Color Me Orange

Nearly hidden among the variety of apples available at the grocer’s this time of year, one can still find a bag or two of oranges. Orange juice fills a case or two in the dairy aisle and a glass of orange juice at breakfast (or combined with tequila and a splash of grenadine later in the day..) is a pretty standard routine worldwide. But did you know you can use not just the flesh and juice but the peel, as well?

What you buy in the store is “Sweet Orange” or Citrus sinensis. It has its uses, yes, but more medicinally-potent is the Mandarin orange Citrus reticulata or Bitter Orange Citrus aurantium.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has used the mature peel of both the Mandarin Orange and Bitter Orange for hundreds of years to improve digestion, relieve intestinal gas and reduce excess phlegm. They use the immature peel in the same way but only a TCM practitioner can determine when to use which.  You, however, don’t have to train for years to use orange peel. Although not quite as potent, go ahead and buy some of those sweet oranges at the store.  After you’ve eaten the flesh or squeezed the juice out, either add the peel to some yummy recipes found in the November 2010 issue of Herb Companion or cut the peel into pieces about 1/4″ wide and an inch long, and lay them on a screen to dry. Then powder them and add one to two teaspoons of the powder to your daily diet. The medicinal actions come from the volatile oil found in the peel, which contains the chemical d-limonene.  This has been found to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and quite possibly has anti-cancer properties.

The essential oils are extremely useful, too.  I knew that Neroli oil (really expensive) is distilled from the flowers of the Bitter Orange. It is a constituent in many perfumes and can be used therapeutically for anxiety, depression, PMS and some other things. I didn’t know until doing my research is that Petitgrain oil is also distilled from the Bitter Orange, but this time from the leaves and young shoots of the tree. This isn’t used much therapeutically but makes a wonderful deodorizing ingredient. You can get Sweet and Mandarin Orange essential oils, as well. Especially the Sweet, it makes a great massage oil to treat intestinal issues, help normalize blood pressure and, combined with some warming oils (like cinnamon) to fight the chills and body aches associated with the flu.

Although not a timeless tradition, orange blossoms have been added to wedding decorations here in the West for a couple of hundred years. This is probably why it’s considered a good herb to use in love sachets. The Chinese consider the orange to be a symbol of good luck & fortune, so add the peel to powders and incense used in prosperity spells. The Orange is also a potent fertility symbol: it produces both flowers and fruit at the same time. So, if you’re trying to become pregnant, make a Mimosa (one part orange juice, one part champagne) and serve it at a “special” dinner.

The color orange isn’t reserved for Hallowe’en, Samhain or Fall. I use orange candles any time of year when doing a spell for luck.

Talking about Samhain and orange … I’ve got a hankering for some candy corn.