This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
There are three principal varieties of the Orange (Aurantium), - the sweet, or China Orange (Citrus aurantium); the bitter, or Seville Orange, (or Bigarade), used because of its bitter rind for making marmalade; and the Bergamot Orange (Citrus medica, bergamot). The Tangerine Orange is a sub-variety of the Mandarin, a small, flattened sort in which the rind separates very readily from the pulp, which is sweet, and delicious of flavour. The table, or China Orange, contains citric acid, citrate of potash, albumin, cellulose, water, and, when sweetly ripe, 8 per cent of fruit-sugar. Orange-peel affords a considerable quantity of fragrant aromatic oil, with a bitter principle, especially in the rind of the Seville Orange, which is darker in colour, and possesses tonic properties. Chemically the peel affords also hesperidin, a volatile oil, gallic acid, and cellulose. In the seventeenth century this peel was slowly masticated (when first nicely candied) for curing heartburn through an excess of acid in the stomach. If made into marmalade, the rind of the Seville Orange powerfully restrains immoderate fluxes of women.
The leaves, and flowers, of the Orange tree have sedative virtues, and are esteemed as useful against epilepsy, or other convulsive disorders; a tea is also made from them for hysterical patients. Orange-flower water (l'Eau de fleur d'Oranger) is frequently taken in France by ladies as a mild soporific at night, when sufficiently diluted with sugared water. Thousands of gallons are drunk there in this way every year. Dried Orange berries may be had from English druggists; and if a teaspoonful of these be crushed, and infused in a teacupful of quite hot water, the clear liquid will make a gentle sleeping draught, without giving a headache next morning. In Great Expectations (by Charles Dickens) "Mrs. Pocket looked up from her book, and, smiling upon Pip, in an absent state of mind asked him if he liked the taste of Orange-flower water, this question not having any bearing, near or remote, on any foregone, or subsequent transaction".
The Orangeberries furnish a fragrant oil, essence de petit grain, and contain citrates, and malates of lime, and potash, with hesperidin, sulphur, and mineral salts. The flowers yield a volatile odorous oil, acetic acid, and acetate of lime; the juice of an Orange consists of citric, and malic acids, with fruit-sugar, citrate of lime, and water. As an appetizing and energizing bitter tonic, the Seville Orange-peel can well take the place of cinchona bark; indeed, the Pharmacopoeial tincture of Quinine contains that alkaloid, and the Orange bitter, on equal terms. They are each antidotal to malarious fever, and ague. Our two great Universities are nobly loyal to Orange Marmalade, of which a notably superior kind is made at Oxford, and is now sent from thence far and wide; its extra bitterness, and manifest purity, fully commend such popularity. A saying goes there that no undergraduate can pass his "little go" until he has consumed his own weight of Marmalade; which conserve got the name "Squish" first at Oxford. Orange oil is an essential oil extracted from the rind of both the bitter and the sweet Orange; it is used in liqueur-making, and in perfumery.
Professor Kirk, of Edinburgh, in his Papers on Health, admonishes persons concerning this fruit when eaten recklessly; "We have known most serious stomach disturbance caused to healthy persons by eating the whole substance of an Orange, except the outer rind. Some parts of the inner rind, and the partitions of the fruit, will act with certain individuals almost like poison; these portions should therefore be always rejected; the juice is most beneficial." Common Oranges, if cut through the middle while green, and dried in the air, being afterwards steeped for forty days in oil, are used by the Arabs for preparing an essence famous among their elderly women, for restoring a fresh dark, or black colour, to grey hair.
To make a syrup of Orange flowers: "Take four pounds of clarified sugar, and boil it to pearl; put into it several handfuls of perfectly fresh, and well-picked Orange flowers, and give them a good boil. Take it off the fire, and allow the flowers to infuse for two hours; then put it back over the fire, and boil it up a few more times. Place a sieve over an earthenware dish, and pour in the syrup so as to strain out the flowers; then put it again over the fire, and bring it out to small pearl. Allow it to cool in an earthenware dish, and pour it into bottles".
The white lining pith of Orange-peel yields likewise the crystalline principle, "hesperidin." Dr. Cullen has shown that the acid juice of Oranges, by uniting with the bile, diminishes the bitterness of that secretion; and hence it is that this fruit is of particular service in illnesses which arise from a redundancy of bile, chiefly in dark persons of a fibrous, or bilious temperament. But in the case of other individuals having only a small liver, and proportionate secreting powers of bile-making, Oranges will prove purgative, and induce colicky pains. Fresh Oranges will obviate a craving for intoxicating drinks: they allay thirst, and their fruit acids act beneficially. Because lessening the blood fibrin, which takes on an excess during influenza, Orange juice, if swallowed freely, is found to cut short that malady, and to prevent lung inflammation therefrom.
This fruit has lately acquired a reputation for particular benefits conferred on the consumptive. An Orange-cure which proceeds after such fashion is growing in favour, the Oranges being taken repeatedly every day, and always at meal-times. In Florida the said cure is practised systematically, the Navel Orange being chiefly selected, because of its abundant juice, and the specific virtues it is believed to possess for biliary, and bronchial ailments. Dr. Samuel Wesley (Primitive Physic, 1743) advised "for a cold in the head: thin the yellow rind of an Orange; roll this up inside out, and thrust a roll into each nostril." "The Orange," says Evelyn, "exceedingly refreshes and resists putrefaction; the very spoils and rinds of Oranges and Limons, being shred and sprinkled among other Herbs do correct their acrimony".