Bitter orange, both taken by mouth and applied to the skin, has many uses. But so far, science has shown only that the oil, when applied to the skin, might be effective for treatment of fungal skin infections (ringworm, jock itch, and athlete's foot).
Bitter orange peel is also used to improve appetite, and, in surprising contrast, it is also used for weight loss. Other uses for the fruit and peel are upset stomach, nasal congestion, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The bitter orange flower and bitter orange oil are used for gastrointestinal (GI) disorders including ulcers in the intestine, constipation, diarrhea, blood in feces, drooping (prolapsed) anus or rectum, and intestinal gas. These parts of the bitter orange plant are also used for regulating fat levels in the blood, lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes, stimulating the heart and circulation, "blood purification," disorders of liver and gallbladder, kidney and bladder diseases, and as a sedative for sleep disorders.
Some people use bitter orange flower and its oil for general feebleness, "tired blood" (anemia), impurities of the skin, hair loss, cancer, frostbite, and as a tonic.
Bitter orange peel is applied to the skin for swelling (inflammation) of the eyelid and its lining, as well as the retina in the eye. It is also used for bleeding from the retina, exhaustion accompanying colds, headaches, nerve pain, muscular pain, joint pain, bruises, swelling of the veins (phlebitis), and bed sores.
In aromatherapy, the essential oil of bitter orange is applied to the skin and also inhaled as a painkiller.
In foods, bitter orange oil is used as a flavoring agent. The fruit is used for making marmalades and liqueurs such as Triple Sec, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and Curacao. Because the fruit is so sour and bitter, it is rarely eaten, except in Iran and Mexico. The dried peel of the fruit is also used as a seasoning.
In manufacturing, bitter orange oil is used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and soaps.
In Asian medicine, the entire dried unripe fruit is used primarily for digestive disorders.
Bitter orange is frequently used in "ephedra-free" products since the FDA banned ephedra in 2004 for serious side effects on the heart. Bitter orange and caffeine, a frequent combination in weight loss and bodybuilding products, can cause high blood pressure and increased heart rate in healthy adults with otherwise normal blood pressure. There is no evidence to suggest that bitter orange is any safer than ephedra.
Bitter orange (synephrine) is considered a banned substance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Before taking bitter orange, talk with your healthcare professional if you take any medications. It can interact with many drugs.
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