Lately I’ve found myself sprinkling essential oil of orange here and there in the house. It seems suited to winter because something about the scent is both summery and wintery all at once.

Oranges fit with Christmas and New Year’s, but they also evoke refreshing memories of warm sunshine and the bounty of fruit trees in green places. There is a celebratory quality about the color and fragrance of the orange. It makes one happy.

Folk medicine has long prescribed the orange as an antidote to depression. The orange, believed to be native to the tropical regions of Asia, was used as a medicine in China and the Arab world during the Middle Ages. Many parts of the orange are used in herbalism, cosmetics, perfumery and cooking. The fruit itself along with the peel and the flower all have their uses. The fruit is full of vitamins C, A and B. So, if you do nothing else with it, simply eating an orange brings ample benefits.

The flower of the bitter orange, Citrus aurantium, yields the exquisitely scented oil of neroli, which is used by aromatherapists to treat anxiety and depression. The oil is said to be an aphrodisiac, antiseptic, sedative and tonic as well. The flower is a bridal symbol associated with love, beauty and happiness.

The oil of the fruit and peel of the Citrus aurantium is also an antidepressant, a sedative and tonic mood-booster like its floral sister. It is as well a digestive stimulant and a diuretic, an energy revitalizer and an expectorant. It also symbolizes generosity and gratitude.

The oil of the tangerine (Citrus reticulata Blanco) is used as a diuretic, a digestive remedy and an expectorant, but is perhaps most appreciated as a stimulator of ki, or qi, the vital energy of the body. A bath in which fresh tangerines or dried tangerine peel floats is warming and spiritually regenerating, prescribed in China and Japan for anyone who is under the weather, fatigued or otherwise suffering from the blues.

Both neroli and orange oil have many medicinal applications and are said to help cure everything from obesity to viruses to heart palpitations. In beauty, both oils are particularly recognized for their power to fight wrinkles. To soften dry skin, add a drop or two of neroli oil to an ordinary moisturizing cream. If you wish to dry your own tangerine peels for use in the bath, choose organic fruit that will not have been treated with pesticides, and allow the peels to dry in an arid, shady place.

Incorporate orange into your cooking in new ways too: Try a happiness-inducing drop or two of orange oil or a calming splash of orange flower water in tea, or add a drop of orange oil to an ounce of freshly ground black pepper; mix well, close tightly for a few days, then use as you would pepper.

Sufferers of arthritis or migraines, however, may find oranges aggravate their symptoms and thus are advised to avoid them if this is the case. Pregnant women must exercise caution with the bitter orange, as it has been known to stimulate contractions.

But for everyone else, may oranges bring you happiness, peace and put a little summer in your spirit!

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