Grapefruit essential oil is renowned in aromatherapy for its ability to reduce stress significantly. It has a refreshing and activating aroma that is reminiscent of citrus peels. Its aroma is not too strong though. It is also one of the safest essential oils as it can be used in food products and drinks as well. But, there is a safe dosage limit to it, as is to every essential oil. Its main chemical constituent, d-limonene is useful in treating gallstones, heartburn, ulcerative colitis and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Grapefruit essential oil is also helpful for oily and cloggy skin because it is a wonderful natural cleanser. And that’s not all; the essential oil also provides many more proven health benefits.  

Source

Grapefruit is of fairly recent origin. It came to be as a result of a hybrid between the sweet orange and pomelo which is believed to have been done on the island of Barbados. The first person to describe this anthropogenic fruit was a man named Griffith Hughes who extolled the virtues of grapefruit to the outside world way back in 1750. He has written that the taste of grapefruit is so exquisite and exotic, that hardly any regional fruit matches up to it. He even considered it more delicious than an orange! 

Grapefruit Essential Oil (Image:Shutterstock)

Well, we will leave that judgement to Mr Hughes himself. Grapefruit comes in three commonly seen cultivars. These are the white grapefruit, the pink grapefruit and the red grapefruit. These are the colors of the flesh of the grapefruit. These three varieties have noticeable differences in taste and therefore their essential oils are slightly different.  

The essential oil is extracted not by steam distillation but by compression of the peels without heating them. This is the method of choice for citrus essential oils. That is why they are also given the name expressed oil. 

Color and Aroma

It is pale yellow in color with a subtle hint of forest green. It does not look pink in color. Its aroma has the base of limonene (as 90% of the essential oil is limonene). Its smell is a mix of lemon and orange like, with a hint of bitter notes. Once you take a whiff, it leaves you refreshed, activated, cool and relaxed. Volatile oils that make up the grapefruit oil are easily absorbed by our body when we smell them. They reach our bloodstream and act quickly to alleviate stress and deliver the health benefits.  

Properties

Inside the body, its constituents deliver numerous powerful therapeutic benefits. Many of them have also been proven by medical studies and some are known through the anecdotal evidence catalogued by noted aromatherapists.  

  • Anti-stress – d-limonene is identified as a powerful stress reliever. [1] This is explained by its effects on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The mechanisms are complex but the effect is quite easy to observe.  
  • Gastric – Grapefruit essential oil is like a tonic for the digestive tract. It reduces gastric acid production which relieves gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It minimizes gastritis and also has a minor bactericidal activity against Heliobacter pylori bacteria. That is why it helps in ulcers and ulcerative colitis. When GERD is reduced, heartburn is also under control. [2] 
  • Weight Loss – Grapefruit essential oil may play a role in reducing the accumulation of adipose tissue (fat) in our cells which helps to reduce total body fat. [3] Smelling grapefruit essential oil is also helpful in reducing weight as it assists to lower appetite and aids in the breakdown of fats (lipolysis) which normally occurs when we are fasting. [5]  
  • Anti-anxiety – In a study, researchers were trying to identify which essential oils helped to relieve anxiety of patients about to undergo a colonoscopy. Two oils stood out – one of them was grapefruit and the other was osmanthus fragrans (known as sweet olive). [4] 
  • Antioxidant – It possesses powerful ability to fight off free radicals. However, we do not know its ORAC value which is an indicator of how powerful an antioxidant is.  
  • Hypertensive – It increases blood pressure through a mechanism that affects the nervous system. [6] 
  • Antiseptic – Its ability to kill quite a few bacteria, like E. coli makes it a disinfectant that prevents sepsis in wounds.  
  • Diuretic – It promotes urination by activating the nerves that govern the kidneys. This helps in faster elimination of toxins from our blood. Diuretic effect is commonly seen in citrus essential oils.  
  • Lymph Stimulant – massage using this essential oil promotes the drainage of toxins from our body by boosting the lymphatic circulation.  
  • Anti-Gallstone – Limonene in grapefruit essential oil dissolves out cholesterol-based gallstones from the gall bladder. [7] 
  • Cleanser – It is a natural cleanser because it dissolves out oily residue from skin, just like it dissolves cholesterol. In fact, limonene is so powerful at this that it is used to clean grease off industrial equipment. [7] 
  • Anti-inflammatory – It helps in reducing inflammation of the colon in ulcerative colitis. This effect is courtesy of limonene. [7] 
  • Natural Insecticide – Limonene in grapefruit oil kills many garden variety pests and insects. [7] 

Health Benefits and Uses

One can begin to appreciate the vast number of its medicinal properties which have proven efficacy. We must learn how to obtain these health benefits in our daily life.  

Grapefruit Essential Oil for Achieving a Healthy Weight and Waist Circumference

An abdominal massage using a 3% blend of grapefruit and cypress essential oils in a base of grapeseed oil has been found to be effective in reducing abdominal fat in post-menopausal women. [8] One can easily perform this massage at home.  

Take about 100 ml (3.5 oz) of virgin grapeseed oil and add 20 drops each of grapefruit essential oil and cypress essential oil into it. Pour this mixture into an amber colored bottle with an air tight lid and keep it in a dark, cool place. Essential oils are highly sensitive to heat and light, they undergo oxidation quickly. This should be used as a massage oil onto the waist and belly, preferably twice a day. The study recommends doing the message 5 times a week and carried on for 6 weeks.  

If someone is averse to doing massage or is in a hectic lifestyle where it becomes taxing to take out time, one can use a diffuser to infuse the aroma of grapefruit essential oil in the living quarters. Its aroma itself is sufficient as an appetite suppressant. This can be used specifically to curb some of the fast food cravings that most of us have.  

Do not use the massage and the diffusion together each day. There is a limit to the amount of essential oil that is healthy for us, beyond which it rapidly turns dangerous with serious side effects.  

Homemade Cellulite Treatment

Cellulite is mainly a condition of ageing, but it sometimes manifest in middle ages as well, which can get frustrating. It is somewhat difficult to overcome and requires a multi-dimensional approach. One of the remedies that work is a massage done with citrus essential oils right after a shower. People with cellulite should scrub their skin with coffee grounds (it is very effective) before going for a shower.  

Prepare a homemade cellulite reduction oil by adding 10 drops each of essential oils of lemon, lime, grapefruit and cypress to 100 ml of grapeseed oil as the base oil. Essential oils effectively act as a toner for the skin matrix (mainly made up of collagen and elastin) while the base oil delivers healthy fats that lower inflammation, improve skin texture and provide nutrition.  

Grapefruit essential oil for the Skin

It is quite helpful in active acne because it kills the S. aureus bacteria that often colonize sebum glands and cause acne apart from other bacteria like Propionibacterium acnes. Limonene is the chief essential oil that effects this bactericidal effect. But, even more than its bacteria exterminating ability, it helps in acne by cleansing the skin off excess facial oil.  

For acne, add about 10 drops of grapefruit essential oil to 100 ml of jojoba oil (as it is non-comedogenic). This oil blend should be used to wipe off the face in the morning, when our face is oiliest.  

As a Digestive Aid

Purest form of grapefruit essential oil marked safe for internal consumption can be used as a digestive aid. 2 drops (max) of grapefruit essential oil are to be dropped in 100 ml of water. Then drink this water once a day only. This water may alleviate ulcerative colitis and reduce the symptoms of gastritis, like nausea, acidity, heartburn and bloating. For bloating however, coriander essential oil is much more suitable. Some drinks on the market actually have a few drops of grapefruit oil to lend a zesty flavor and aroma.  

Aromatherapy

4-5 drops of grapefruit essential oil are enough in the diffuser to permeate the air. Its aroma has an uplifting effect, elevates mood, refreshes the senses through its tangy, fruity aroma but the bitter tones help to keep us grounded. The mood elevation is subtle, it is not like a euphoria.  

It blends really well with other citrus essential oils along with frankincense, patchouli, lavender and peppermint. In fact, citrus oils are the most versatile when it comes to blending, as they go well with other major aromatic classes, like floral, woody, herbaceous and resinous.  

Within aromatherapy, blending of essential oils for achieving desired results is an exciting prospect. However, it should not be carried out without a basic understanding of the chemistry of essential oils and their effects on the mind. Plus, one would also need to take into account the perfumery note of the essential oil.  

Grapefruit essential oil forms top notes of perfumes, as it evaporates out quickly. To obtain a longer lasting blend, one can use this aromatherapy blend.  

Ingredients 

  • Grapefruit essential oil – 3 drops (top note) 
  • Lemon essential oil – 2 drops (top note) 
  • Lavender essential oil – 2 drops (middle note or the “heart note” as it is called in aromatherapy) 
  • Frankincense essential oil –1 drop (base note) 

Add these essential oils in the precise quantity in 100 ml of water in the diffuser. Let the aroma pierce the living surroundings. There should be proper ventilation because we are using lavender essential oil. When this blend goes to work, one will initially have the strongest aromas of citrus, that are uplifting and refreshing. They are sort of tangy. Lavender starts to dominate the aroma with its cooling, floral and woody vibes. Then backbone of the aroma, which lasts longest is frankincense. Its resinous aroma is the most spiritual and grounding to the mind.  

Grapefruit essential oil and Hair 

It is not found to effective in promoting faster hair growth or in preventing hair loss. Better suited essential oils for promoting healthy hair growth are rosemary and peppermint. Among citrus oils, lemon essential oil would be the best option for cleansing the scalp and reducing dandruff. This may help with faster hair growth by improving blood circulation to the scalp.  

Natural Insecticide Around the House 

It is effective at repelling the following pests which are quite common. [10] 

  • Housefly (Musca domestica): The houseflies are killed by grapefruit essential oil. This helps to prevent contamination of food and thus from diseases like cholera and typhoid.  
  • Cockroaches – It effectively repels three varieties of cockroaches, viz the American cockraoch (Periplaneta americana), the German cockroach (Blatella germanica). The third one is the distinguished mahogany colored “smoky-brown” cockroach (Periplaneta fuliginosa). Cockroaches evoke a visceral reaction and it is much better not to see one any time of the day. They are a real nuisance, especially with all the flying that they can do.  
  • Aedes egypti mosquito – Grapefruit oil is toxic to this species of mosquito. They transmit the deadly yellow fever, dengue fever and the chikungunya fever.  

Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Almost 90% of grapefruit volatiles is d-limonene. Overall chemical composition of the cold pressed oil taken from redblush variety grown in Kenya is as follows.  

Volatile compound  Percentage in oil 
D-limonene  91.1% 
Alpha-terpinene  1.3% 
Alpha-pinene  0.5% 
Sesquiterpenes  0.4% 
Carbonyl compounds  2.0% 
Alcohols  1.4% 
Nootkatone  Small quantity 

Source: 9  

The shining star in its composition is the faintly present but very unique Nootkatone. This natural compound is responsible for the characteristic fragrance of grapefruit. It is extracted from the essential oil and is used singly to flavor foods so that they taste and smell like grapefruit. It is one of the costliest food flavorings out there.  

Nootkatone, when extracted becomes more concentrated in aroma. It is used to repel certain forms of ticks and mosquitoes.  

Much of the therapeutic action of grapefruit essential is due to limonene. However, there are many more unexplained health benefits which would be attributes to the other naturally found aromatics in grapefruit peel that have not yet received much attention.  

Side effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues

Grapefruit essential oil, like most citrus oils makes the skin photosensitive. Thus, one should venture out in the sun after applying it. Ideal time for applying it topically is the night. It may evoke an allergic response in a few people. Limonene is a known sensitiser of the skin and the respiratory tract, so some people may experience irritation and minor inflammation on the skin and the throat. Since it can ingested internally, one should be cautious not to take too high a dosage. A maximum of 1 drop per 100 ml of water once per day is suggested to obtain the gastric benefits.  

It can be very dangerous at high dosages. MSDS report that a dosage of 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight can be fatal. [11] 

Buying and Storage

Grapefruit can often be confused with the pomelo. There may also be adulteration of grapefruit essential oil with cheaper citrus peel oils. Therefore, one must always buy from a firm that emphasizes on purity and quality of essential oils. Many of the reputed essential oil firms do sell online, so one can buy from the comfort of their home.  

Citrus oils are amongst the cheapest of the lot because they are easy to procure and the extraction process is not very technical. Still, there can be vast differences in quality of the processing is not done as per acceptable standards. One should always prefer essential oils sold in amber colored bottles because they prevent degradation of the volatile compounds by natural sunlight. They may however be also stored in stainless steel. A few of the oils may also be safely transported in aluminum bottles. But, once it reaches your home, be proactive to transfer it into an amber colored glass bottle that is certified to hold essential oils. This is because essential oils are really powerful compounds and they will cause chemical reactions with materials like plastic and dissolve them out. Those reaction products end up in the oil, contaminating it.  

Grapefruit essential oil, like other citrus oils is quite susceptible to oxidation by heat and light. It should be preferably refrigerated at a temperature around 4 °C. It usually lasts good for 3 years.  

References

  1. Anti-stress effects of d-limonene and its metabolite perillyl alcohol. D’Alessio PA et al, Rejuvenation Research. 
  2. D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications. Sun J. Alternative Medicine Review.  
  3. Grapefruit oil attenuates adipogenesis in cultured subcutaneous adipocytes. Haze S et al, Planta Medica.  
  4. Aromatherapies using Osmanthus fragrans oil and grapefruit oil are effective complementary treatments for anxious patients undergoing colonoscopy: A randomized controlled study. Hozumi H. at al , Complementary therapies in medicine.  
  5. Olfactory stimulation with scent of grapefruit oil affects autonomic nerves, lipolysis and appetite in rats. Shen J. Neuroscience Letters.  
  6. Olfactory stimulation with scent of essential oil of grapefruit affects autonomic neurotransmission and blood pressure. Tanida M. et al, Brain Research.  
  7. D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications, PubMed-NCBI.  
  8. Effect of aromatherapy massage on abdominal fat and body image in post-menopausal women. Kim HJ, Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. 
  9. Volatile constituents of redblush grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) and pummelo (Citrus grandis) peel essential oils from Kenya.Njoroge SM et al, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.  
  10. Chapter 52 – Grapefruit (Citrus paradisii) Oils, Tzi Bun Ng et al, Essential oils in food preservation, flavor and food safety.  
  11. Grapefruit Oil, Pink CP. MSDS by naturalsourcing.com 
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