Have you ever enjoyed a cup of Earl Grey tea? What makes this tea unique is the addition of bergamot essential oil, which flavors many beverages and candies. Bergamot’s deep citrusy fragrance is also a popular component of men’s fragrances, and widely used in aromatherapy.

A small citrus tree originally from tropical Asia, it produces the round, green fruit whose oils are expressed from the rinds before ripening. While not edible or pretty, they smell truly wonderful!

The green-tinted oil gained favor only after the tree was brought to Bergamot, Italy, in the fifteenth century. There it was used to treat fevers, malaria, and intestinal worms. It now is also grown in the warm climates of California, Florida, and the Caribbean.

According to legend, Christopher Columbus brought the tree to the Caribbean, where it was popularly used in voodoo practices to protect one from misfortune. Columbus may have had his own reasons for traveling with bergamot. Carrying the dried fruit in your pocket was thought to keep travelers safe on their journeys and soothe the stress of traveling.

Modern aromatherapists suggest placing a few drops of bergamot on a cloth and carrying it in your pocket or travel bag. Sniff the scented cloth while traveling to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, or insomnia.

Principal constituents of bergamot: Linalyl acetate, linalol, and up to 300 other components, including bergapten.

Scent of bergamot: The fragrance is fresh, green, fruity, and cleanly refreshing, but slightly spicy and balsamic compared with other citruses. It mixes well with other scents, mellowing the overall fragrance while adding richness.

Therapeutic properties of bergamot: Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antiviral, antibiotic.

Uses for bergamot: Bergamot fights several viruses, including those that cause flu, herpes, shingles, and chicken pox. Due to its versatile antibiotic properties, it also treats bacterial infections of the urinary system, mouth, and throat and a variety of skin conditions, including eczema. The best way to use it is diluted in a salve or massage oil that is applied externally over the afflicted area.

As a natural deodorant, it not only provides a pleasant scent, but it kills bacteria that are responsible for odor. Add 30 drops to half a cup of cornstarch or arrowroot powder for body powder or ten drops per ounce to witch hazel solution from the drugstore for an instant deodorant. Bergamot is second only to lavender in its ability to relax brain waves when sniffed.

Warnings for bergamot: Due to bergapten, bergamot can be photosensitizing, causing abnormal skin pigmentation when used externally by sensitive individuals who then go out in the sun. A bergapten-free essential oil is available; this should be noted on the bottle. While it may sound appealing to make your own Earl Grey tea, leave that up to the experts; they add only the tiniest amount of essential oil to the tea leaves in a quantity that is safe to ingest.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.