How To Use Petitgrain Essential Oil

How to Use Petitgrain Essential Oil

The orange tree gives us several types of essential oils, and specifically from the bitter orange tree we get neroli, petitgrain, and bitter orange oil. Today, let’s talk about petitgrain. It has a funny spelling, which if you’re from french Canada like me, that is petit. But it is pronounced pe-ti.

Petitgrain comes from the bitter orange tree, species Citrus aurantium. It is steam distilled from the leaves and twigs of the orange tree. Sometimes it is called bitter orange leaf oil. The oil can also come from other orange species, so make sure to check the label and species name specifically before buying. Sometimes you will see it called Clementine Petitgrain, or Combava Petitgrain or Mandarin Petitgrain, or sometimes it will be reversed and called Petitgrain Clementine for example. Bigarade Petitgrain is also available, and this is a subspecies of the bitter orange tree. You can also get lemon, lime or grapefruit petitgrain as well.

Each of these examples as a different chemical profile, a slightly different aroma, may have different uses. So while you might think all Petitgrains are the same, it may not be the case because different species are, well, different. Basic petitgrain typically comes from the bitter or sour orange tree.

Current Commercial Uses of Petitgrain

Petitgrain is often used in the perfume industry and records show it was being distilled way back in 1694 and probably one of the first used in an eau de cologne. It’s used in Mediterranean countries in marmalade. Globally, the oil is a common flavouring agent, especially for citrus flavours in condiments, candies, drinks, and many types of fruit. It carries GRAS status, which means Generally Regarded As Safe for consumption. It’s also used extensively in the cosmetics and personal care industry in soaps and washes and detergents.

Petitgrain is native to Asia, but it is mainly grown and produced in Spain, Italy, France, Egypt, Brazil, Paraguay, as well as other places.

The finished distilled product should be clear with a yellow tint. It should have a citrus aroma and floral aroma, but what distinguishes this one is its woody smell. It has a rather earthy aroma to it. It’s traditionally been viewed as an aphrodisiac.

How to Use Petitgrain

So how and why do we use petitgrain? First let’s talk about the chemistry. Petitgrain is high in linalyl acetate and linalool. Linalyl acetate is a calming ester, which gives the essential oil sedative, relaxing, nervine, calmative properties. Esters typically also have wound healing effects for the skin as well as anti inflammatory. Linalool is a calming and antibacterial monoterpenol.

Petitgrain is also high in limonene. If you remember from our discussion on palo santo, limonene has many benefits for the body. It has anti-ulcer effects, anxiolytic effects, which means anxiety reducing, sedative effects, preventative actions against cancer, and strong antioxidant effects. It stimulates the Glutathione S Transferase, which is part of the natural detoxification system in the body, making it very supportive for the liver.

The combination of linalyl acetate, linalool, and limonene gives petitgrain a strong stress and anxiety reduction effect. Citrus oils in general are very effective in reducing stress and anxiety. Because it is a sedative, calmative, nervine, and relaxant, this also makes it helpful for insomnia, tension, nervous tension, irritability, and mood dysregulation. So this can be helpful for dealing with negative emotions.

Valerie Ann Worwood describes it as being a restoring, balancing, revitalizing, and clarifying essential oil. In her book called The Fragrant Mind, she talks a lot about plant personalities as they might relate to human personalities. If someone was a petitgrain, they would be balanced, having lots of energy and in tune with the rhythm of life. She says petitgrain is a link between sun and earth and that it feeds the ego and balances the spirituality.


The therapeutic uses here then are for stress, mood, especially low and negative moods, anxiousness, and irritability. As well, given the linalyl acetate and linalool content, petitgrain has applications for acne, oily skin, as well as perspiration. It’s important here, of course, that essential oils are used with carrier oil to protect the skin. Especially for anyone with sensitive, damaged skin, or beginner users or if you’ve never used this oil before.

Use in the diffuser for:

  • stress
  • anxiousness
  • low moods

Apply to the skin with a non-comedogenic oil for:

  • acne or blemish-prone skin
  • oily skin
  • dull skin
  • in deodorants
  • to underarm with carrier oil for odour and excessive sweating
  • circulatory system with dry brushing

Because of its woody smell, it’s also a great selection for men’s blends or for individuals who want to smell less like flowers.

Contraindications & Precautions

Petitgrain is considered a citrus oil, but it does not carry any photosensitivity or phototoxicity risks so it’s safe to apply to the skin and be in UV light. It also does not have any other contraindications for precautions, making it a safe and gentle option, especially for use with children.

As usual, do not buy your essential oils from bath or body shops or perfume shops or boutique stores downtown. Those are highly likely to be adulterated.

Additionally, make sure to dilute your essential oils to protect your skin.



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