Bitter Orange for Weight Control
Also indexed as:Citrus X Aurantium, Seville Orange, Zhi Shi
© Martin Wall
How Much Is Usually Taken by Dieters?
Although historically used to stimulate appetite, bitter orange is frequently found in modern weight-loss formulas because synephrine is similar to the compound ephedrine, which is known to promote weight loss. In one study of 23 overweight adults, participants taking a daily intake of bitter orange (975 mg) combined with caffeine (525 mg) and St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum, 900 mg) for six weeks lost significantly more body weight and fat than the control group.1 No adverse effects on heart rate or blood pressure were found. Bitter orange standardized to contain 4 to 6% synephrine had an anti-obesity effect in rats. However, the amount used to achieve this effect was accompanied by cardiovascular toxicity and mortality.2
Bitter orange oil may possibly cause light sensitivity (photosensitivity), especially in fair-skinned individuals.3 Generally this occurs only if the oil is applied directly to the skin and then exposed to bright light; in rare cases it has also been known to occur in people who have taken bitter orange internally. The oil should not be applied topically and anyone who uses it internally should avoid bright light, including tanning booths.
Internal use of the volatile oil of bitter orange is also potentially unsafe and should not be undertaken without expert guidance. Large amounts of orange peel have caused intestinal colic, convulsions, and death in children.4 The amounts recommended above for internal use should not be exceeded.
One text on Chinese medicine cautions against the use of bitter orange in pregnancy.5 This concern is not raised in any other reference, and the American Herbal Products Association classifies the herb as "class 1," an herb that can be safely consumed during pregnancy when used appropriately.6
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Decoctions of bitter orange substantially increased blood levels of cyclosporine in pigs, causing toxicity.7 Bitter orange also inhibited human cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) in the test tube.8 This is an enzyme that helps the liver get rid of numerous toxins, and strongly affects metabolism of certain drugs. Bitter orange might, therefore, interact with drugs that are metabolized by CYP3A. To be on the safe side, bitter orange should not be combined with prescription medications, unless someone is under the care of an experienced natural medicine clinician.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.