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Mandarin Oil

Citrus reticulata - family Rutaceae


The fruit was a traditional gift to the Mandarins of ancient China from whom it borrowed its name. The fruit itself originated in China and the dried peel was an important part of traditional medicine.
It is now cultivated in other warm climates including Brazil, Spain, Cypress, Greece, Sicily, Texas and California.
Synonyms include Citrus nobilis, Citrus deliciosa and Citrus madurensis.


Mandarin is a member of the orange family, but is typically a smaller and more spreading tree, with smaller leaves and fruits which are slightly flattened. The tree grows to a height of 5m and has alternate dark green ovate leaves with fragrant white or pink star-shaped flowers.

Tangerine is a hybrid of mandarin, and is a larger, rounder yellow fruit which offer a different chemical composition.

Satsuma is another variety of Mandarin.


Mandarin essential oil is typically a golden yellow or greenish liquid with an intense bitter sweet, fruity and tangy fragrance with an uplifting and cheerful odour. The yield is approximately 0.7% and is cold pressed from the rind of the fresh fruit, thus preserving the large non-volatile coumarin-type compounds which account for the photosensitizing effect of many citrus oils. As the mandarin fruits ripen, the coumarin compounds decompose under the influence of UV light. So fruits that are harvested late contain fewer or none of these compounds. Red mandarin peel oil is normally free of photosensitising coumarins for this reason. In perfumery, Mandarin consists primarily of
top notes, with a few middle notes.

Kurt Schnaubelt explains: Citrus peel oils are composed of very high proportions of monoterpene hydrocarbons, particularly limonene and a rich cocktail of trace components responsible for the complexity and depth of their fragrances. GC-MS analysis in the mid 1980s detected 153 compounds in mandarin oil.
The main chemical constituents are monoterpenes including limonene (67-74%) and terpinolene(16-21%); aldehydes including geraniol, neral and citronellal; alcohols (nonanol and linalool), trace amounts of coumarins and furocoumarins, and numerous trace compounds.


Aerial antiseptic, antispasmodic, cheering, sedative, soothing, stomachic, tonic, unwinding, uplifting.


Mandarin is popular in France as a safe children’s remedy for indigestion and hiccups and it is also used with the elderly as it is believed to strengthen the digestive functions and the liver.

The refreshing aroma has an uplifting effect and makes a good choice for those who are feeling anxious or depressed. According to Patricia Davis, ‘Its delicate aroma breathes a message of happiness, especially to children or the child that is within each of us. It helps us to get in touch with that inner child’.

Useful for indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and flatulence and tummy spasms, tired and aching limbs, poor circulation in the extremities. A digestive tonic which calms the intestines, and aids in the secretion of bile and breaking down of fats. It activates the stomach and liver.
It is a mild sedative for the nervous system and helps to soothe and relax the nerves, making it a useful addition to a blend for insomnia.

It is a useful skin tonic encouraging circulation and reduction of stretch marks during pregnancy. It is also one of the safe oils to use on babies and infants so should be included in every therapist’s toolkit.

Writes Kurt Schnaubelt, in Medical Aromatherapy,’ True mandarin is distinguished from tangerine (from Florida) by the presence of small amounts of N-methylanthranilate, a nitrogen-containing ester, with pronounced relaxing qualities. This compound is not present in tangerine oil. It is a useful antispasmodic for cardiovascular, digestive and respiratory systems. It soothes restlessness, especially in the hyperactive children, and calms the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and ameliorates stubborn patterns of insomnia in combination with orange oil.’
In Oriental Medicine, the oil is classified as cool and dry. It is used to regulate Qi in the Stomach, intestines and Liver. It relaxes the nerve and calms the Shen as well as gently tonifying the Spleen and Stomach Qi and clearing Damp-Heat.

The psychological action of Mandarin is very similar to Sweet Orange and Bergamot in that it is indicated for nervous tension, irritability, frustration and depression. It suits people who suffer from chronic worry, guilt or depression and rarely take time to relax or play. Mandarin’s sweet aroma reminds us all about the inner child within who needs to engage from time to time in leisure and carefree joy.


Mandarin blends well with the other citrus oils as well as chamomile, black pepper, jasmine, ylang-ylang, clary sage, lavender and sweet marjoram.

It makes a good addition to a room fragrance in hospices where it adds a cheery uplifting fragrance. Its antiseptic nature makes it a cheerful choice when one is suffering from colds or flu, when a few drops can be added to a diffuser.

It is particularly enjoyed by children, who find the sweet fragrance reminiscent of sweets so can be added to their baths, a diffuser or to a massage blend with orange and jojoba.

It is one of the few oils that can be safely used with babies and has been found to be helpful with colic of hiccups. Dilute 1 drop in 10ml of base oil such as jojoba and gently rub the tummy in clockwise direction. For infants (1-5 years) use 2 drops per 10ml of base oil, for children (6-12 years) use 3 drops, and for adults use 6 drops per 10ml base oil.

It is also suitable for use in pregnancy to rub over the belly to reduce or prevent stretch marks. Dilute in a blend or rosehip, argan, borage and jojoba oils for this purpose.


  • Subtle Aromatherapy by Patricia Davis
  • Medical Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt
  • ITHMA Course Notes
  • Aromatherapy for Everyone by Jan Kusmirek
  • The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia