Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is part of the Rutaceae family from Italy and the Ivory Coast. Bergamot is often used in the perfumery industry, and plays a big role in fragrance creation. Its citrus fragrance is unique and goes beautifully with floral oils such as neroli, rose, and ylang ylang, as well as herbals oils and other citrus oils.
As we will see, bergamot can be used to treat symptoms of digestive problems as well as emotional problems (including depression), stress, hypertension, joint pain, muscle pain, infection, skin disorders, upper respiratory infections, and more.
Before we begin, though, there are a few things to consider when considering bergamot oil as a potential ingredient in your blendings.
With essential oils, there are four factors that play a part in safety and exposure: How your oil was applied, how strong of a dilution rate you use, how much you use, and how often it is applied.
Externally, if not diluted properly and also depending on the constituents (components) within the oil, it can cause irritation, an allergic reaction such as phototoxicity, or a photo-allergy reaction. If used incorrectly internally, it can cause neurotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity, or fetotoxicity.
Essential oils have evaporation rates, the categorizations of which are referred to as “notes.” Top notes such as bergamot and other citrus evaporate rather quickly. Middle notes are the next to evaporate, and the slowest oils to evaporate are the base notes.
Because of the various evaporation notes of essential oils, over time you may detect a slight change in the aroma. Keeping your blend in a dark, closed bottle will preserve your oil.
Essential oils have shelf lives. To achieve complete shelf life it will help to keep them in a cold, dark place at an ideal temperature of 60-65 degrees. A small refrigerator is often used for this purpose. You can refer to our Ultimate Guide to review the various notes as well as other pertinent information for each oil.
Citrus oil is expressed (steam distilled) from the peeling or rind of the fruit. Most citrus is phototoxic; the first reaction from fragrances with citrus oils was reported in 1916.
In 1970, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) set safety guidelines and since then phototoxic reactions from fragrances is very rare now.
Bergapten-free bergamot is the best type to purchase. This contains very little if any FC’s (furanocoumarin). To achieve this, the oil is reprocessed using a technique called fractional distillation. This is the safest bergamot to buy and should be listed as ‘Bergamot FCF.’
Can These Conditions be Treated with Bergamot?
In the rest of this article we’ll give you lots of information so you can effectively enjoy the benefits that bergamot offers, without being concerned about the safety aspect of it. Let’s see all the wonderful ways this remarkable fruit can be used!
1. Alleviate Depression
Bergamot is incredible at reducing psychological stress factors. One way it does this is by assisting in the reduction of blood pressure. The referenced source states that BEO “data yielded so far contribute to our understanding of the mode of action of this phytocomplex on nerve tissue under normal and pathological experimental conditions and provide a rational basis for the practical use of BEO in complementary medicine.”(1)
The linalyl acetate in bergamot contributes to relaxing the smooth muscles and has a relaxing effect on the vascular system. (2) For depression, bergamot goes well with lavender, rose, geranium, and patchouli. The following is one of my signature blends. When first creating the aroma the emotional effect was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. This brings about peace and calmness in a happy “worry free” place.
Blend all ingredients and apply as needed.
*It is advised to avoid the use of ylang ylang on children under 2 years of age*
2. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Study results have demonstrated that bergamot essential oil inhaled together with water vapor exerts psychological and physiological effects in a relatively short time, including improvement in fatigue and negative emotions. This may be due to the components linalyl acetate and linalool, which contribute to the calming effects of BEO.
The linalyl can be around 25% or more depending on the batch your purchase and the linalool can be around 5% or more. We must also include the y-terpinene component, which also has sedative properties. It should be noted that sedative does not always indicate “sleep.” In many cases with oils, a sedative can also mean calm, relaxed, or eased. With that said, it is the oils overall chemical makeup that contributes to the actions of the oils. (3)(4)
Try the following blend to reduce your stress and anxiety:
Blend and use as needed. This is a very soothing, calming lotion.
NOTE: For children less than two years of age use ½ of your oils and leave out the ylang ylang.
3. Emotional Health
Bergamot essential oil is one of the best oils for supporting us emotionally. This is due to the constituent linalyl acetate. Because it reduces anxiety, eases depression, alleviates stress, and is an antispasmodic, it is emotionally supportive. Bergamot is mood lifting and emotionally balancing. (5) Try the following blend:
4. Assist Digestion
Bergamot is one of the best antispasmodic essential oils for digestive cramps and can assist with digestion in general. It’s known to ease painful digestive issues including dyspepsia, increase appetite, and assist in easing symptoms of colitis.
Using olive oil with your blend adds extra protection to the tender belly skin. Olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties, wound healing properties, has a higher percentage of antioxidants, even higher than vitamin E as well as contains protein, minerals, and vitamins. (6)
Try the following to ease tummy discomfort:
Blend: Apply counterclockwise on belly every 3 hours until relief.
*For children under five years of age, replace peppermint with spearmint (Mentha spicata), a safer alternative for the little ones.*
5. Eliminate Intestinal Worms
Bergamot is a vermifuge and thus can eliminate intestinal worms. However, Dr. Jean Valnet suggests the essence of bergamot - a safe and effective alternative to using bergamot essential oil internally - unless you are under the care of a clinical aromatherapist trained in internal use.
For internal use, you could also consider bergamot hydrosol. These are both gentle and may be used internally without the concerns that accompany the internal use of essential oils. I recommend looking for organic hydrosols to ensure purity. (7)
6. Relieve or Reduce Muscle Aches and Pains
Bergamot is antispasmodic, calming, and relaxing to the smooth muscles of the body, easing achy muscles and joints.
Evidence supports the redox basis of several types of pain and identified a new property of natural antioxidants derived from Citrus bergamia and its reduction of pain conditions. ‘Thus, the use of natural antioxidants may represent a promising and innovative therapeutic approach to counteract the side effects of prolonged use of other drugs such as opioids or to inhibit inflammatory pain.’ (8) (9) (10)
Tallow tree oil (Allanblackia floribunda) and mountain arnica (Arnica montana) have excellent inflammatory and pain relief properties and would be great carriers to choose from for the following pain relief blend.
Blend and apply as needed. Every 3-4 hours is best to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
7. Treat Skin Irritations
Bergamot is remarkable for many skin issues including acne, eczema, psoriasis, boils, wounds, varicose veins, and much more. Bergamot has a cooling effect on the skin and works well for itching, wound healing, topical pain, and discomfort.
Bergamot has been demonstrated to inhibit protein molecules related to inflammation, immune responses, and tissue remodeling processes, suggesting it has anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties. (11)
Psoriasis and Dry Skin
Blend and apply 4 times a day, including after bathing and before bed.
The following blend softens dry irritated skin, leaving it smooth and beautiful. I recommend using a skin healing, complimentary carrier such as almond (Prunus amygdalus var. dulcis) oil, babassu (Orbygnia speciosa) oil or jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) oil (wax).
Skin So Soft
8. Reduce or Eliminate Scars
Bergamot is considered a wound healer and antiseptic. Paired with oils known for their cicatrisant properties, bergamot is a great addition to skin healing blends, including for the elimination of scars. It’s important to remember to use bergamot FCF for all skin products.
When applying oils for healing wounds, use after the wound has closed and scabbed over. For scarring, calendula (Calendula officinalis) oil is a skin regenerator, anti-microbial, antiseptic, great for wound healing (cicatrisant), varicose veins, skin infections, cuts, chapped skin, and lips and works nicely in the following blend for healing wounds and scars.
Skin Wound Healer
*Myrrh is contraindicated for pregnancy and breastfeeding, due to its β-element and furanodiene content, which may be fetotoxic.*
9. Treat Fungal Infections
Bergamot essential oil has been tested in vitro and shown to be active against dermatophytes. It showed that the compounds that were effective against dermatophytes to be superior to the anticandidal affect that was observed. Data indicated that bergamot oil can be used as an efficacious antifungal agent against dermatophytes as well as against yeast pathogens. The results showed substantial support to popular or anecdotal beliefs of the effectiveness of treating skin and mucosal infections, as well as candida, with bergamot oil.
Briefly, every essential oil is made up of chemical families. Within the chemical families, you will find the constituents (components) that contribute to the therapeutic properties of each. There are several components within bergamot that contribute to the antifungal properties that work together and include a-pinene, b-phellandrene, terpinolene, linalol, and geranyl acetate.
How can we use this to be effective? Each oil listed in the blend below offers characteristics that not only have antifungal and anti-candida properties but also support the immune system (balsam copaiba) and enhance skin penetration (cedarwood), making your product even more effective. (12)
Black seed, tamanu, and neem oil have anti-fungal properties and gives you some options to choose from for the following blend.
