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The origin of the grapefruit poses a bit of a botanical mystery. Its appearance and flavor indicate that it's a hybrid between a large, sour citrus fruit called the shaddock (Citrus maxima) and the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis). No records of any deliberate hybridization between the two plants have been found. Grapefruits share characteristics of both fruits: in a ripe grapefruit the tart flesh of the shaddock is tempered with the juicy sweetness of the orange. Surveys of citrus populations in the Old World and Asia haven't been able to confirm the presence of any native-growing grapefruit trees. Similar searches in the West Indies, however, have uncovered many populations of apparently naturally growing grapefruit. It's a puzzling question whether the grapefruit was deliberately bred or emerged as a spontaneous hybrid in some old Caribbean citrus grove.

The modern American grapefruit growing industry developed in Florida in the mid-1800s. Many of the early varieties of fruit resemble their wild-growing cousins in that they're smaller and contain many seeds. More recent hybrids are bred for appearance and size. The shelf-appeal and seedlessness of varieties developed for the fresh fruit market have been bred at the expense of flavor. Because the older varieties are often superior in taste and juiciness, they are used to make grapefruit juice. The extraction of the essential oil is a by-product of the juicing process.

The grapefruit's essential oil glands are deeply imbedded in the flavedo, the outer peel of the fruit. The thick, spongy white layer of the peel is known as the albedo. The albedo will absorb and decrease the yield of essential oil if the two layers aren't carefully separated before extraction. This separation is done by machines that roll and scrape the flavedo away from the fruit before it goes on to be juiced. The abraded flavedo forms a wet, pulpy mass that's put in a centrifuge, where the oil is separated from the solids. The solids can then be pressed for additional oil. The extracted oil is filtered and bottled.

Using this method of extraction, a ton of fresh fruit will produce 1.5 pounds of essential oil. A much more substantial yield of 25 pounds of essential oil could be obtained if the peels were chopped and steam distilled, but steam distillation destroys the delicate, sweet-smelling constituents of the fresh peel. The quality of this oil would be unsuitable, especially for aromatherapy purposes.

Grapefruit peel contains fatty substances including linolenic, linoleic and oleic acids. The waxy cuticle of the fruit contains various hydrocarbons, phytosterol and pectin. During processing these solid materials dissolve in the oil. Later they may precipitate out in the finished oil, producing a cloud of particles. Usually these are filtered out during production, but they occasionally show up in lesser refined oils. If this happens, simply pouring the oil through a coffee filter will remove most of the particles.

Grapefruit oil contains 90 percent of the terpene hydrocarbon limonene. Limonene is present at similar levels in many citrus oils. Subtle mixes of minor constituents -- unique to each citrus fruit -- produce variations in aroma that allow us to distinguish between lemon, orange and grapefruit. Grapefruit contains a small amount of a unique alcohol known as paradisiol, which takes its name from the plant's species designation.

The constituents of grapefruit essential oil combine to produce a fragrance that is fresh, fruity and clean. Good quality expressed oils have a fragrance nearly identical to the broken peel of a fresh grapefruit. Oils that smell musty, fatty, or lack the tart nuance that distinguishes fresh grapefruit probably contain distilled grapefruit oil. Keep in mind that all expressed, non-distilled citrus oils, including grapefruit, are fresh botanical products that age faster than steam distilled oils. High temperatures, bright light and exposure to air will rapidly decrease the oil's aromatic profile. Store all citrus oils in light-proof glass in a cool, dark place not subject to temperature variations.

The delectable aroma of grapefruit has a pronounced impact on the senses and emotions. In aromatherapy applications, grapefruit is refreshing, cheering, slightly euphoria-inducing and slightly energizing. Grapefruit's sweet and familiar aroma can evoke warm feelings that melt sour dispositions. Grapefruit is a "releasing" oil -- so personalities that tend to harbor resentment or keep emotions bottled up can benefit from inhaling this oil.

Emotional Release Blend
The delectable aroma of grapefruit has a pronounced impact on the senses and emotions. In aromatherapy applications, grapefruit is refreshing, cheering, slightly euphoria-inducing and slightly energizing. Grapefruit's sweet and familiar aroma can evoke warm feelings that melt sour dispositions. Grapefruit is a "releasing" oil -- so personalities that tend to harbor resentment or keep emotions bottled up can benefit from inhaling this oil.

 

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