Health Benefits of Bitter Orange

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on August 22, 2022
3 min read

Bitter orange, also known as Seville orange or sour orange, is a citrus fruit native to East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, and Southeast Asia. This fruit is so sour that it's hard to eat by itself, but has been commonly used as the main ingredient in some marmalades.

Today, bitter orange is grown throughout the Mediterranean and in parts of California. It's often used homeopathically in essential oils and weight loss supplements.

Bitter orange has been used in a number of health supplements and oils, but scientists are still studying its possible benefits and side effects.

Bitter orange is currently considered safe to eat and may offer some health benefits, but if you have high blood pressure or are at high risk of heart attack or stroke, you should ask your doctor before eating it.

Weight Management

Bitter orange is commonly found in weight loss pills and capsules. It may be effective in helping with weight management when combined with diet and exercise, but further studies are needed to be sure of its effectiveness and safety.

Helps Manage Low Blood Pressure

The synephrine in bitter oranges can increase the heart rate and raise blood pressure. For people with low blood pressure or conditions like POTS, small amounts of bitter orange may help manage symptoms. However, the effects of bitter orange are still being studied and regulated. Ask your doctor before using bitter orange to help manage low blood pressure.

Athlete's Foot Treatment

Bitter orange doesn't just have to be eaten. The oil of bitter orange can be used topically to treat fungal infections like athlete's foot. Because bitter orange is relatively cheap, this can be helpful to people with fungal skin infections.

According to researchers at Purdue University, one bitter orange is a good source of:

  • Fiber
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorous
  • Vitamin A
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin

Nutrients per Serving

Currently, there isn't enough scientific data to establish a standard serving size of bitter orange or the nutrients per serving. However, bitter orange is a naturally low-fat, low-calorie food, making it a nutritious snack for people trying to maintain a healthy diet.

Things to Watch Out For

One thing to keep in mind about bitter orange is that it contains synephrine. Synephrine is similar to ephedra, which was banned by the US Food and Drug Administration because it raises blood pressure.

Researchers are still studying whether bitter orange affects blood pressure in the same way. If you have high blood pressure or are at risk for developing high blood pressure, it’s best to check with your doctor before adding bitter orange to your diet.

Bitter orange is incredibly sour, and few people enjoy eating fresh bitter orange without sweeteners or seasoning.

In Mexico, a common way to prepare bitter orange is to cut the orange in half, salt it, and then coat it with hot chili paste before eating it. 

Another option is to make bitter orange marmalade. By including both the fruit and the rind, bitter orange marmalade lets you enjoy all the nutrients found in the whole fruit. If you're making your own bitter orange marmalade, be sure to wash the fruit well ahead of time. This will remove any chemicals used to grow the fruit.

Bitter orange marmalade can be enjoyed: 

  • Spread over toast
  • On crackers
  • With cheese
  • On pork chops or chicken

Another way to get the benefits of bitter orange is to use it topically as an oil rather than eating the fruit itself. Bitter orange oil can be purchased over the counter and applied to your skin directly. Some people show slight skin irritation when using pure bitter orange, but otherwise, there have been no negative side effects associated with using bitter orange oil on skin.