Bergamot essential oil, extracted from the bergamot orange tree (Citrus aurantium var. bergamia), has a fresh, sweet, spicy, citrus-like scent. It smells similar to both neroli and lavender essential oil, but still maintains its own distinct aroma. The oil has a thin, almost watery consistency, and ranges in color from light green to greenish-yellow. The bergamot tree is a product of cultivation – a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. More fragile than either orange or lemon trees, the bergamot tree reaches up to 16 feet in height and produces small, star-shaped flowers and pear-shaped fruit from which the essential oil is extracted.
Bergamot essential oils are most commonly made from the tree’s fruit when it is still green, bitter and inedible. When ripe, the fruit turns yellow and has a citrus flavor. Small oil glands are found in the rind of the green fruit, however, that contain the tree’s most valuable product – it’s essential oil. The oil is extracted using both cold pressing and centrifuge, a method in which the plant material is spun around rapidly, usually in a large drum. Valued by the perfume industry and aromatherapists, bergamot essential oil has a variety of cosmetic, medicinal and emotional benefits.
History and Folklore
The bergamot tree is native to southeast Asia, although it has been introduced to parts of Europe, most notably Italy, and is also found growing around the Ivory Coast. The highest quality bergamot oil comes from Reggio di Calabria, a town surrounded by bergamot trees at the tip of Italy’s “boot.” Although the history of the tree’s growth in this area is a matter of some speculation, one theory states that Christopher Columbus discovered the tree and transported it to Reggio di Calabria, where it flourished in the local climate. The name of the tree and the oil derives from the the place where the essential oil was first sold, a town known as Bergamo in Lombardy, Italy.
Although the oil is not ancient like many other essential oils, the use of bergamot can be traced back for many years. Paoli Rovesti, a professor at the University of Milan in Italy and one of the first people to teach aromatherapy in a University setting, described bergamot oil as an important substance for relieving fear and combating anxiety. Today, aromatherapists have confirmed these findings and bergamot essential oil is commonly used for treating anxiety-related disorders, among many others. Although recorded traditional uses of the oil are few, in Italy it has been used in natural remedies to treat malaria, fever and worms.
Modern Medicinal Uses
The bergamot essential oil uses most frequently employed in modern medicine include treating infections, as the oil has strong antiseptic properties, colds, flu, premenstrual syndrome, psoriasis, eczema, scabies, acne and other skin conditions. It is also sometimes used on chicken pox and cold sores. Bergamot essential oil used as a part of inhalation therapy can help a person overcome addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sugar, food, stimulants or sedatives. Bergamot oil may also aid individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa, as it is believed to help stimulate the appetite and reduce the feelings of stress and depression that often accompany the disorder. The oil has a powerful stimulating effect on the liver, spleen and stomach, and may help treat urinary tract infections, cystitis and other inflammations of the urinary tract.
Prized in the perfume and cosmetic industry for its gentle, uplifting fragrance, bergamot essential oil is used in a variety of high-end colognes. The oil is also used in many different cosmetic products, such as skin creams and lotions formulated for oily skin. In baths and massage oils, the oil makes a welcome addition, particularly for treating stress, depression and other psychological disorders. Bergamot pairs well with many other essential oils for use in natural cosmetic and fragrance products, including juniper, cypress, frankincense, rosemary, geranium, orange, sandalwood and ylang ylang essential oil.
Perhaps the greatest bergamot essential oil benefits are emotional in nature, as the oil has an uncanny ability to refresh the mind, renew the spirit and relieve emotional stress. Most commonly used for treating all forms of anxiety and depression, bergamot also aids individuals suffering from low self-esteem, shyness, lack of confidence, seasonal affected disorder (SAD), hysteria, fear and fatigue caused by stress. The oil stimulates and helps rebuild strength, calms people under stress, relieves anxiousness and nervousness, and uplifts the mind, body and spirit. The oil has a sunny disposition that helps people regain self-confidence, making it especially useful for individuals suffering from social anxiety disorders.
Bergamot essential oil is a delightful oil for use with inhalation therapy, particularly if you’re having an especially stressful day. Simply place 1 to 2 drops of the oil on a tissue or cotton swab and inhale the aroma deeply. It also works well in aroma lamps, light bulb rings, vaporizers, humidifiers, massage oils and relaxing baths. Following are some of the most beneficial uses of bergamot oil:
- For relieving depression and stress, add 6 to 8 drops of bergamot essential oil to the filled water reservoir of a vaporizer or humidifier. Turn on the machine and run in your bedroom overnight or during times of stress for the best results.
- For treating psoriasis, eczema, acne and oily skin, dilute 10 drops bergamot essential oil in a tub filled with water as warm as you can stand. Soak for at least 20 minutes. This treatment also helps relieve stress and anxiety by calming the nerves.
- For treating wounds, skin disorders and cold sores, add 2 to 3 drops bergamot essential oil to 1 tbsp. unscented lotion or add to homemade skin creams or lotions. Apply directly to the affected area several times a day as needed.
- For cleansing and freshening stale air or smoke-filled rooms, add a few drops of bergamot essential oil to an aroma lamp or to a light bulb ring, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- For a relaxing massage, add 2 to 3 drops bergamot essential oil to 1 tbsp. carrier oil such as sweet almond, extra virgin olive, apricot kernel or grapeseed oil. Massage the mixture into your skin or have someone else massage you. Store any leftover oil in a dark-colored glass bottle out of direct sunlight.
Bergamot essential oil can cause photo-toxicity, especially in individuals with sensitive skin. It contains high concentrations of bergaptene, a substance that may cause burns when used on the skin and then exposed to sunlight. To prevent injury, stay out of the sun if you use bergamot oil on your skin.
- Complete Aromatherapy Handbook: Essential Oils for Radiant Health
- Beauty By Nature
- Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals
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