Welcome to Spotlight on Bergamot
This is the third issue of our ‘spotlight’ series, and one I hope you will enjoy reading as much as I have writing it. As before I have chosen a botanical and the essential oil it produces, and will explore the highlights and benefits, contraindications and much more. I hope you find this post and future spotlights interesting and informative. Past spotlights featured so far have been Eucalyptus globulus and Lavandula angustifolia, all designed to help you to understand why aromatherapy is so much more than just ‘aroma’. You can find these, along with this blog, under their own ‘spotlight’ category here.
Our spotlight today, is on Citrus aurantium var. bergamia, commonly called Bergamot.
This beautiful essential oil has a light, delicate and refreshing aroma. Genetics indicate that Bergamot was a natural hybrid of the Lemon and Bitter Orange citrus species, which produces something like orange and lemon with slight floral overtones. It is thought this connection biologically mutated to form the distinct fruit bearing Bergamot tree offering its different properties both in aroma and flavour.
The true origins of Bergamot are often disputed but it is believed to have first been used for its essential oil in Reggio, Calabria, Italy in the early 1700’s.
Reggio, Calabria has the perfect microclimate for growing Bergamot. Calabria is renowned for its beautiful coastline and warm sunshine, however this stretch of land, Reggio, approximately 120 kilometres in length is one of the only places in the world where Bergamot trees grow heartily and bear the sweet tangy fruit, rich with desirable Bergamot essential oil.
It is good to know that all parts of the Bergamot fruit are utilised; while the delicate essential oil is extracted from the peel, the juice from the flesh is used to flavour gelato, soft drinks and even liqueurs! In the late 1700’s, in the French city of Nancy, a candy was produced called “le bonbons à la bergamotte”. The candy was flavoured with Bergamot oil from Calabria and became a very popular sweet. It is also Bergamot that imparts the unusual flavour in Earl Grey Tea.
Today the essential oil from this pear-like shaped fruit is usually produced in Italy and Morocco.
Bergamot essential oil is also probably one of the most common ingredients in Eau de Cologne, with it being highly sought after by many perfume houses for its delicate aroma. World famous design houses such as Chanel, Dior and Shisheido have all utilised the scent to create best selling fragrances.
Aside from being a great choice for vapourising in your home for its beautiful aroma, therapeutically, Bergamot has some great benefits. Its sedative yet uplifting characteristics make is excellent for anxiety, depression and nervous tension. It has a combined cooling and refreshing quality that seems to allay anger and frustration.
This essential oil is a valuable antiseptic for the urinary tract and is effective with infection and inflammation, especially good for cystitis.
Bergamot essential oil also works well on the digestive tract and relieves conditions such as painful digestion, dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, indigestion and loss of appetite. This antiseptic is also been known to cast out intestinal parasites and apparently diminish gallstones.
But Bergamot’s antiseptic qualities don’t stop there…respiratory infections, including those with symptoms of difficult breathing, and tonsilitis, bronchitis and tuberculosis are helped with this essential oil. Its healing action also seems to benefit skin conditions linked to stress, which may include eczema, psoriasis, acne, and other stress related skin conditions. It was once used to heal sexually transmitted diseases.
Adding Bergamot essential oil to water in a spray bottle will arm you with an excellent insect repellent, and you can use it to keep pets away from plants.
SAFETY DATA: Strong sunlight should be avoided after using Bergamot oil as it increases photosensitivity of the skin. It may also irritate sensitive skin, so you should be mindful of dilution rates when using in a massage oil, cream or lotion. Of course, no essential oil should be applied to the skin undiluted, nor should it be ingested.
As with most essential oils too, it is best avoided in the early months of pregnancy.
Another essential oil not only sought after by the perfume industry, but don’t be fooled by its delicate aroma and underestimate Bergamot essential oil. It is also a powerful and highly effective oil used for many therapeutic applications.