NEROLI. ~ A description of Bitter Orange/Neroli flower, characteristics, Jeanne Rose skincare,  formulas, and recipes on how to use this famous, important oil. Who is Neroli? “By the end of the 17th century, Anne Marie Orsini, the princess of Nerola, Italy, introduced the essence of bitter Orange tree flowers as a fashionable fragrance by using it to perfume her gloves and her bath. Since then, the term “neroli” has been used to describe this essence.”

NEROLI. Essential Oil/Hydrosol Profile

By Jeanne Rose ~ November 2023

Bitter Orange tree with leaves and flowers, flowers superimposed and 2 bottles of Neroli shown. Always know the color of the essential oil and the look of the plant.

Pretty Neroli oil

NEROLI. NAME & Scientific Name ~ CITRUS X  AURANTIUM L,  also called C. amara, C. aurantium ssp. Amara, C. iyo. It Is a cross between Citron and of C. reticulata (Mandarin) + C. maxima (Pomelo) as the female parent.  The ‘x’ in the middle of any Latin binomial simply means that the plant is a cross and in this case several types of Citrus were crossed to eventually become “Bitter Orange”.   There are many backcrosses in this group of Bitter Orange/Neroli.

            To see a chart of the five pure origin Citrus genus,
please see the post.

NEROLI NAMING HISTORY ~ Who is Neroli? “By the end of the 17th century, Anne Marie Orsini, the princess of Nerola, Italy, introduced the essence of bitter Orange tree as a fashionable fragrance by using it to perfume her gloves and her bath. Since then, the term “neroli” has been used to describe this essence.”

FAMILY ~ Rutaceae, the Citrus family

Neroli Limerick
There is a citrus flower Neroli
It is grown in the Garden Filoli
It rings all my bells
With such heavenly smells
And sure, makes me feel all holy! … JeanneRose2012

NEROLI. HISTORY & COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~  Native to Europe and Siberia naturalized worldwide.

         It seems that the bitter or sour orange is a native of China in the southeastern part of Asia. From there it spread out to India and Iran. The Romans did not know it and it was introduced to the Mediterranean area  around 1000 A.D. by the Arabs, and this bitter Orange was the only one known for about 500 years. Did those expert distillers and alchemists, the Moors, distill bitter Orange to get the water or the essential oil?  We don’t know. The lovely Neroli oil was first mentioned by J.B. della Porta in 1563 for the Princess of Neroli.

bitter Orange flowers

NEROLI. BITTER ORANGE. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH ~ The bitter Orange tree that produces Neroli essential oil is very close in appearance to the sweet Orange. However, they may look similar but the fruit they produce is different. Bitter Orange produces a bitter flesh and pungent sweet essential oil from the flower (called Neroli) while sweet Orange has a sweet flesh and markedly different essential oil from the rind (called sweet Orange oil). This Orange is used as a rootstock in groves of sweet orange and if the sweet Orange can go wild, the bitter Orange rootstock will often take over and the subsequent fruit will be sour and the flowers sweet like Neroli. The tree has a long-life span,  up to 100 years. They are propagated by seed and/or grafting onto a disease-resistant rootstock; the young trees are planted out in April-May; they must be well taken care of throughout their life; early evening, or nighttime irrigation is most important in the early years to set good roots.

The flowers are harvested from late April to June when the buds just begin to open and in their early years were done according to herbal principals, “harvest in the morning when the dew is dry but before the sun is high”. Now harvesting often goes on until noon particularly on warm sunny days. If the flowers are picked when closed, the odor of the oil is ‘green’, but these yield a strong Neroli water.

JeanneRose harvesting flowers and teaching at the Olsen Organic Farm, 2003

2003, Harvesting, Neroli flowers near Fresno at Olsen Organic Farm for distilling.

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS & YIELD ~ Bud blossoms of the true Bitter  (sour) Orange tree, Citrus x aurantium Linnaeus, (subsp. Amara) L., on being distilled yield Neroli bigarade oil. If, on the other hand, the leaves, and petioles (leaf stalk) are distilled, oil and hydrosol of Petitgrain Bigarade is obtained.  Flowers of Bitter orange must not be mixed with the flowers of sweet Orange as the  properties , specific gravity and chemistry are different.

            THE flowers are harvested from March to May or April to June depending on the area and hydro-distilled for the Neroli oil and hydrosol. > The flowers are hydro-distilled not steam-distilled and must float freely in the distillation waters (just like Roses and Ylang-Ylang).<  Annually 2-3 tons is produced, mainly in North Africa such as Morocco and Tunisia. In North Africa, the bulk of the flower harvest is hydro-distilled, and the balance extracted with volatile solvents which yields concrete and absolute of orange flowers as well as a floral wax.