10. Penetration Enhancer
Bergamot, like many oils, is highly lipophilic and penetrates the tissues of the body quite easily. This beautiful therapeutic action is a quality found in many oils. All citrus oils contain d-limonene, one of the constituents responsible for this penetrating action.
11. Lower Cholesterol
Rosuvastatin is used to lower to the overall cholesterol levels to avoid cardiometabolic risk. In a controlled group, 77 patients with elevated serum LDL-C and triglycerides were tested. With the addition of bergamot-derived polyphenolic fraction with the rosuvastatin, the rosuvastatin-induced effect on serum lipemic profile was significantly enhanced compared to rosuvastatin alone.
Although this is quite effective, to accomplish this, it’s advised to seek out a clinical aromatherapist trained in the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of essential oils. This knowledge allows them to determine dosage and a proper delivery vehicle to protect the tender mucous membranes inside our bodies (undiluted essential oils can be very destructive to mucous membranes) as well as the duration of dosage.
It’s also advised to speak with your physician if you are on medication and plan to use essential oils internally. Many are irritants, and many interfere with the actions of some medications. (13) (14)
12. Clear Congestion
Like most citrus oils, due to the components d-limonene and linalool, bergamot is excellent for fighting off colds, flu, and other bacterial infections. Try diffusing the following blend to keep your home healthy and bacteria free.
Bergamot Stay Healthy Diffuser Blend
Note: When diffusing or using essential oils protect your furbabies and remove them from the room. For more on animal safety, visit Kelly Holland Azzaro at Animal Aromatherapy (Safe Use) on Facebook.
13. Starve a Fever
Bergamot essential oil is a febrifuge, meaning it can assist in bringing fevers down by cooling of the body. There are many oils that are considered febrifuge oils. Some gentle safer choices include spearmint, Roman chamomile, German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), frankincense, juniper, palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini var. motia), patchouli, and tea tree.
14. Sleep Deep
Bergamot is one of the best oils for a good night’s sleep. Because of the linalyl acetate and linalool content, it’s calming effect works perfectly and is often found in sleep blends for children as well as adults. Try the following blend.
Deep Sleep Tonight
Blend. Before bed, apply to neck and chest area and enjoy a good night’s rest. Safe for all ages.
*Most citrus oils are phototoxic. Photosensitization and phototoxicity can occur when certain natural chemicals, found in all of nature (and particularly quite potent in essential oils), react when exposed to ultraviolet light, including tanning beds. This can cause inflammation, blistering, and reddening/burning of the skin.”
15. Heal Wounds
Using bergamot as part of your wound-healing regimen will decrease your healing time. Paired with cicatrisant (wound healing) oils, it can treat cold sores, ulcers, topical wounds, boils, and other skin issues.
16. Wear as Deodorant
Bergamot is an excellent antibacterial. Along with its cooling properties, it would work nicely in a deodorant. Bergamot is often used in the fragrance industry because of its unique, soft, floral aroma - unlike other citrus. It goes nicely with other citrus oils, florals, herbal oils, and spicy oils such as black pepper or ginger. Blend into your favorite carrier oil and use as a deodorant.
17. Immune Supporter
Bergamot is supportive to immune systems that have been compromised. It is excellent at fighting off colds, flu, and other bacterial infection and viral infections. Other immune supportive oils include all citrus oils, clary sage, lavender, rosewood, sweet marjoram, and tea tree to name a few.
One of my favorite quotes is from Marguerite Maury, the Mother of Aromatherapy, from her book, first originally published in French as Le capital "jeunesse" with editions de la Table Rond in 1961. It was published in English as "The Secret of Life and Youth" in 1964. She stated, “To reach the individual we need an individual remedy.
Each of us is a unique message. It is only the unique remedy that will suffice. We must, therefore, seek odiferous substances which present affinities with the human being we intend to treat, those which will compensate for his deficiencies and those which make his faculties’ blossom.”
Let me know if this list was helpful and please share your own personal experiences with bergamot essential oil. We’ll just keep adding to the ongoing list of great uses. Be sure to share with others so they may also learn the safe, effective use of essential oils.
- Sheppard-Hanger, Sylla; The Aromatherapy Practitioner Manual, Bergamot Citrus bergamia, pg. 167
- Dr. Jean Valnet, The Practice of Aromatherapy, Vermifuge oils, pg. 81
- Dr. Jean Valnet, The Practice of Aromatherapy, Bergamot pg. 91
- In vitro activity of Citrus bergamia… (PDF Download Available). Available from: