MANDARIN & TANGERINE  OIL and the Plant ~ A complete description of this part of the Citrus family with familial ties, country of origin, characteristics, body care, skin care, formulas, and recipes on how to use this oil.

Essential oil of tangerine and Mandarin from PrimaFleurBotanicals.
Photo by JeanneRose

Mandarin and Tangerine, both are Citrus reticulata Blanco var., either Mandarin or Tangerine are the LATIN BINOMIAL/BOTANICAL names while Clementine is considered Citrus x reticulata var. Clementine and is discussed elsewhere >

            If you want to twist your brain cells,  look at the incestuous crosses, backcrossing, mutations, aberrations, speciation events, hybrids, genetic mixings, varieties, groups or outgroups, rootstock changes, and terroir effects of the many Citrus types to understand the various citrus fruits, we have now.
Anywhere from 12 up to 162, different ones are accorded subspecies or varietal names. Mandarin can be called Citrus reticulata var. mandarin, and Tangerine can be called Citrus reticulata var. tangerina.  Mandarin has also been called var. deliciosa, and of course, it has other names as well.
            But as Mabberley says of citrus, “… the morphological distinctions are slight and much of the commercially significant striking degustatory distinction rests on a subtlety, the presence and relative proportions of the two stereoisomers of limonene, one of which is bitter (as in lemon), the other sweet (as in mandarin), resulting in the differing tastes (and smell) of the flesh and juice.”

By Jeanne Rose ~ November 2023

            There is a naming problem in citrus, and it is complicated by the number of edible citrus that are recognized … up to 162.



Examples of hybrid Citrus, showing their derivation from the pure founder species, from an analogous chart in Curk et al., 2016, with addition from Swingle’s original limequat report.  — Author Agricolae

FAMILY ~ Rutaceae

            NAMING ~ All Tangerines are Mandarins, but not all Mandarins are Tangerines generally, this is a difference of terroir. A Tangerine is a cultivar of the Mandarin Citrus reticulata. Despite the common name, it is just a different variety of Mandarin, Mandarin from China, and Tangerine from the Americas.

            “Asian art, especially from China and India, often features the Mandarin crowned with thin, green leaves and clinging delicately from a willowy tree. Mandarins are noted for loose skin, often referred to as “kid glove” because it’s soft and easy to peel, the Mandarin that we know is juicy and somewhat tart with seeds. The height of the winter season finds an abundance of Mandarins in the markets, often sitting next to Tangerines.”1

                  All citrus is native to Asia, the Philippines, and India, and it found its way from the orchards and the art easel across the Eur-Asian continent to Europe and then to the United States.

            INTERESTING FACTS about the Naming  ~ The name comes from the mandarins of Cochin, China, where it originates, and to whom the fruit was offered as a gift”, Essential Aromatherapy, p. 147. Mandarins or Tangerines are given at Christmas in the Christmas stocking as a stand-in for the gold coins that were a tradition. They are also given for good luck and abundance at Chinese New Year, which normally is in late January and February.

                        Tangerines, Clementine, and Satsumas are three varieties of the mandarin orange and the most popular. Because the Mandarin orange can easily be crossed with other citrus, varieties pop up in differing climates (terroir) worldwide. Growing seasons also differ, with some Tangerine harvests coming in through June.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN OF ESSENTIAL OIL ~ Good quality Mandarin oil comes from Italy, Clementine oil from Italy and the United States, and Tangerine oil from the USA.

Clementine and Mandarin fruit from two separate farms. Photo by JeanneRose

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT, & GROWTH ~ Mandarin and Tangerine are from a fruit-producing evergreen shrub with dark-green glossy leaves and fragrant flowers.

            Mandarin, Citrus reticulata (syn. C. nobilis) (Rutaceae). “The Mandarin tree comes from southern China (a Mandarin was a Chinese government official attired in a yellow dress). Today, the Mandarin fruit is mostly known as the seed-less, loosely peeled variety sometimes called Clementine, created by Pierre Clément in a lucky crossing experiment around 1900 when he was a leader of the agricultural school in Oran in Algeria.” 2

            “Mandarin groves are well-known in Sicily and are scattered throughout the provinces of Messina, Catania, and Palermo. Mandarin oil is made by collecting the fruit peel and cold-pressing.

            The oil called Green Mandarin (not ripe) is harvested from February through May; the oil called yellow Mandarin (not fully ripe) is harvested during October and November, and (fully ripe) red Mandarin oil from fruits harvested from December to January.

