All the Awesome Uses and Benefits of Bergamot Oil

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Bergamot oil is a must have an essential oil for your aromatherapy kit. This sweet smelling oil can be used to remedy a wide range of physical and emotional conditions and is famously used as the flavoring in Earl Grey tea.

What Is Bergamot Essential Oil?

We get bergamot essential oil from the bergamot tree – a cross between orange and lemon trees.

The resulting small green citrus fruits are harvested for processing before they’re fully ripe and the rinds are then cold pressed to produce bergamot oil. It takes the pressing of around one hundred fruits to yield one 3 ounce bottle of bergamot oil.

While the tree can be traced back to South East Asia, bergamot’s earliest reported use was in the Italian city of Bergamo where it was first traded.

Unlike most other essential oils, bergamot oil doesn’t appear to have been widely used historically and isn’t mentioned outside Italian folk medicine traditions.

Therapeutic Actions of Bergamot Essential Oil

The following list describes the main attributes of bergamot essential oil.

  • Analgesic – pain relieving
  • Anthelmintic – kills internal worms and other parasites
  • Anti Anxiety – relieves anxiety
  • Anti-inflammatory – calms inflammation
  • Antiseptic – kills germs
  • Antitoxic – combats toxins
  • Carminative – assists with the expulsion of trapped gas
  • Digestive – aids digestion
  • Diuretic – reduces edema and water retention by increasing urination
  • Deodorant – prevents body odor
  • Expectorant – loosens mucus
  • Febrifuge – lowers fever
  • Laxative – assists bowel movements
  • Parasiticide – kills parasites
  • Rubefacient – increases blood flow to the skin
  • Vermifuge – kills intestinal worms
  • Vulnerary – speeds wound healing

With its long list of therapeutic actions, bergamot essential oil has a wide range of uses including skin care, infections and emotional issues.

Worry and Stress Buster

Bergamot essential oil lifts low mood and can relieve anxiety and depression. Unlike commonly prescribed antidepressant and antianxiety medications, bergamot oil can be used safely and has no damaging side effects.

While all of the citrus oils can induce a cheery, uplifting feeling, bergamot has proven itself the most useful.

One experiment tested the effects of bergamot essential oil on very stressed school teachers. Just one 10 minute inhalation session resulted in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

When we encounter dangerous situations, our body instantly triggers the fight-or-flight response.

This reaction is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and it’s completely normal. When we’re in this state, we’re in survival mode.

Adrenaline surges, sending hormonal distress signals around the body. Senses sharpen, heart rate increases, pumping more blood to muscles and organs, and respiration speeds up, flooding the body with the oxygen for increased alertness and energy.

As long as the danger (or the perception of danger) is present, the body will continue in this heightened state, but once the threat has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system takes control and brings the body back to its normal, calmer state.

Unfortunately, the fight-or-flight system doesn’t serve us well in the modern world because the stresses that trigger the sympathetic nervous system aren’t the short lived variety that our ancestors would have faced.

We generally don’t need to run like the wind to escape a hungry bear – modern stresses are more likely to be generated by the work place, money worries, school, relationships, etc. Since these stressors are ever present, the parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t get the signal that it’s time to be calm again.

Because bergamot essential oil has a positive effect on this system, you can use it to calm yourself and to help you deal with the stresses of everyday life. In the above mentioned study, participants with higher levels of stress and anxiety experienced the most notable results.

Natural and Safe Pain Reliever

The analgesic properties of bergamot make this essential oil a useful, non toxic pain reliever.

Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications are known to cause side effects and some types can become addictive.

Aspirin can lead to bleeding in the stomach and intestine, and it increases your risk of suffering a bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke.

Acetaminophen puts a strain on the liver and can cause constipation and stomach problems, while the class of pain relievers known as NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can put you at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The first steps to treating pain at home should always be based on making sure that you aren’t dehydrated or low in essential nutrients like magnesium.

Mild dehydration often causes headaches (the most common form of pain), and dehydration also increases your sensitivity to pain.

Magnesium is known as the calming mineral because it eases painful cramps and tense muscles, and relieves nerve pain.

So when pain strikes, it’s often helpful to drink a glass of water and take a magnesium chloride supplement.

If those simple measures don’t bring relief, then it’s time for a painkiller, and essential oils could be a better (and safer) choice than regular pain meds.

A 2015 study found that bergamot essential oil could relieve neuropathic pain that was resistant to strong opioid pain medication.

Bergamot may also be helpful if you suffer from arthritis. This painful inflammatory condition is routinely treated with courses of NSAIDs, but as those drugs carry a very real risk of life threatening harm, it’s well worth looking at safer alternatives.

In addition to being an analgesic, bergamot is also an anti-inflammatory, and since reducing the level of inflammation is a key objective of arthritis management, it makes sense to choose an anti-inflammatory essential oil.

