Amended Bitter Orange - Ephedra in Disguise? So Why Do People Still Take It ?

If you read my last article about bitter orange, it was pretty clear how I felt about the herb. I'd read the available research concerning bitter orange, and while there was some evidence supporting bitter orange, the overall picture did not look good.

So that's the picture I painted, however, there were some facts that I was unaware of at the time, which I felt you might be interested in if you're researching bitter orange.

In order to lay these out, I want to answer four questions:

1. What Is Bitter Orange Really ?

2. So does Bitter Orange act similarly to ephedrine ?

3. What about the reports of adverse ill effects of bitter orange ?

4. Is bitter orange safe to use and does it work ?

It's a bit long, but what the heck !

What Is Bitter Orange Really ?:

The Bitter Orange extract found in popular fat burners, is made from the unripe fruit of the citrus aurantium tree. The fruit is picked when they are a dark green in color, halved, dried and then milled into a powder. This makes the herb Zhi Shi1. Bitter orange is the western name for Zhi Shi.

The bitter orange herb contains five alkaloids (see alkaloid definition5), the most dominant of which is Synephrine (the compound I referred to in my last article), structurally similar to ephedrine. However, while they are similar, they're not the same.

Both synephrine and ephedrine stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and at a cellular level, affect alpha cell receptors, and to a lesser extent, beta cell receptors6. Ephedrine will affect beta(1), beta(2) and beta(3) cell receptors, however, of the beta-cell receptors, synephrine appears to only affect beta(3) cells, those believed to be responsible for thermogenesis or fat burning affects7. Beta(1) and beta(2) receptors are believed to be responsible for cardiac and pulmonary functions.

So does Bitter Orange act similarly to ephedrine ?

Does it ? While previously, I've presented a very black and white view of whether it acts similarly to ephedrine, I am now not so sure.

There is some confusion as to how synephrine affects heart rates and blood pressure. Intravenously injected synephrine will cause increased heart rates and blood pressure, however, orally taken synephrine does not, and synephrine contained in most herbal weight loss supplements are taken orally.

Generally speaking because synephrine stimulates beta(3) cells but not beta(2) and beta(1) cells, it can provide the thermogenic effects without the undesirable cardiac side effects that ephedrine did.

What about the reports of adverse ill effects of bitter orange ?

The American Herbal Products Association has found that there were errors in the reported adverse event reports attributed to the use of bitter orange in September 20043. The association found that numbers reported in the media were in fact duplicates for adverse event reports for ephedrine, and when all was said and done, there was really only one report of an adverse reaction attributed to a bitter orange supplement, where no other ingredient was included in the supplement. In this particular case, it involved a 74 year old woman had been taking prescription medication and two other herbal preparations simultaneously. This one case occurred more than five years ago3.

What about the 55 year old woman reported by Nykamp DL, Fackih MN, Compton AL (2004), who experienced chest pain after consuming a supplement containing bitter orange. Researchers in this case study had commented "Based on the Naranjo probability scale, C. aurantium is possibly associated with this cardiovascular event"4, however, as bitter orange was not the only ingredient in the supplement, it cannot be known whether in this case, that bitter orange was the herb responsible.

Is bitter orange safe to use and does it work ?

Now there are many others, who felt as I did, that bitter orange is another Ephedra waiting to happen, and will have the same consequences. However, when bitter orange is taken in isolation, it does not have adverse side effects.

In fact, when it is combined with other selected herbs, it may have benefits for health and weight loss. Research performed with 20 individuals over six weeks found no adverse reactions occurred when citrus aurantium was combined with caffeine and St. Johns Wort2. They also found that the individuals who were given the supplement (group A) lost an average of 2.9% body fat. "In terms of actual fat loss, group A lost a significant amount (3.1 kg), whereas the control group demonstrated a tendency toward fat loss." So, this study has demonstrated that there are weight loss benefits involved here, but also the control group who received nothing exhibited a tendency towards fat loss, suggesting that if the study had been extended beyond 6 weeks, the control group would have lost body fat as well.

Conclusions:

2004 was not a great year for bitter orange in the media. It has successfully battled reports of adverse events alleged to be a result of consuming bitter orange. These numbers proved to be incorrect.

While synephrine the main alkaloid of bitter orange, is chemically similar to ephedrine, it is not the same as ephedrine and differs in the way it reacts pharmacologically within the human body.