            Tangerine, Citrus reticulata, “Dancy Tangerine is direct from an established manufacturer (since 1985) in Florida with access to some of the freshest fruit available.”3 The largest plantings come from Florida.

            The first American tangerine was introduced to the market by the legendary citrus grower Col. Adam Dancy in 1867-1868. This acidic, richly flavored fruit immediately established a new category of citrus product in the United States – less tart than an orange, more complex and brighter than a Pomelo, and not oversweet like the Chinese Sweet Orange then in fashion.4 

            The Tangerine is just a variety of Mandarin orange and is often confused with the Clementine. They are both very close in taste and appearance but not the same fruit. Tangerines are a tropical fruit and are grown in USA climate zones 8 to 11. Standard trees that are planted outdoors will reach a height between 10 and 15 feet. Plant it where it is sunny and warm in good soil. As they grow, the tree branches may bow down, and there may be wart-like growths on the trunk. As with many citrus, they may be grown on a different rootstock. Ripe and ready to pick from February to April — the harvest season depends on terroir and may differ in different areas.

             Clementine, Citrus x reticulata, a popular stocking stuffer during the Christmas holiday, is the smallest member of this group. The honey-sweet, seedless Clementine is the most eater-friendly of the Mandarin orange types and is a subgroup of the Tangerine. Tangerine vs. Clementine qualities include a thin skin on the Clementine that is tighter than a Tangerine but so easy to peel that a child can do it. They are harvested from February to April, depending on the area.

            The differences between Mandarin and Tangerine cannot be explained by the differences in the way the oil is expressed because often identical methods are used… “The soil, climatic and cultural conditions (terroir) prevailing in the various producing sections …have a certain, perhaps a fundamental, influence upon the chemical composition and, therefore, upon the physicochemical properties of the oils.”5

Tangerine and Clementine Differences ~ Tangerines are smaller and sweeter than an Orange yet larger than a Mandarin, and they have a rind that’s darker in color. The Tangerine emigrated to America from Morocco’s port of Tangiers, from which it got its name. Tangerine qualities include a reddish-orange skin that distinguishes it from the lighter-skinned Mandarin. Tangerines are the most popular type of Mandarin, but they are more tart in taste. Like the Mandarin, Tangerines have seeds. The longer growing season puts Tangerines in the market from November through May.

“Lemon and Orange oils and other citrus oils improve after a year or two of cold storage in that some of the dissolved waxes separate from the oil and may be removed easily by filtration. The resulting oils are more soluble and produce clearer extracts. Neither odor nor flavor is impaired if the oils are kept in tin-lined fully filled drums.”5

Mandarin fruit with six oils of Mandarin and Tangerine, plus a bottle of Mandarin hydrosol.  Photo by JeanneRose

All the many Mandarin oils, Tangerine oils and Clementine oils I have collected over the years – all in one place at one time.


            For Mandarin fruit, 100 kg of whole fruit yields 750-850 g. of oil. Green Mandarin essential oil is cold pressed from the peel of unripe green fruits. Yellow Mandarin essential oil is cold pressed from the peel of partially ripened fruits. Red Mandarin essential oil is cold pressed from the peel of fully ripened, mature fruits. The scent of each of these oils is slightly different and will express this slight difference into any blends used.

            Tangerine, when using the rotary juice extractor for juice (cuts and halves and expresses the juice) and then the screw press is used to extract the peel oil, the peel yields an oil of a deep orange color and very nice odor and flavor. The yield is about 2 lb. per U.S.  ton of fruit.

            Clementine is not mentioned in Guenther’s book, and I have been unable to find an exact yield of essential oil to weight in any one of the 10 sources that were checked.

             Yield is 0.7%-0.8%. The essential oil of these citruses is either cold-pressed or sometimes steam-distilled from the peel (flavedo).

Mandarin is named in relationship to its ripeness when harvested.

THE Sensory
Color:Light yellowYellow to greenishGreen-yellowGolden orangePale yellow
Taste of EO:Sour, bitter backsourBitterSweet, sour back noteBitter, sour
Intensity of Odor from 1 – 10543-44-54
Tenacity in blend From 1-10444-54-54

ODOR DESCRIPTION ~ The scent of two of these five oils is shown in the ‘snapshot’ odor charts at the end of this post.  They are all citrus, fruity, and then with various back notes that separate them by odor. “You will know them by their odor.”7

           MANDARIN ~ The scent is certainly connected to the chemistry. Mandarin (Citrus reticulata Blanco) and the cold-pressed oils of Tangerine and Clementine contain considerable amounts of methyl N-methyl anthranilate.  According to some, if you mix this component with thymol in the correct proportions, you can duplicate a scent that is reminiscent of Mandarin. Add the terpenes of y-terpinene and –b-pinene, and you can get an even more natural scent. A-sinensal is abundant in Mandarin oil up to 0.2%.