Bergamot’s benefits for arthritis were demonstrated in a 2014 study. The research, published in Biomedical Research International, asked participants to inhale a bergamot and lavender essential oil blend. During the 4 months of the study, those using the essential oils experienced less pain than the control group.  

Natural and Fragrant Deodorant

Bergamot’s germ inhibiting properties and refreshing aroma make it a great choice for a natural deodorant.

Body odor is actually caused by bacteria not sweat! So if you want to smell great, the best approach is tackling the bacteria on your body.

Our bodies produce 2 kinds of sweat. The sweat from the eccrine glands, which is mostly water and salt, and the sweat from the apocrine glands which contains, protein, fat and a carbohydrate called sialomucin.

Many types of bacteria feast on the sweat from apocrine glands, and it’s their metabolic waste that creates unpleasant body odor.

The simplest form of bergamot deodorant is a few drops of bergamot essential oil mixed with water and patted onto your skin.

Another option (that’s convenient to throw in your gym bag or purse) is to make your own deodorant stick.

You’ll need

  • ½ cup of coconut oil
  • 8 – 10 drops of bergamot essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon of beeswax pellets or grated beeswax
  • ¼ cup of baking soda
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • Empty deodorant stick

How to make:

  1. Pop the beeswax into a bowl and melt it in your microwave, or use a double boiler on your stove top.
  2. Add the coconut oil and stir to combine. The heat from the melted beeswax should be enough to melt the coconut oil.
  3. Stir in the cornstarch and baking soda.
  4. Leave to cool a little (but don’t allow the mixture to begin solidifying), then add the bergamot essential oil.
  5. Pour the deodorant mixture into your deodorant stick and allow it to cool completely. When it’s solid, it’s ready to use.

Fight Fungal Infections

Fungal infections smell bad, they make skin sore, and they can be very difficult to eradicate.

Bergamot essential oil has antifungal properties, and it helps skin to heal more quickly so you can get back to normal.

Researchers in Italy published a study in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, showing that bergamot used as a topical remedy had positive effects on candida fungal infections.

When you’re dealing with a fungal infection it important to remove sources of nourishment and moisture that allow the fungus to thrive. For this reason, it’s better to dilute the essential oil with glycerin instead of carrier oil.

Wash the affected area of skin and pat dry. Apply diluted bergamot oil to your skin and allow it to completely air dry. You can speed this up by using a fan to blow air across the infected area.

Whenever you’re tackling a fungal infection, it’s a good idea to limit the sugar and carbohydrate rich foods in your diet until the problem clear up.

Calm Coughs and Combat Colds

Bergamot oil isn’t the first essential oil that springs to mind when it comes to coughs and colds, but it’s a good home remedy for these ailments none the less.

With its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, expectorant and mucolytic properties, bergamot can help you fight off the bacteria that develop during a cold and make it easier to get rid of the congesting mucus.

Colds are caused by a virus and bergamot isn’t one of the antiviral essential oils, however, bacteria do take advantage of the damage done by the virus and they’re responsible for some of the unpleasant symptoms of a cold.

The symptoms caused by the virus itself are fairly short lived – lasting only a day or two – a cold dragging on for a couple of weeks is the fault of bacteria.

Bacteria are responsible for chest infections with their characteristic greenish-yellow phlegm, some types of pneumonia, the mucus blocking your airways and your sore throat.

When you apply bergamot oil topically, the germ busting properties of the oil are absorbed through the skin and carried to the bloodstream where they can get to work.

According to a 2009 study, bergamot essential oil was effective against 2 strains of enterococcal bacteria that were resistant to the powerful antibiotic vancomycin.

Another very effective way to use essential oils when you have a cold is to make a steam. Simply boil water, pour it into a bowl, add a few drops of your chosen oils then cover your head with a towel to make a steam trapping tent around the bowl and breathe deeply.

The inhaled bergamot, will fight bacteria and loosen the mucus making it easier to expel.

Contrary to popular belief, mucus isn’t the only reason that your nose and sinuses become blocked and uncomfortable. Inflammation plays a big role, causing the tissues in nasal and sinus passages to swell. The anti-inflammatories in bergamot essential oil, calm the inflammation and make breathing easier – they also tackle inflammation in the throat, easing the soreness.

One word of caution. Don’t ingest bergamot essential oil thinking it will help your sore throat!

Internal use of essential oils is not a recommended practise. It’s far safer to massage diluted essential oil onto your neck and to drink Earl Grey tea.

For the duration of your cold, you can use an aromatherapy diffuser to create a decongestant, bacteria busting mist in your room.

Give Skin A Healthy Boost

Bergamot oil is a vulnerary which means that it speeds up skin healing, and with regular use it may improve the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

Choosing a non-greasy carrier oil like rice bran oil or sunflower oil will ensure that the oil is absorbed quickly without leaving a messy residue behind.

Balance Hormones and Ease PMS

Bergamot essential oil appears to have a regulatory effect on the reproductive hormones produced by the endocrine glands.

