The Scent of Rome in Spring: Neroli Essential Oil Has Been a Favorite for Millennia
If you’ve ever strolled through the Roman Forum in springtime, you were probably enchanted by more than just the ruins. The waxy little white flowers of the orange trees there lend their amazing aroma to the experience, calling to mind luxurious perfumes and skin treatments from ancient times. Read on to learn why neroli essential oil has been a favorite for thousands of years and how you can use this fabulous essential oil to invoke tranquility in your life and treat a host of health concerns.
Origins of Neroli Essential Oil
Neroli essential oil comes from the Seville orange tree (Citrus aurantium subspecies amara or Bigaragia). The Seville orange tree, similar to bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia), is a common native of Asia, Africa, and Mediterranean Europe, and it is now also grown in California and Florida in the US. Most Neroli essential oil on the market today comes from Italy, France, Tunisia, and Egypt.
The peel of the fruit from this tree is used to make bitter orange oil, a key ingredient in orange blossom water, a popular beverage in Mediterranean nations. Orange blossom essential oil, petitgrain, and neroli essential oil also come from the same tree, with the leaves and twigs used to produce petitgrain, and the flowers to make orange blossom and neroli essential oils. Neroli is spicier and greener than the sweet orange blossom scent and is produced by steam distillation. (Orange blossom essential oil, on the other hand, is created by a process called enfleurage, in which fats that contain no odors are utilized to take up fragrance compounds.) While the oil itself has been in use since at least the old days of Rome, he word “neroli” is thought to have come from Anne Marie Orsini, who was the Princess of Nerola, Italy, in the 17th Century. Nerola was a commune within the metropolitan area of Rome. The princess used neroli oil to scent her bath and her gloves, and this aroma is still used by the perfume industry today.
Each year in April and May, the blossoms of the Seville orange tree are gathered to make essential oils. The flowers are handpicked to preserve their fragile structure. A healthy Seville orange tree can yield about 60 pounds of flowers, and thousands of blossoms are needed to produce even a tiny amount of oil. For this reason pure neroli essential oil can be costly, and it is therefore often found in a three-percent concentration in another oil.
5 Benefits of Neroli Essential Oil
Neroli essential oil is a sophisticated scent, hence its popularity in the perfume business. It blends well with other citruses and floral absolutes (concentrated aromatic formulas similar to essential oils). Neroli essential oil is also nonirritating, non-sensitizing, and does not induce photo-toxicity or reactions in the sun.
1.) Soothes jangled nerves and improves low moods
It is happy and calming, so neroli essential oil is ideal for calming. If you’re looking for an essential oil to use at the end of a heavy work day or to help you get over an unhappy time in your life, neroli should be on the top of your list.
One of the most well studied uses of neroli essential oil is mood improvement. As mentioned earlier, neroli is ideal for calming frayed nerves, and it’s also one of the top essential oils to quiet grief and lift you up when you’re feeling hopeless. Lest you think this is just woo-woo new age-y stuff, take a look at the science. The Korea University School of Nursing performed a study in which post-menopausal women, a group that typically experiences mood swings and depression, inhaled neroli essential oil. The women who inhaled neroli, instead of almond oil (the control group) saw the following:
- decreased blood pressure
- slower heart rate (pulse)
- lowered levels of serum cortisol (a stress hormone)
- increased estrogen levels
- increased sexual desire
2.) Provides concentrated support for the skin
Neroli essential oil also has immense benefits for the skin (see treatments, below). It improves skin elasticity by repairing and rejuvenating skin at the cellular level, due in large part to its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work to help eliminate free radicals, reactive molecules that can cause premature aging and disease. Neroli also improves circulation, bringing essential nutrients to the skin and working to eliminate undesirable elements. By relaxing its users, Neroli essential oil indirectly affects the skin as well, helping to banish the effects of fatigue and stress on the face.
Users of neroli essential oil find their skin renews itself faster, which is not just beneficial for aging skin but allows acne-prone skin to slough off epidermal cells faster. Another benefit of neroli for troubled skin is that it can counter excess oil without drying the skin.
