Over the last month or so we’ve been getting a lot of oranges in our organic fruit and veg box. I guess the apples and pears are running low so they’re bulking up the local produce with a few things from further afield. I don’t usually go for oranges but I’ve found myself enjoying them more and more and have been inspired to use the peel in a variety of ways as well as eating the fruit.
Orange peel has many beneficial qualities, being higher in vitamin C, flavanoids and enzymes than the fruit itself. I have been using large strips of it fresh in teas, on its own or with other herbs, and also cutting it into smaller pieces and drying for future use.
The peel has long been used in Chinese Medicine, from both the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) and the bitter (Citrus aurantium) as well as from tangerines (Citrus reticulata). It had several key functions including ‘moving the chi’ to reduce any accumulations, or congestions, whether in the respiratory tract, bowel or liver.
Primarily a digestive aid, orange peel is aromatic, carminative, anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic and can help with bloating, wind and constipation. The bitter orange peel is more cooling and than its warmer, sweeter cousin and so has a greater affinity with the liver and gallbladder being both a cholagogue and a choleretic. Sarah Head has written a lovely post on citrus bitters on her blog which you can read here.
Being thermogenic, orange peel can boost the metabolism which makes it helpful for weight loss, as does its ability to aid in digesting fatty foods.
Also high in vitamins A and C, orange peel can be helpful for building a healthy immune system and warding off coughs and colds. It is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and has high levels of antioxidants, making it very suitable as an addition to any immune tonic blends.
Immune tonic tea with orange peel, cinnamon, elderberries, cardamom and ginger.
It also contains d-limonene, as does lemon peel, a substance which has been shown to inhibit tumour growth in some studies and which is currently being more fully researched.
The orange family also gives us a whole host of wonderful essential oils including tangerine and mandarin. The sweet orange oil, which is expressed from the peel of the Citrus sinensis variety, is uplifting, warming, anti-depressant and emotionally balancing, bringing some of the joy of childhood to a gloomy day. Citrus aurantium gives us no less than three precious oils, bitter orange, from the fruit, petitgrain, from the leaves and twigs and neroli, from the blossoms. Neroli is one of my favourite oils so I will be sure to write more on it in the future.
Here are three simple ways you can incorporate the health giving properties of orange peel into your life. Always remember to use organic oranges as toxins from pesticide sprays will be stored in the skin.
Orange Peel, Ginger and Cinnamon Infused Honey:
This harnesses the anti-bacterial and warming properties of the orange peel.
Place several long strips of orange peel in the bottom of a glass jar. I use a vegetable peeler to avoid taking too much of the white pith. Add five or six slices of fresh ginger and two cinnamon sticks broken into small pieces. Fill up the jar with good quality, raw honey and stir to release any air bubbles. Leave to infuse for about three weeks, stirring daily for the first few days. Strain the honey and place it in a fresh, clean jar. Use a spoonful in teas or any other way you fancy.
Orange Peel and Cardamom Tea
The combination of orange peel and cardamom enhances the digestive properties of both these herbs and makes a delicious after dinner cuppa.
Sweet Orange Oil Footbath
You can’t beat this one for banishing the winter blues and bringing a smile to even the most jaded of lips. Dilute four drops of sweet orange oil in a tablespoon of base oil such as sweet almond and swish into a lovely hot foot bath. It’s always important to dilute essential oils before adding them to the water or they can irritate the skin.
All this talk of oranges reminded me of a poem I used to like many years ago. I dug it out and am including it here for your pleasure. To me, it sums up perfectly the generous gifts of joy the orange tree so kindly bestows upon us.
The Stolen Orange by Brian Patten
When I went out I stole an orange
I kept it in my pocket
It felt like a warm planet
Everywhere I went smelt of oranges
Whenever I got into an awkward situation
I’d take out the orange and smell it
And immediately on even dead branches I saw
The lovely and fierce orange blossom
That smells so much of joy
When I went out I stole an orange
It was a safeguard against imagining
There was nothing bright or special in the world.