Bitter orange: nutrition facts and health benefits

Bitter orange

The bitter orange, also called bigarade orange coming from the orange tree, is a citrus fruit smaller than the sweet orange. Its orange skin is rough, thick and tinted with green. Its flesh is a little juicy, acidic and contains a lot of seeds. It is grown in Spain (Seville) as well as in regions with a warm climate.

History of the bitter orange

The orange originates from Southeast Asia. The Arabs would have introduced it in the 9th or 10th century in Persia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, then in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain. It’s the Crusaders who diffused it throughout Europe where, for nearly 500 years, it was the only type of orange tree to be cultivated. At that time, it was mainly appreciated for its medicinal properties, for the bark entrusted with its fruits and for the fragrance that one draws from its flowers. In the 12th century, it was well settled in Seville (hence one of the vernacular names of its fruit “Seville orange”). Christopher Columbus introduced it to the Antilles on his second trip, and he reached the shores of mainland America around 1518. In the United States, where it found a particularly fertile land, bitter orange grew into vast wilderness gardens. It is said that it was the Amerindians who, by throwing the seeds of the fruits they had been given, contributed to the appearance of these orchards.

Without the commercial importance of the orange tree, bitter orange tree is now cultivated in many parts of the world. In China and Japan, people appreciate the flowers that are dried and added to the tea leaves. People also draw flowers from the essence of Neroli, which is used in perfumery (much more aromatic than which one draws from the flowers of the sweet orange) as well as in liqueurs, soft drinks, ice creams, pastries and chewing gum. The residue of the distilling is the so-called “orange blossom water”, which is often used in Oriental cuisine. From the bark of the immature fruit, another essence is used to aromatize liqueurs, including Grand Marnier, Cointreau and Curaçao. From the leaves and twigs removed during the pruning of the trees, people produce the small grain essence used in pharmacy, perfumery and in the food industry.


Otherwise called bitter or Seville orange, the bitter orange is part of the family of Rutaceae, such as lemon, sweet orange… under the scientific name Citrus Aurantinum. This ornamental tree whose etymology would come from the Provençal “bigarrado” meaning colourful.


The bitter orange is a tropical tree from Southeast Asia, which can reach nearly 7 meters high. Its fruit looks like an orange, with a thick, rough bark, tinted with yellow and green. Its leaves are evergreen, composed of an oval limb and a slightly winged petiole. Its flowers, consisting of five petals, are white, fleshy and particularly famous for the sweet scent they exude. They give, after distillation, the water of orange blossoms, appreciated by the perfumers.

Part used

The bitter orange bark is commonly used in the preparation of beverages and liqueurs. The flowers are used in the preparation of perfumes, such as neroli oil or orange blossom water. From the leaves, one gets the small grain oil. Flowers and leaves are composed of an essential oil, containing 50% of linalyl acetate in the leaves and 35% of linalol in the flowers. In Mexico, the fruit is appreciated with salt and chilli. In Egypt, fruit juice is the basis for making a regional wine with a voluptuous fragrance.

Health indications

-Bitter orange has a beneficial effect on micro-circulation.
-It also helps to promote weight loss.
-It helps to regulate the loss of appetite and is beneficial for certain stomach aches, various forms of sleep disturbances and transient nervousness.

Properties and assets

The fruit of the bitter orange is rich in vitamins, especially in vitamin C, in group B vitamins and in vitamin P by the presence of glycosides flavonique. It also has carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, phenolic acids, as well as many flavonoids.

The zest of bitter orange contains synephrine, which has a stimulating effect similar to adrenaline and enters the composition of decongestant preparations. This type of substance also has a vasoconstrictor action in the arteries, that is to say it helps to reduce the diameter of the blood vessels.

The bitter orange, especially its zest, helps to restore the tonicity and vitality for tired people. It helps to stimulate the body’s natural defenses and also presents some soothing properties to help regain serene and calm sleep, overtake the nervous conditions of passengers and encourage good intestinal activity.

Bitter orange is also usually used to help people who want to lose a few extra pounds. It actually acts to promote thermogenesis, thus the combustion of fats, under the effect of the synephrine it contains. It would diminish the sensation of hunger and would enter the composition of decongestant preparations. At present, the synephrine is the subject of numerous controversies in the scientific community, it would be related to the ephedrine, whose effects are undesirable on the cardiovascular system.

If you want to lose weight, it is important to drink a lot, to eat light, especially fruits and vegetables, rich in fibers, vitamins and minerals and to practice regular physical activity.


Interactions with the bitter orange bark:
-it is not advisable to take caffeine-based products (like coffee) at the same time as this food supplement
-it interacts with certain medicated treatments. Notify your doctor and pharmacist before taking bitter orange.

The bitter orange bark is not recommended to:
-People with heart problems, high blood pressure, and coronary artery thrombosis
-People with diabetes, thyroid disorders, reina deficiency
-Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, children.

Interaction with medication

Like grapefruit and its juice, the bitter orange (Seville orange) can lead to an increase or, less frequently, a decrease in the effects of certain medications. Indeed, substances contained in these fruits prevent an enzyme from metabolizing these drugs, resulting in an increase in their concentration in the blood, which can cause serious, sometimes fatal, adverse reactions. Almost all classes of medications are likely to interact with grapefruit and bitter orange: medicines for the treatment of cancer, depression, hypercholesterolemia, high blood pressure, cardiac problems, and others.

The consumption of as little as 250 ml of juice can cause an increase in the drug in the blood, which may persist for 3 days or more. Taking the medicine a few hours after consuming the bitter orange or grapefruit does not allow avoiding the adverse effects. Health authorities are reminding to refrain from consuming these fruits or their juices unless you have consulted a doctor or pharmacist about the risk of adverse reactions.


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