Bergamot is a unique essential oil as it has both calming and uplifting abilities. It also purifies and cleanses the skin.

Bergamot essential oil is one of the main ingredients used for manufacturing perfumes as it can balance the mix of aromas and enhance the fragrance.

This fresh citrus oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties which give it many health benefits.

What is bergamot essential oil?

Bergamot essential oil is taken from the rind of the bergamot orange fruit. Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia) belongs to the Rutaceae family. This tree is a cross between a sour orange and a lemon, and it produces a small pear-shaped fruit. It has a sweet and spicy scent.

Steam distillation or liquid CO2 are the two methods that are used to extract this oil from bergamot peels. Many experts prefer the CO2 method of extraction as they believe this helps to preserve the active compounds of the oil which would otherwise be destroyed by the steam.

The bergamot fruit received its name from the Italian city Bergamo, where it was first cultivated and sold. Bergamot essential oil was used in Italian folk medicine for reducing fever, treating digestive problems and improving skin health.

The Bergamot trees are cultivated almost exclusively along the southern coast of the Calabria region in Italy. More than 90 % of the world production of bergamot comes from this region (1).

The Bergamot Essential Oil currently produced in Calabria is considered the highest quality in the International trading market.

However, small numbers of bergamot plants also grow in countries like Greece, Morocco, Iran, Ivory Coast, Argentina, and Brazil.

Bergamot oil chemical composition

The bergamot essential oil contains various chemical constituents. It includes (2) –

  • a-pinene
  • myrcene
  • Limonene
  • a-bergaptene
  • b-bisabolene
  • linalool
  • linalyl acetate
  • nerol
  • neryl acetate
  • geraniol
  • geraniol acetate
  • a-terpineeol

History of bergamot essential oil

Historically Bergamot fruit was used by Italians to treat malaria and expel intestinal worms. They also used bergamot oil to reduce fevers and as an antiseptic.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, the bergamot essential oil was extracted by expeller pressing the peel after the pulp was removed.  This method is labor intensive as it takes 200 kg of fruit to produce one liter of oil.

Bergamot essential oil was used to flavor black tea and this tea later become famous as the Earl Grey tea.

Bergamot essential oil was also one of the ingredients in the first Eau de Cologne that was popular in many 18th century European courts.

In Ayurvedic medicine, Bergamot is used to treat acne, skin rashes, sores, sore throat, and bladder infections.

Bergamot oil benefits

1. Reduces stress and anxiety

Bergamot essential oil (BEO) is commonly used to relieve stress and anxiety in aromatherapy.

During a study by the Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Japan, 41 healthy females were exposed to bergamot essential oil vapors and then exposed to three experimental setups.

The results showed that BEO inhaled with water vapor exerts psychological and physiological effects in a short time (3).

Way to use

  • Inhale directly from the bottle.
  • Diffuse five drops of BEO at home.
  • Apply two or three drops to your temples and the back of your neck.

2. Relieves depression

Depression can cause many physical and emotional symptoms. These include sadness, restlessness, despair, difficulty in concentrating, and difficulty in sleeping. Bergamot essential oil has antidepressant and stimulating qualities.

According to a 2011 study, when a blend of BEO and lavender oil was applied topically on the abdomen of 40 healthy volunteers, it caused a significant decrease in pulse rate, and blood pressure, which indicated a decrease in autonomic arousal. The volunteers also felt more calm and relaxed (4).

During another study, when women were exposed to BEO for 15 minutes in the waiting room of a mental health treatment center, it improved their positive feelings (5).

Ways to use

  • Rub two drops of BEO on your palms, cup them over your nose and breathe in slowly.
  • Rub two or three drops on your stomach, back of your neck and feet.
  • Diffuse a few drops in a diffuser at home or work.

3. Lowers blood pressure

Bergamot essential oil can reduce high blood pressure if it is diffused and inhaled for 15 to one hour. During a 2006 study from Korea, volunteers inhaled a blend of ylang-ylang, lavender, and bergamot oil once daily for four weeks.

The results showed that inhalation of essential oil is an effective nursing intervention for high blood pressure (6).

During another study, 54 elementary school teachers were given a bergamot essential oil spray for 10 minutes. The results showed that there was a significant decrease in blood pressure and heart rate (7).

Ways to use

  • Apply bergamot essential oil topically to your temples and abdomen.
  • Diffuse this oil at home or work.

