, Citrus aurantium var. amara. However as Guenther points out in his book, The Essential Oils Vol. III, an essential oil is occasionally steam distilled from the leaves, peticoles and twigs of other citrus trees and he provides information on Petigrain Sweet Orange, Petitgrain Lemon, Petitgrain Bergamot, Petitgrain Mandarin and Petitgrain Grapefruit in this Volume.
Guenther says that the quality of a petitgrain bigarde oil depends upon several factors:
- The leaf material to be distilled should originate exclusively from the true bitter orange tree.
- The leaf material should not contain any wooden branches, nor any small fruit.
- The leaf material should be distilled rapidly and with direct steam generated in a separate steam boiler. It must not be immersed in boiling water, as this will cause hydrolysis of linalyl acetate, the most important constituent of petitgrain oil. If properly distilled, the oil will have a high ester content.
According to Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used, in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, the yield of essential oil obtained through steam distillation of the leaves is around 0.2% and the major producers include France, Haiti, Paraguay and Guinea. Petitgrain oil contains large amounts of esters (40 – 80%) depending on the source and how it was distilled. It is composed mainly of linalyl acetate with a lesser quantity of geranyl acetate. Other major chemicals include : Alcohols (linalool, nerol, a-terpineol, geraniol, nerolidol, farnesol) and Monoterpenes (limeonene).
Petitgrain, has been used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and cosmetics, as well as a flavouring ingredient in foods. Petitgrain has a fresh, slightly floral aroma, with a bitter undertone. It blends well with other citrus oils, cedarwood, clary sage, clove, cypress, frankincense, geranium, lavender, neroli, rose, vetiver, rosemary, jasmine, benzoin and palmarosa.
Psychologically, its calming and cheering properties can be helpful in for insomnia, nervous exhaustion and mental fatigue. It can be refreshing and help ease disharmony.
On a physiological level, petitgrain’s antispasmodic and calming properties make it very useful for easing muscle spasms both for the skeletal and the digestive system. Some have also found it very useful for PMS
On a subtle level, it has been found to be helpful in overcoming obsessions and addictions. It can bring stability when one is feeling at one’s most vulnerable.
Contraindications:Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.
Ernest Guenther, The Essential Oils, Vol. 3 Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, FL, 1952
Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients, John Wiley & Sons, 1996
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001,2002, 2003, 2004…2014