Citrus essential oils are so versatile. They differ from other essential oils in that they are not steam distilled. Here are the facts about how citrus oils are obtained, as well as cautions and benefits of these oils.

Are citrus oils true essential oils?

Cold pressing is the method of extraction for most citrus oils. They are not steam distilled because the heat can damage some of the constituents and affect the potency of the resulting oil.

By definition, an essential oil is the aromatic natural essence of a plant that gives it it’s fragrance. Some people argue that oils have to be steam distilled to be true essential oils. However, it really just depends on which definition you use. Citrus oils are aromatic and contain the essence of the plant from which they come. We also use them just like other steam distilled oils. 

Cold Pressing

Cold pressing, or expression, is a mechanical process of pressing the essential oil from the rind of the fruit. A machine pierces and crushes the rinds, while a centrifuge collects the resulting oil. From there, the centrifuge spins the liquid to separate the oil from the plant pulp and liquid. During cold pressing, some naturally occurring waxes may accompany the essential oil.

Special Precautions for Citrus Oils


The waxy residues in citrus oils can harm some diffusers. Check the instructions that came with you diffuser for warnings. You can eliminate most problems with proper care and cleaning of your diffuser.


Most citrus oils are phototoxic. Phototoxicity is a toxic response from a substance applied to the body which is either elicited or increased after subsequent exposure to light. A phototoxic reaction can range from sunburn to blistering. 

Furocoumarins and coumarins are the primary culprits when it comes to phototoxicity. These chemical constituents absorb ultraviolet light and intensify the affect on the skin. Avoid using citrus oils topically for several hours before going out in the sun. Certain citrus oils are more phototoxic than others. Below is a list of oils considered phototoxic:

  • Angelica
  • Bergamot
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon 
  • Lime
  • Petitgrain
  • Rue


While allergies to essential oils are uncommon, they are definitely not impossible. Cold pressing does not remove furocoumarins and other chemicals that may cause sensitivity. Therefore, a person who is allergic to oranges or other citrus fruits will very likely be allergic to the corresponding essential oil.


Unlike steam distilled essential oils, citrus oils are very prone to oxidation. Exposure to light or oxygen can degrade certain chemical compounds. This can affect the aroma and efficacy of the essential oil.

While most essential oils can tolerate heat, take special care to keep your cold-pressed oils out of the hot car or other areas where temperatures may reach 90° or above. Additionally, keep the bottles tightly capped. It is also a good idea to combine partial bottles of the same oil to reduce the amount of open air space in the bottle. These precautions will prolong the life of your cold pressed oils. If an essential oil smells like it has gone bad after exposure to heat, you may consider discarding the oil as chemical degradation can affect the efficacy of an oil and may generate new, hazardous compounds into the oil.

5 Great Uses for Citrus Oils


Citrus oils have a bright fragrance that can uplift mood and increase energy.  They can also promote mental focus and clarity.


Many common compounds in essential oils, such as limonene, help to combat free radicals.


Try adding a few drops of a citrus oil in your drinking water or other beverage. (Make sure you are not using a plastic bottle, as the oil can degrade the plastic.) You may also choose to add citrus oils in recipes in place of fruit juice or rind.

Superb Air Freshener

Diffuse several drops of your favorite citrus oil to eliminate odors from your house or car. A cotton ball with a few drops of oil freshens shoes, drawers, or other areas. To refresh a smelly refrigerator, combine 1/4 cup of baking soda and 4-8 drops of citrus oil in a small container. Leave open in the fridge for several hours.

Clean Produce

Soak produce in water with several drops of citrus oil to clean and remove the waxy residue from your fruits and vegetables. 

Citrus Oils are So Versatile

There are dozens of other uses for citrus oils. What are your favorite ways to use them?

For more ideas, be sure to check out my Top 10 Uses for Lemon Essential Oil

For even more essential oil and natural health and wellness education, come and check out !