4. Reduces pain

Linalool, a component found in bergamot essential oil, possesses anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anticonvulsant properties. This component makes BEO very effective in treating headaches, muscle pain, and pain caused by sprains.

According to research, linalool gets its analgesic properties from its ability to block pain receptors and inhibit the release of substance P, a compound that is involved in the transmission of pain and other nerve impulses (8).

Ways to use

  • Rub four or five drops of bergamot essential oil on the area where you feel pain or tension.
  • Mix BEO with a carrier oil and use it for massage.

5. Skin care

Bergamot essential oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties which are very useful for the treatment of acne. It also has analgesic properties which help treat painful cysts and pimples.

You can also use bergamot essential oil to fade scars and marks on the skin. BEO has also been used in folk medicine as an antiseptic and anthelminthic to facilitate wound healing (9).

Ways to use

  • Apply bergamot oil diluted with a carrier oil to pimples, blackheads, and cysts.
  • Mix a few drops of this oil in water and use it as a cleanser.

6. Lowers cholesterol

Recent research has shown that bergamot can help lower cholesterol naturally.

According to a 2018 study, polyphenols in bergamot mediate anti-inflammatory activity in livers of rats recovering from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (10). 

During a 2015 study, 80 participants with moderate hypercholesterolemia were given bergamot derived extracts for six months. The results showed that the participants were able to significantly lower plasma lipids and improve the lipoprotein profile (11).

7. Prevents food poisoning and aids digestion

Linalool also gives bergamot antibacterial properties, which help in destroying bacteria that cause food poisoning.

In 2006 a study was done to investigate the effectiveness of bergamot oil and its components against common foodborne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Escheria coli, and Campylobacter jejuni.

The study suggested the possibility that bergamot oil could be used for combating the growth of common causes of food poisoning (12).

In traditional Chinese medicine bergamot fruit and peels are used to ease indigestion. This oil stimulates the digestive juices which help in improving digestion.

Ways to use

  • Rub five drops of bergamot oil on your stomach

8. Fights respiratory conditions

Bergamot essential oil contains a compound called camphene. Camphene has antioxidant properties which help protect cells from damage and wards off harmful germs.

Bergamot oil also has antimicrobial properties, which can help prevent respiratory conditions.

Inhaling bergamot oil is an effective natural remedy for coughs (13).

Ways to use

  • Use a diffuser or inhale this aroma oil directly from the bottle.
  • Rub two or three drops on your chest and throat.
  • Drink earl grey tea.

9. Prevents cavities

Bergamot oil helps prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that produce acids that destroy tooth enamel. According to a 2007 study, bergamot peel is a natural source of antimicrobials that are active against gram-negative bacteria (14).

Ways to use

  • Rub two or three drops of bergamot essential oil on your teeth.
  • Add one drop of bergamot oil on your toothpaste and brush with it.

10. Reduces fever

The antimicrobial action of bergamot essential oil helps fight infections that cause fever. Bergamot oil increases sweat production by stimulating blood circulation and production of hormones.

When the sweat evaporates, it brings down the temperature and gets rid of the toxins in the body.

Ways to use

  • Apply bergamot oil on the forehead, chest, the back of the neck and bottoms of the feet.

Side effects and precautions

Bergamot essential oil is considered safe for most people in small amounts. However, this oil can cause an allergic reaction in some people. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to bergamot oil include burning sensation, redness, hives, blisters and pain.

According to a 2001 report, bergamot oil possesses photosensitive and melanogenic properties because of the presence of furocoumarins. People can develop phototoxic skin reactions within 48 to 72 hours after exposure to bergamot oil and subsequent ultraviolet exposure (15).

Bergamot oil can lower sugar levels in people with diabetes. So if you are taking medication for diabetes, check with your doctor before you use bergamot oil.

Bergamot essential oil can have serious side effects in children, pets and pregnant women, so they should avoid using it.

Final thoughts

Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the rind of the bergamot fruit. This fruit is a cross between a sour orange and a lemon, and it grows almost exclusively in the Calabria region in Italy.

Bergamot oil has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antispasmodic properties which provide this essential oil many health benefits.

It helps treat depression, reduce pain, lower cholesterol, fight respiratory condition and treat acne.

Bergamot oil can cause an allergic reaction in some people. It can also cause photosensitivity. Always do a patch test before using bergamot oil to prevent allergic reactions.

Bergamot essential oil is extracted from the rind of the bergamot fruit. This fruit is a cross between a sour orange and a lemon.