Bergamot essential oils, contrary to popular belief, is not derived from the North American bergamot, or bee balm herb. The only connection is that, when crushed, bee balm (bergamot) releases a scent similar to that of the bergamot orange, from which bergamot oil comes. Bergamot orange is a citrus tree originally native to Asia, named after an Italian town near where bergamot orchards grow, and now grown throughout the world.

How is Bergamot Oil Produced?

Bergamot essence usually is cold pressed from the rind of the bergamot orange. Because of the softer consistency and high oil content, this method releases a significant percent of the essential oils, making solvent extraction unwarranted. However, for commercial applications, machines, known as peelers, now are the most common mechanical means of extraction. The outside of the fruity is scraped under running water, producing an emulsion. This mix is fed through a centrifuge which separates the oils from the pulp and water.

While the technique sounds complex, using a combination of home press and small centrifuge, a weaker emulsion resembling essential oil may be derived. However, it takes a lot of fruit (100 oranges yields 3 ounces) to make the oil. Commercially, many of the blemished, or substandard orange are employed, rather than discard them as waste. This reduces cost of production.

How is Bergamot Essential Oil Used?

Like many oils, bergamot finds its way into perfumes and cosmetics, along with aromatherapy. But its uses do not end there. Bergamot, either as a blend with other oils, is used in skin therapy, food coloring and flavor, medicinal applications and hair care.

Bergamot may be blended with other oils for specific applications. At the same time, bergamot often is sold in adulterate form, mixed with inferior oils to reduce cost. This adulteration compounds the health risk associated with misuse of any pure, concentrated essential oil.

Bergamot oil may be made into compounds like soaps and salves or may be used in pure form.

What Are the Toxicities, Contraindications and Cautions Regarding Bergamot Oils?

Bergamot increases photosensitivity, which is exacerbated if taking certain medications. More than that, bergamot can be phototoxic, causing phytophotodermatitis, a serious skin inflammation. Even as few as a half dozen drops in a bath, followed by a half hour exposure to sunlight, can lead to severe burns.

The oil also can lead to anaphylaxis, a reaction to an allergy.

While bergamot is considered safe to use during pregnancy, it should be used in smaller quantities and diluted.

Never use bergamot oil internally, as it can produce rapid and possibly lethal reactions.

What Are the Medicinal Applications of Bergamot Oils?

Bergamot oils find their way into a variety of “natural” or homeopathic remedies, along with folk medicines. Some of the benefits claimed have been scientifically confirmed, while most have not. This lack of certification by the pharmaceutical industry is due more to a lack of eagerness to evaluate natural remedies than due to an ineffectiveness of most home remedies. After all, there is little money in medicines or aides for which the drug companies have no patent!

The most well-known use of bergamot for medicinal or health use is as a stress relief. Two small studies in recent years confirm the value of bergamot to reduce fatigue and anxiety.

Several studies have linked use of bergamot to reduction in fruit fungus and food-borne bacteria (weak to moderate efficacy) and have shown bergamot to be useful in battling listeriosis.

Numerous studies show bergamot to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels and in controlling lipids.

A collage have studies show bergamot is effective as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-convulsant agent, and helpful in relieving pain. However, the same reviews also warn against possible toxicology issues.

Like many citrus-based oils, bergamot works as an insect repellent.

What Are the Non-Medicinal Applications of Bergamot Oils?

Originally, bergamot found popularity in perfumery. Today, bergamot is included in a variety of perfumes, cosmetics, hair care, and acne solutions. There are also salves and oil blends designed to treat wounds and reduce scarring.

Its most popular use, though, remains as either an aesthetic or medicinal aromatherapy oil.

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