Bergamot Oil: Safe Uses, Benefits, Side Effects And Dosages Explained

A bunch of bergamot fruit

There’s quite a good chance that you’ve never heard of or encountered bergamot oil before. I for one only found out about it quite recently. If you do have some experience with it, you’ll know it by its high-end citrus-smell and light spiciness. If you’ve ever tasted it before, well the only way to describe it is that it’s less sour than a lemon, but has almost the same taste as a grapefruit – a bitter body followed by a slightly sweet aftertaste. The truth is that you’ve probably already tried it without even realizing. If you’ve ever had Earl Grey tea then you’ve technically had a small taste of bergamot oil as traditionally the oil was used as a flavoring agent in black tea.

I started doing some research into this delicious smelling oil and was quite surprised with what I came up with. It’s hard to believe that from the wide variety of essential oils on offer, that bergamot oil has something completely new to offer, but the smell alone should be a hint to its wonderful properties. The citrus scent provides you with more than just an odor cleanse and some freshness. This oil has profound benefits for mind, hair, skin, and more! But before I get ahead of myself, let’s dive into what exactly this oil is and where it comes from to give us a little context. Keep reading to find out more!

What Is Bergamot Essential Oil? Where Does It Come From?

Sliced bergamot orange

Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot essential oil (botanical name: Citrus Bergamia Risso et Poiteau) is produced from the rinds (or skin) of the bergamot orange which comes from the rutaceae family. It is the same size as a normal orange, but has a similar color to that of a lemon and is also referred to as a ‘sour orange’. The bergamot orange is currently cultivated in 3 places in the world namely Southern France, Southern Turkey and Southern Italy. – specifically, Reggio Calabria. However, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa also cultivate a small percentage of the total global production.

Generally, you produce the oil through a process called steam distillation. On average it takes roughly 8 and a half oranges to produce 1 ml of essential oil. You might have read about steam distillation in my earlier stories, but if you haven’t I’ll briefly explain it.

The rinds of the orange are separated from the fruit and placed in a glass vial. Water is heated in a separate vial to produce steam. The steam moves through a series of glass tubes and fills the vial containing the organic matter (rinds). Through the evaporation process, the essential nutrients of the rinds of the citrus fruit are removed and then passed through another glass tube (once the pressure builds up in the vial) to the condensation chamber where the vapor gathers and cools. This is where the citrusy scent stems from.

Once the vapor cools, it forms droplets that collect at the base of the vial – this is the essential oil. Because of the fact that bergamot generally requires a large amount of rinds as a base (the ratio is 8 fruits: 1 ml), the oil is often blended with other essential oils such as rosewood or bergamot mint in order to increase the volume.

Uses For Bergamot Essential Oil

Girl looking into steamed mirror

Inhaling Bergamot Oil

Generally, bergamot oil is used as a fragrance in perfumes, skin lotions and shampoos. The sweet odor adds a high-end citrus scent when blended with carrier oils and is used in aromatherapy. The main chemical compounds in this oil include linalyl acetate, bergaptene, pinene, and linalool. The clean, uplifting fragrance lifts your senses and provides you with a burst of mental energy. The smell of bergamot cam reduce your stress and anxiety when you inhale it. This is most effective through steam therapy. It has been known to have moderate anti-depressant effects. In order to utilize the oil for steam therapy simply heat up a pot of water until boiling point. Then add 4-6 drops of the bergamot essential oil to the water. Alternatively, you can place a couple of drops of bergamot aromatherapy oil into a diffuser.

Put your face over the water and cover your head with a towel to form a tent. Make sure your face is about 10 inches from the water to avoid steam burns. Close your eyes and breath in through your nose for 1 and a half minutes at a time. You’re going to feel calm and stress-free in no time. You can also use the oil in a burner or a vaporizer (if you have one) to give your home a pleasant fragrance and a calming atmosphere. I’ve use bergamot as a fragrance in my home and really love it – I’m sure you’ll enjoy the smell.

You can also use bergamot oil to flavor cooking dishes. It goes particularly well with salads, poultry, and fish dishes,  and even in your baking too. Be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil or water (3:1 bergamot drop) and use it in small amounts! There are so many uses for the oil in your home!

One of the lesser-known uses for this powerful oil is for muscle cramps and reducing blood pressure. There is limited research on this but it’s just another benefit to add the long list!

Benefits Of Bergamot Essential Oil For Hair

Girl with long red hair

Bergamot Essential Oil For Hair

Bergamot is an amazing essential oil with many benefits for your hair. It is able to treat a wide variety of issues that are commonly treated with costly chemical products or shampoos that can have a negative effect on certain hair types. The rich concentration of limonene and linalool found in bergamot oil promote hair growth and nourish tresses from the inside out. Bergamot acts as a stimulant, so when you massage it into your scalp it will thin out the blood cells and improve circulation. This means that more nutrients reach the cells in your scalp which stimulates hair growth. You absorb more nutrients into hair follicles from the root up, it will lead to stronger, healthier hair.

