Scarlet Beebalm, Scarlet Monarda, Oswego Tea, Crimson Beebalm
Native to tropical Asia, Southern Italy and the Ivory coast, Africa
With a long and colourful history, Bergamot is thought to be a hybrid of the bitter orange and lemon. With a refreshing, citrussy scent it is considered the “prince of citrus” in the perfume industry, where it is considered to be one of the most complex fragrant ingredients. This is due to its rich palette of subtones that vary from fruity sweet, to herbal, aromatic and balsamic.
Perhaps most famously used to flavour Earl Grey tea, Bergamot essential oil has a long history of traditional use. In sixteenth century Italy, it was an important folk remedy that was used for all manner of skin conditions, wounds, for fevers and parasites.
The fresh and uplifting scent of Bergamot essential oil cannot fail to boost one’s mood. However, science has discovered that Bergamot is as effective as diazepam in reducing anxiety. A 2015 study found that Bergamot "exhibited anxiolytic-like behaviours and attenuated HPA axis activity by reducing the corticosterone response to stress". In other words, it is capable of lowering cortisol (the stress hormone) levels.
Another study published in “Complementary Medicine Research” took 41 healthy females and measured cortisol levels in their saliva after they were exposed to three experimental set ups: rest; rest and water vapour; rest, water vapour and Bergamot essential oil. They found that salivary cortisol levels in the Bergamot group were significantly lower than those of the rest alone group. Furthermore, the Bergamot group reported improved negative emotions and fatigue. The researchers concluded, “These results demonstrate that Bergamot essential oil inhaled together with water vapour exerts psychological and physiological effects in a relatively short time.”
This sunny, invigorating essential oil is also effective as an antidepressant. It is known to promote cheerfulness and to stimulate energy by boosting blood circulation.
In a pilot study conducted in the waiting room of a mental health facility, fifty-seven eligible participants were exposed to Bergamot oil for fifteen minutes and reported improved positive feelings (17 percent higher than the control group). Interestingly, more participants participated in experimental periods rather than control periods, suggesting even brief exposure to essential oil aroma may make people more willing to enrol in clinical trials. The authors of the study noted, “This study provides preliminary evidence of the efficacy and safety of Bergamot essential oil inhalation on mental well‐being in a mental health treatment centre, suggesting that Bergamot essential oil aromatherapy can be an effective adjunct treatment to improve individuals' mental health and well‐being.”
The analgesic effects of Bergamot have been utilised in folk medicine for hundreds of years. We now know that the essential oil contains many powerful phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions. It contains approximately 40 percent limonene, 28 percent linalyl acetate, 8 percent linalool and small amounts of alpha-pinene all of which have anti-inflammatory effects.
Limonene in particular has been the focus of many studies into pain. A study published in the “European Journal of Pain” found that limonene inhibits nociception induced by oxidative stress. Nociception triggers a variety of physiological and behavioural responses and usually results in a subjective experience of pain in sentient beings.
Bergamot is especially useful in managing arthritis symptoms and pain. It suppresses inflammation, minimises oxidative stress, provides pain relief and manages anxiety and stress. Create a massage oil for sore, inflamed joints by diluting the essential oil in your favourite carrier oil.
Obese persons tend to be more susceptible to arthritis as excessive fat tissue increases inflammation in the body. Obesity in general is not a good thing for vibrant health and surprisingly, Bergamot can also aid in healthy weight loss.
It contains the phytochemical naringin, which acts by increasing the action of liver proteins that can reduce fat accumulation in the body, thus helping in weight reduction.
A study published in “Lipids in Health and Disease” took 98 older people with elevated blood lipid levels and gave them a 12-week supplementation of a Citrus bergamia extracts-based formulation. Compared to the placebo group, the Bergamot group showed significant weight reduction.
Bergamot is antiseptic, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and antibacterial. It can be used to clear up skin infections, fungal infections and to clean wounds.
It also has strong astringent properties that can help to reduce acne scars, skin blemishes and to lighten dark spots. Adding Bergamot oil to your moisturiser will leave skin feeling fresher, tighter and brighter. One caveat is that Bergamot is phototoxic – meaning it can cause skin irritation when exposed to sunlight.
The name Bergamot is derived from the Italian city of Bergamo, where the oil was first sold. The dried peel and/or essential oil give Earl Grey tea its unique flavour and are also used as an ingredient in Turkish Delight.
The Bergamot fruit was first mentioned by Giovanni Baptista Ferrari, an Italian botanist in 1646. It would later be described in greater detail by Johann Christoph Volkamer, a German botanist who was a contemporary of Ferrari. The famous essence was first extracted by an Italian named Paolo Feminis who created Bergamot Water. That essence would eventually be used in the original "Eau de Cologne" that was all the rage of many 18th century European courts.
Bergamot constituents: α-pinene, sabinene, β-Pinene, limonene, γ-Terpinene, linalool, linalyle acetate, geranial, geranyle acetate, cariophyllene
Bergamot is a photosensitive oil and should not be exposed on the skin to sunlight directly.