February 2, 2011

The Joy of Peeling an Orange - Celebrating MCS Improvements

For the first many years of having MCS, I reacted very badly to high VOC terpenes from any sources. I reacted to wood(especially coniferous like pine, cedar etc), cut grass, mint, thyme, essential oils, citrus and more.
Citrus fruit peel contains a terpene called Limonene that gets released easily into the air when the peel is broken such as when an orange is peeled. Limonene is also present in highly concentrated form in citrus 'cleaners', degreasers and solvents which, as any person with MCS knows, can cause severe reactions even in tiny amounts. It may also be used as an insecticide and pest repellent. It can be listed as the ingredient 'citrus oil' or 'orange oil'.

For many years, I could not be in a room where citrus had been peeled for many hours after the peeling. If any pieces of peel were left out, I couldn't go in the room. If the door to that room was open, I couldn't be in any adjoining room either and I reacted to the orange oil left on the hands of whoever peeled it.

As I began to heal, I was able to peel an orange under cold running water, with gloves and mask on.
In time I was able to remove the mask but still had to use cold running water and gloves and could not leave any of the peel out.

I hadn't tried it for almost a year until 2 months ago when I had a sudden craving for an orange and I decided to try peeling it like a normal person and see how I did.

Those are my hands! Peeling the orange right in my kitchen! ☺

I was fine!

What's more, I enjoyed the smell!
Also a surprise to me were the facts that I could leave the orange peel out without reacting and that I didn't react to the orange oil left on my hands.

This was all incredibly exciting to me (and still is :).
I love oranges and it's totally liberating to be able to peel one for myself, in my own home, with no ill effects! I've repeated the experiment a number of times since I first tried it a few months ago and I've been fine each time - actually enjoying the wonderfully fresh smell.

I believe that concentrated orange oil 'cleaners', degreasers and solvents and essential oils are not safe to use. Unfortunately they are often marketed as 'natural', 'green' and 'non-toxic'.
You can read about the health risks of Limonene here on the Skin Deep website: Limonene score - moderate hazard.


  1. Your success with oranges is described so clearly. Taking steps toward included something that was once a joy, but lately a trigger takes courage.

    I think that's the message your post gives me: time might be the ingredient for ushering joy back into our lives.

    It's valuable to leave your post with that FYI re: the 'natural citrus cleaner.' I have found them volatile and for me, no way near the smell of a real orange.

    Nice chronicle of success, Liberty.


  2. I'm so glad you commented Mokihana... you saw something in my post that I hadn't!
    I definitely have found that time can be a necessary ingredient for, as you said so wonderfully, "ushering joy back into our lives".
    Sometimes the body or brain has been healing or learning something new when we didn't even realise it!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I loved reading it (I think you're a great writer) - it was as if I were there!

    What a delightful situation. :-) If my cat smells orange peel he does Not like it. He makes the funniest face.

    I applaud your 'going forth boldly' to give it a try peeling the orange in the regular way!

    I love reading all the positive changes in your life....things that you can once again do. Brings a smile to my face. :-)

  4. Thank you Kate for sharing in this joy with me :-)
    I'm so glad it brings a smile to your face.

  5. Awesome, Libby! So happy for you. ;) I get that same joy from putting on a shirt I previously wouldn't have been able to wear.

  6. thanks for sharing my happiness Emily!
    I'm so happy for you about being able to wear more clothing now :)

  7. Libby- I just had a reaction today to someone else having peeled an orange, and me walking into that air, and having to leave. My throat hurt from it, and I got that "messed up head" feeling that comes with the stronger hits.

    I did a search on the Internet to find out why I react that way to oranges, and your post came up! :-) Thank you so much for documenting like you do. I haven't been doing a good job of it lately. I didn't know limonene was in orange peel! You're awesome.

    Thanks for keeping up your blog even as you are so remarkably improved :0)

  8. hi Ames,
    so crappy that you had that reaction! All citrus has limonene in it (naturally occuring VOC). I think all essential oils, even in the natural, unprocessed form, are VOCs and can cause reactions for people.
    Some one recently told me about an Allergy Antidotes method to desensitise of holding a bit of the offending substance on our hand with our thumb against the palm, fingers curled over and then tapping the 'karate chop' parts of both hands together for 30 seconds or more.
    I haven't tried it yet but if I do I'll let you know how it goes.
    if the reaction is too severe to hold the substance, it can be inside a plastic bag.
    I can't recall if you tried brain retraining at all (Gupta, Hopper etc).
    People are having amazing results that make my slow recovery look like a prehistoric snail's pace!
    very exciting :)


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