By treating the scalp with antibacterial agents like those found in (high quality) bergamot essential oil you effectively remove the source of the infection, as well as the symptoms that come with an inflamed scalp. These infections are commonly related to conditions such as dandruff and dry, itchy scalps. The oil also acts as a fantastic conditioner/moisturizer. It treats dry and damaged hair generally caused by sun overexposure or dry heatwaves. The oil will keep your hair nourished, smooth and smelling great for a long time. It will also add a nice sheen to your hair, leaving it shinier and more lively.

Healthy hair is the basis of good-looking hair, which means that adding a couple drops of bergamot essential oil can go a long way in improving your overall hair shine and beauty. I’m always looking for natural ways to cleanse my hair and remove buildup without the heavy chemicals, and bergamot oil is apparently here to help!

Benefits Of Bergamot Essential Oil For Skin

Bergamot is good for your skin care routine for a number of reasons and a variety of purposes. However, it’s important for me to stress that there are a few cautions to consider before applying the oil to the skin in any amount. Firstly, you should not use the oil to treat children under the age of 6.

Secondly, be sure to stay out of direct sunlight after applying the oil as one of its main ingredients (‘bergapten’) becomes poisonous when exposed to direct sunlight or UV rays. Finally, as a general rule of thumb, you should always mix the oil with a carrier oil (such as almond, lemongrass or bergamot mint) as a way of lessening the direct effects of the essential oil should something go wrong i.e. an allergic reaction etc.

Okay, now that’s out of the way – I want to stress that bergamot is generally very safe to use. It is a very healthy substitute for most chemical products and has many benefits for your skin. Bergamot acts as a natural antiseptic, antifungal, as well as an antimicrobial agent. Try applying it to any skin irritations such as rashes, wounds, and eczema. It has analgesic qualities too, which means it can be utilized for minor pain relief.

One of the vital features of bergamot essential oil is the fact that it’s a cicatrisant. This allows it helps scars and wounds heal quicker which makes it effective as a toner and acne treatment. It will help unclog your pores, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, remove excess sebum oil, nourish skin and speed up recovery. Again, as a rule of thumb, always use bergamot in small amounts or blended with other oils. The fact that bergapten is a flavonoid means that this oil provides your skin with essential antioxidants to encourage skin regeneration.

Are There Side Effects To Using Bergamot Essential Oil?

As I mentioned earlier, the FDA considers bergamot oil safe to use. You shouldn’t have any problems using it – so long as you use it correctly. There are however, a few side-effects I feel I should note. Firstly, it’s important to patch test and dilute bergamot oil with a separate carrier oil or water (3:1 bergamot drop).

Some skin types can have a bad reaction to the oil. Irritations like blisters, rashes or general redness occur if you use too much or if you don’t dilute it properly. Secondly, always be sure to keep the bottle in a dark container and out of direct sunlight. This is because the active compound in bergamot oil, bergapten, is phototoxic. This means that it has the potential to cause photosensitivity or phototoxicity. Research by a scientist named Kaddu revealed accidental bullous phototoxic reactions to bergamot aromatherapy oil.

Also, be sure to stay out of direct sunlight after you’ve applied the oil to your skin. You should only enter direct sunlight once the oil has completely absorbs into your skin (usually an hour after the initial application). The oil can become poisonous when left in direct contact with sunlight and can cause pigmentation lightening.

Finally, consuming too much bergamot oil orally (or with your Earl Grey Tea for instance) on a regular basis can lead to a potassium deficiency. This can cause cramps and muscle spasms. Again, the oil is generally very safe for use so long as you stick to the correct dosages and don’t overdo it. Like everything in life, too much of a good thing can be bad – so everything in balance. This is especially true when it comes to this particularly potent oil. As mentioned, always check with your health care provider and go from there.

While you’re here at Maple Holistics, be sure to check out our features covering Orange and Eucalyptus Essential Oil!

Conclusion

I only found out about bergamot oil roughly 2 months ago and after using it with a tea recipe I fell in love with it. It’s versatile, delicious, and smells like cleanliness. Those are my three favorite things in pretty much anything. The smell is lasting and really calming and it’s great for your immune system.The reality is that everything has side-effects – even the most effective of medications. So while caution is always key, that’s not a reason to avoid the oil altogether.

However, I’ve always been careful and sparing with it – and haven’t had any problems so far. My theory is that most things have their uses in moderation. If you want to make the most of something use it in moderation – don’t overdo it. This definitely applies to bergamot oil. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who has experience with essential oils. It might not be some people’s first choice but there are certainly bountiful benefits to reap from this under-dog of an oil. I’m a big believer in using less-common techniques to achieve enhanced results, and bergamot oil is one of those oils that fall into this category. If you’re looking for something different to spice of your usual citrus-scent then bergamot oil is the ideal place to start.

Even those who are new to the essential oil world should give this stuff a try – just be sure to do your research first! Similar essential oils to add to your essential oil kit include ylang ylang, frankincense, chamomile, lavender oil, and even geranium. You could also experiment with other citrus oils and see which works best for you! The bottom line is that essential oils have a multitude of beneficial uses, just be sure to get medical advice with your health care provider regarding potency or photosensitivity before powering ahead.

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