YIELD ~ The small, white, waxy flowers from the citrus tree are hydro-steam distilled.  850 kg of carefully picked Orange flowers yields 1 kg of Neroli oil after distillation.  Or 1 kg of Orange blossoms yields about 1 g. of Neroli oil, and this oil is affected by the atmospheric conditions when it is distilled. Yield:  0.8-1.0%.

Flower stamp.

The Neroli flowers

ESSENTIAL FLOWER WAX OR FLORAL WAX is the vegetable wax from the flowers, the solid material that is left after the plant scent is alcohol-extracted and chilled. This separates the wax (the solid material) from the essential oil. This process and new perfume substance can only be done in the laboratory or in the perfume industry.

            The production of essential wax is a result of solvent extraction that is used on delicate flowers whose scent would be destroyed by steam distillation.  Only the flowers that are undamaged and are freshly picked and selectively chosen are collected and taken to the extraction plant.  The flowers are mixed with the solvent, which results in the floral concrète.  The concrète is then thoroughly mixed with and dissolved in high proof alcohol.  Then this is chilled.  The fragrant tincture and wax separates via the cold and the tincture is filtered off. The alcohol tincture is treated via vacuum distillation or simple evaporation that removes the alcohol leaving the absolute (scent) behind. The wax is collected separately.


2 bottles of PrimaFleur Neroli oil

Neroli Oil, organoleptic (sensory) characteristics in a chart form by JeanneRose

            NEROLI ODOR DESCRIPTION ~ Neroli has a refreshing and distinctive, light to strong floral aroma with powdery and aldehydic notes, very fresh with a warm base note that resembles freshly dried hay. Because of the high price of Neroli it is ever more frequently diluted or adulterated with aromatic isolates, and synthetic odors or with Petitgrain.  It can somewhat resemble Petitgrain in its odor as often Petitgrain is used to adulterate Neroli oil.  (see Odor Snapshots at the end of the article).

            [Scent-producing floral organs (osmophores) have epidermis cells with pronounced conical shapes. The conical shape of the epidermal cells obviously increases the scent-emitting surface of the cells when compared with flat epidermal cells typical for vegetative organs. One frequently stated interpretation is that the structures facilitate emission of scent molecules by increasing the surface area of the epidermal cells.]

 This work is sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ Neroli contains l-linalyl acetate and l-linalool as well as nerolidol and indole. Ocimenes, limonene, linaloöl and linalyl acetate are higher in Neroli than Petitgrain. Indole which possesses a powerful exotic floral note at high dilution and a somewhat fresh breast-fed baby poop odor when not diluted separates and differentiates Neroli from Petitgrain.  This indole odor is sometimes very prevalent in the Neroli hydrosol. Methoxypyrazine contributes to a green character, which also is the interesting green note in Galbanum and Green Peppers. 

            [In the citrus peels, Limonene, a compound of the terpene family, is present in the essential oil of citrus peel. The limonene structure has a chiral center, and thus it is found in nature as a mirror-image, two enantiomers the (R)- and (S)-limonene. (R) is clockwise or right hand Isomer and has the characteristic sweet smell of oranges, while the (S) is counterclockwise or sinistral- left hand isomer and smells like the sour of lemons or bitter Orange. ]

         SOLUBILITY ~ The essential oil is soluble in 1-2 volumes of 80% alcohol and gets hazy to turbid if you add more.



            The properties of Neroli include a quieting calming sedative effect upon inhalation, adding the hydrosol in coffee is calming when that feeling of excess caffeine takes over after a cup or two, and the EO is used externally in skincare products to soften or as a skin-healing scar-reducing or tonic addition.


Application:    On hemorrhoids, in skin care, in perfumery. It is especially useful in skin-care products for acne, anti-aging with Galbanum and Elemi, and applied for under-eye circles.

Ingestion:   Take a scant drop in your tea for Insomnia, or for diarrhea. Put a scant drop in a bottle of champagne as an aphrodisiac.  Neroli water is used for nervous dyspepsia, abdominal spasm, and colic.  Neroli water when mixed with Orange honey and warm water is good for cranky children when drunk.

Inhalation: The oil is inhaled for fatigue, birthing, palpitations, and cardiac spasms.                                 


Application:    Apply in a balm on the wrists or back of neck for nervous depression.

Inhalation:      Inhale the scent for depression, or as a mild sedative that is both joyous and uplifting. It is stabilizing and grounding, soothing, calming and sedating and can alleviate insomnia, PMS, and soothe fever.


