Bergamot oranges are fascinating and complex fruits that surprise at every turn. They are called oranges, but look more like limes yet feature a bitter taste that is more similar to grapefruits and lemons. Hidden deep inside the inner layer of this fruit’s peel is an oil that can offer an impressive array of health benefits. Bergamot essential oil is one of the best oils for treating symptoms of depression and its antibacterial properties can help fend off infection while keeping you healthy.
With a delightfully fragrant aroma that led to its widespread use in fragrances for hundreds of years, this essential oil works just as well in aromatherapy as when applied topically. Settle into your favorite chair, start your diffuser and breathe in the amazing health benefits of this fragrant essential oil.
What Is Bergamot Essential Oil?
Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the inner layer of the bergamot orange fruit rind known scientifically as Citrus bergamia. While it most closely resembles a lime rather than an orange, it’s bitterness lands somewhere between the sourness of a lemon and the tartness of grapefruit.
Bergamot oranges are cultivated predominantly in southern Italy, particularly in the Calabria regions, and along the Cote d’Ivoire for the production of essential oils. These oranges are also cultivated in southeast Asia, Morocco and Turkey.
Bergamot essential oil, unlike other oils that use steam distillation for extraction, is derived through a process of cold pressing known as expression. In ancient times, the bergamot orange was pressed repeatedly using a sponge. The cavities, which contain the essential oil, would burst and the sponge would soak up the oil before being squeezed into a container.
In modern times, the process is much more streamlined. Large machines remove the rind from the fruit and place it into a container with spikes. These spikes puncture the orange peel and release the essential oil, which is collected below.
The production process usually runs the length of the bergamot harvest, which is from October to February. Fruit used in October typically has a higher concentration of linalool, which results in more floral notes; whereas fruit harvested in February tends to have higher concentrations of linalyl acetate, which features increased aromas of freshness.
Commonly used in perfumes and colognes, the scent of bergamot oil is citrusy and reminiscent of freshly peeled oranges or lemons. Bergamot was first used in perfumes back in 1714 and it is the main ingredient in the first eau de cologne made by Farina at the beginning of the 18th century.
Bergamot essential oil is also a major component of Earl Grey teas and lends to the distinctive flavoring of this widely popular black tea. Bergamot essential oil contains alpha pinene, which lends the piney, forest fresh finish characteristic of this oil.
Bergamot oil is a citrusy, aromatic blend that features mossy, woodsy undertones. The earthy aroma features a spicy-floral note and works well in oil blends with ylang-ylang oil, cypress oil, sage oil and sandalwood oil.
Health Benefits of Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot orange essential oil is packed full of positive health benefits ranging from cleansing and improving digestion to aiding in the treatment of depression. This essential oil features a delightfully fresh and tingling citrus scent and should be applied topically using carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil.
1. Aids in Treating Depression
Of the leading health benefits of bergamot essential oil is that it can help to alleviate the dark feelings of depression and reduce symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite and feelings of helplessness.
To reap these health benefits, rub one to two drops of bergamot essential oil on your hands and breath deeply or use five drops of oil in a diffuser.
A 2011 study demonstrated the potential health benefits of bergamot oil combined with lavender oil in inducing relaxation. Forty healthy participants were given a blend of these two oils topically and monitored for changes in blood pressure, pulse rate and nervous tension.
When compared with a placebo, the patients who received bergamot essential oil showed a significant decrease in pulse rate and blood pressure. Patients described feeling more relaxed, less nervous tension and more calm.
Another study completed in 2017 examined the effects of bergamot essential oil on patients who visited a mental health clinic. Fifty-seven participants were exposed to inhalation of bergamot essential oil while at the clinic. Participants who inhaled bergamot essential oil showed 17 percent higher rates of mental well-being than the control group after 15 minutes of aromatherapy.
2. Boosts the Immune System and Fights Off Infections
Used traditionally in Italian medicine as an antiseptic to disinfect skin and heal minor wounds, bergamot essential oil contains compounds that help to fight off infection both internally and externally.
Bergamot contains linalool, which studies have shown has the potential to fight off foodborne pathogens. Published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, these studies demonstrated the effect of bergamot essential oil in eliminating Candida albicans as well as other digestive diseases such as E. coli and listeria.
3. Can Lower Blood Pressure
Daily and consistent use of bergamot essential oil can help to lower blood pressure, making it a promising treatment for heart disease-related disorders. The same compounds in bergamot, which are responsible for relaxation, help to encourage the body to relax and improve blood circulation.
A Korean study examined the effects of a blend of bergamot, lavender and ylang-ylang essential oils in lowering blood pressure and assisting patients with essential hypertension. The study comprised 52 participants who were divided into two groups and given either the essential oil blend or a placebo.
