Bitter Orange for Weight Loss

bitter orange
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What Is Bitter Orange?

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) is a type of tree that grows in the Mediterranean region, as well as in California, Florida, and other parts of the world. Extracts of the tree's flowers, leaves, and dried fruit and peel are used in herbal medicine.

Uses for Bitter Orange

In traditional Chinese medicine, bitter orange has long been used to treat health problems such as nausea, indigestion, and constipation.

In alternative medicine, bitter orange is also purported to help treat heartburn, loss of appetite, and nasal congestion, as well as promote weight loss. Some proponents recommended applying bitter orange topically to treat fungal infections (such as ringworm and athlete's foot).

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of bitter orange for health purposes. Indeed, no studies have shown that the herb is useful in treatment of nausea, indigestion, constipation, heartburn, nasal congestion, or fungal infections.

Bitter Orange for Weight Loss

In recent years, bitter orange has been marketed as a natural weight-loss aid. Proponents claim that bitter orange helps stimulate the fat-burning process.

In several small studies, participants have experienced an increase in metabolic rates when consuming bitter orange products.

However, researchers have yet to confirm that bitter orange is beneficial to people wanting to lose weight.

What's more, bitter orange contains two compounds (synephrine and octopamine) that are structurally similar to those found in ephedra (an herb banned by the U.S. FDA because it raises blood pressure and is linked to heart attacks and strokes).

Synephrine has been found to increase blood pressure in humans, and may increase risk of cardiovascular events.

Caveats

Because of its potential to cause abnormal heart rhythms, raise blood pressure, and speed up heart rate, bitter orange should only be used under the direction of a physician. Anyone with a cardiovascular condition (such as heart disease or high blood pressure) or diabetes should avoid bitter orange.

Bitter orange should not be combined with caffeine or any natural substances containing caffeine (such as green tea and yerba mate). It should also be avoided by anyone taking medications (such as MAO inhibitors) or herbs/supplements that increase heart rate.

Due to lack of safety evidence, pregnant women should avoid products that contain bitter orange.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, there have been reports of fainting, heart attack, and stroke in healthy people after taking bitter orange supplements alone or combined with caffeine.

When topically applied, bitter orange oil may increase the risk of sunburn, particularly in light-skinned people.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of products marketed for weight loss and bodybuilding.

Also, the safety of supplements in nursing women, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Using Bitter Orange for Health

Due to the limited research and safety concerns, it's too soon to recommend bitter melon for weight loss (or any condition). It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using bitter melon, make sure to consult your physician first.

Sources:

Fugh-Berman A, Myers A. "Citrus aurantium, an ingredient of dietary supplements marketed for weight loss: current status of clinical and basic research." Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 229(8):698-704.

Klontz KC, Timbo BB, Street D. "Consumption of dietary supplements containing Citrus aurantium (bitter orange)--2004 California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS)." Ann Pharmacother. 2006 40(10):1747-51.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Bitter Orange: Herbs at a Glance http://nccam.nih.gov/health/bitterorange/." NCCAM Publication No. D390
Created August 2007
Updated November 2008.

Preuss HG, DiFerdinando D, Bagchi M, Bagchi D. "Citrus aurantium as a thermogenic, weight-reduction replacement for ephedra: an overview." J Med. 2002;33(1-4):247-64.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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