Bergamot essential oil is pressed from the peel of the bergamot orange, an Italian citrus fruit formally known as, Citrus bergamia. This small green fruit produces an oil with a bright citrus aroma but a chemical profile that is unlike most other citrus oils. This makes it particularly noteworthy for clinical research.
In clinical research, including clinical studies conducted by our team here at the Franklin Health Research Foundation, bergamot essential oil has been shown to be beneficial for stress and anxiety, specifically short-term or situational anxiety where immediate effects are needed (Hawkins, 2017). Researchers have evaluated its uses on a wide range of anxiety-producing environments ranging from elementary classrooms to pre-surgical anxiety (Ndao, 2012; Han, 2017; Watanabe, 2015).
To produce stress-reducing or anxiety-reducing benefits, direct inhalation through a personal inhaler for 10-15 minutes is sufficient. The oil can also be added to skincare products to provide stress-relief benefits. However, because the oil can be phototoxic, it is often difficult to achieve sufficient quantities in skincare products to produce medicinal effects.
Studies also indicate that bergamot is a good addition to UVB therapy for psoriasis and for anti-aging benefits for the skin (Valkova, 2007; Perna, 2019). However, these results require more potent doses than those typically used for routine spa products. Highly potent formulations are required which require consulting with a professional aromatherapist.
Bergamot essential oil can cause phototoxicity, which means that the skin to which it has been applied is more susceptible to sunburn than it would be without exposure to the oil. This is a risk for all skin types, even those that are not usually prone to sunburn. The duration of this risk varies depending on the individual and the dose.
To avoid this risk, skincare products should be formulated with less than 0.4% bergamot essential oil, according to the International Fragrance Association's safety guidelines (IFRA). Maintaining such a low dilution allows the end user to apply a limitless amount of the product on the skin of an individual with any health history without increased sunburn risk. However, such stringent limits result in doses below what is required to achieve medical outcomes.
For medicinal purposes, more potent bergamot formulations are required–and the individual must avoid sun exposure for several hours after each application. As a result, medicinal products are typically formulated for nighttime application.
DOSE AND DILUTION:
- For leave-on skincare products with sun exposure: 0.4% dilution with no usage limits or application limits.
- For leave-on products with sun avoidance and for medicinal products: no more than 30% overall, with a recommendation of 3-5% total for cosmetics such as a facial cream and 20% total for medicinal products. Total application should be the equivalent of 1/2 a drop for children 2-12 or 1-2 drops for those 13 and older. Direct sun exposure should be avoided for at least 2, and up to 8-10 hours after application. UVA-specific sunscreen protects against the effects of phototoxicity.
- For wash-off products: no theoretical limitations.
- For culinary ingestion: no more than 2-3 drops per day for an adult or 1 drop per day for children 4-12. Note that the potency of pure essential oils requires specific safety requirements for culinary preparations. This is to protect the body from adverse effects of products which are powerful enough to produce medicinal outcomes. Learn more here.
- For medicinal ingestion: doses will be much higher. Medicinal ingestion is not a DIY endeavor. Learn more through consulting with a qualified aromatherapist and/or studying medicinal ingestion on your own.
Han, X., Gibson, J., Eggett, D. L., & Parker, T. L. (2017). Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) essential oil inhalation improves positive feelings in the waiting room of a mental health treatment center: A pilot study. Phytotherapy research, 31(5), 812-816.
Ndao, D. H., Ladas, E. J., Cheng, B., Sands, S. A., Snyder, K. T., Garvin Jr, J. H., & Kelly, K. M. (2012). Inhalation aromatherapy in children and adolescents undergoing stem cell infusion: results of a placebo‐controlled double‐blind trial. Psycho‐Oncology, 21(3), 247-254.
Perna, S., Spadaccini, D., Botteri, L., Girometta, C., Riva, A., Allegrini, P., ... & Rondanelli, M. (2019). Efficacy of bergamot: From anti‐inflammatory and anti‐oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations. Food science & nutrition, 7(2), 369-384.
Watanabe, E., Kuchta, K., Kimura, M., Rauwald, H. W., Kamei, T., & Imanishi, J. (2015). Effects of bergamot (Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) essential oil aromatherapy on mood states, parasympathetic nervous system activity, and salivary cortisol levels in 41 healthy females. Complementary Medicine Research, 22(1), 43-49.
Meet Dr Hawkins
Dr. Hawkins brings 20 years of expertise in the integrative health field to her role as Executive Director of the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and the leader of our clinical research team.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health from Union Institute and University, a Master’s Degree in Health Education & Promotion from the University of Alabama, a post-graduate certificate in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a PhD in Health Research from Middle Tennessee State University, and is completing the post-doctoral Global Scholars Research Training Program at Harvard Medical School. She also holds certifications in numerous natural health fields including aromatherapy, aromatic medicine, herbalism, childbirth education, and labor support.