Herb: Bitter Orange


Latin name: Citrus aurantium


Synonyms: Citrus bigarradia, Citrus vulgaris


Family: Rutaceae (Rue Family, Citrus Family)



Medicinal use of Bitter Orange:

Citrus species contain a wide range of active ingredients and research is still underway in finding uses for them. They are rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, acids and volatile oils. They also contain coumarins such as bergapten which sensitizes the skin to sunlight. Bergapten is sometimes added to tanning preparations since it promotes pigmentation in the skin, though it can cause dermatitis or allergic responses in some people. Some of the plants more recent applications are as sources of anti-oxidants and chemical exfoliants in specialized cosmetics. The plants also contain umbelliferone, which is antifungal, as well as essential oils that are antifungal and antibacterial. They also contain the pyrone citrantin, which shows antifertility activity and was once used as a component of contraceptives. Both the leaves and the flowers are antispasmodic, digestive and sedative. An infusion is used in the treatment of stomach problems, sluggish digestion etc. The fruit is antiemetic, antitussive, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive and expectorant.The immature fruit can be used (called Zhi Shi in China) or the mature fruit with seeds and endocarp removed (called Zhi Ke). The immature fruit has a stronger action. They are used in the treatment of dyspepsia, constipation, abdominal distension, stuffy sensation in the chest, prolapse of the uterus, rectum and stomach. The fruit peel is bitter, digestive and stomachic. The seed and the pericarp are used in the treatment of anorexia, chest pains, colds, coughs etc. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Radiance". It is used in treating depression, tension and skin problems.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Tree

Height:
9 m
(30 feet)

Flovering:
April
to June


Scent:
Scented
Tree

Habitat of the herb:

Original habitat is obscure, possibly a back cross involving C. maxima X C. reticulata.

Edible parts of Bitter Orange:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Very bitter. It is used in making marmalade and other preserves. The fruit is about 5 - 7cm in diameter. The rind of the fruit is often used as a flavouring in cakes etc. Used in "bouquet garni". An oil obtained from the seeds contains linolenic acid and is becoming more widely used as a food because of its ability to reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood. The flowers are used for scenting tea. An essential oil from the dried peel of immature fruits is used as a food flavouring.

Other uses of the herb:

This species is much used as a rootstock for the sweet orange, C. sinensis, because of its disease resistance and greater hardiness. Grown as a hedging plant in N. America. A semi-drying oil obtained from the seed is used in soap making. Essential oils obtained from the peel, petals and leaves are used as a food flavouring and also in perfumery and medicines. The oil from the flowers is called "Neroli oil" - yields are very low from this species and so it is often adulterated with inferior oils. The oil from the leaves and young shoots is called "petit-grain" - 400 kilos of plant material yield about 1 kilo of oil. This is also often adulterated with inferior products. Neroli oil, mixed with vaseline, is used in India as a preventative against leeches.

Propagation of Bitter Orange:

The seed is best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it ripe after thoroughly rinsing it. Sow stored seed in March in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 13C. Seedlings are liable to damp off so they must be watered with care and kept well ventilated. The seed is usually polyembrionic, two or more seedlings arise from each seed and they are genetically identical to the parent but they do not usually carry any virus that might be present in the parent plant. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least three growing seasons before trying them outdoors. Plant them out in the summer and give them some protection from the cold for their first few winters outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Layering in October.

Cultivation of the herb:

Original habitat is obscure, possibly a back cross involving C. maxima X C. reticulata.

Known hazards of Citrus aurantium:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.