As a citrus derivative, neroli essential oil contains vitamin C, which is known for smoothing the skin and bolstering the immune system. Neroli essential oil has antimicrobial elements to combat bacteria, making it ideal to use as an acne treatment.
Related: 11 EOs for Healing Scars
3.) Provides anti-inflammatory and calming, convulsant support
Neroli oil is also an anti-convulsant and can help prevent spasms and seizures. As an anti-inflammatory, neroli essential oil can help reduce chronic and acute inflammation by lowering the user’s sensitivity to pain. Neroli essential oil is one of the best for treating the entire body, inside and out.
Related: 22 EOs for Inflammation
4.) Boosts circulation throughout the body
The circulation improvements Neroli oil can provide are great. It’s perfect for helping the skin renew itself. Add a few drops of neroli essential oil to a foot bath to get your blood moving again after a day on your feet and to assist in exfoliating dead skin on your heels and soles.
Related: 7 EOs for Cellulite
5.) Provides an appealing, alluring aroma
While neroli may have gotten its name from a princess, it’s hardly an exclusively feminine aroma. Neroli is one of the top unisex scents today, and you’ll find numerous designers who incorporate its honeyed yet slightly metallic aroma in signature perfumes and aftershaves. This makes neroli essential oil a classic to keep at home for every member of the family to use.
Blending Neroli Essential Oil with Other Essential Oils
Perfumers and home aromatherapy aficionados alike appreciate neroli essential oil for its ability to mix well with so many other scents. If you are putting together an essential oil collection, you can blend neroli essential oil with these other essential oils for more complex scents and combined benefits:
- other citruses: grapefruit, mandarin, orange, lemon, and petitgrain
- florals: rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, lavender, and geranium
- herbs: rosemary, chamomile, clary sage, and coriander
Neroli and rose are a great combination to boost your mood when you’re cranky or depressed, while neroli and lavender together can help you sleep like a baby at night. Neroli and grapefruit are like a breath of fresh air, and neroli and ylang ylang or jasmine evoke romantic exoticism. If you need a vacation but only have a five-minute break, these floral combinations can take you away in your mind to foreign places and help you clear your head to keep on with your day.
Neroli essential oil can be a very powerful aroma, and a little goes a long way. When first using neroli essential oil, start with just a few drops, knowing that you can always add more if you need to.
Neroli Essential Oil for Skin Treatments
When using essential oils on your skin, it is better to dilute them a bit to avoid any irritation and, in the case of neroli essential oil, to make this precious product last longer. Therefore, you can either mix pure neroli essential oil into a cream, oil, or lotion or buy it already mixed with a carrier oil, such as grape seed, avocado, apricot, jojoba, or evening primrose oils.
Because neroli essential oil has such wonderful anti-aging benefits, you can add a few drops to your face and body lotion or oil to fight fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, and sun damage. Neroli essential oil in your personal care products layers easily with other scents, like fresh, natural colognes. Neroli also blends will with other perfumed products that use neroli as primary ingredient. If you’re not sure what to layer over your neroli skin care applications, ask at the fragrance counter for advice; there are several top scents out today for both men and women that use neroli essential oil as key note.
An alternative is to make your own perfume, so you can layer all your own neroli-based products. To achieve depth that makes your perfume last, try combining neroli with some of the scented essential oils listed above, plus elements like vanilla. Sandalwood, lavender, and neroli are a great starting combo.
You can experiment and mix your essential oils with a carrier oil in a glass beaker to find out which one you like best. Add some rubbing alcohol if you want to spritz them, or buy some roll-on tubes and just apply your scent as an oil formulation. If you think you might like to make a larger volume of homemade beauty products, you can purchase supplies like these in bulk, as well as items like solid perfume/lip gloss pots, droppers, and apothecary bottles that prevent evaporation and sun damage.
