By Jeanne Rose ~ 3-3-16
Synopsis of Bergamot Essential Oil ~ A complete description, country of origin, characteristics, skin care, formulas and recipes on how to use this oil
Common Name/Latin Binomial: Bergamot
Citrus x limon (syn. Citrus bergamia (Risso))
Other Common Name/Naming Information: It also takes its name from an Italian city, that of Bergamo in Lombardy, where the essential oil was originally sold. It is related to French bergamote, from Italian bergamotta, of Turkish origin: beg-armudi or beg armut (“prince’s pear” or “prince of pears). The bergamot orange is unrelated to the herbs known as bergamot or wild bergamot, Monarda didyma and Monarda fistulosa, which are in the mint family, and are named for their similar aroma.
Countries of Origins: Native of tropical Asia, Bergamot is now extensively cultivated in the southern part of Italy, particularly Reggio di Calabria, Sicily; and Ivory Coast.
Eden Botanicals Harvest Location: Calabria region of Italy.
Endangered or Not: Not at this time.
General description of Plant habitat and growth: The small fruit tree 16 feet tall, branches with thorns, flowers white, fruit not edible about 2-4 inches in length 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 pear-shaped orange. It is a hybrid of bitter Orange and Lemon, a product of cultivation.
Bergamot citrus on the tree
Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods and yields: Bergamot essential oil is obtained from the cold expression of the peel of nearly ripe fruit of the Bergamot tree. Yield up to 9.7% for hydro-distilled and .5-1.5% for cold-pressed or 100 Bergamot fruit yields 85 grams of oil.
Organoleptic Characteristics of Bergamot:
Odor Description/ Aroma Assessment: The odor is floral, fruity, slight spicy back note, that is, predominating floral and citrus, subsidiary notes of fruit with a slight spicy back note. When you purchase Bergaptene-free or decolorized Bergamot oil, you begin to lose the rich floral/fruity/citrus odor and it becomes less ‘natural smelling’ and more ‘synthetic smelling’.
General Properties: Bergamot is an important ingredient in high end perfumery. Without it many perfumes could not be made. It is calmative, antispasmodic, antidepressant and antiseptic.
Properties and Uses: Physically Bergamot oil can be used highly diluted as a gargle for sore throat, used to flavor Tobacco and tea; by application it can be used in skin care for skin infections, on cold sores, and inhaled for depression, stress, frustration, anxiety or emotional crisis
Application/ Skincare. Bergamot is used in a variety of skin care lines, in lotions, creams, bath, salve, unguents and for massage or direct application to a variety of skin conditions; cold sores, acne, skin infections.
Diffuse/Diffusion. Bergamot is best used in a blend in the diffuser (Lavender or Rosemary are good) to promote relaxation and alleviate stress by stimulating the mind. It helps to resolve your irritable nature and soothe tension and ease sadness.
Emotional/Energetic Uses (AP or IN) Use Bergamot by inhalation while drinking the Earl Grey Tea (bergamot infused); this is both uplifting and calming. Ritually, Bergamot oil is used for success and comfort as it can help clear the mind of depressing recurring thoughts.
Key Use: ‘The Oil of Anxiety’ and for perfumery.
Chemical Components: The peel oil contains; The chemical composition of Bergamot from Tunisia was obtained by hydrodistillation and fifteen compounds accounting for 98.52% of the oil were identified. The oil was characterized by high content of limonene (59.21%), linalool (9.51%) and linalyl acetate (16.83%).
When cold-pressed, Bergamot oil is the only Citrus oil in which limonene is not the dominant component. It is however, rich in linaloöl and linalyl acetate up to 50%. The ester content changes depending on climate in any year.(375 Essential Oils, p. 49) 30-60% linalyl acetate and 11-22% linaloöl. Oxygenated derivatives of the hydrocarbons of caryophyllene, germacrene D, farnesene and Bisabolene contribute to the typical odor of Bergamot.
Bergamot juice contains neoeriocitrin, naringin, neohesperidin, ponceritin, melitidin, and brutieridin. Melitidin and brutieridin, only recently discovered, exist only in citrus bergamot, and exhibit statin-like properties.
