Bergamot Essential Oil: Benefits and Uses

While you may not know it by name, it is guaranteed you have smelled bergamot essential oil before. The bright citrusy scent has found its way into nearly every perfume in the fragrance industry, and is what gives the popular Earl Grey Tea its flavor. Bergamot has a long history of use, and the benefits are astounding. Here, we will break down some of the most prominent studies done on bergamot oil and detail the numerous benefits of using pure essential oils.

History of Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot is a fruit of many names. Known scientifically as Citrus Bergamia, bergamot has been called sweet lemon, sour orange, and the word bergamot itself stems from a Turkish word meaning “prince’s pear”. It seems we can’t make up our minds about what to call it!

Now commonly referred to as the bergamot orange, the history of Citrus Bergamia goes as far back as 300 C.E. in China. The parent plant to bergamot orange, Citrus aurantium was used In China at the time as medicine and to flavor tea. The cultivation of bergamot as we know it today can be traced back to a Venetian trader in the 1700’s. Knowing this, it may come as no surprise that to this day the majority of bergamot is grown in Italy.

These days, Bergamot is found in a multitude of perfumes, soaps and body products, food, beverages, and even smokeless tobacco. It’s most notable use, however, comes through cold pressing the peels to extract pure bergamot essential oil.

What's in Bergamot essential oil?

Bergamot essential oil is composed of many different beneficial compounds. The most notable constituents of the essential oil are Alpha Pinene, Alpha Terpineol, Limonene, and Linalool. Many more exist, but not in large quantities. Each of these compounds affects the body differently.

  • Linalool is a terpene, and is anti-inflammatory in nature. It helps circulate blood through the body, thereby reducing inflammation.
  • Alpha Pinene and Linalool are powerful antimicrobial compounds. They have shown benefit in eliminating numerous bacteria, airborne pathogens and live microbes.
  • Alpha Pinene and Limonene are both stimulating and anti-depressant compounds. By stimulating hormone secretion in the body and increasing the circulation of fresh oxygenated blood, these compounds can positively influence the way you feel.
  • Alpha Terpineol is an immune system stimulant, and a general tonic for the body.

In the Body

Most studies related to bergamot essential oil are based on its internal use. Bergamot can enter into the bloodstream via the pores of the skin through topical application, or the capillaries of the nasal passages and lungs through inhalation via an aromatherapy diffuser. Whichever way it enters your body, bergamot essential oil causes many beneficial reactions. It is important to use pure essential oils for any application, as this ensures the oil is as effective as possible. Below are the most studied benefits of bergamot essential oil on the body.

Anti-Inflammatory

As many chronic disabilities are caused by inflammation, getting rid of inflammation is somewhat of a hot topic these days. While we in the western world are accustomed to reaching for an over the counter drug to cure inflammation, an important new study noted that essential oils containing linalool are potential anti-inflammatory agents. And what is one of the main constituents of bergamot essential oil? Linalool, that’s the one!

Through inhalation for general inflammation, or topical application for a more generalized effect, bergamot essential oil can reduce inflammation without the potential side effects of over the counter drugs.

Digestive

Bergamot essential oil has gained its claim to fame recently as a weight loss supplement. And unlike many fads, this has good reasoning! Bergamot essential oil actually increases the secretion of the digestive acids and enzymes within your stomach. The oil also helps reduce constipation and cramps, making bowel movements more regular. In addition, Bergamot essential oil regulates the motion of your intestinal tract, and speeds the digestive process. This process burns calories, which of course, can help you lose weight!

Kidney Health

Mostly due to the anti-inflammatory effect of linalool on the body, Bergamot essential oil may also help protect the kidneys, especially in diabetic patients with kidney damage. This promising study focused on the protective aspect of linalool, a main constituent in bergamot essential oil. Researchers found that linalool could reduce abnormal changes in the kidneys of test subjects with diabetes. This shows further benefit in using essential oils as an alternative to treat diabetes symptoms.

Cardiovascular Health

Science is now backing up what hundreds of years of folk medicine have said. Specifically, that Bergamot essential oil is good for your heart. This study focused on irregularities in heart rhythm and angina-pain and tightness in the chest caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. The test subjects who were exposed to bergamot essential oil were less likely to have angina, and had a reduced chance of arrhythmias than those of the control. This shows promise for patients with coronary artery disease, and gives precedence for further medical studies.

