Lemon essential oil is an aromatic oil made from lemon peels. Essential oils are pure extractions of the chemicals in plants that give them their smell. Their applications include aromatherapy, cosmetics, and the fragrances for home care products. Lemon essential oil has a fresh, clean scent, and it is often used in homemade or green cleaning products.
Plants use the chemicals in their essential oils to ward off predators, attract pollinators, produce nutrition for themselves, or to make the soil around themselves inhospitable to competing plants. Essential oils can be extracted from the seeds, leaves, stems, flowers, or roots. Extraction methods include steam distillation, solvent extraction with alcohol or carbon dioxide, or cold-pressing.
Lemon essential oil and other citrus oils are generally extracted by cold-pressing. The peel is removed from the fruit and soaked in hot water to soften it. One method of removing the oil is to place a sponge against the yellow part of the rind and squeeze it until the sponge is saturated with the oil. Another method involves rolling lemon peels in a machine filled with pins, which rupture the oil cells and allow the oil to fall into a bowl. Today, most lemon essential oil is extracted by machine abrasion. The machine scrapes the rind off the pith then moves it into a spinner that forces the oil out.
In aromatherapy, lemon essential oil is used to reduce fevers, increase circulation, and relieve pain from headaches or arthritis. It is also believed to aid concentration and improve mood. The oil can be inhaled or applied to the skin. Some type of diffuser is used to inhale the oil, such as placing a small bowl over a candle or placing a few drops in a bowl of boiling water. If the oil is applied to skin, it is always diluted with a carrier oil like olive oil or sweet almond oil. Lemon oil used neat can cause irritation or allergic reactions.
Lemon essential oil alone or mixed with other oils is a popular fragrance for hair care, skin care, and bath products. It has some mild antiseptic qualities, so it might be used to clean minor wounds and improve acne. It also might be used as a food additive for flavoring. Lemon oil cuts grease, so it may be used with ecologically-friendly cleaning products such as vinegar to clean kitchen counters. It can also disinfect bathroom surfaces.