Citrus bergamia, also known as bergamot orange, belongs to the family Rutaceae. The fruit of this plant is where the bergamot essential oil is extracted. The plant is native to the Calabria region in Italy and is believed to be a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. According to research, it may initially have come from Greece and Canary Islands, where it was imported by Christopher Colombus. The name bergamot came from the Italian word bergamotto which means “lord’s pear.”
To stray away from confusion, it is important to note that bergamot orange is very much different from wild bergamot or bergamot mint, which is an herb.
Trees of bergamot orange are evergreen plants can grow up to 12 meters in height. The fragrant fruit of these trees ranges from yellow to green and looks similar to a lime. Bergamot essential oil is derived from the fruit’s peel. It gives off a floral, spicy, citrus scent that is highly fragrant. The cells inside the rind of bergamot orange produce the oil.
Bergamot essential oil is a clear yellow-green liquid derived by cold pressing the fruit’s peel. In the past, extraction of oil was done by hand where the fruit peel is pressed until its oils are squeezed out of them. In this modern time, mechanical devices are used to extract the oil and separate them from the water and fragments of the fruit.
The main chemical constituents of Bergamot Essential Oil are limonene, linalyl acetate, linalool, pinene, bergaptene, terpineol, nerol, neryl acetate, β-bisabolene, geraniol, geraniol acetate, and myrcene. These components are the contributors to the oil’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic, antifungal, and anti—septic properties to name a few.
The oil’s refreshing citrus aroma made it famous in folk medicines and as Ayurvedic remedies for several health problems and discomforts. Bergamot essential oil is commonly used in aromatherapy to boost or give a positive mood and ease stress. But there’s more to the oil’s mood enhancing abilities.
Traditional Uses of Bergamot Oil
Italians had traditionally used bergamot oil for its health-related benefits. It was used to disinfect the skin and to treat minor wounds. It was also used to reduce fevers.
Germans have used bergamot oil in their tobacco because of its fruity flavor. Bergamot orange plants have also been grown next to crops because of its scent that repels insects and pests.
Bergamot oil has been used in food preparations as citrus flavoring. The famous Earl Grey tea is originally black tea dosed with a bit of bergamot oil which gives it its distinct scent and signature taste.
Uses of Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot oil is one of the most important perfume materials because of its refreshing and pleasant scent. This is also why the oil is incorporated into soaps, lotions, and colognes.
For unblemished skin
Bergamot’s anti-bacterial property makes it an excellent oil to fight acne, warts, and boils. It facilitates the healing of skin infections and reduces unwanted lines and other signs of skin aging. This is because bergamot essential oil can balance out the skin’s oil production, which evens out skin tone and reduces the appearance of marks. Bergamot can also be used with lavender essential oil for skincare regimes.
Relieves pain and tension
When diluted in a carrier oil and topically applied, bergamot essential oil helps ease muscle soreness and pains. It can also treat headaches when massaged on the forehead or on the temples.
Linalool and carvacrol, compounds found in bergamot oil, have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anticonvulsant property that helps reduce pain such as muscle spasms, arthritis, and joint pain.
Fights off infections and food poisoning
The oil’s antibacterial and antifungal properties can treat not only infections on the skin but works with infections on the mouth and digestive tract as well.
The oil works against certain strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus so it can be safely used in preventing the occurrence of minor skin infections. Bergamot essential oil also works against E. coli, Lysteria monocytogenes, and Bacillus cereus.
According to investigations, linalool is an effective anti-bacterial component which can destroy different bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Reduces stress and promotes sleep
Bergamot essential oil mixed with warm water and inhaled is proven to relieve anxiety and fatigue. It signals the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, hormones associated with mood, memory, sleep, libido, and appetite, among a few. This helps decrease stress hormones which work against anxiety-related symptoms and stress disorders.
Sleeplessness is one sign of stress which can be treated by bergamot oil. Several massage therapies make use of bergamot oil to help reduce the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, therefore providing quality and peaceful sleep. This can also be blended with chamomile essential oil or lavender oil for a more calming effect.
Lowers cholesterol level
According to studies, brutieridin and melitidin, both compounds of bergamot oranges, are effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Some animal studies have shown that polyphenols in bergamot oil have anti-inflammatory property which helps the liver recover from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Neutralize body odor
Bergamot oil works against bacteria that causes unpleasant body odor. Aside from this, the citrus scent masks body odor. It can also be sprayed rooms and incorporated in pot-pourri preparations to neutralize odor.
Bergamot essential oil loosens mucus and phlegm, making it easier to expel from the respiratory tracts together with the germs that cause colds and congestion.
Enhances hair growth
The oil improves blood circulation in the hair follicles and helps in the collagen formation. Massaging the diluted oil on the scalp can stimulate hair growth, prevent hair from falling, and add shine.
Safety Tips and Precautions
Although helpful in treating certain skin conditions, exposure of bergamot oil to ultraviolet light or sunlight produces certain compounds that results to pigmentation. Bergamot oil had been used as sun tanning products but was eventually banned because of photosensitivity reactions and skin burns. Even the ones used as perfumes may cause skin reactions once exposed to sunlight. It is recommended to purchase only bergapten-free versions of bergamot oil if the skin is sensitive.
There are also reports about allergic reactions after using the oil which includes redness, blisters, burning sensations, and pain. It is best to dilute the oil in carrier oil and do a skin test to see if it is safe to use.
It is not recommended to ingest bergamot oil, especially without the advice of a medical practitioner. It may interact with medications such as antibiotics.
For pregnant women, children, and pets, it is not advised to use bergamot oils in diffusers as it can have negative effects.