Common Name: Bitter orange, Seville orange, Sour orange, Zhi shi, Orange, Neroli, Bigarade Orange
Latin Name: Citrus aurantium

The bitter orange tree is native to eastern Africa and tropical Asia. Today, it is grown throughout the Mediterranean region and elsewhere, including California and Florida.

Bitter orange oil is used in foods, cosmetics, and aromatherapy — a therapy in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees is inhaled to promote health and well-being. Bitter orange oil from the tree’s leaves is called petitgrain. Oil from the flowers is called neroli.

The medicinal parts of the bitter orange are the fresh and dried fruit peel, the flowers, the seeds and the extracted essential oil. The peel is thick, rough and orange when ripe. The fruit pulp is acidic. The core is hollow when ripe.

What Is Bitter Orange Used For?

Bitter orange has been used in traditional Chinese medicine — a whole medical system that originated in China. It is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of qi and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang. Practices such as herbs, meditation, massage, and acupuncture seek to aid healing by restoring the yin-yang balance.

  • Bitter Orange has a mild spasmolytic effect on the gastrointestinal tract and increases gastric juice secretion.
  • Used by indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest for nausea, indigestion, and constipation.
  • Current uses of bitter orange are for heartburn, loss of appetite, nasal congestion, and weight loss.
  • Bitter orange is also applied to the skin for fungal infections such as ringworm and athlete’s foot.

Bitter orange is approved by Commission E for treatment of loss of appetite and digestive complaints.

How Bitter Orange Is Used

The dried fruit and peel (and sometimes flowers and leaves) are taken by mouth in extracts, tablets, and capsules. Bitter orange oil can be applied to the skin. Many herbal weight loss products now use bitter orange peel in place of ephedra.

Folk medicine: Preparations of Bitter Orange flower and flower oil are used as a preventive measure for gastric and nervous complaints, gout, sore throat, as a sedative, for nervous tension and sleeplessness. Folk medicine uses include chronic bronchitis.

Chinese medicine: Bitter Orange peel is used for coughs, colds, anorexia, to reduce apathy and for uterine and anal prolapse.

Cut and coarsely powdered bitter orange peel is used for teas & bitter tasting galenic preparations for oral application. Commercial pharmaceutical preparations include drops, tonics and tea mixes. To prepare a tea, add 1 teaspoon of the herb to 150 ml of hot water, let stand for 10 minutes, then strain. Take 1 cup 1 hour before meals.

Side Effects and Cautions

Overall, no health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages. A few exceptions are made for common-sense caution:

  • Because bitter orange contains chemicals that may speed up the heart rate and raise blood pressure, it may not be safe to use as a dietary supplement if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure.
  • Bitter orange should not be combined with caffeine.
  • Pregnant women should avoid products that contain bitter orange.
  • Bitter orange oil used on the skin may increase the risk of sunburn in light-skinned people.

Read More: Food Facts