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Bergamot essential oil used in aromatherapy is different to the herb bergamot, also know as bee balm.   Bergamot oil has a wide spectrum of uses in aromatherapy.

The Association Between Bergamot and Italy

Although a native of tropical Asia, bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is now extensively cultivated in the southern part of Italy, particularly in the Calabria region.  It also takes its name from an Italian city, that of Bergamot in Lombardy, where the essential oil was originally sold.  The Italians have used bergamot in folk medicine for years, in particular for fevers.
Recent Italian research has shown that bergamot essential oil has a wide variety of uses in aromatherapy application; it is useful for respiratory problems, skin diseases, mouth and urinary tract infections.  It has been used since the sixteenth century as a remedy for fever and as an antiseptic.  Bergamot is also added to Earl Grey Tea as a flavoring.

Botanical Profile of Bergamot

Bergamot essential oil is obtained from the cold expression of the peel of nearly ripe fruit of the bergamot tree. The small fruit tree is a characteristic of the southern Italian landscape; its small, round fruit is very bitter and is inedible when raw.  The fruit looks like a miniature orange.  The essential oil obtained from the fruit of the bergamot tree has a citrus-like aroma but also a spicy undertone.

Bergamot or Bee Balm?

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)is a member of the Rutaceae plant family and should not be mistaken for the herb bergamot or bee balm (Monarda didyma) which is a member of a totally different plant family, that of the Lamiaceae plant family.  Their characteristics and properties are very different and there is no essential oil obtained from the herb bergamot for true aromatherapy use, although it is used in perfumery.

Properties of Bergamot Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Bergamot is a primary component of the fragrant eau-de-cologne.  It also has a number of therapeutic uses in aromatherapy.  Bergamot has a high content of the chemicals esters and alcohols, making it a gentle oil to use.  Bergamot oil is useful for digestive difficulties, stress, infectious wounds, as an insect repellent and for cystitis.  It is analgesic, a stimulant, diuretic, antiseptic, antidepressant, deodorant and a tonic.

Bergamot oil applies itself much in the same way as lavender (lavandula angustifolia) essential oil in that it is good for use with skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.  To that end, it is a good oil to combine with lavender for full synergistic value to heal burned skin.

Photosensitivity of Bergamot Oil

Bergamot is known to be one of the most phototoxic essential oils and for this reason should be used with care in sunlight, hot climates and with other ultraviolet light.  Photo sensitivity is caused by the presence of furocoumarins, most notably bergapten, in this particular essential oil.  Apart from this factor, bergamot is considered to be a relatively non-toxic and non-irritant essential oil.


Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element
Lawless, Julia 2001 The Aromatherapy Garden London: Kyle Cathie Ltd
Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Color UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Bergamot Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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