Benefits of Bitter Orange Essential Oil for Anxiety and Sleep

Research-backed benefits on this common essential oil suggest multiple uses with little risk
November 6, 2020 Updated: November 6, 2020

The rind of bitter orange (C. aurantium) is used to create an important essential oil with benefits that seem particularly helpful for those suffering the stress of these trying times.

Essentials oils have been known since time immemorial for their wealth of health and therapeutic uses. These liquids contain many of the extracted properties of the plants used to create them, particularly scent.

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium) essential oil is popular for its ability to address anxiety and sleep difficulties—issues that are often rooted in a barrage of diet, lifestyle, and stress-related factors. While this oil may be used to flavor drinks and liquors, it has also garnered interest for its antimicrobial activity.

This essential oil is usually extracted by cold-pressing the peel. It has a yellowish orange to greenish orange hue, thin consistency, and smells like a cross between sweet orange oil’s sweetness and grapefruit oil’s slight bitterness.

Bitter Orange and Anxiety

The results of a single-blind, randomized controlled trial published earlier this year found inhaling this essential oil is effective in reducing anxiety and stress levels in patients undergoing coronary angiography.

In the trial, 80 subjects in Iran were randomly divided into two groups: a group that inhaled bitter orange essential oil for 15 to 20 minutes about an hour before angiography and a control group that inhaled distilled water. Their Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) results and vital signs were recorded before and 20 minutes after the intervention.

The anxiety scores and vital signs of the essential oil group—including blood pressure and pulse rate—significantly decreased, while the control group showed no significant change in either area.

In a 2015 trial, researchers tested bitter orange alongside lavender in resolving anxiety in postmenopausal women. Bitter orange significantly reduced anxiety scores of postmenopausal subjects compared with the control group, with no significant difference in performance from the lavender group.

Bitter orange also offered the same benefit and an anxiolytic effect to patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, who had reduced signs and symptoms linked to anxiety.

Bitter Orange and Sleep

A similar trial in 2015 compared the effects of lavender and bitter orange on sleep quality among postmenopausal women. The first group received 500 milligram (mg) capsules of bitter orange or lavender flower powder, while the second group had 500 mg capsules of starch.

Using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Inventory, the study found that bitter orange and lavender significantly improved the mean sleep score of the first group compared with the second one. The results suggested that both can be used for enhancing sleep quality in that cohort of women.

Research backing the efficacy of bitter orange essential oil supports the following therapeutic uses:

Safety Value

Assessments of bitter orange over the years vouch for the overall safety of the extract, both in food and dietary supplements at commonly used doses. Reviewing the potential dangers of bitter orange extract, a study concluded:

“The data indicate that based on current knowledge, the use of bitter orange extract and p-synephrine appears to be exceedingly safe with no serious adverse effects being directly attributable to these ingredients.

While essential oils can be greatly beneficial to your health, it’s always best to be cautious. Always dilute them properly, diffuse them regularly and consume them only under the guidance of a knowledgeable holistic health care practitioner.

If you’re looking for a natural, cost-effective way to solve your anxiety and sleep problems, then essential oils are worth exploring for their potential to be part of your arsenal of healing tools. The database is a good place to start with 287 abstracts of essential oils research.

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