Is bitter orange safe and effective for weight loss?

Answer From Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

While some research suggests that bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) can help with modest weight loss when combined with diet and exercise, it's probably not worth the risk. That's because bitter orange may cause potentially serious health problems. So if you're trying to lose weight, stick to healthier methods and skip the bitter orange.

Bitter orange extract is often used in weight-loss supplements. Bitter orange contains synephrine, which is similar to the main chemical in the herb ephedra (ma-huang). Ephedra was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it raises blood pressure and has been linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Like ephedra, synephrine may speed up your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. Strokes and heart attacks have been reported in some people after taking bitter orange alone or in with other stimulants such as caffeine. In addition, bitter orange may interact with some prescription medications.

Remember, just because an herbal supplement might be natural doesn't mean it's safe. Talk with your doctor before taking herbal supplements.

March 07, 2020 See more Expert Answers