Although at first look at the research, bitter orange presented with dangers that I wanted to warn against, a more in-depth look has revealed that bitter orange by itself is not dangerous. The citrus aurantium extract standardized for synephrine (3-6%) is accepted as safe7.

But hang on, before you click off this page, to go and find a fat burner with citrus aurantium in it, I do also want to say, that they can't be used as an alternative to good food and exercise.

Herbal supplements such as those containing bitter orange can be helpful but only when used within a weight loss strategy of balanced eating and exercise, and while they may benefit some, it may not benefit others and only your doctor will be able to make that decision for you6. The results may be slower, but a balanced diet and exercise are the keys to permanent and healthy weight loss. So while bitter orange may be helpful, you can obtain the same results without it. What-ever stage you are at with your health and fitness, diet and exercise are the two most important aspects.

If you do decide you'd like to try a supplement containing bitter orange, please consult your doctor before purchasing a bitter orange product.

Essentially if you consult your doctor about bitter orange, as we say in Australia - you can't go wrong, mate. Your doctor will be able to refer you to your nearest dietician and will recommend the best weight loss strategy for your situation.

References:

1. Jones, D., "Bitter Orange or Citrus Aurantium: same difference ?"

2. Colker et. al., (1999) Effects of Citrus Aurantium extract, caffeine, and St. John's Work on body fat loss, lipid levels, and mood states in overweight healthy adults. Curr. Ther. Res. 60, 145 ? 153.

3. American Herbal Products (2004) "FDA Spins Numbers on Bitter Orange AERs" Press Release

4. Nykamp DL, Fackih MN, Compton AL. Possible association of acute lateral-wall myocardial infarction and bitter orange supplement. Ann Pharmacother. 2004 May;38(5):812-6. Epub 2004 Mar 16.

5. Definition of Alkaloids - any of hundreds of compounds found in plants with a nitrogen atom connected to two carbon atoms, and often formed in a ring structure. Many commonly known chemicals and drugs are alkaloids, including nicotine, cocaine, quinine, morphine, and ephedrine.

6. Dharmananda, S., SYNEPHRINE:Is Chih-shih (Zhishi) Toxic? Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon. See the schematic diagram for synephrine at the bottom of the page.

7. Supplement Watch on Synephrine

Other Sites of Interest:

Supplement Watch Newsletter

About The Author

Copyright © 2004 Jenny Mathers All Rights Reserved.

Research resource for fat burning foods and supplements. Fat burning food research information allowing you to take the guess work out of fat burning.

In The News:


FDA Considers New Approach Toward Regulation of Dietary Supplements
Regulatory Focus
Last updated in 2007, the book has undergone just a handful of updates since its launch in the early 1980s. But now FDA is planning to revisit the document, and potentially broaden its scope to include dietary supplements on a more prominent basis.

and more »

WXIA-TV

Diet craze sends 'miracle' supplement flying off shelves
WXIA-TV
Holistic Dr. Taz Bhatia says the supplement is supposed to regulate the insulin in your body, suppressing hunger, but it's not a pill everyone can swallow. Garcinia Cambogia, like a lot of weight loss supplements, works for certain people. The ...

and more »

Science 2.0

Vermont GMO Labeling Law Exempts Herbal Supplements Made By Initiative ...
Science 2.0
In it's latest decision, the Vermont Attorney General's office, charged with turning the vaguely measure into law, released a draft rule that would exempt “dietary supplements” from the definition of food. This is after the original wording already ...
Vermont Proposes Excluding Supplements From GMO LabelingNatural Products INSIDER

all 106 news articles »

New York Times (blog)

Dangerous Dietary Supplements Return to Store Shelves
New York Times (blog)
The new study, published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that out of more than two dozen supplements that were pulled from shelves after they were found to contain anabolic steroids or powerful prescription drugs ...
Tainted supplements sold after recalls, study saysUSA TODAY
Banned Drugs Still Turning Up In Weight-Loss SupplementsNPR (blog)
Recalled, drug-tainted supplements still available for purchaseReuters
Los Angeles Times -Food Safety News -Live Science
all 148 news articles »

Dietary supplements more popular than ever
KGNS.tv
(NBC) - A new survey from the supplement industry shows how many of us are taking dietary supplements. The council for responsible nutrition finds 68 percent of US adults take supplements. More than half say they're regular users. Vitamins and minerals ...

and more »

These 'herbal' sex supplements really work!
ConsumerReports.org
Gulp down some ULTRAsize tabs or swallow a few capsules of Herbal Stud and you really might be able to push it "longer," "stronger," and "harder," as their sex supplement ads proclaim. But beware: Even though these “miraculous” sexual performance pills ...


