Tangerine Essential Oil, Sedation, Sleep, and Focused Thinking

According to a new study published in the journal Molecules, inhalation of diluted tangerine (Citrus tangerina) essential oil causes sedative-like effects and decreases the time it takes to fall asleep. It also indicates the inhalation of undiluted tangerine EO enhances focused thinking.

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Ten men and ten women participated in the study. Researchers dropped 50 uL, or one drop, of tangerine essential oil on a piece of filter paper and attached it under the subjects’ noses to test the effects of inhalation on their brain waves.

During another part of the study, the researchers diluted 25 uL of the EO to concentrations of 1:1000 and 1:8000. Then, they put the diluted EO on filter paper and inserted two pieces of filter paper into the participants’ pillow cases. This part of the study measured the effects on subjects’ brain waves and sleep onset latency (how long it took to fall asleep).

They discovered:

  • inhalation of undiluted tangerine essential oil stimulated the sympathetic nervous system, increasing brain activity related to focused thinking.
  • inhalation of diluted tangerine essential oil caused a sedating effect and decreased the length of time it took to fall asleep.

In essence, inhaling undiluted tangerine EO would be more beneficial during the day, and diluted tangerine EO would be more useful in the evening.

Inhalation, Internal, and Topical Use

One of the most undervalued effects of essential oils in the fitness world is their benefits through inhalation.

Part of the reason so few fitness enthusiasts understand their benefits is how essential oils are allowed to carry health claims.

People primarily use essential oils three ways:

  1. Internal: When taken internally, essential oils can be considered a “food” or a “dietary supplement.” When sold as a dietary supplement, an essential oil product can carry approved health claims on its label. When sold as a food ingredient, it cannot. Health claims include statements like “supports restful sleep” or “enhances digestive function.”
  2. Topical: When essential oils are applied topically, they’re considered a cosmetic, even though the oils are small enough to be absorbed through the skin and have a physiological impact. Cosmetics do not carry health claims except if it’s related to skin health, complexion, etc.
  3. Inhaled: Essential oils can be inhaled directly from the bottle, the palm of your hand, through a diffuser, or in many other ways. When inhaled through the nose, the oils reach the olfactory nerves and can affect the nervous system. They also pass into the bloodstream. However, when recommended for inhalation, essential oil products cannot carry health claims.

This last issue is unfortunate. A massive amount of research supports the use of inhaled essential oils to positively impact mood, energy, sleep quality, concentration, and athletic performance.

But, since essential oil product labels cannot contain these research-supported health benefits, most people don’t know about them.

This study on tangerine essential oil is a perfect example. Think about the number of people who need to get better quality sleep. Tangerine essential oil is inexpensive, smells great, and doesn’t have the known side effects of sleep medication.

Yet few people outside of EO distributors would think to diffuse it at night to support their sleep.

What’s in Tangerine Essential Oil?

Tangerine essential oil comes from the peel of the fruit. It’s cold pressed, which squeezes the oils out without exposing them to excessive heat.

The most concentrated compounds in the oil include:

Compounds in Tangerine Essential Oil
d-Limoneneγ-Terpinene
α-PhellandreneCamphene
β-PineneSabinene
3-Careneβ-Myrcene
2,4,6-Octatriene3,4-dimethyl-, 
o-CymeneOctanal
NonanalLinalool

Each of these constituents causes unique effects on your physiology.

And each essential oil offers unique benefits as well. As the study authors wrote:

Different essential oils have different effects on the human nervous system such as the relaxing effect of lavender oil, the vigilance effect of jasmine oil and rosemary oil, and the attention effect of rose oil and orchid oil on the brain and cognitive functions.

Chandharakool S, et al.

Read also: Peppermint Essential Oil: Health and Fitness Benefits.