Neroli: Sweet Sunlight
By David Crow, L.Ac.
Neroli is the fragrance of orange trees blossoming under the Moroccan and
Tunisian sun. It is the fragrance that greets farmers as they begin another spring
day of harvesting, gently plucking the tiny golden gems that shine from inside
green citrus foliage. Many factors will influence the quality of the neroli oil: each
blossom must be plucked when it is just starting to open; the buds must be gathered
only on warm sunny days; the flowers cannot be bruised; leaflets and petioles must
not be mixed in. By the end of the day, the clothing and weather-aged hands of the
dark-skinned harvesters will be saturated with an intoxicating aroma desired by
queens and empresses, sheiks and maharajas.
Neroli is a fragrance that has been known and loved for centuries throughout the
Mediterranean region. Generation after generation of skilled distillers have slowly
extracted the neroli oil from the tender flowers, creating one of the world's finest
and most sought after perfumes. Every spring, the delectable fragrance of Citrus
aurantium blossoms rises inside wood-fired stills in North Africa's temperate
mountains; it is an aroma that will bring joy to all, especially those who have the
pleasure of savoring the first few drops that appear in the collecting beaker.
Hundreds of pounds of the precious floral treasure, a small mountain of botanical
gold, will yield only a tiny vial of exquisite oil. Those engaged in this unique
alchemical art know that a special satisfaction is found in producing high quality
natural products with healing powers: the happiness of making others happy.
Bees find the fragrance of neroli irresistible. Busily climbing into each sunburst
world, they delight in the labor of gathering its essence and transforming it into
ambrosial orange blossom honey. Lovers are also rapturously attracted to the
sensuous nectar secreted by the yoni-like mandalas of silken petals and the
aphrodisiacal euphoria it produces when worn by ones beloved. Neroli was the
cheerful fragrance sprinkled in the bedchambers of Arabian princesses of old, and
the scent that wafted from scarves of European noble ladies. To this day, it excites
and inspires the master perfumers of the great fragrance houses, who use its
delicious sweetness in their expensive aromatic creations.
Neroli is a medicine that the soul craves when besieged by stress, anxiety, worry,
and depression. Like scented liquid sunlight, the yellow drops of citrus joy uplift
the mind from gloomy moods, rescue the heart from realms of sadness and grief,
and strengthen the spirit of those enduring unending hardships. Inhaling a few
drops of neroli essential oil from the palms has a fortifying effect on the brain and
nervous system, while simultaneously pacifying the irritation of sensory
over-stimulation. The effects of neroli on emotional well-being can be compared to
the nourishing, soothing, and revitalizing effects of Mediterranean sunshine. For
those who cannot escape their troubles and flee to a Greek isle or an Italian villa,
enveloping oneself in neroli's blessed aura is the next best thing. Widespread use of
neroli could end the daily aggravations caused by the rat race of modern society,
especially if used for aromatherapy in cars: scientific research has confirmed that
inhaling the oil has an immediate sedative effect on over-caffeinated hyperactive
For some fortunate elders, neroli is the fragrance of childhood in southern
California. Only a few short years ago citrus orchards stretched from Santa Barbara
to San Diego and from the coast eastward to the edge of the high desert. Every
spring the land was awash with neroli's intoxicating aroma. What were our city
planners thinking when they cut down the beautiful cooling trees that give such
refreshing fruit and replaced their exotic enchanting perfume with the hot
hydrocarbon exhaust of freeways?
Neroli is both the fragrance of paradise lost and the fragrance of hope for the
future. Just as we pulled out the green orchards to make room for cars, someday
soon we will need to invite the trees back into our communities. When that time
comes, as a result of intelligence, wisdom, and foresight, cities will become
gardens and urban forests filled with an abundance of nutritious foods and healing
herbs. Families will once again wake to the sweet scent of orange blossoms carried
on the morning breeze, and neroli's exotic perfume will be freely available to all.