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Aurantium (zhi ke [qiao])

What is aurantium? What is it used for?

Aurantium is also known as bitter orange - specifically, bitter orange fruit. The fruit of the bitter orange is not to be confused with the peel of the bitter orange. Bitter orange peel is used for other conditions, and discussed elsewhere in Herb Central.

The bitter orange is native to eastern Africa and Syria, but is now grown throughout Asia. Bitter oranges are smaller than traditional oranges, and highly acidic, which gives them their bitter taste. The oranges are usually picked before they have yet to ripen, then washed clean, sliced and dried for use.

In traditional Chinese medicine, aurantium is considered to have bitter and cool properties, and is associated with the Large Intestine, Spleen and Stomach meridians. Like bitter orange peel, aurantium is a traditional Chinese treatment for heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea and prolapsed uterus. Research conducted in China has also shown that aurantium can improve blood circulation to the heart and brain. Other evidence suggests that the oil in aurantium may be used as an antifungal when applied to the skin. Bitter orange is also believed to increase the metabolism, and as such has been used in some weight loss formulas as a replacement for ephedra. The effects of bitter orange for weight loss remain to be studied scientifically, however.

How much aurantium should I take?

The typical recommendation for aurantium is 4-5 grams per day. For fluid extracts containing bitter orange oil, 1-2 grams are recommended; for tinctures, 2-3 grams. A bitter orange syrup can also be made, then diluted in water or steeped in tea.

What forms of aurantium are available?

Whole, fresh (or dried) aurantium is available at many herbal shops and Asian markets. Some stores also sell aurantium tinctures and extracts.

What can happen if I take too much aurantium? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Large amounts of aurantium or bitter orange oil may cause skin rashes and photosensitivity, especially in light-skinned persons. It should not be taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with aurantium. As always, however, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking aurantium or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J (eds.) Herbal Medicine. Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, pp. 287-289.
  • Cai YP, et al. Volatile oils of herbs of the aurantium family. Journal of Materia Medica 1998;21(11):567-569.
  • Cai YP, et al. Chemical composition and pharmacology of herbs of the aurantium family. Journal of Jiangxi College of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1999;11(1):18-19.
  • Feng Y, et al. A preliminary study on the effects of qi-regulating, phlegm-dispelling herbs on blood platelet aggregation, red blood cell deformation, and blood viscosity. Journal of Fujian College of TCM 1998;8(1):24-26, 36.
  • Hu SS, et al. The pharmacological activity of active components of zhi shi. Journal of Chinese Materia Medica 1994;25(8):419-421.
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