By balancing these hormones, bergamot can help with the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Additionally, this essential oil, lowers stress levels, brightens mood, and as we’ve already seen acts as an effective pain reliever, so can help with the tender breasts and backache often present in the days before a period begins.

Room Freshener

Detoxifying the air

To get rid of stale or unpleasant odors you can make a room spray with bergamot essential oil. Because the oil has such a fresh, sweet aroma it can tackle odors without leaving behind the heavy, synthetic fragrances present in commercial air fresheners.

Using bergamot in this way will also lift the spirits and lower stress, which is something that air fresheners from the store can’t do.

How To Use Bergamot Essential Oil

Although bergamot is used as a flavoring ingredient in some foods and drinks it isn’t advisable to take this essential oil internally. The safest ways to benefit from any essential oil are through topical application or inhalation.

For topical use, bergamot essential oil should first be diluted with a carrier oil as it’s too strong to use neat on skin and can cause irritation and allergic reaction.

In severe cases, failure to dilute essential oils can lead to respiratory problems, so diluting your oils is something that you must pay attention to, no matter the claims to the contrary from certain popular essential oil brands.

Safety should always be your paramount concern when using essential oils. Oils may smell lovely but don’t be fooled, every essential oil is a powerful natural chemical cocktail, so please be careful.

When used correctly essential oils are very safe and bring enormous benefits.

You can dilute bergamot with any carrier oil that you have to hand, so it’s fine to use kitchen staples like olive oil or sunflower oil, as well as cosmetic oils like coconut, rice bran oil, shea butter, almond oil, etc.

If you don’t want to use a carrier oil, other options you might like to try are aloe vera gel and glycerin.

A typical, therapeutic essential oil dilution for adults uses 12 drops of essential oil per one ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil. This gives a 2% dilution which will be plenty strong enough for most uses.

A 1% dilution – 6 drops per ounce – is recommended for children and the elderly, and for very young children the strength should be no more than 0.5%.

Bergamot essential oil can also be used in a warm bath, but it must be diluted before being added to your bathwater. Undiluted oils will simply sit on top of the water and can cause problems if they come into contact with your skin.

The other therapeutic delivery method for essential oils is via inhalation. Inhalation is a great way to use essential oils for any stress related condition, as the essential oil molecules will quickly arrive in the emotional center of the brain after inhalation.

Inhalation is also the preferred method for any respiratory complaints like coughs or sore throats.

Use an ultrasonic diffuser which doesn’t make use of heat to vaporize the oil into the air, or add a few drops of oil to a bowl of hot water for steam inhalation.

Buying Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot is an affordable essential oil which is widely available. As with all essential oils, your supplier should sell oils in a dark brown or dark blue bottle to minimize the amount of damaging light reaching the oil. Avoid any oils sold in clear bottles, or those displayed for sale in or near to a window.

Heat is another consideration when buying essential oils. For maximum shelf life, oils should be kept in a cool place, so if a store has their oils out in a warm environment, you might want to choose a different supplier.

Reputable, specialist essential oil retailers like Tisserand, Plant Therapy and Mountain Rose Herbs, keep their oils in optimum conditions and they also have a fast turnover of stock which ensures freshness.

Another good reason to purchase your oils from quality suppliers is to guarantee the authenticity of the oil. Some manufactures, adulterate their oils to generate more profit, and as a first time user of an oil you won’t be able to tell if it’s the real deal or not.

When you buy from a reputable source, you’ll get to experience the genuine essential oil and will become familiar with its appearance, aroma and therapeutic results, giving you the ability to spot low quality oils in the future.

Shelf Life of Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot Oil

Bergamot is a citrus oil and as such doesn’t have a very long shelf life. While some essential oils – when stored correctly – remain potent for 3 – 4 years, bergamot should be used within 1 – 2 years.

Like other citrus oils, bergamot contains a high percentage of limonene, a substance which oxidizes quickly. Oxidation causes essential oils to degrade over time and diminishes their therapeutic qualities. Eventually the compounds in the oils change and their healing properties are lost.

To prolong the useful life of any citrus oil, you can keep it in the fridge. Citrus oils kept at room temperature should really be replaced after 6 – 9 months.

When buying bergamot oil it’s a good idea to opt for a smaller size bottle so you have the best chance of using it all up before it starts to go bad. A ½ ounce bottle of essential oil contains around 375 drops of oil, and because you only need to use a few drops of essential oil each time, a small bottle should suffice for your needs.

Safety Concerns

Bergamot is one of the citrus essential oils that can cause phototoxicity. Phototoxicity is a skin irritation that resembles sunburn and blisters, it’s caused by sunlight reacting with the essential oil.

The sometimes severe skin damage can last for several months!

Bergamot should not be used on areas of skin that will be exposed to sunlight over the following 12 hours, although the reaction can still occur up to 24 hours after use.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.