Using Citrus Oils to Support Immunity

by Andrea Butje on March 8, 2011

Let’s talk about why citrus oils are so powerful for supporting immunity. It’s one thing to know they’re amazing, but another to really understand why!

d-Limonene and Citrus

Most citrus oils contain at least 60% d-limonene. The largest amounts of d-limonene (also known as (+)-limonene) are found in the citrus oils–such as Grapefruit, Orange, Clementine and Tangerine–which contain amounts ranging from 80-95%. Lemon, Mandarin, and Tangelo oils contain amounts ranging from 65-80%.

The Research

Why do we care? Research on d-limonene is significant. I know we can’t assume that results from animal research (ugh!) will be the same as results from human use. That being said, there’s still a lot to gain from this information.

Immunostimulant effects of d-limonene seen in rodent studies include stimulating lymphocyte proliferation (4), increasing the total white blood cell count (5), increasing the number and phagocytic activity of macrophages (1,2), and stimulating antibody production (5). Natural killer cell activity was enhanced in vitro by d-limonene (3).

Here are two ways I use citrus essential oils in my daily life for immune support:

Kitchen and Bathroom Disinfectant
Clean all kitchen and bathroom surfaces

20 drops Lemon (Citrus limon)
20 drops Orange (Citrus sinensis)
20 drops Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)

Directions: Blend essential oils in a 16 oz (480 ml) spray bottle filled with 14 oz (420 ml) of water and 2 oz (60 ml) of white vinegar. Spray freely and wipe with a towel or sponge. I recommend making this product fresh every few weeks.

Solid Deodorant
This recipe is a sneak preview into Aromahead Institute’s upcoming eBook!
Makes about four 1 oz (30 ml) deodorant tubes.

1 oz (28 gm) Beeswax (Cera alba)
3 oz (90 ml) Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis)
20 drops Orange (Citrus sinensis)
20 drops Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)

Kitchen scale
Pyrex style large measuring bowl
Medium stove top pot
Glass stirring rod or spoon
Four 1 oz (30 ml) deodorant tubes


  1. Use the Stove Top Melting Method to liquefy and combine the base carriers. Place the Pyrex measuring cup in the soup pot, and fill the pot 1/4 of the way with water. Boil water, add beeswax and jojoba to Pyrex, and allow to melt.
  2. After removing the melted wax from heat, add the essential oils and stir.
  3. Immediately pour the liquid into the deodorant tubes and cover.
  4. Allow deodorant to solidify for at least five minutes before applying.

Alternate Essential Oils Blends for Different Aromas:

For a woodsy aroma:
10 drops Cypress essential oil (Cupressus sempervirens)
10 drops distilled Lime essential oil (Citrus aurantifolia)

For a floral aroma:
10 drops Geranium essential oil (Pelargonium roseum x asperum)
10 drops Orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)


  1. Del Toro-Arreola S, Flores-Torales E, Torres-Lozano (2005) Effect of d-limonene on immune response in BALB/c mice with lymphoma. International Immunopharmacology 5:829-838
  2. Hamada M, Uezu K, Matsushita J et al (2002) Distribution and immune responses resulting from oral administration of d-limonene in rats. Journal of Nutritional Science & Vitaminology (Tokyo) 48:155-160
  3. Li Q, Nakadai A, Matsushima H (2006) Phytoncides (wood essential oils) induce human natural killer cell activity. Immunopharmacology & Immunotoxicology 28:319-333
  4. Manuele MG, Ferraro G, Anesini C (2008) Effect of Tilia x viridis flower extract on the proliferation of a lymphoma cell line and on normal murine lymphocytes: contribution of monoterpenes, especially limonene. Phytotherapy Research 22:1520-1526
  5. Raphael TJ, Kuttan G (2003) Immunomodulatory activity of naturally occurring monoterpenes carvone, limonene, and perillic acid. Immunopharmacology & Immunotoxicology 25:285-294

References and research provided by Robert Tissserand for the Aromahead Institute Component Database.

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Aromahead Institute, owned by Andrea Butje, is a premier resource for online aromatherapy classes. Andrea offers her inspired approach to online aromatherapy certification through essential oil videos and original education materials. Check out her book, Essential Living: Aromatherapy Recipes for Health and Home, on Amazon!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sanjeetha Chinthala March 30, 2017 at 6:40 am

It is mentioned above that spray needs to be prepared for few weeks, could you please how many weeks we can store this prepared spray?


Andrea Butje March 30, 2017 at 7:17 pm

The Aromahead Approach is to make products without preservatives and simply make them fresh as needed. With water based products like this cleaning spray I make it fresh every 2-3 weeks.


Helene November 17, 2016 at 2:58 am

wud coconut oil work in place of jojoba? why no cocoa butter to make it glide on silky?


Andrea Butje November 18, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Helene, if you prefer coconut oil, I absolutely love this recipe! It’s a little different than most natural deodorants you’re probably used to, but it’s very effective and it feels so good under your arms. Plus, the ingredients are all natural, and gentle for sensitive skin.
You Smell So Good Deodorant –


Rebecca Silence March 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm

“…Aromahead Institute’s upcoming eBook!…”
Oooh… can’t wait to hear more!


Andrea Butje March 14, 2011 at 7:22 am

Rebecca-We should be finishing the eBook within a few weeks….lots of recipes…


Sherran Blair March 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Thanks so much for the information about the chemical constituents. When I can justify chosing an oil based on its therapeutic properties and not just because I like its aroma, people have much more confidence in the choice I have made.


Kim March 8, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Wondering… on the deodorant recipe: Are the citrus oils sufficiently diluted that there’s no chance of photosensitizing your ‘pits?

(I’m sure you’ll say yes, just wanting to hear you say it before I go making it and using it all summer.)

Thanks! Love learning from you via your posts and emails!


Andrea Butje March 9, 2011 at 6:38 am

Hi Kim,

Your question on phototoxicity is a great one! I did consider this carefully before i made the recipe but it is always good to check! Sweet orange that has been cold pressed is not phototoxic, and according to Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety book (and my own personal experience as someone who is in the sun all the time) Grapefruit (cold pressed) can be used safely (no phototoxic effects) at under 24 drops per ounce. This recipe has 5 drops per ounce so we are good to go!! 🙂


Christina March 8, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I love that we have so many citrus oils to choose. Thanks for the research update. I am currently hooked on Tangerine 🙂


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