Citrus bergamot and bitter orange are both popular herbs with health benefits for metabolism and weight loss. However, they both stand apart from each other in multiple unique ways.
This article will help you determine whether citrus bergamot or bitter orange is right for you, depending on your health condition, goals, and other critical factors.
We will provide an overview of citrus bergamot vs. bitter orange, their main health benefits, side effects, and dosing guidelines. By the end, you will see which one is best for you.
Table of Contents
Citrus Bergamot Overview:
Citrus bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a citrus fruit native to the Italian region known as Calabria. It is also called sour orange and bergamot orange, and it is thought to be a hybrid of the lemon and bitter orange.
This fruit was used in traditional medicine for fevers, parasitic infections, and other ailments. Today, citrus bergamot is often used for cholesterol and weight loss support, among other research-backed uses.
Listed below are the clinically-studied health benefits of citrus bergamot.
1. May Reduce Cholesterol
Citrus bergamot is most known for its ability to reduce high cholesterol levels and improve total lipid profiles.
One clinical trial showed that citrus bergamot supplementation led to significant reductions in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol. At the same time, it increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol).
A clinical study showed similar effects for citrus bergamot flavonoids. Researchers found that citrus bergamot flavonoids greatly increased HDL cholesterol while markedly reducing LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
These are just two of several clinical studies which show highly similar effects on lipid profiles.
Citrus bergamot seems to work by decreasing cholesterol production, which stems from its actions on an enzyme called HMG CoA-reductase. Additionally, citrus bergamot appears to help remove cholesterol from the blood and inhibit LDL oxidation.
2. May Decrease Blood Sugar Levels
Arguably the second most well-researched benefit of citrus bergamot is its effectiveness for reducing blood sugar levels.
A clinical trial on individuals with type 2 diabetes revealed that patients who took citrus bergamot experienced a significant reduction in blood sugar compared to placebo.
One clinical study on obese adults with high blood sugar showed that citrus bergamot notably decreased blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance. Additionally, patients who were given citrus bergamot had improved body composition.
Another clinical trial revealed that citrus bergamot can reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy subjects and those with high blood sugar, which means that this herb may act as a way to prevent or reduce elevated blood sugar levels, depending on what’s needed.
Overall, citrus bergamot seems able to reduce blood sugar because of its effect on enhancing insulin sensitivity and increasing AMPK and other enzymes involved in sugar metabolism.
3. May Help with Weight Loss
There is also some evidence that citrus bergamot aids weight loss.
One clinical trial on older adults with high cholesterol discovered that citrus bergamot led to a greater decrease in body weight, waist circumference, and body mass index (BMI) compared to the control group.
A clinical study on metabolic syndrome patients showed that citrus bergamot supplementation significantly decreased body weight and BMI. Additionally, those who were given citrus bergamot experienced notable improvements in hormonal markers which indicates an improvement in metabolic health and weight management.
Researchers have discovered that citrus bergamot may work for weight loss through several mechanisms. For example, citrus bergamot enhances the activity of many enzymes involved in fat and sugar metabolism, such as AMPK. Moreover, bergamot orange may work to improve hunger and satiety via its actions on the hormones ghrelin and leptin.
Finally, the general anti-inflammatory properties of citrus bergamot may aid weight loss efforts.
4. May Reduce Inflammation
While there is less research for this health benefit, citrus bergamot also initially seems effective for reducing inflammation.
A clinical trial on patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease showed that supplementing with citrus bergamot decreased C-reactive protein (CRP) and other inflammatory markers.
In a clinical study on individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and diabetes, researchers noted that citrus bergamot supplementation reduced a variety of inflammatory markers.
The anti-inflammatory effects of citrus bergamot are uniquely attributed to its high presence of flavonoids and other antioxidant compounds which decrease oxidative stress.
Bitter Orange Overview:
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) is also a citrus fruit. It is native to Eastern Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and Southeast Asia, although it’s also grown in many other areas today, such as the Mediterranean region.
This fruit is sometimes referred to as Seville orange due to its cultivation in Seville, Spain for hundreds of years.
Bitter orange was used for hundreds of years primarily in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for numerous health concerns, such as indigestion and diarrhea. Modern-day research shows that bitter orange may have several health benefits, such as weight loss.
Detailed below are the main research-backed health benefits of bitter orange.
1. May Reduce Stress & Anxiety
The most well-researched benefit of bitter orange is reduced stress and anxiety. This is primarily from essential oil extracts of bitter orange.
One clinical trial on individuals who were in the hospital due to a heart attack revealed that the aroma from bitter orange essential oil significantly reduced anxiety and fatigue compared to the placebo.
In a clinical study on individuals about to undergo surgical operation, researchers found that bitter orange appeared to be just as effective in reducing anxiety as diazepam (a common anti-anxiety drug).
These are just two of several clinical trials which show anxiolytic effects of bitter orange essential oil during various anxiety-provoking events.
The anti-anxiety effects of bitter orange are due to its ability to increase GABA levels in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter which is critical for calming down the nervous system and preventing over-excitation.
2. May Aid Weight Loss
A few clinical trials show that bitter orange and one of its derivatives, p-synephrine, may aid weight loss.
One clinical trial on healthy overweight adults showed that individuals given a supplement containing bitter orange extract lost more weight and body fat compared to the placebo group.