Inhalation:    It is used for shock, grief, and depression. It is used in blends to increase concentration, to ease the pain of emotional abuse, to ease shocking  news, with Frankincense at the death of a loved one, for manic depression of fear of personal change and feelings, for loneliness and grief. The essential oil is truly a friend of the fearful and depressed.

DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ The essential oil or the Neroli hydrosol may be diffused in a child’s room for reducing a temper tantrum,  relaxing and assisting in sleep, or a ½ teaspoon of the Neroli hydrosol in water can be given for insomnia.



PrimaFleur organic Neroli Wax

NEROLI FLORAL WAX USES ~ Neroli floral wax can be added to any skincare product such as balms, lotions, creams, sunscreen products.  It will turn a lotion into a cream or a cream into a balm.  The addition of Neroli floral wax adds antioxidant properties,  aids in blocking harmful UV rays, is calming and soothing to  the skin, helps eliminate dead skin cells, helps improve dull hair when used in haircare products, helps reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It contains carotenoids and is rich in Vitamin E. Neroli floral wax softens skin, and tones and soothes sensitive skin and can be used in all your anti-aging formulas. There are 1250 flowers in 1 gram of the floral wax.

NEROLI HYDROSOL (Orange Flower WATER) & BITTER ORANGE PEEL Uses ) ~ Neroli hydrosol/water is one of the most important herbal products used in the Middle Eastern world. True Neroli hydrosol is used in Spain and Tunisia in foods as a flavoring agent particularly in baked goods, confectionary and in drinks and it is  the hydrosol that is taken for insomnia. The bitter Orange peel is also used as a sweetmeat in Greece and Turkey and is a delicious addition to a variety to desserts such as ice-cream.

JeanneRose in the distilling area at Olsen Organic Farm 2003

JeanneRose distilling orange flowers at Olsen Organic Farm – 2003


NEROLI HYDROSOL ~   In March 2003, I had the opportunity to distill 5 pounds of organic Orange flowers for sweet Neroli Hydrosol obtained from a sweet navel Orange, variety Atwood in Lindsay, CA. from the Olsen Organic Farm. As follows.

            The trees were grown in the foothills edging the great central valley of California near the town of Lindsay. The trees are grown organically, at 500 feet with a west exposure in full sun and the area is certified organic. The area is irrigated via the San Joaquin River. The soil is USDA Porterville cobbly clay. There is about 12 inches of rainfall per year. The harvest was on Wednesday 3/25/03 from about 15 trees. Harvest weather was overcast to full sun, about 75°F  with 30% humidity.  It took 6 hours for two persons to fill 13 five-gallon buckets with twigs and flowers. This was transported to San Francisco and arrived on Thursday. Each tree produced about 1 bucket (3.3 lbs./bucket) of easily available twigs with flowers.  This effectively gently pruned the tree of excess flowers and will leave it able to produce more and tastier Oranges.

            At the farm on the following Saturday, we started with 43 pounds of twiglets that had blossoms and buds attached. It took 3-man hours (1 hour each for 3 persons) to pick off the flowers and to accumulate the 5 pounds of just-opened flowers with the balance of the twigs and flowers saved for the larger still.  The fragrance was sweet, intense, floral, and fruity with some green back notes. We assembled the 25-liter copper alembic still and loaded it at 2 pm with 5 lbs. of morning picked flowers and 3 gallons of spring water. The flowers were kept above the bottom of the pot with a (copper) grid and freely floating in the boiling water. Distillation ran very well, and the distillate began to run at about 2:15 p.m. We continued the distillation until 5:45 pm at which time 1.5 gallons of Orange flower hydrosol had been accumulated. The pH changed from 6.1 at 2:25 pm to 5.3 at 2:45 pm and continued at 5.3 until the end. The heads (scent) had an odor of fruit, green and floral, the body (scent) was floral, fruity, and citrus. Distillation was discontinued when the odor began to get green with no floral or citrus notes.

            A 4-inch copper tube was added to the gooseneck. Two hours of distillation produced 1.2 gallons of hydrosol. pH began at 5, the scent being green and citrus and as the distillation continued, pH became more acid to 4.4, the scent becoming more rich, citrus, and spicy. 3 ml of essential oil was produced from the 38 pounds of twigs and flowers. [The balance of the leaves and flowers (38 pounds) that had been picked was sent to the larger stainless-steel unit, 1-hour north  and produced hydrosol about 1 quart per pound.]

            Neroli Hydrosol Use – 2003. This was a wonderful hydrosol, very fragrant and sweet.  It was used in skin care products and simply as a mister.  Several misting products were produced using the hydrosol. Mixed 50/50 with Spearmint hydrosol produced a very refreshing and fragrant fruity, citrus mint hydrosol. Fabulous…oh how I wish I had some now.