Comparison of Main Components: (Chart/ Formatted into the Blog): The hydrodistilled was characterized by high content of limonene (59.21%), linalool (9.51%) and linalyl acetate (16.83%). The cold-pressed oil is the only Citrus oil in which limonene is not the dominant component. It is however, rich in linaloöl 11-22% and linalyl acetate up to 30-60%. Oxygenated derivatives of the hydrocarbons of caryophyllene, germacrene D, farnesene and bisabolene contribute to the typical odor of Bergamot.
Blends Best with: Bergamot’s light refreshing citrus scent makes is a good blending partner for just about any other oil. And its use in the perfume industry bears this out. It is of particular importance in a ‘Chypre’ type blend with rich deep oils like Labdanum, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Frankincense, Rose, Sandalwood, Vetivert.
HYDROSOL: I have not as yet had hydrosol of true Bergamot only of sour Oranges.
PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh
Historical Uses: – History is speculative. Possible that the tree was brought to the Canary Islands and found there by Christopher Columbus who brought it to Calabria.
Interesting Information: a native of tropical Asia, Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is now extensively cultivated in the Southern part of Italy, particularly in the Calabria region. The Italians have used Bergamot in folk medicine for years, in particular for fevers. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus found the tree in the Canary Islands and brought it back to Italy. Bergamot gets its name from Bergamo a town in Italy, where it was originally cultivated.
It can be candied and eaten either in a fruitcake or with bitter Coffee as a sweetmeat as they do in Greece.
Abstract/Scientific Data: “Bergamot is frequently adulterated … when doubtful of purity, the expert should resort to thorough odor and flavor tests, which usually are more indicative of the quality than mere chemical analysis.” — Guenther, The Essential Oils
Contraindications: Pure Bergamot is photo-sensitizing; we recommend that it be highly diluted (less than 2%) when applied to the skin, or that one of our Bergamot FCF essential oils be used instead. FCF (furanocoumarin-free) is an acronym that indicates the chemical constituent(s) responsible for extreme sensitization of the skin to sunlight has been removed, in the case of Bergamot oil, the specific furanocoumarin being bergaptene.
Key Use: Perfumery, skin care and calming.
Safety Precautions: Bergamot is known to be one of the most photo toxic 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 Bergaptene, in this particular essential oil. Apart from this factor, Bergamot is considered to be a relatively non-toxic and non-irritant essential oil. Photosensitizing. Dilute before using. A patch test should be performed before use for those with sensitive skin.
Here is some basic information from the web on this reaction of Bergamot with the sun.
- Definition: Berloque Dermatitis is a skin condition in which patients develop a brownish to reddish discoloration of the neck and sometimes the arms due to applying perfume or cologne to the skin. Sometimes the skin first turns red before changing to a brownish color. This condition can persist for years or even be permanent.
- Causes: Many perfumes and colognes contain oil of Bergamot, an extract of the peel of a specific orange grown in the South of France and the Calabria district of Italy. When this oil contacts the skin and the skin is exposed to sunlight, the oil of Bergamot causes the skin to discolor. With repeated exposures to sunlight, the discoloration becomes permanent.
- Cosmetics can work well to cover the area so it is not as noticeable.
- Patients with Berloque dermatitis should use a daily sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to help keep the condition from worsening. In addition, perfume should no longer be applied to areas of the skin that get sun exposure.
- Laser treatment may be an effective treatment in the future. At this time, we do not have this available. You may want to go to a laser center to seek their opinion.
- Retin-A applied to the involved areas daily will improve this condition.
- Daily application of soothing gels is a treatment for this problem.
Jeanne Rose’s experience with this EO:
A story about Bergamot Sensitivity, called Berloque Dermatitis
March 11, 2004 – “Ask Jeanne Rose” Question
I need your advice. I was wearing a strong blend of Bergamot, Rosemary and Geranium on a HOT day this week. I woke up the next day with a big brown-red splotch on my neck. I realize this may take months and months to heal correctly (it’s the Bergamot I think that is so sensitive to sunlight.) I am going on vacation to the beach. Any suggestions as to what to put on my neck NOW that I have burned it? I need something to heal it fast. At least I am an example of what not to do. I am so embarrassed. I forgot to look at the Aromatherapy Studies Course Work. — Thanks, Jeanne,
Answer: Dear K.