StreamDaily

Lionsgate's BeFit gets branded nutritional supplements
StreamDaily
The company's online YouTube fitness channel BeFit has paired with Top Secret Nutrition to develop a line of BeFit-branded supplements produced with natural ingredients. The line of vitamin supplements will be specifically designed to help BeFit's ...
LIONSGATE'S ONLINE FITNESS CHANNEL BEFIT PARTNERS WITH TOP ...Consumer Electronics Net

all 2 news articles »

Little-known dangers of dietary supplements
WDSU New Orleans
You've seen him leading the call to mentor young kids in the city. Sonny Lee has been outspoken about his cause, "Son of a Saint" but he's never before opened up publicly about "how" he lost his own father, former black and gold cornerback Bivian Lee.
CRN: 68% of US Adults Use SupplementsNatural Products INSIDER

all 5 news articles »

Concussion Supplements: Helpful or a Hoax?
WRIC
"You don't know what you're giving your child." 8News investigative reporter Amanda Malkowski went in depth to find out what the supplements really do, or don't do. Watch 8News at 11 tonight to learn more about proper concussion treatment and prevention.

and more »

NPA to FDA: Consumer Advisory on Supplements, Drugs Is 'Misleading'
Natural Products INSIDER
WASHINGTON—The Natural Products Association on Friday expressed concern over a recent FDA consumer update, which warned consumers that there are risks associated with taking dietary supplements and medications at the same time. “We are ...

Google News

Popular Applications of Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid has received much press lately as a natural... Read More

Discount Supplement

Discount Supplement ? what is it?Discount supplement is a term... Read More

Colostrum: Immune Support From Mothers Milk

This complex mixture of nutrient-rich growth factors, immunoglobulins, glycoconjugates and... Read More

Multivitamins: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Ideally, humans would eat wholly nutritious diets rich in protein,... Read More

Finding Fish

Fetuses and infants simply must get enough omega-3 oils for... Read More

Vitamins for Smokers

Numerous studies and surveys have consistently shown that a majority... Read More

Know Your Bodybuilding Supplement - BCAAs

BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids and is increasingly... Read More

Herbal Sex Supplements

There are numerous herbal supplements on the market today that... Read More

Vitamins for Your Healthier LIfe

VITAMINS:Vitamins are major for Healthy life. Vitamin D may reduce... Read More

Is Ephedra a Miracle Cure?

Americans are buzzing about the FDA's recent decision to reverse... Read More

Take Back Your Life 2

In part one of this series, titled "Take Back Your... Read More

Omega 3 Fish Oil EPA and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Since the release of a book called" beat chronic fatigue... Read More

Supplements ? How To Take Them

It's unfortunate but many people have digestive systems that find... Read More

Probiotics and Friendly Flora

You Need Probiotics For Better Digestion and Overall HealthInside your... Read More

Acid Amino Arginine ? An Acid With Many Benefits

When you buy acid amino arginine you can look forward... Read More

Bodybuilding Supplements May Not Be Necessary

To supplement or not to supplement ? that is the... Read More

An Introduction to Whey Protein

Made from cow's milk, whey protein is a pure, all-natural,... Read More

Dietary and Nutritional Supplements: Know More About Supplements

At times, due to your busy and fast life, we... Read More

The Benefits of Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey protein concentrate popularity has increased dramatically in recent years... Read More

Nutritional Nutrients

Nutrients form the basis for your body, emotional and spiritual... Read More

Treatment of Heart Disease with Coenzyme Q10

Since its discovery in the late 1950â??s Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)... Read More

Glutathione - Your Brains Master Antioxidant Defense

Free radicals and oxyradicals play an important role in the... Read More

Coenzyme Q10 - Learn All the Wonderful Properties of this Vitamin-Like Nutrient

Sometimes I ask myself why this wonderful antioxidant supplement was... Read More

Know Your Bodybuilding Supplement - L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is synthesized in the body from the amino acids... Read More

If You Want to Enjoy Optimum Good Health A Multivitamin Can Help

It's never too late to change your habits, and if... Read More