The Many Uses Of Citrus Oil
We normally think of citrus oil as coming from citrus fruit, which is for the most part true, though citrus fruits are not the only source. Citrus oil is not the same as citrus juice, nor is it quite the same as citrus essence. We squeeze a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit to get the pure juice. The citrus oil remains in the pulp and the inner part of the peel. This oil is extracted by several methods, and has a number of uses. Essence of citrus is simply a citrus oil that has been highly concentrated.
D-limonene Is The Key - A great deal, if not most of the citrus oil that's used for commercial purposes, such as in cleaners and solvents, does not come from citrus fruit but from corn. Obviously corn is not a member of the citrus family, but when corn is used in to produce gasohol, there is a by-product, which upon further refining produces D-limonene, a citrus oil.
D-limonene is a bit unusual in that it is a powerful solvent. It is used in commercial cleaners and is strong enough to melt some plastics. When a small amount (2% or more) of citrus oil from oranges is added to D-limonene, the resulting product is known as Orange Oil, the cleansing agent having the familiar smell of oranges. Oranges are also a major source of Orange Oil. In this case the oil is truly orange oil.
Producing Citrus Oil - When citrus oil is made from citrus fruits, as mentioned above, the pulp and rind is the source material. Once the citrus juice has been extracted, the pulp and rind are allowed to harden, usually by placing them in room or container where the temperature is cold. Once hardened, the pulp and rind are pressed, with the resulting product consisting of pure orange oil. There may be several pressings, with the highest quality of orange oil coming from the initial pressing.
Citrus oil from the fruits may be further refined by a vacuum process to produce almost pure D-limonene. D-limonene, whether from corn or citrus fruits, has a definite "citrus" smell, which cannot be tied to any specific citrus fruit.
Citrus oils find use not only in commercial solvents and cleaners, considered to be "green" cleaners, but as insecticides, insect repellent products (citronella), aromatherapy, and in various culinary recipes as well.
It may seem to a bit unusual that a compound capable of breaking up grease, killing insects, or dissolving some plastics, could be ingested without destroying our digestive tract. The truth is, citrus oils are for the most part quite safe in foods, although a drink of citrus oil cleaning solvent is certainly not recommended. There's a vast amount of difference between using a few drops of the oil for flavoring or aroma therapy, and a glass of the liquid, which would certainly be highly potent.
Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, And Orange - Grapefruit oil is useful (in smaller amounts) for treating certain eating disorders. It is also good for the skin, especially in treating oily skin. Lemon oil is not only good for cleaning, but comes in handy in relieving symptoms of a cold or the flu. It is also good for maintaining healthy skin and hair, as is lime oil. It should be noted however that applying citrus oils to the skin tends to make the skin more photosensitive, so direst sun should be avoided when the oils are used. Oil from oranges seems to have the nicest scent.
Make Your Own - Citrus oil is popular as a household cleanser because of its pleasant but seldom overpowering fragrance, and it's possible to make your own. If you eat enough lemons and oranges you'll have all of the raw material you'll need. Lemons seem to work best for a spray, but some like to add a little orange to make the fragrance a bit more pleasant. Just take the rind of several lemons (and/or oranges), place them in a quart of boiling water for a minute or so, remove them from the heat, cover, and let sit overnight.
The next day the mixture can be strained, and you'll have your own bottle of citrus oil spray. There are uses for this spray, but unlike the spray you purchase in a store, the spray you make yourself will have to be kept refrigerated between uses.