You know that comforting and wonderful aroma that wafts out of your cup of Earl Grey tea? There’s something special about that taste and smell that you rarely experience in other teas. Earl Grey teas are based on the common black tea leaf, but they take it to the next level with the addition of bergamot essential oil.
Bergamot essential oil does much more than just smell great, however. It is a powerful herbal extract that provides a plethora of benefits to your health. Join us as we explore just what bergamot essential oil is, how it came to be, and how it can bestow its wonderful benefits to your mind and body.
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What Exactly Is Bergamot Essential Oil?
To answer this question, we need to understand both what bergamot is and what comprises an essential oil.
Bergamot may seem like a foreign or fancy name (especially when people mistakenly French it up and drop the final “t” sound), but the plant it comes from is really quite familiar. Bergamot is a type of citrus, making it a close cousin to oranges, limes, and lemons. Bergamot is a pear-shaped fruit that is native to the Mediterranean and is often described as a sour orange.
The scientific name for this fruit tree is Citrus aurantium bergamia, and it has a long history of use which we will explore. The fruit of the Citrus aurantium bergamia is actually a hybrid between the common lemon and an orange. The resulting fruits end up being closer in shape to a pear than either of its parent fruits. These fruits are generally much smaller than typical oranges.
Whereas oranges tend to have more a middle note in terms of their aroma and flavor, bergamot fruits generally occupy a top note. This quality makes them excellent for perfuming, but it also makes them less ideal for eating directly when compared to oranges.
You can create an essential oil from nearly any plant by concentrating its chemical compounds as a volatile, hydrophobic liquid. Being hydrophobic means that it does not blend with water. (We’ve all heard the maxims about oil and water not mixing.)
Being volatile means that it will easily evaporate at room temperature or not too far above it. While we may associate volatility with explosiveness, the actual effect in essential oils is that they release aroma easily, making these oils ideal for aromatherapy and perfuming.
Essential oils are sometimes called ethereal oils, volatile oils, or aetherolea. They may also be called “oil of X,” where X is the plant it is a concentrated form of. From this, we get oil of bergamot.
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Bergamot: A Storied History
How did bergamot get its name? There are several hypotheses. One prevailing theory is that bergamot gets its name from the Turkish phrase meaning “the pear of the Lord.” This theory has some credence in that the fruit is generally produced in Turkey, Algeria, the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia, and South-East Asia, where many scholars believe the fruit to have originated from.
Others believe that the name came from the Italian city called Bergamo, where the widespread cultivation and trade of the fruit in mainland Europe was thought to have begun. Surprisingly, this tropical plant grows quite well even in the colder parts of Europe.
Historical Uses in Italy and India
The fruit juice of the bergamot plant was used by the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula to treat malaria and to remove intestinal worms. It was also an ingredient in Italian cures for fever and an ingredient in antiseptic salves.
Europeans were not the only people fascinated by the balsamic properties of bergamot essential oil. In India, bergamot essential oil is a crucial part of Ayurvedic medicine. In this capacity, it has been used to reduce flare-ups from acne, to soothe skin rashes, to reduce sores, to eliminate sore throats, and to remove infections from the bladder.
Ayurvedic medicine actually goes further in its uses of bergamot essential oil. Like the Italians, the Indians used the oil to reduce fever, but they also saw it as a solution to obesity, depression, eczema, gingivitis, and even flatulence. They would mix drops of it into medicines to help bring back appetites and to quell compulsive behaviors like gambling and other addictions.
Earl Grey Is Created
When bergamot essential oil made its way to the shores of England, it resulted in a blend with black tea that came to be named after Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, who was British Prime Minister in the 1830s. It is unclear exactly how this combination happened, but the resulting tea, now called Earl Grey, is among the most popular in the world today. Many people’s first encounter with the aroma of bergamot comes from this tea.
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How Is Bergamot Essential Oil Created?
Different essential oils are created using a variety of methods. Traditionally, most bergamot essential oils were created using a process called sfumatura or slow-folding. This method is primarily used to extract the desired parts from the rind of citrus fruits. Even though more advanced techniques exist today, they do not approach the excellence in quality that the slow-folding method produces.
To produce bergamot essential oil through slow-folding, you must use a special spoon-shaped knife called a rastrello. The rastrello is used on a fresh peel of the bergamot fruit to remove the excess pulp still clinging to it. Then the peel is washed methodically with limewater and drip-dried on specialty baskets or woven mats for up to 24 hours.
After this process has made the oil glands easier to express, a procession of natural sponges are fixed to a basin and held in place. The dried peel is then pressed against the sponges repeatedly in a circular motion, which causes the essential oils to be collected in the basin. The sponges are squeezed to reclaim every drop of bergamot essential oil that is possible.
In more modern methods, machines called peelers scrape the fruit under running water, which is then separated by centrifuges. It takes 100 bergamot fruits to produce about 3 ounces of the oil. Although this can be done on an industrial scale, the resulting product is almost always of a lesser quality than that obtained through slow-folding.
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What Are the Benefits of Bergamot Essential Oil?
There are a plethora of benefits obtained by the use of bergamot essential oil. It certainly smells pleasant, but there are many less obvious properties of bergamot essential oil that we will explore.
For the Hair and Scalp
Mix a few drops of bergamot essential oil into your shampoo or apply a few drops to your hair and you can help soften your curls to make them more manageable. Many people use this method to help them deal with an itchy scalp. Others like bergamot essential oil for the way that it gives their hair extra sheen. Some have even claimed that the extra nutrients and chemical compounds provided by the bergamot essential oil will help to prevent hair loss.
Soothing Yet Lively Scents
The primary use of bergamot essential oil’s aroma is for mild stimulation and relaxation. This may seem a bit paradoxical, but we’re all familiar with the way that citrus scents like orange can both arouse us and help us feel comforted at the same time. Bergamot is very similar. If you want to extend these benefits, we recommend putting a few drops of bergamot essential oil in a diffuser.
You can also mix it into massage oils to use on yourself, a client, or a loved one. One cheap, quick, and effective way to get the aromatherapy benefits of bergamot essential oil is to drop a few drops onto a bandana. You can wear this bandana around your neck or your forehead and let the good smells confer their benefits upon you.
For Your Skin’s Health and Beauty
Bergamot essential oil has been used for a long time to treat skin conditions. Everything from pimples, cysts, and blackheads can be reduced, soothed, or altogether eliminated with careful application of bergamot essential oil.
To do this, simply mix some bergamot essential oil with a carrier oil and apply the mixture directly to the problem area. Leave this mixture on overnight and repeat this procedure as necessary. However, keep in mind that you do not want to use this treatment in direct sunlight or leave it applied to your skin throughout the day.
If a general cleanse and not a spot treatment is what you need, then simply mix a dilution of the bergamot essential oil with your favorite cleanser and use it as a facial rinse.
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Bergamot essential oil is one of the best extracts from a plant that you can buy for your health and wellbeing. It goes right alongside essential oil superstars like spearmint essential oil, blue tansy essential oil, and even the fabled palo santo essential oil. We highly recommend you get a vial for yourself today.
Last update on 2021-08-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API