A clinical study on individuals with a BMI of 27 or greater showed that supplementing with synephrine and other compounds led to marked reductions in body fat compared to the control group.
Bitter orange may help with weight loss due to its effects on adrenergic receptors. This leads to an increase in metabolic rate, particularly for carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
3. May Improve Sleep
The essential oils of bitter orange may be able to improve sleep quality, particularly for individuals in higher-stress situations.
A clinical trial on pregnant women with sleep disorders found that bitter orange aromatherapy led to significant improvements in sleep quality compared to the placebo.
In a clinical trial on patients hospitalized with heart problems, aromatherapy with bitter orange essential oil greatly improved sleep quality and other aspects of sleep compared to the control group.
Bitter orange is though to improve sleep via its actions on GABA receptors, which results in increased relaxation and calm mental states. Moreover, GABA is needed to initiate sleep.
4. May Lower Blood Sugar
A small number of clinical trials point to bitter orange’s potential ability to lower blood sugar.
One clinical trial on diabetic patients discovered that bitter orange supplementation led to a significant decrease in blood sugar levels compared to the placebo.
In a clinical study on individuals with type 2 diabetes, subjects who were given a tea made of poison devil’s-pepper (Rauvolfia vomitoria) and bitter orange extract experienced lower blood sugar levels and improvements in fatty acid profiles compared to the control group.
Bitter orange is able to reduce blood sugar mainly due to its ability to increase enzymes that metabolize sugar.
Citrus Bergamot vs. Bitter Orange: Differences
Citrus bergamot and bitter orange are relatively similar citrus fruits, but they have some major differences that set them apart.
Bergamot oranges are native to tropical Asia, although they are most often grown in the Calabrian region in Italy and the Ivory Coast. It is thought to be a hybrid of a lemon and bitter orange. These oranges grow on small trees that grow to about 15 feet tall. Citrus bergamot fruits are about the size of a mini orange, yet they are greenish-yellow in color.
Bergamot orange is usually not eaten raw due to its intense bitter, sour taste. The oil from the rind is mixed with black tea leaves to make Earl Grey tea. The juice, zest, and rind of bergamot orange is often used for various sauces, marmalades, and other dishes.
Bitter oranges are native to Eastern Africa, India, and China, but they also grow very well in the Mediterranean, South America, and the US. It is likely a hybrid of the pomelo and mandarin orange. The bitter orange tree grows much larger than bergamot, up to 33 feet tall. The fruit resembles the common orange although it is smaller in size.
Bitter oranges are not typically eaten raw in whole form due to their sour taste. Rather, the juice, peel, and zest are used for various products, such as in marmalades, syrups, juices, candies, and as an aroma.
Citrus Bergamot vs. Bitter Orange: Which is Right for You?
There are a few similar benefits of citrus bergamot and bitter orange, although key ways that they differ. As a result, it’s important to give you the best information to determine which one is right for you.
In terms of health effects, both citrus bergamot and bitter orange seem beneficial for weight loss and blood sugar control. With that said, citrus bergamot is more well-researched regarding blood sugar.
Another thing to consider is that citrus bergamot seems to reduce cholesterol levels, whereas no such effect occurs with bitter orange (or at least it hasn’t been researched yet).
However, bitter orange is more effective than citrus bergamot for reducing stress and anxiety and improving sleep quality.
Based on this, if you’re looking to reduce your blood sugar or cholesterol levels, citrus bergamot seems to be the best choice.
However, if you want to reduce stress and anxiety levels or improve sleep, bitter orange essential oil is the best option.
Lastly, if you want to lose weight, you may consider supplementing with both.
Can you Take Citrus Bergamot and Bitter Orange Together?
Yes. It appears generally safe to take citrus bergamot and bitter orange together, especially if the goal is weight loss or improved blood sugar levels.
If your goal is simply to reduce cholesterol, taking citrus bergamot alone is enough. And if your goal is only to reduce stress or improve sleep, then you only need to take bitter orange.
If you do decide to take citrus bergamot and bitter orange together, keep in mind that they both lower blood sugar levels. So, be sure to check with your doctor to ensure that your blood sugar levels are at a healthy level.
Citrus Bergamot vs. Bitter Orange: Potential Side Effects & Interactions
It’s always important to consider side effects and safety for every herb.
Citrus bergamot is generally safe to consume and poses only a few potential side effects, such as upset stomach and discomfort. Also, the essential oil form of citrus bergamot may cause phototoxicity (sunlight sensitivity). But most individuals take the oral form, not essential oil, for the benefits mentioned in this article.
Bitter orange also appears generally safe for consumption when used in appropriate doses. However, bitter orange may increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke, particularly when combined with caffeine or other stimulants. When it’s used by itself in modest doses, this is much less likely to occur.
Furthermore, both bitter orange and citrus bergamot may interact with medications that are used to lower blood sugar levels. Additionally, citrus bergamot may interact with prescriptions used to lower cholesterol.
Always consult your doctor before taking any dietary or herbal supplement.
Citrus bergamot and bitter orange are similar herbal fruits with a few shared benefits. However, they also have several key differences in terms of health effects.
When comparing citrus bergamot vs. bitter orange, deciding which one is best depends on your health condition. Citrus bergamot appears to be the best option for reducing cholesterol and lowering blood sugar.
If your goal is weight loss, either option is likely effective, or perhaps a combination of both.
And if you wish to reduce stress and anxiety or improve sleep, bitter orange is the best route.