            There are many Neroli hydrosol/Orange flower water  products on the market. Many are available in your nearby liquor/bottle store as an addition to beverages. Others are available through your herbal/aromatic stores.

4 types of Neroli flower water

Hydrosol from Morocco and a trio of Neroli/Orange flower water. Photo of Neroli Hydrosol courtesy of Nature’s Gift  (

            In the book, Harvest to Hydrosol, is a GC-MS of a Neroli from Canada, 2013, that shows sorbic acid -a preservative, and a large amount of a-terpineol and an even larger amount of linalool. What I found most interesting however, was the tiny amount of the unpleasant greasy smelling aldehyde nonanal and may be what makes Neroli excellent for perfumery but not in a deodorant.

KEY USE ~ Neroli is inhaled for depression and fatigue and used extensively in fine perfumery and the hydrosol taken for insomnia.


A snakelike progression of essential oils for perfumery showing the many colors of the oils.


Read the Perfumery blog to understand some of the nuances of Perfumery.

Read this ….

Scent Rising Up

BLENDING ~Neroli blends well with just about any oil and especially with other citrus such as Grapefruit and Bergamot; and deeply floral odors such as Champaca, Osmanthus; with woody odors such as all the different Sandalwoods or Tonka bean; seed odors such as Coriander; spicy odors like Cardamom, Nutmeg and Styrax; the resin odors of Frankincense, Galbanum, Balsam of Peru/Tolu.


The famous eau de cologne was made by Italian perfumer J.M. Farina of Cologne, Germany, who created a blend of essential oils inspired by the princess of Nerola. The blend included Bergamot, Lemon, Bitter Bigarade, Neroli and Rosemary. Cologne water of the most superior and incomparable quality is made by first dissolving the essential oils in the alcohols and then distilling it, then adding the Rosemary and Neroli (water) to the distillate.

            1st Method: “Cologne water of the most superior and incomparable quality is made by dissolving the essential oils in the alcohols* and then distilling it, then adding the Rosemary oil and Neroli oil to the distillate. The classic eau de cologne contained Bergamot, Lemon, Bitter Bigarade + grape alcohol, Neroli water and either Rosemary hydrosol or Neroli essential oil.”

*This refers only to neutral grape spirits.

Original eau de cologne formula from a 175 year old book.


            2nd Method: Dissolve the aromatics in 95% neutral grape spirits — distill — add the Neroli and the Rosemary. Effect the dilution required with Orange flower water or Rose water by adding up to 8-10 quarts or if the original formula is divided by 10 use 3-4 cups of the floral water.


TOP – Neroli 5 – 10 drops
HEART – Rose Bourbonia 10 drops
BASE – Sandalwood Hawaiian 10 drops
Diluent – Cane Alcohol 50 drops

BROWN SUGAR FORMULA. The essence of brown sugar; sweet and fortifying, uplifting, and refreshing. Use as an inhalant or in blends — aftershave, astringent tonics, face wash or a sweet massage.

            Smell brown sugar first to establish the scent in your mind and then start blending. Mix together, Lemon, Neroli, Patchouli, Tangerine.  Mix these basic scents together in the combination that will most resemble brown sugar.

(the numbers are in drops, by volume  not weight)
Top Note – 20 of Lavender abs + 20 of Neroli abs
bridge to the heart note –  2 of Bergamot
Heart Note – 10 of Champaca + 5 of Orange  + 20 of Jasmine abs
  bridge to the base note – 1 of Cardamom
Base Note – 6 of Patchouli  + 6 of Spikenard
Fixative note –  (1•1000) Make a dilution first & use 1-drop of the Ambergris dilution
Add 100-200 drops grape spirits to dilute. You want a perfume at 25-50%.

Here is a lovely Perfume with Neroli that I call

Neroli perfume formula

To make these lovely perfumes, mix each note separately and let them age for a week. After a week mix the main notes together and then let that age. Then in the 3rd week, start adding the bridge note — all of it or part of it, however you like. Now let that age again. Then add an equal amount of carrier (200 drops). I prefer neutral grape spirits, but you can use a carrier oil if you wish. It just makes a different smelling perfume. Age again and then finally after a month or 5 weeks you will have a fabulous perfume at 50%. You may wish to dilute to 25%.

perfume bottles, porcelain plate, and a pyramid


HISTORICAL USES  ~ This tree, Citrus x aurantium, the bitter orange tree produces three different essential oils and a precious hydrosol. Bitter Orange oil comes from the peel of the ripe fruit, Petitgrain oil is distilled from the leaves and twigs, and Neroli oil is hydro-distilled from the flowers of the tree and the precious orange-flower water or Neroli hydrosol is the water of the distillation.

