Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Bitter Orange Safety?

What can you tell me about bitter orange? I've read that it is a dangerous supplement. True?

Answer (Published 2/10/2011)

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) trees are common ornamental fruit trees, especially here in the southwest. The fruit may look good, but is very sour and has a bitter aftertaste. The rind is often cooked in syrup to make marmalade. Bitter orange has been used historically in Chinese medicine and by natives of the Amazon rainforest to treat nausea, indigestion and constipation. Today, bitter orange oil is used in foods, cosmetics and aromatherapy.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

Bitter orange peel extracts have been added to herbal weight loss formulas since 2004 when the FDA banned the sale of ephedra and all products containing ephedrine because of the health risks they present. I have often warned against ephedrine, a stimulant that can raise the body's core temperature and cause irregular heartbeat, insomnia and elevated blood pressure. What's more, its energy-boosting effects can dangerously mask signs of fatigue and dehydration. Following the ban, many products began carrying the label "ephedra-free," but that doesn't mean they are free of stimulants.

Bitter orange contains synephrine, a compound which has similar effects. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes that there have been reports of fainting, heart attack and stroke in healthy people after taking bitter orange supplements alone or combined with caffeine. I've seen no evidence suggesting that bitter orange is safer than ephedra and none showing that supplements containing it lead to lasting weight loss. While some research indicates that bitter orange raises resting metabolic rate, and that in combination with caffeine can lead to weight loss, I would be skeptical that any weight loss achieved this way will be maintained. In studies in Italy, researchers found that lab rats given bitter orange ate less and lost weight but also developed heart abnormalities and died as the dose increased. The investigators cautioned that bitter orange may be especially dangerous for the elderly, the obese, and those with heart problems.

I advise you to avoid bitter orange if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, if you regularly consume caffeinated beverages or if you take MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors for depression.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here