Participants were given the essential oil blend once daily for four weeks and evaluated for anxiety, stress and blood pressure changes. At the conclusion of the study, participants who received essential oils showed significantly lower blood pressure levels as well as decreased cortisol, the hormone that contributes to stress and anxiety.
4. Reduces Pain
Bergamot essential oil has demonstrated the ability to alleviate symptoms of aches and pains attributed to intense physical activity as well as common headaches. Bergamot oil targets nerve tissue to trigger synaptic responses that send natural pain relievers to the site of any pain points when either inhaled or applied topically.
The linalool present in bergamot oil contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can block pain receptors and inhibit the substances that send signals of pain to the brain. These compounds show promise for the use of bergamot essential oil in place of strong narcotics and pain relievers that can present unwanted and dangerous side effects.
For sore muscles, rub a few drops of bergamot oil combined with carrier oil directly to the areas of pain. You can also use aromatherapy with bergamot oil to reduce pain by inducing relaxation and refocusing your mind.
5. Improves the Look of Skin
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, bergamot oil can help improve the appearance of skin. Use bergamot oil in your skin care routine as a cleanser to help remove dead skin cells and bacteria that can combine to block pores and cause acne breakouts. Bergamot oil can also be used topically on scars and wounds to prevent infections and minimize the appearance of damaged skin.
6. Streamlines Digestion
In traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners use bergamot to treat indigestion. While the entire fruit including the peel is used in Chinese medicine, there is still reason to believe the essential oil itself offers health benefits when it comes to digestion.
Bergamot oil works to stimulate gastric juices and digestive juices such as bile, which help to break down food and absorb nutrients in the small intestine. A 2006 study showed that the use of bergamot oil was beneficial in killing bacteria that can lead to intestinal worms, food poisoning and other digestive tract issues. The study was conducted in vitro on cabbage cells infected with a variety of bacteria including those responsible for listeria and E. coli. Within 8 to 10 hours, researchers recorded a significant decrease in existing bacteria populations.
7. It’s a Natural Deodorizer
Bergamot essential oil’s powerful scent makes it a great agent for reducing odor and can be used as a natural deodorant or air freshener. The natural citrus scent overpowers smelly odors and offers a fresh scent thanks to compounds such as pinene.
To reap these health benefits, look for natural deodorant that uses bergamot essential oil as one of the main ingredients or simply add two to three drops into your own deodorant. For use as an air freshener, add five drops of bergamot essential oil to a diffuser.
Side Effects of Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot oil is generally safe when applied topically or ingested in small amounts according to prescribed directions. There are a few side effects to watch out for although most of these can be mitigated by purchasing high quality bergamot oil and paying attention to its origin.
High concentrations of bergamot oil can cause skin irritation including rashes, blisters and scabs — particularly when exposed to sunlight. To avoid this side effect, make sure to do a skin test before applying bergamot essential oil over a large portion of skin. Also make sure to use sparingly and according to any guidelines. Young children are particularly susceptible to skin irritation from bergamot essential oil so use sparingly, if at all.
Certain compounds in bergamot essential oil including psoralen can have photosensitive effects that result in pigmentation when exposed to sunlight. This typically occurs most often with topical applications of the essential oil and prolonged exposure to harsh UVA rays. To avoid this side effect, look for essential oils that do not contain psoralen or opt for oil blends that contain less than 0.4 percent bergamot essential oil if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Bergamot essential oil also contains another compound, bergapten, which can become toxic when exposed to sunlight. To preserve the quality of your bergamot essential oil and reap the health benefits, make sure to store bergamot oil in dark, glass bottles and never purchase varieties sold in clear glass containers. Avoid exposing the oil and your skin to sunlight until it has dried if applying topically.
Tips to Buy High Quality Bergamot Oil
Many bergamot essential oils from regions outside of Italy often use alternative ingredients such as other lime species when extracting oil. To ensure you get the highest quality essential bergamot oil, look for brands that come from the Calabria region of Italy. Make sure to purchase therapeutic grade bergamot oil for the highest quality, particularly when intended for use in aromatherapy.
Lift Your Spirits With Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot oil contains compounds that help to increase mood and decrease feelings of helplessness and anxiety. On a chemical level, these compounds work to reduce the levels of cortisol in your body so you can unwind, even after the most stressful day. With a vibrant, citrusy scent, bergamot oil offers health benefits that go far beyond a pleasant aroma that’s perfect for use in fragrances. Improve digestion, alleviate aches and pains and induce calm relaxation with a few drops of bergamot essential oil every day.