Wear a hat. Keep face and neck out of sun. It will only get worse. Use Sea Buckthorn, Calophyllum, and Bruise Juice in this proportion 25•25•50. Do not use any citrus at all as a scent or deodorant or body wash until it is gone. This brown mark is the reaction of the sun and Bergaptene. Now you know from personal experience what not to do. In the future, you can put on the citrus as scent on the parts of the body that are covered or put on the scent and stay out of sun for several hours. It is the combination of the application and the immediate sun exposure that does this.
Thank you for your help with my neck burn, I really appreciate your time and caring. Some notes: I went and got some Calophyllum inophyllum (cold pressed) and filled up the rest of the bottle of Bruise Juice with it. About .25 oz. or 20-25% total. I am applying this in the morning and evening. I am wearing scarf to keep out of sun. I am using titanium 25 sunscreen that is nice, thick, and mostly organic. I notice when the sun/heat gets on the scarf even, the burn mark will start to hurt/sting, than I will apply more of the Sea Buckthorn/Calophyllum/Bruise Juice treatment. (I also have applied a Calendula and Comfrey salve when I didn’t have the other treatment handy). I have an inclination to apply the Calophyllum by itself because it is so soothing. It is like becoming familiar with Calendula infused oil, it works for everything! The mark is now a brown/pink. I am writing down in my journal and taking notes. Thanks again Jeanne, don’t know what I would have done without you -probably cried for days about ruining my neck.
Patch Test Link: Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in an vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Arctander. 1960
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing. Florida. 1976
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol. IAG Botanics. 2015 (supporter of testing hydrosols)
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose. San Francisco California, 1992
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Mojay, Gabriel. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1999.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California:
Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann. Essential Aromatherapy, Novato, California: New World Library, 2003.
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
Do not ingest clause for EO
Jeanne Rose Recipes/Formulas Using Bergamot
Blending and Perfume Formulas:
Summer Breeze Blend
Bergamot – Citrus bergamia – 10 drops
Geranium – Pelargonium graveolens – 5 drops
Lemongrass – Cymbopogon flexuosus – 2 drops
Peppermint – Mentha x piperita – 2 drops
“Summer Breeze” scent has become a hot weather staple around here. We use it to scent bath gel for a cooling shower, or it makes a wonderful detoxifying scrub in Sugar or Salt Glow; in room spritzers for a bright refreshing atmosphere, or to spray in a hot car. I also like to use it as a body spray for a light cologne IF I’m not going to be in the sun. (If I am going to be in the sun, I’ll use Bergaptene-free Bergamot oil).
Bergamot Floral and Smoke ~ a light tempting perfume
Top Note ~
10 drops Pink Grapefruit
10 drops Bergamot BGF
Heart Note ~
5 Drops Jasmine Sambac
5 drops Ylang complete
Base Note ~
2 drops Amber
2 drops Vanilla
Use the residue in the Amber and Vanilla bottle to get your drops. Take the empty ¼ oz. Amber bottle and add neutral grape spirits to half full. Shake it up. Pour that alcohol into the empty ¼ oz. Vanilla abs bottle. Now you have your base note mixed. To this bottle add the rest of the ingredients. Shake the bottle vigorously by succussion. Now just almost fill it with neutral grape spirits. Succuss again. Label the bottle and let it sit on your desk for 2 weeks. Smell it now and again. It should be perfect to you. Your perfume is at about 15%.
Consultation Usage ~ I have also used this oil, inhaled, to inhibit anorexia and generally in any blend where I want a bright sassy citrus scent.
Ritual Use ~ I like to add a drop or two to a dollar bill and put it in my wallet. It inhabits my entire purse with a wonderful cheery odor.
Skin Care for Normal skin ~
Apply in evening to clean washed face
Bergamot – 15 drops
Rosemary verbenone – 10 drops
Spikenard – 5 drops
Jojoba/Almond oil or lotion to fill 1 oz. = about 2.5% [EO an be reduced by adding more carrier oil]