For the Brain

While getting bergamot essential oil to pass through your skull and into your brain is just a hair short of impossible, inhaling bergamot essential oil through a diffuser allows the compounds to enter into your bloodstream and positively affect that precious grey matter.

Neuroprotector

In fact, one study shows bergamot essential oil works to protect your nerves. This study focused on the effects of bergamot essential oil on nerve cells which were exposed to a type of toxin. The researchers found that the essential oil reduced the amount of damage done to the cells, and acted to protect against further damage. This shows promise for nerve trauma patients, and may be used as a supplementary treatment for degenerative nervous system disorders.

Reducing Stress

If you have ever taken a deep breath over a cup of Earl Grey Tea in the morning, you can attest to this one. Bergamot may soon become your new favorite smell, as the essential oil lowers heart rate and reduces stress. This study focused on elementary teachers, who showed a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure after application of aromatherapy using bergamot essential oil. If it keeps school teachers from pulling out their hair, it will definitely work for you.

Another such study found that bergamot essential oil modulates the body’s response to stress. Test subjects showed a marked reduction in their corticosterone levels when responding to stress. The use of bergamot essential oil may also increase locomotor activity when stressed, and keep you from feeling those “stuck” moments when you feel overwhelmed.

Improves Mood

Being overly stressed takes its toll on the body, and can greatly affect your mood. A team of researchers recently set their sights on the nervous system activity and stress levels in healthy people exposed to bergamot essential oil. Their study found that bergamot oil reduces stress levels after a short period of aromatherapy treatment. Most volunteers showed reduced prevalence of negative emotions after a ten minute resting session with aromatherapy essential oil, and their cortisol levels were also reduced.

Fights Fatigue

The same study also showed that bergamot oil reduces fatigue. In comparison to the control group which simply rested for ten minutes without bergamot essential oil, the group which rested AND inhaled bergamot essential oil showed a reduction in fatigue. If you are feeling a bit sluggish, adding a few drops of bergamot essential oil to your personal inhaler will brighten you up quicker than any cup of coffee.

On the Skin

The beneficial compounds in bergamot essential oil are also small enough to permeate the pores of the skin and positively affect the bloodstream. These are the most studied benefits of topical application.

Analgesic

When applied to the skin, analgesics help numb or reduce pain. While they may not solve the issue causing the pain, they can reduce the perception of it, making going about your day to day life a bit simpler. Bergamot essential oil is a natural, safe analgesic, according to one study’s findings. The researchers of this test found that subjects were less likely to notice topical pains when either bergamot or its active constituent linalool was present in the affected area. Bergamot makes a great addition to your home made muscle rub for this reason.

Antimicrobial

Traditional folk cures have used bergamot oil for centuries as a natural wound treatment. Its anti-inflammatory compounds and analgesic benefits work synergistically to reduce swelling and pain. To top this off, the antimicrobial compounds Alpha Pinene and Linalool also exist in beneficial amounts in bergamot essential oil.

In one promising study, the essential oils of Lemon, Orange, and Bergamot were tested against multiple strains of microbes. While all oils were effective, researchers found bergamot essential oil was the most effective antimicrobial of those tested. With its laundry list of benefits for wounds, bergamot oil is definitely one for the first aid kit.

A powerful antiseptic can be made by diluting two drops each of bergamot essential oil, tea tree essential oil, and eucalyptus essential oil in two ounces of coconut oil. A little bit goes a long way, so be sure to have a lid for your container so you can use it over and over again.

Potential Side Effects

Bergamot essential oil use is considered safe, but there may be potentials for allergic reaction. It is important to note that your bergamot essential oil is bergaptene-free. Bergaptene is a compound that is now generally removed from bergamot essential oil. It causes photosensitivity, and if left unchecked, can lead to serious sunburns. Because of the way bergaptene increases sun exposure to the cells, it was often used in suntan oils. This practice isn’t around much anymore. If you are uncertain if your bergamot essential oil is bergaptene free, ask the company. If they are producing high quality essential oils, it won’t be a problem

If you are already prescribed a medication for arrhythmia or angina or are pregnant or nursing, talk to your health care practitioner before starting to use bergamot essential oil. Most studies to date are related to topical use and inhalation of essential oils. There has been little formal research into pure bergamot essential oil consumption. Though most people experience no adverse side effects when consuming bergamot essential oil in low doses such as earl grey tea, you would want to minimize the consumption of pure oil, as its high potency of antioxidants can cause digestive and systematic upset.

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