            The bitter peel is preserved in sugar and eaten as a sweet with coffee.

Bitter Orange sweet to eat when drinking coffee

Bitter Orange Peel as a sweet

INTERESTING FACTS ~ “Neroli was employed as a scent by the prostitutes of Madrid, so they would be recognized by its aroma.  On the other hand, the blossoms were worn as a bridal headdress and carried as a bouquet, symbolizing purity, and virginity.  Together with Lavender, Bergamot, Lemon, and Rosemary oils, Neroli was a key constituent of the classic toilet water eau-de-Cologne” Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, p.100.           

            • Fine perfumes can only be made with freshly distilled 70-95% neutral grape spirits.  All the older perfumes were diluted down with neutral grape spirits. Originally, they were considered medicines and were taken internally by the drop. After the introduction of synthetics, around 1850, perfumes were made with chemicalized ingredients and were no longer edible.  However, even today certain uplifting ‘spirits’ are sold in Europe as a tonic against seasickness, carsickness, and all sorts of nausea.

Neroli so special and sweet
It doesn’t smell like a beet
When I’m nervous or sad
And don’t want to feel bad
I diffuse it and jump to my feet. —JeanneRose

Neroli flower stamp

NEROLI • A Favorite Tomato Tale from 1994

At the age of seven, Gloria Rawlinson (1918–1995), the poet, was afflicted with polio. She had been born in Tonga and raised in New Zealand. She was hospitalized for four years as a result of the polio and was bedridden or confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She became a poet of significant achievement, eventually to be crowned the “the child poet of New Zealand” and later to become a biographer of other significant authors. She wrote the Perfume Vendor in 1935,  a book of poems heavily influenced with the exotic scents of Tonga and New Zealand. I heard of this talented poet towards the end of her life, about 1990 and was given her book as a gift by a friend. The book is fantastical, child-like, original  and a lovely  fragrant read. I included her poem of the same name, The Perfume Vendor” in my own book called The Aromatherapy Book that was published in 1992.  Around this time, maybe 1993, I was invited to a formal event at the New Zealand Embassy here in San Francisco where I met the Consul General. I had wanted to write a thank-you note to Gloria Rawlinson for the hours of enjoyable reading, and I mentioned this to him. We spoke for a moment, and he said he would see if her address was available. Several days after the event, I received Ms. Rawlinson address in the mail and promptly wrote her a letter. I am hoping that she received the letter and knew that there were still fans of hers in the United States. She had suffered ill-health for years and died in 1995.

Here is a small part of a poem from the Perfume Vendor ...

OH! My place is taken I see—
The other vendors envy me,
The perfume-merchant, Neroli. …..
I am come home
To my scent bazaar,
With the rhizome
Of Iris florentina,
(You call it orris-root)—
Gum-resins, myrrh, opopanax,
Tolu, and sandal-wood, storax
And fifteen ounces of oil of cedar to boot— ……
“Ben Neroli—Ben Neroli—
Will you please allow me?
To dip
My little finger-tip
In the Jasmine bowl?”

SCIENCE ARTICLE: NEROLI – PAIN REDUCING. J Nat Med. 2015 Jul;69(3):324-31. doi: 10.1007/s11418-015-0896-6. Epub 2015 Mar 12.Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Citrus aurantium L. blossoms essential oil (neroli): involvement of the nitric oxide/cyclic-guanosine monophosphate pathway. Khodabakhsh P1, Shafaroodi H, Asgarpanah J.
The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of Citrus aurantium L. blossoms essential oil (neroli) was investigated in mice and rats. The analgesic activity of neroli was assessed … while acute and chronic anti-inflammatory effects were investigated …. … The results suggest that neroli possesses biologically active constituent(s) that have significant activity against acute and especially chronic inflammation and have central and peripheral antinociceptive effects which support the ethnomedicinal claims of the use of the plant in the management of pain and inflammation.
PMID: 25762161 [PubMed – in process].

Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing Company, FL. 1974
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol, 1st edition, 2015, IAG Botanics
Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 3rd Edition  2014 updates, Cambridge University Press
Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 3rd Edition  2014 updates, Cambridge University Press
Ohloff, Günther. Scent and Fragrances, The Fascination of Odors. Springer-Verlag.
Rawlinson, Gloria. The Perfume Vendor. Hutchinson & Co. 1937.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.
Rose, Jeanne. Natural Botanical Perfumery. Available from the author at

2 snapshots of neroli scent
Sweet Orange flowers

Orange flowers Lindsay, CA

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