Petitgrain: A Surprising Citrus Aromatic

This month Soli is releasing a beautiful collection of 4 distinct petitgrain essential oils: sweet-lime, rough lemon, orange and mandarin. Each are sourced from our community partner Camino Verde, a rainforest regeneration project in the southern Amazon region of Peru. You may be asking what are petitgrain oils? In this blog post we aim to answer all your questions about this rare and historical citrus oil. 

How are petitgrain essential oils distilled? Petitgrain essential oils are steam-distilled from the oval-shaped leaves, buds and small branches of citrus trees or shrubs. The genus Citrus first evolved in the foothills of the Himalayas approximately 7 million years ago and belongs to the plant family Rutaceae.

How would you describe a petitgrain scent compared to other citrus oils? This family includes members characterized by very fragrant, and typically white, flowers.

Although there are 151 accepted genera in this family, Citrus is the most economically important because of the worldwide trade of lemons, limes, mandarins and oranges. That is why the family Rutaceae is also commonly known, as the citrus family.

What makes a Petitgrain a Petitgrain? The source of petitgrain oil which are leaves, buds, and small branches is contradicted in the name ‘petitgrain’ itself. It comes from the fact that at one time, the oil was extracted from small green unripe citrus fruits. The peels of citrus fruit are also a source of amazing essential oils, however, they differ from petitgrain essential oils in chemistry, fragrance, safety, and in extraction method because they can be extracted via cold expression as well. Similarly, essential oils sourced from citrus blossoms can differ in chemistry, fragrance, safety and extraction methods compared to citrus peel and petitgrain essential oils.

Although there are several types of petitgrain oils, the petitgrain oil of the bitter orange tree is referred to simply as petitgrain or petitgrain bigrade, not bitter orange (Citrus aurantium var. amara) petitgrain. However, unique petitgrains from southern Peru featured by Soli include and are referred to as, rough lemon (Citrus jambhiri) petitgrain, sweet lime (Citrus limetta) petitgrain, mandarin (Citrus reticulata) petitgrain, and orange (Citrus sinensis) petitgrain.

These amazing evergreen citrus trees are hybrids involving the three original, or ancestral Citrus species (mandarin, pomelo, and citron) and other Citrus species over the last several thousand years. For this reason, all these petitgrains come from citrus trees that share a common ancestor, and all are extracted from leaves, buds and small branches. They are unique in their fragrance, chemistry, and uses. Other impacts on variation among the petitgrain oils include their geographic origin, and even the age and freshness of the leaves when distilled. 

Rough Lemon Petitgrain
Rough Lemon (Citrus jambhiri) petitgrain oil is an uplifting petitgrain with an ethereal overtone and a sweet-woody undertone fragrance profile. It refreshes, comforts, and transcends any mood. Its primary chemical constituents are limonene and sabinene. Inhaled, this oil can elicit a stimulating effect for protection of the entire system. Used in a carrier oil when applied locally, it can help move soreness away, and can keep fungal pathogens at bay. There is a low risk of skin sensitization with this oil if applied to the skin within the recommended maximum dermal use level of 0.6%. Avoid old or oxidized oils.  
Rough Lemon Petitgrain oil blends well with other petitgrain oils, Clary Sage, Vetiver, Lavender Hemus, Lavender Maillette, Fine AOP Lavender, Lemongrass, Palo Santo, Rosemary, Frankincense Carteri, Nerolina, and Eucalyptus. 

Sweet Lime (Citrus limetta) petitgrain oil is a pleasantly clean and fresh smelling petitgrain with overtones of lemon and orange. Energetically, this petitgrain instills a feeling of cheer, cleanliness, and balance. Nearly 42% of its chemical profile is made up of linalool, and nearly 20% of linalyl acetate.  These two constituents are also found in true lavender, lavender hemus, and lavender maillette, which research has shown help to relax the body and mind when the oil is diffused, inhaled, or combined with full-body massage. Through local massage this oil can also support overworked and aging muscles, as well as nurture skin that needs a little TLC. There are no known hazards or contraindications. 
Sweet Lime Petitgrain oil blends well with other petitgrains, Fine AOP Lavender, Lavender Maillette, Frankincense Sacra, White Grapefruit, Rosemary, Tea Tree, and Ylang Ylang.

Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) petitgrain oil carries a sweet fruity overtone and a bitter cocoa undertone fragrance profile. Energetically, this petitgrain warms the heart and breathes life into feeling comforted and nurtured. Its chemistry differs to that of the essential oil extracted from the mandarin peel in that its primary chemical constituent is linalool, and it contains three times less limonene than the peel oil. This petitgrain oil has historically been used to help reduce feelings of worry and to bring a sense of calm internally and externally. When combined with massage it can help to ease irritation and swelling and when diffused it  can help to create a healthier space. Bear in mind that there is a moderate phototoxic risk with this oil if applied to the skin above the recommended maximum dermal use level of 0.17%. If exceeded, wait at least 12 hours before exposing the skin to sunlight or sunbed rays.
Mandarin Petitgrain oil blends beautifully with other petitgrains, Fine AOP Lavender, Lavender Hemus, Ylang Ylang, Blue Cypress, Rosalina, and White Grapefruit. 

Orange (Citrus sinensis) petitgrain oil has an aromatic hint of fruity-green and an orange blossom overtone fragrance profile. Its fragrance, reminiscent of a summer orchard, energetically relaxes, revives, and harmonizes. Its chemistry differs to that of the essential oil of the peel; it contains nearly 30% sabinene, up to eight times less limonene, and contains roughly 10% delta-3-carene. 
Historically, this oil has been used to help clear the lungs and to help reduce bacterial infections. Like the oil expressed from the peel, when inhaled or distilled, this oil helps to settle and restore the entire system. When combined in massage, this oil helps to quiet screaming muscles and to combat fungal invasions. There is a low risk of skin sensitization with this oil if applied to the skin within the recommended maximum dermal use level of 0.6%.
Orange Petitgrain oil blends well with other petitgrains, Fine AOP Lavender, Lavender Hemus, Lavender Maillette, Palo Santo, Moena, Patchouli, Frankincense Neglecta and Geranium.

Petitgrain essential oils represent the world of aromatherapy and perfumery in aromatically pleasing ways. Their exceptional rarity coupled with their many benefits are equally impressionable. We would agree with Khang Kijarro Nguyen who said, “an unfurling leaf is one of nature's greatest gifts.”

 Try any of our Soli Petitgrain oils here.

Our Favorite Recipes Featuring Petitgrain Oils:

Calm Diffuser Cocktail
Lavender Hemus 2 drops
Lavender Fine AOP 2 drops
Orange Petitgrain 2 drops


Sunshine Diffuser Cocktail
Orange Petitgrain 3 drops
White Grapefruit 3 drops
Rough Lemon Petitgrain 3 drops
Lavender 1 drop
Sunkist Diffuser Cocktail
Rough Lemon Petitgrain 3 drops
Orange Petitgrain  2 drops
White Grapefruit  4 drops
Citrus Diffuser Cocktail
 Sweet Lime Petitgrain 3 drops
Rough Lemon Petitgrain 2 drops 
 Mandarin Petitgrain 2 drops
 White Grapefruit 3 drops
Refrigerator Cleaning Spray
8 oz (240 ml) spray bottle 3% dilution
Orange Petitgrain  48 drops
Rosemary 48 drops
Lemon Petitgrain 48 drops
Grain alcohol 2 oz
Water 5.5 to 6 oz
Safety: do not apply on or near the face or on the body of children



 Dugo, G., & Di Giacomo, A. (2002). Citrus. The genus citrus. Taylor & Francis.

 Rhind, J. P. (2019). Essential oils: A comprehensive handbook for aromatic therapy. Singing Dragon. 

 The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries, & Australian National Botanic Gardens. (2021). International Plant Names Index.

Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety: A guide for health care professionals

(2nd ed.). Elsevier.