           When Clementine from Spain was analyzed by GC/MS, several new odorants were found but ‘No single odorant emerged as being characteristic of clementine oil aroma.8

This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

SOLUBILITY ~ Mandarin is soluble in 7-10 volumes of 90% alcohol with some turbidity, and Tangerine is incompletely soluble in 95% alcohol. With some age, the waxes will separate out and can be filtered off, and the oil is more soluble.


CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ The morphological distinctions of citrus are slight …. and much of the (taste test) distinction rests on a subtlety, the presence, and relative proportions of the two stereoisomers of limonene, one of which is bitter (as in lemon), the other sweet (as in mandarin), resulting in the differing tastes (and scent) of the flesh and juice.

            “Mandarin oil is made by cold-pressing the peels of true Mandarin and has an elegant, deep, sweet, orange-like character; it is used in liqueurs and perfumery. The major odor impact compounds are the sesquiterpene aldehyde alpha-sinensal, also characterizing orange oil, and the aromatic ester methyl N-methyl anthranilate, giving the oil a neroli-like character (and a blue fluorescence).”

            “ Clementine peel oil, on the other hand, is dominated by unsaturated aliphatic aldehydes…., with an odor reminiscent of Coriander leaf and having a high tenacity on the skin, together with sinensal and linalool.”2

HISTORICAL USES ~ Mandarin/Tangerine trees’ fruit was historically used for digestive purposes.

Mandarin at the Farmers Market. Photo by JeanneRose

Photo by Jeanne Rose


GENERAL PROPERTIES of Mandarin/Tangerine Oil and Herb/Fruit

            Properties are by IG=ingestion, IN=inhalation or AP=application. By Ingestion, these citrus fruits (not the EO) are digestive, tonic, and stomachic; by inhalation, the EO is sedative, soporific, relaxant, calmative, tonic, and antispasmodic; and by application, the EO is astringent and slightly antiseptic.      


            Application ~ If you use the essential oil in your skincare products, Mandarin and Tangerine will give these products slightly astringency and be slightly antiseptic.  In a moisturizer, they will help tone and tighten skin, contributing to healthier and younger-looking skin.

            Ingestion ~ The essential oils of Clementine, Tangerine, and Mandarin are used in food products, so yes, they are used internally. But these are extremely small amounts of the EO in any product; we suggest that unless they are significantly, very highly diluted in food or in an oil, that you eat the fruits and use the oils in external blends or by inhalation.

            EMOTIONAL/ENERGETIC/MEDITATIVE USES (AP OR IN) ~ Tangerine or yellow or red Mandarin EO will soothe grief, anger, and shock and, when combined with Marjoram in a diffuser or, upon inhalation, will aid sleep.  Since Mandarin is usually more expensive than Tangerine, I suggest you use Tangerine and I suspect that Clementine will work as well as any of these.

            DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ These warm, sparkling-bright citrus oils have great value in blends to cleanse the room air and refresh the senses. They are often very calming, soothing, and relaxing.

showing a number of paperweights, and perfume bottles, photo by Jeanne Rose

JeanneRose photo of perfume bottles and paperweights

BLENDING & PERFUMERY ~ Mandarin, Tangerine, and Clementine will blend well with all other citrus and can feminize the deep Chypre blends, warm-up woody blends, and work to brighten any floral blend. These three can be used with resins and Mediterranean herbs such as Marjoram, Lavender, and Rosemary,  and they are an important part of most top notes in fine perfumery.     For a crisp scent, use green Mandarin or green Lemon; for warmer heart notes, use the riper citrus such as yellow or red Mandarin and Tangerine.

Think shiny suits, cigarette smoke, martinis,
big flashy cars and brunettes
TOP NOTE – 68-78
58 d Elemi
10 d. Green Mandarin
10 d green Lemon
10 d Cocoa abs
18 d Black Pepper
28 d Jasmine sambac abs
22 Rose abs
4 d Tobacco
2 d Juniper (Juniperus communis)
12 d Cinnamon
16 d Zdravetz
48 d Sandalwood
(I prefer New Caledonia Sandalwood here)

HYDROSOL ~ I have been having a fine time using Mandarin hydrosol in my bath to soothe the skin and on my face as a toner. I have also used a teaspoon full in my tea in the afternoon and tried a bit in coffee to take the edge off the tannins. The citrus hydrosols are readily available in season or by special order from various companies.

