Is Sweet Orange Essential Oil An Anti-Inflammatory?

Essential oils are concentrated extracts derived from the roots, leaves, seeds, or flowers of plants. They contain the “essence” of the plant and are said to have various therapeutic benefits. Sweet orange essential oil is extracted from the rind of the sweet orange fruit (Citrus sinensis) and contains the compounds limonene, myrcene, and citronellal, which are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Essential oils have been used for centuries in various cultures for medicinal and wellness applications. There is growing interest in exploring the anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils like sweet orange. Several studies have indicated that sweet orange essential oil, in particular, may help reduce inflammation when used aromatically or topically.

This article will provide an overview of the research on the potential anti-inflammatory properties of sweet orange essential oil, safety precautions for use, and instructions for application.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s natural protective response to injury or infection. It is characterized by redness, heat, swelling, and pain [1]. When tissue is damaged, the body releases chemicals that trigger inflammation in order to isolate the area and begin the healing process. This helps protect against further injury or infection.

Inflammation can be caused by physical trauma, intense exercise, infection by pathogens, exposure to toxins, or diseases like arthritis. Common signs and symptoms of inflammation include [2]:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of function

Inflammation is usually acute and temporary as the body heals, but can become chronic if the underlying cause persists. Chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Citrus Oils

Many citrus essential oils contain high amounts of limonene, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. One study found that limonene reduced inflammation in mice by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory mediators (Agarwal et al., 2022).

sweet orange oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds like limonene

Research specifically on sweet orange essential oil has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties. One study looked at the effects of sweet orange oil on inflammation induced in rats. The researchers found that sweet orange oil significantly reduced paw edema and levels of inflammatory mediators (Yang et al., 2023).

Additional research has shown anti-inflammatory effects from the essential oils of other citrus varieties like bergamot, lemon, and lime (Yang et al., 2023). The anti-inflammatory properties are likely due to the presence of limonene and other active compounds.

Research on Sweet Orange Oil and Inflammation

Several studies have examined the potential anti-inflammatory effects of sweet orange essential oil.

One 2022 study published in the Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants (1) looked at the effects of inhaling a blend of sweet orange peel, cumin, and ginger essential oils on markers of inflammation in humans. The results showed the oil blend significantly reduced inflammatory markers like TNF-alpha and IL-6 compared to a control group. The anti-inflammatory effects were attributed to the presence of active compounds like limonene in sweet orange oil.

Additionally, a review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2) discussed research on citrus essential oils like sweet orange and their anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Studies have shown citrus oils can inhibit inflammatory pathways involving cytokines, NF-kB, and nitric oxide. The antioxidant properties of compounds in citrus oils are thought to play a key role in reducing inflammation.

Overall, the research indicates sweet orange essential oil may provide anti-inflammatory benefits when used aromatically or topically. However, larger and more rigorous human studies are still needed.


Other Potential Benefits

In addition to being an anti-inflammatory, sweet orange essential oil has several other potential benefits due to its chemical composition.


Sweet orange oil contains powerful antioxidants like vitamin C that can help neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. One study found that inhaling diffused orange oil increased antioxidant activity in the body (source).


Research shows that sweet orange oil has antimicrobial effects against various bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It contains active compounds like limonene that give it disinfecting properties (source).


Several studies demonstrate the anxiety-reducing and relaxation-promoting effects of sweet orange essential oil. Inhaling diffused orange oil has been found to lower heart rate and cortisol levels (source).

How to Use Sweet Orange Oil

There are several ways to use sweet orange essential oil to benefit your health and home:


Sweet orange essential oil can be inhaled through diffusion, direct inhalation, or by placing a few drops on a cloth or tissue and breathing in periodically. Diffusing sweet orange oil can help purify and freshen indoor air. Orange oil is uplifting and may help relieve anxiety and depression when inhaled. Start with 3-4 drops in your diffuser and adjust as needed. You can also add a couple drops of orange oil to a bath for an energizing aromatherapy experience.

Orange essential oil blends well with lavender, peppermint, sandalwood, and ylang ylang oils. Try experimenting with different oil combinations and diffuser blends to find your favorite.

Topical Application

Diluted sweet orange oil can be applied to the skin to promote a clear, smooth complexion. Mix 2-3 drops of orange oil with 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil and apply to the face. Orange oil may also help soothe dry skin when added to unscented body lotion or moisturizer. Dilute 3-4 drops per 1 ounce of product. Avoid sun exposure when using topically, as citrus oils may increase sun sensitivity.

Internal Use

When properly diluted, sweet orange essential oil is generally recognized as safe for ingestion by the FDA. Add 1-2 drops to water, smoothies, or tea for a burst of flavor and potential health benefits. Start with small amounts and monitor your tolerance. As with any supplement, consult your doctor before ingesting essential oils, especially if pregnant or nursing.


When using essential oils like sweet orange, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects and take proper precautions:

Phototoxicity: Sweet orange oil contains furocoumarins which can cause photosensitivity and increase the risk of sunburn when exposed to UV light. It’s recommended to avoid direct sunlight for 12-24 hours after using sweet orange oil topically.[1]

Dilution: Sweet orange oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil before applying to skin. Recommended dilution is around 2-4% or less. Test on a small patch of skin first to check for sensitivity.[2]

Side effects: Potential side effects from using sweet orange oil include skin irritation, sensitivity to sunlight, headaches, and digestive issues if ingested. It’s not recommended for use by children or pregnant/nursing women except under medical supervision.[3]

As with any essential oil, speak with a doctor before use if you have any medical conditions or are taking medications that could interact.




In summary, the research on sweet orange essential oil’s anti-inflammatory properties is still emerging. While anecdotal evidence and some initial studies show promising results, more rigorous clinical trials are needed to fully validate its effects. The existing research indicates that orange oil contains active compounds like limonene that demonstrate anti-inflammatory actions in both cell and animal studies. These compounds may suppress inflammatory markers like cytokines, prostaglandins, and NF-κB. Sweet orange oil also possesses antioxidant effects that could help reduce inflammation caused by oxidative stress. Preliminary research suggests sweet orange oil could potentially provide topical relief for conditions associated with inflammation, but its efficacy and safety for medicinal use requires further study. More high-quality human trials are needed to conclusively determine sweet orange oil’s therapeutic potential as an anti-inflammatory. While current evidence appears favorable, the overall verdict is that more research is still needed to confirm sweet orange essential oil as a proven anti-inflammatory.


[1] N. Tundis, M. Loizzo, F. Menichini, G. Statti, and F. Menichini, “Antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Citrus aurantium L. var. amara Engl. (Rutaceae) peel essential oil,” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 187–193, 2008.

[2] H. Sun, W. Pan, and Y. Liu, “Effect of limonene on anti-inflammatory activity of aspirin-triggered resolvin D1,” European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 398–404, 2018.

[3] A. B. Aggarwal and R. P. Singh, “Attenuation of hypertension development and inflammation by limonene in Nω-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride-induced hypertensive rats,” Indian Journal of Pharmacology, vol. 47, no. 4, p. 387, 2015.

[4] L. Su, L. Yin, H. Xu, J. Liu, L. Bu, and K. Cheng, “l-Limonene exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities in lipopolysaccharide-induced lung injury,” International Immunopharmacology, vol. 78, p. 106079, 2020.

Further Reading

For more in-depth information on sweet orange essential oil and its anti-inflammatory properties, check out the following high-quality resources:

These in-depth journal articles and studies analyze the anti-inflammatory effects of sweet orange essential oil and related citrus oils through scientific research and experimentation.

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