Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) not to be confused with the common garden herb, bee balm (Monarda didyma) which is also called Bergamot. A member of the Rutaceae family the tree in the wild can grow up to 12 meters, however under cultivation it is pruned to about 4 – 5 metres. It has deep green leaves and small white fragrant flowers. The fruit is about the size of a small orange and not considered edible. The plant originated in the tropical parts of Asia and is grown in Italy and the Ivory Coast. A greenish – yellow essential oil is extracted by expression from the peel of the fruit. It has a sweet citrus floral aroma.
Psychologically bergamot has calming, uplifting and anti-depressant properties, which is why its use is often considered in times of depression, anxiety and nervous tension. It is also said to radiate love energy and happiness. While on the physiological level bergamot has antiseptic, expectorant and anti-spasmodic properties and its use could be considered for fighting colds and flu and digestive disorders.
Traditionally bergamot has been used to create perfumes, scent soaps and in the food and drink industry as a flavouring. Earl Grey Tea is scented with bergamot.
Contraindications: Expressed bergamot is known to cause phototoxicity when applied to the skin. Exposure to sunlight and UV rays should be avoided for 12 hours after application. It may also irritate sensitive skin. Today one can purchase a F.C.F. grade of bergamot, which has been rectified and is furocoumarin free. It is the furocoumarins which are responsible for phototoxicity.
John Kerr, Essential Oil Profile – Bergamot, Aromatherapy Today. Vol. 11, 1999.
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course Notes & Aromatherapy 201 Course Notes, 1999.
Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety, Churchill Livingstone, London, 1995.
Martin Watt, Plant Aromatics Set 4, Effects on the skin of aromatic extracts, London, 1995.