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bitter orange

© 2018 Steven Foster

A bitter orange monograph for the home

Latin Name: Citrus aurantium

Common Names: bitter orange, Seville orange, sour orange, zhi shi

This bitter orange monograph provides basic information about bitter orange—common names, usefulness and safety, and resources for more information.


Bitter Orange Basics

  • Native to eastern Africa and tropical Asia, bitter orange now is grown throughout the Mediterranean region and elsewhere, including California and Florida.
  • Bitter orange has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and by indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest for constipation. Amazonian natives also used it for nausea and indigestion.
  • Today, people use various bitter orange products as a dietary supplement for heartburn, loss of appetite, nasal congestion, and weight loss. It is also applied to the skin for pain, bruises, and bed sores.
  • Bitter orange, used in some weight-loss products, contains synephrine, which is similar to the main chemical in the herb ephedra. Ephedra is banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it raises blood pressure and is linked to heart attack and stroke.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) placed synephrine (bitter orange) on its current list of banned drugs.
  • The fruit, peel, flower, and oil are used and can be taken by mouth in tablets and capsules. Bitter orange oil can be applied to the skin.

Bitter Orange in Health Research

  • Only a few studies have investigated the usefulness of bitter orange as a dietary supplement for health purposes in people.

Bitter Orange Research Summary

  • Applying bitter orange oil to the skin may help with ringworm, jock itch, and athlete’s foot infections.
  • There’s not enough scientific evidence to support the use of bitter orange for other health purposes.

Bitter Orange Safety

  • There are case reports of healthy people experiencing fainting, heart attack, and stroke after taking bitter orange alone or with caffeine. However, evidence regarding the effects of bitter orange (alone or combined with other substances, such as caffeine and green tea) on the heart and cardiovascular system are inconclusive.
  • Because products that contain bitter orange may be unsafe, pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid them.

Bitter Orange References


PubMed Articles About Citrus aurantium

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US), National Center for Biotechnology Information; [1988] – [cited 2018 Apr 5]. Available from:

Karimzadeh, Z., Azizzadeh Forouzi, M., Tajadini, H., Ahmadinejad, M., Roy, C., Dehghan, M., (2021) Effects of lavender and Citrus aurantium on pain of conscious intensive care unit patients: A parallel randomized placebo-controlled trial.

Conscious patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) suffer from pain for various reasons, which can affect their recovery process.

Moslemi, F., Alijaniha, F., Naseri, M., Kazemnejad, A., Charkhkar, M., Heidari, MR., (2020) Aroma for Anxiety in Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial.

This study evaluated the antianxiety effect of aroma (neroli oil) inhalation on patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. This study was conducted in the Coronary Care Unit of Torfeh Hospital in Tehran, Iran, from September 2017 to February 2018. A total of 140 hospitalized ACS patients (mean age = 56.72 ± 11.38 years) Eligible patients were randomly assigned to citrus aroma and placebo groups to receive inhalation aromatherapy 2 days after hospitalization. Citrus aroma was 30% essential oil of L. flowers in paraffin, which was administrated three times a day. The placebo group received paraffin similarly. The rate of anxiety was measured at baseline and after intervention using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. At baseline, citrus aroma and placebo groups were similar in demographic characteristics as well as anxiety scores. After intervention, mean anxiety scores in the two groups become significantly different; the scores were 34.66 ± 9.6 and 42.36 ± 6.4 for citrus aroma and placebo groups, respectively ( < 0.0001). No side effect was observed. According to the current findings, aromatherapy with L. aroma (neroli oil) may be a safe and efficient intervention and can be considered an easy and applicable method to reduce anxiety in patients with ACS.

Mohammadpourhodki, R., Sadeghnezhad, H., Ebrahimi, H., Basirinezhad, MH., Maleki, M., Bossola, M., (2021) The Effect of Aromatherapy Massage With Lavender and Citrus Aurantium Essential Oil on Quality of Life of Patients on Chronic Hemodialysis: A Parallel Randomized Clinical Trial Study.

Poor quality of life is a major problem in hemodialysis patients.

Heydari, N., Abootalebi, M., Jamalimoghadam, N., Kasraeian, M., Emamghoreishi, M., Akbarzadeh, M., (2018) Investigation of the effect of aromatherapy with Citrus aurantium blossom essential oil on premenstrual syndrome in university students: A clinical trial study.

The aim was to investigate the effect of aromatherapy using Citrus aurantium blossom essential oil on premenstrual syndrome in university students.

Asgari, MR., Vafaei-Moghadam, A., Babamohamadi, H., Ghorbani, R., Esmaeili, R., (2020) Comparing acupressure with aromatherapy using Citrus aurantium in terms of their effectiveness in sleep quality in patients undergoing percutaneous coronary interventions: A randomized clinical trial.

Poor sleep quality is prevalent in candidates for percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs). The present study was conducted to compare aromatherapy with acupressure in terms of their effectiveness in sleep quality in patients undergoing PCIs.