Citrus aurantium and synephrine alkaloids in the treatment of overweight and obesity: an update

Obes Rev. 2006 Feb;7(1):79-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00195.x.


Obesity is a major health problem facing the developed and developing world. Efforts by individuals, health professionals, educators, and policy makers to combat the escalating trend of growing obesity prevalence have been multifaceted and mixed in outcome. Various dietary supplements have been marketed to reduce obesity. These products have been suggested to accomplish this by decreasing energy intake and energy absorption, and/or increasing metabolic rate. Ephedra, one such supplement, was banned from sale in the US market because of concerns about adverse events. Another substance, Citrus aurantium, which contains several compounds including synephrine alkaloids, has been suggested as a safe alternative. This review examines the evidence for safety and efficacy of C. aurantium and synephrine alkaloids as examined in animal studies, clinical weight loss trials, acute physiologic studies and case reports. Although at least three reviews of C. aurantium have been published, our review expands upon these by: (i) distinguishing and evaluating the efficacy of C. aurantium and related compounds; (ii) including results from previously unreviewed research; (iii) incorporating recent case reports that serve to highlight, in an anecdotal way, potential adverse events related to the use of C. aurantium and related compounds; and (iv) offering recommendations to guide the design of future trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of C. aurantium. While some evidence is promising, we conclude that larger and more rigorous clinical trials are necessary to draw adequate conclusions regarding the safety and efficacy of C. aurantium and synephrine alkaloids for promoting weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Citrus*
  • Dietary Supplements* / standards
  • Humans
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Overweight / drug effects
  • Quality Control
  • Safety
  • Synephrine / pharmacology*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • Alkaloids
  • Synephrine