Bergamot essential oil is an extract made from Citrus bergamia, an orange-sized citrus fruit with yellow skin and tart juice. Obtained from the skin of the fruit, bergamot essential oil is valued for its pleasant aroma. It is used as a fragrance for perfumes and bath products, as well as for candles and incense. The oil is also used for the practice of aromatherapy.
The bergamot tree produces dark green leaves and small, white blossoms. Bergamot is native to temperate climates throughout Asia and the Mediterranean. In many places, however, the soil and climate are not ideal for the production of fruit. The highest quality fruit is produced in Calabria, Italy, and Antalya, Turkey. Bergamot is also cultivated in Brazil, Argentina and Africa’s Ivory Coast.
A pale, yellow-green liquid with a distinctive citrus aroma, true bergamot should not be confused with the herbs Monarda didyma and Monarda fistuloso. These herbs are commonly called wild bergamot, or scarlet bee balm, and have a fragrance that is similar to bergamot. Bergamot essential oil may be extracted from the peel of the fruit with a hand-operated press or by an industrial press. The oil may also be rendered through steam distillation. About 30 bergamot oranges are required to produce one ounce of bergamot essential oil.
The oil is favored for its compatibility with other fragrances and is widely used in the production of perfumes and colognes. Historically, bergamot was an essential element of the first eau de cologne produced by European perfumers in the 17th century. Bergamot is also used to enhance the flavor and aroma of Earl Grey tea.
In aromatherapy, bergamot essential oil is believed to inspire feelings of love, happiness and self-confidence. It is used to treat anxiety, depression and anger. For therapeutic purposes, it may be warmed over a flame in an infuser to disperse the fragrance. It may also be administered in the form of bergamot-scented candles and incense.
A chemical called psoralen, which causes sensitivity to sunlight, is found in Bergamot essential oil. When applied to the skin, it can cause sunburn and darkening may even lead to cancerous melanoma. It is therefore not recommended for topical application.
Bergamot also contains a component called bergamottin, which is metabolized by the liver. The presence of bergamottin may interfere with the absorption of certain pharmaceutical drugs. It should therefore be consumed with caution.