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Study: Breathing In Orange Essential Oil Lowers Cortisol Levels By 84% — and So Counters Both Stress & Carb Cravings

Naturopathic physician: "I've witnessed firsthand the transformative power of this remedy!"

There’s something comforting about walking into a room that smells good. Pleasant scents can be instant mood boosters or stress melters, depending on the scent and the feelings and memories we associate with it. And the scent of essential oils can be even more powerful. Case in point: orange essential oil. The oil, which is extracted from the rinds of oranges, has a sweet, citrusy aroma that smells exactly like a freshly peeled orange, and it’s been linked to numerous health perks, from a sunnier mood to a slimmer body. Read on to discover 6 orange essential oil benefits along with expert advice on how to get the most out from this healing oil.

Oranges piled up with one cut in half to reveal its fragrant essential oil
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6 orange essential oil benefits

Simply inhaling the invigorating scent of orange essential oil has numerous study-proven benefits. “In my practice, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of this aromatic remedy,” says Lulu Shimek, ND, a naturopathic physician at Kale Diagnostics, a holistic medicine practice. Perhaps the most powerful perk of this oil is its ability to boost brainpower. Indeed, in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers at UC Irvine found that people who inhaled the scent of a blend of six essential oils, including orange essential oil, improved cognitive performance by 226%. (Click through to read more about that study and how essential oils can improve focus and memory and to discover the benefits of eucalyptus oil.)

But it turns out orange oil alone has standalone perks, too! Here are six benefits you can start enjoying today:

1. Orange essential oil eases anxiety

“Orange essential oil is a natural and fragrant antidote to anxiety, offering a sense of tranquility even on the most stressful days,” says Dr. Shimek. “With its high limonene content, this oil has shown promise in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and stress.” The proof: A study in the journal Advanced Biomedical Research found that smelling orange essential oil dramatically reduced cortisol levels associated with anxiety and stress in children. Their research looked at patients undergoing a simple dental procedure and found that those in the group that had the orange aromatherapy decreased their cortisol levels by 84%, plus saw an 82% drop in pulse rate. (Click through for more ways to lower cortisol in the morning so you feel less stressed all day.)

2. It dials down carb cravings

High levels of cortisol, which spikes with stress, increases hunger hormones and drives up sugar cravings. “Cortisol is a bully, and if it is high, it impacts all the hormones in our bodies,” says women’s health expert Sara Gotttfried, MD. “As you rush from task to task, your cortisol levels climb even higher, causing cravings for sugar. There’s no doubt about it.”

Indeed, a Yale University study found folks with high cortisol levels experienced stronger cravings for sweets. And not surprisingly, they gained 89% more weight in a six-month period compared to their lower-cortisol counterparts. So the study finding above that simply breathing in orange essential oil cuts cortisol levels by 84% suggests that it also slashes sugar and carb cravings.

3. Orange essential oil quells pain

A study in the Indian Journal of Palliative Care suggests the aroma of orange essential oil can reduce pain. In their study, patients who were in a hospital emergency room for treatment of broken bones who had a pad containing four drops of the oil pinned to their collars experienced significantly lower levels of pain than other patients who weren’t given the oil.

4. It improves your mood

Happy mature woman leaning on railing under cloudy sky (orange essential oil benefits.)
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“Orange essential oil has compounds that have an uplifting and mood-boosting effect on the body and has been shown to help reset something in the body called the HPA axis, which refers to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain, as well as the adrenal glands in the abdomen,” explains natural health expert Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, creator of The Essential Oils Healing Deck. Indeed, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that inhaling the scent of orange essential oil significantly reduced signs of depression in subjects, plus adjusted levels of brain hormones that play a key role in mood and depression.

5. Orange essential oil sends energy soaring

Scientists reporting in the journal Molecules say the 26 aromatic compounds in orange oil stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to a burst of energy, plus increase glucose and fat burn in muscle tissue, doubling energy and stamina for almost two hours per sniff. Plus, you can get the perk even if you don’t have a vial of the oil handy by simply nibbling a few slices of orange or sipping a little OJ. (Click through for expert advice on nervous system regulation and how it can help you feel your best.)

5. It makes it easy to bounce back from stress

(orange essential oil benefits.) Happy woman at home lying on couch
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When we’re under chronic, constant stress, it can be difficult to set aside those niggling worries when it’s time to relax. The good news: Orange essential oil can help. A recent study in the Journal of Building Engineering examined the use of orange essential oil during work breaks and how it helped people relax. They found that when participants took a break in a room where orange essential oil was being diffused, their heart rate variability (the time interval between heartbeats that’s a measure of how well your body handles stress) increased by up to 48%, helping them set aside their stress and take advantage of their moment to breathe. And this is in addition to the cortisol reduction cited above. (Click through for The ‘Three Good Things’ Approach Is The Simple Balm You Need If You’re Burned Out.)

6. Orange essential oil prevents weight gain

Animal research suggests that ingesting orange essential oil may even be a smart strategy for people trying to lose weight. In a study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, overweight rats given an orange essential oil capsule for 15 days gained 41% less weight than rats that didn’t get the capsule, plus they experienced meaningful changes in the makeup of liver and fat tissue. The researchers explain that orange essential oil impacts levels of proteins, hormones and hormone receptors in the body that improve your ability to lose weight.  

How to get orange essential oil benefits

There are two primary ways to use essential oils: diffusing them and inhaling the aroma and applying them topically.

Get the benefits with a diffuser

Aromatherapy Concept. Aroma oil diffuser on chair against in the bedroom. Air freshener. Ultrasonic aroma diffuser for home (orange essential oil benefits.)
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“Inhalation of the oils works quickly through the olfactory system, meaning the nerves in the nose detect the compounds and quickly transmit signals to the brain,” Schoffro Cook. “This is the fastest method of reaping the benefits of the oils.” And while you could just open the bottle and take a few whiffs, experts agree that pouring it into a diffuser ensures you’re exposed to the scent for a longer time.

To do: Simply add a few drops of orange essential oil to a diffuser, like the InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser (Buy on Amazon, $13.99) and let it mist the fragrance into the room. Generally, you’ll want to diffuse the room for at least 15 to 20 minutes to get the full benefits.

Get the benefits by applying it to your skin

woman applying essential oil to her skin; orange essential oil benefits
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When you apply the oil topically, the beneficial compounds travel through the skin. “Applying the oils to the skin can have a beneficial effect to whatever part of the body it is being applied to, and some of the compounds travel directly through the skin where they have access to the blood and can travel throughout the body to induce healing effects,” Schoffro Cook explains.

To do: “To apply an essential oil topically, you would mix 1 to 3 drops of the oil with half a teaspoon of a carrier oil like coconut oil or mineral oil (this allows you to cover a large area without applying too much of the essential oil, since some can be harsh on the skin) and rub it onto your skin like perfume.”

What to look for when buying orange essential oil

“I encourage people to buy essential oils directly from the company making the oils or from their local health food store as there are many products on the market that have been adulterated,” Schoffro Cook says. She adds that many of the products sold in department stores or online shops are fragrance oils, not essential oils, and there is a big difference. “At best, they won’t work because they don’t contain any of the therapeutic ingredients, only synthetic versions of them,” she explains. “At worst, they are often toxic and can have harmful effects on a person’s health.”

Look for a brand backed by third-party testing that discloses where their oils come from and specifies the beneficial compounds that it contains. Some we like: Young Living Orange Essential Oil (buy at YoungLiving.com, $16.45 for a 0.5-oz bottle) and Rocky Mountain Oils Orange Essential Oil (buy at RockyMountailOils.com, $8.95 for a 0.5-oz bottle).


For more on essential oils, click through the links below!

Study: The Fragrance of Sandalwood Essential Oil Activates Your Hair Follicles To Grow Longer, Thicker Hair

This $9 Essential Oil Helps Keep Jane Seymour Looking Youthful

Essential Oils for Weight Loss: 6 Study-Proven Ways to Lose Belly Fat — No Diet Required!

This $6 Essential Oil Helps Soothe Cold Sores, Nix Joint Pain, and Cure Your Runny Nose

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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