Updated: Oct 6
Bergamot essential oil is a highly aromatic and versatile essential oil derived from the peel of the bergamot fruit, a type of citrus that is most commonly grown in southern Italy. The oil has a fresh, citrusy scent with floral and spicy undertones, making it a popular ingredient in perfumes and aromatherapy products. In addition to its pleasant scent, bergamot essential oil boasts a surprising list of health benefits ranging from stress reduction to immune system support. So keep reading as we take a closer look at the history, uses, and surprising benefits of bergamot essential oil.
History of Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil has a long and interesting history that spans centuries and continents. The bergamot fruit is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and was introduced to Europe by Arab traders in the 12th century. It was quickly embraced by European cultures for its medicinal properties and culinary uses, and became particularly popular in Italy, where it was used in teas, confectionaries, and perfumes.
The use of bergamot essential oil specifically dates back to the early 18th century, when it was first distilled in Italy. It quickly gained popularity among perfumers for its fresh, citrusy scent and became a staple ingredient in many fragrances. In fact, bergamot is still widely used in the perfume industry today and is a key component of the famous Eau de Cologne fragrance.
In addition to its use in perfumes, bergamot essential oil has a rich history of use in traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory problems, and skin conditions. In modern times, bergamot essential oil has gained popularity in the West as a natural remedy for stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as for its potential benefits for skin health, digestion, and immune function.
Chemical Composition of Bergamot Essential Oil
The chemical composition of bergamot essential oil is quite complex and varies depending on factors such as the type of bergamot fruit, the time of harvest, and the extraction method used. The main chemical components of bergamot essential oil include monoterpenes such as limonene, linalool, and alpha-pinene, as well as sesquiterpenes, such as beta-bisabolene and alpha-humulene. These compounds are responsible for the oil's characteristic citrusy, floral, and spicy aroma, as well as its potential health benefits.
One particularly noteworthy component of bergamot essential oil is bergamotene, which is a type of sesquiterpene that is believed to have strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Another important component is bergapten, which can cause skin sensitivity to sunlight and should be avoided in certain applications, such as topical use prior to sun exposure.
Bergamot essential oil also contains a number of other bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids and coumarins, which are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The unique and complex chemical composition of bergamot essential oil is what makes it such a versatile and valuable natural health remedy.
Uses and Benefits of Bergamot Essential Oil
Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Bergamot essential oil is known for its calming and mood-boosting properties. It is often used in aromatherapy to help reduce stress and anxiety and promote relaxation.
Research has shown that bergamot essential oil may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by regulating the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
To use bergamot essential oil for stress and anxiety, add a few drops to a diffuser or mix with a carrier oil and apply topically to the skin.
Bergamot essential oil may also help alleviate pain and inflammation. A 2020 study found that topical application of bergamot essential oil reduced pain and inflammation in a group of rats with paw edema.
These pain releiving benefits are often attributed to linalool and carvacrol, two compounds present in bergamot essential oil. According to a 2017 meta-analysis of various studies, it was discovered that these compounds possess anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and analgesic properties.
To use bergamot essential oil for pain relief, mix with a carrier oil and apply topically to the affected area.
Promoting Skin Health
Bergamot essential oil is often used in skin care products due to its cleansing and purifying properties. It may help reduce the appearance of acne, scars, and other skin imperfections.
Bergamot essential oil also has antiseptic properties, which may help prevent infection and promote wound healing. A 2015 study found that bergamot essential oil was effective at killing a variety of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
To use bergamot essential oil for skin health, mix with a carrier oil and apply topically to the skin or add a few drops to a face mask.
Supporting Digestive Health
Bergamot essential oil may also help support digestive health by reducing inflammation and promoting healthy digestion. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in the digestive system, which may help reduce symptoms of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Additionally, bergamot essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial effects in the digestive system, which may help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
NOTE: You should never use essential oils internally unless instructed by a trained medical professional.
Boosting Immune Function
Bergamot essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which may help boost immune function and protect against infections.
A 2022 study found that bergamot essential oil was effective at killing a variety of bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Additionally, a recent study found that bergamot essential oil was effective at inhibiting the growth of influenza A virus.
To use bergamot essential oil for immune support, add a few drops to a diffuser or mix with a carrier oil and apply topically to the chest or back of the neck.
Enhancing Oral Health
Bergamot essential oil may also help enhance oral health by reducing inflammation and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
A 2018 study found that bergamot was effective at reducing inflammation and tissue damage in rats with periodontitis. Additionally, a 2019 study found that bergamot essential oil was effective at inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria that is commonly found in the mouth and can contribute to tooth decay.
Improving Mood and Energy
Bergamot essential oil is known for its mood-boosting properties and may help improve mood and energy levels. It is often used in aromatherapy to promote feelings of happiness and well-being.
Research has shown that bergamot essential oil may help reduce symptoms of fatigue and improve cognitive function. A 2017 study found that inhalation of bergamot essential oil improved cognitive performance and reduced fatigue in a group of healthy volunteers.
To use bergamot essential oil to boost your mood, add a few drops to a diffuser or mix with a carrier oil and apply topically to the wrists or temples.
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Side Effects of Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil is generally safe when used in appropriate amounts. However, it can cause skin irritation or sensitivity in some individuals, particularly when used undiluted or in high concentrations.
Additionally, bergamot essential oil contains compounds called furanocoumarins, which can increase sensitivity to sunlight and increase the risk of sunburn and skin damage. To reduce the risk of sun sensitivity, it is recommended to avoid using bergamot essential oil topically before sun exposure.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as individuals with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications, should consult with a healthcare professional before using bergamot essential oil. For more information about how to use essential oils safely, check out our blog A Beginner's Guide to Essential Oils (5 Steps to Help You Get Started)
Bergamot essential oil is a popular and versatile oil with a range of potential health benefits. Its fresh, citrusy scent makes it a favorite in aromatherapy, while its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties make it useful for skin care, oral care, and digestive health. However, it is important to use bergamot essential oil safely and under the guidance of a qualified practitioner to avoid potential side effects.
If you are interested in incorporating bergamot essential oil into your wellness routine, consider exploring high-quality essential oil brands and consulting with a qualified practitioner to ensure safe and effective use. With its many potential health benefits, bergamot essential oil may be a valuable addition to your natural health toolkit.