You might also want to invest in some paper test strips, so you don’t smell like the perfume department at the mall. Having a bowl of coffee beans nearby will allow you to “reset” your nose if you become overwhelmed by too many scents. Keep a journal of which combinations work best once you try them on your own skin and how your mood feels when you wear them (see more about mood below).
Neroli essential oil is very helpful for preventing and treating acne breakouts. You can add a few drops to a moist cotton ball and apply it to your face, or you can create a steam bath:
Acne Reducing Skin Bath w/ Neroli
*Or just use equal parts of whatever amount suits you
- Mix equal parts neroli essential oil with either juniper, lavender, or clove essential oils.
- Add three or four drops of your essential oil blend to a bowl of steaming water.
- Cover your head with a towel to create a tent, and hold your head over the bowl for several minutes, allowing the steam with the essential oils to penetrate your pores and work its magic.
You can also add neroli essential oil to rose water to spritz on your face and body when you desire a refreshing, rejuvenating lift. The same combination can be used to refresh your hair before restyling it or after being exposed to unpleasant odors that cling to your coif.
Neroli Oil Night Serum
Did you know you can make your own night serum instead of buying a pricey one? Try this recipe to use before you go to sleep:
- Start with 1 ounce of raw, unrefined coconut oil.
- Add 1 teaspoon of sea buckthorn.
- Add a few drops of neroli and clary sage essential oils.
- Mix and store in a small cosmetic container.
- Dab on problem areas every night to treat lines, dark spots, and other signs of aging.
DIY Neroli Infused Hand Cream
If you live in a cold or dry climate, or if you wash your hands frequently, the skin on your hands may become chapped, rough, and painful. You can make your own hand cream with products you order online or get at the health food store to soften your hands and make them smell fabulous too. Your friends will all want you to make them a tub of this cream for their next holiday or birthday present:
- Mix the following in a small bowl: ½ ounce cocoa butter, 1-1/2 ounces coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of vegetable glycerin, 4 drops of neroli essential oil, and 4 drops of frankincense essential oil.
- Stir the above mixture until it is completely blended and store it in a spare moisturizer pot or baby food jar.
If your whole body suffers from rough or dry skin, add a few drops of neroli, ylang ylang, and jasmine essential oils to a sea salt scrub or to moisturizing bath salts. Soak away your problem skin and your day’s problems at the same time!
Improve your Digestion Blend with Neroli Essential Oil
Because it is an antispasmotic and improves circulation, neroli essential oil is a good ingredient in drinks or baked goods that assist with digestion. Neroli has long been popular in digestive tisanes (medicinal herbal teas). You can make your own, which will also perfume your body from the inside out, with this recipe:
- 3 drops neroli
- 2 bags mint tea
- 1 bag jasmine tea
- 1 bag orange or lemon tea
- 1 bag rose tea
- 3 slices of cucumber (optional)
- Steep 2 bags of mint tea, 1 bag of jasmine tea, 1 bag of orange or lemon tea, 1 bag of rose tea, and 3 slices of cucumber (optional).
- Use water with a few drops of neroli essential oil mixed in to steep the tea.
- Allow to cool and drink at room temperature.
It was thought that neroli essential oil precipitated these results in the above study by positively altering the autonomic nervous system. Neroli is now being studied to see if it affects other post-menopausal symptoms, like vasomotor changes (hot flashes). Anyone can benefit from the aroma of neroli essential oil, however, not just women in menopause. You can add neroli oil to potpourri or use it in a diffuser. Other uses include:
- cold compresses to ease headaches
- scented candles for the bath and bedroom
- drops in the bath water for a serene way to end the day
- pillow or linen mist to help induce sleep (ideal with lavender)
In fact, neroli essential oil is so calming, that you have to be careful about using too much of it when you need high concentration. A quick sniff during workday breaks and longer olfactory exposure at night can help you feel more positive and less stressed—and that’s a bargain when you think how many drops you can get from one tiny bottle!
Hopefully this article has been helpful for you. If you have any questions, comments or recommendations of your own please let us know in the comment section below!