HERBAL USE OF THESE FRUITS AND PEELS ~ When you use citrus, there are many ways that all parts can be used. You can squeeze and drink the juice, then dry the peel for potpourri; you can eat the fruit and collect the peels to hydro-distill for a lovely hydrosol, or you can slice and dry the fruit and use it for decorations on your Christmas tree or in your winter potpourri. The dried slices of any citrus look very festive on a Christmas tree, and then when Christmas is over, the slices can be used to scent your potpourri; if there is enough scent left, they can be tinctured for perfume. I don’t think I would eat them at this point as they would have been in the air for over two weeks and will smell rather ‘tired.’

dried Mandarin slices

Dried Mandarin slices – I hang these on the Christmas tree for scent and color.

            Food Usage ~ TESTED AGAINST MICROORGANISMS ~ The essential oils from peels of Mandarin and Clementine were examined and tested. “Among the tested microorganisms, the oils were very active against Candida albicans, Escherichia coli, Lysteria innocua, Methicillin-Resistant S. aureus, and Staphylococcus aureus with an inhibition zone varied from 9.16 to 27.63 mm. … All citrus oils studied exhibited antioxidant activity as DPPH free radical scavenger and reducing power in dose-dependent manner. Mandarin oil showed the strongest activity compared to Clementine and the Wilking cultivar essential oils.

The oils may be recommended as safe plant-based antimicrobials as well as antioxidants for enhancement of shelf life of food commodities.”6

KEY USE ~ The fruit as a food and the essential oil as a sleeping aid.


Tangerine & Green Mandarin

Read The Aromatherapy Book, Chapter 3, pages 63-66 and 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols,
Chapter 3, pages 27-31. These two books will assist you in learning how to describe odors. Available at

 The limbic system is the seat of memory and learning. Smell from the left nostril and then to the right nostril. The right nostril (right brain-creative) is important in detecting and evaluating the intensity of odor, and this hints at a broad olfactory asymmetry, and the left nostril (left brain or logical) is for smelling location or place.

First Smell and 2nd Smell. “Lurking in the olfactory epithelium, among the mucus-exuding cells, are cells that are part of the system that innervates the face (trigeminal nerve).  It is suspected that pungent and putrid molecules penetrate them, interact with their proteins, and stimulate them to fire.  Thus, there are two types of olfaction: first smell, the ordinary type for specific odors, and second smell for nonspecific pungency and putridity.”

There is also left brain and right brain smell-ability. The left brain smells location (maybe via logical use of EMG waves), while the right brain smells intensity. The closer you get – the more intense the odor.

References to articles

5 Guenther: THE ESSENTIAL OILS, volume III, Citrus oils: Krieger. 1949.
6 Chemical profile, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Citrus reticulata and Citrus clementina (L.) essential oils, International Food Research Journal 24(4) · August 2017
7 Jeanne Rose lectures and “Natural Perfumery” workbook
6 Chemical profile, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of Citrus reticulata and Citrus clementina (L.) essential oils, International Food Research Journal 24(4) · August 2017
7 Jeanne Rose lectures and “Natural Perfumery” workbook
8 Characterization of the major odorants found in the peel oil of Clementine. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 04 July 2003.

Copeland, Dawn. Essential Oil Profiles. Aromatherapy Studies Course. 2000.
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol
Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 Third Edition with 2014 updates, Cambridge University Press
Ohloff, Günther:  Scent and Fragrances: Springer-Verlag. 1990. Translated by Pickenhagen and Lawrence
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols
Rose, Jeanne. Natural Botanical Perfumery Workbook. 2000
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations

Safety Precautions information

WHAT IS THE ‘X’ FOR IN THE NAME ~ Hybrids have an ‘x’ between the genus name and the species name. “Hybrids either get their parents’ names with an ‘x’ in between parent names (mother listed first), or a brand-new species epithet preceded by an ‘x.’  The name for the orange can be listed as Citrus maxima x Citrus reticulata or Citrus x aurantium.  You often see the name Citrus sinensis or Citrus x sinensis for oranges, but those are synonym names that should not be used anymore.”


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