Surely you have heard of Bergamot, a plant with a fruit that is similar to the orange and that is scientifically called Citrus bergamia Risso et Poiteau. It belongs to the Rutaceae family, and its origins are from the southern coast of Calabria – Italy and Greece. It is commonly used in both essential oil and juice, which are obtained from cold pressing of its exocarp. It can also be used as part of aroma sticks combined with other fragrances.
Benefits and Uses of Citrus Bergamot
Until now, Citrus Bergamot has been widely used in the cosmetic industry as part of many fragrances, lotions and soaps, in the food industry for flavoring tea/beverages and for preparing pastries, as part of the aromatherapy, in the pharmaceutical industry to absorb or neutralize the smell of different medicinal products and even as a natural antiseptic and antibacterial (1).
But experts have also used bergamot to treat health conditions on different areas of interest, such as the nervous system, cardiovascular health (including heart disease), inflammation, diabetes, immune system, bone metabolism, skin (including wound healing and psoriasis), anxiety, stress, improvement of the sleep, improvement of the cognitive function and hair growth (1,2).
Phytochemistry of Citrus Bergamot
Bergamot extracts contain flavonoids (such as neoeriocitrin, neohesperidin and naringin), anti-oxidants, coumarins (anti-inflammatories), a bergamot polyphenolic fraction (BPF), polysaccharides and a fibrous-woody fraction (2).
1. Anti-oxidant effect: Some studies have showed that drinking bergamot juices in doses between 25 and 50 µg/mL helped to prevent the oxidative damage in many body’s cells by different mechanisms such as TNF-α and NF-κB ways, and against diverse stressor agents, including hydrogen peroxide and iron sulfate (1).
In other terms, bergamot juices reduce the formation of radical oxygen species and counteract the cell’s membrane lipid peroxidation, improve the mitochondrial functionality and prevents DNA-oxidative damage in some cells (1). This is important in the treatment of cardiovascular disease because bergamot prevents the free radical damage of the endothelium (2).
On the other hand, a study showed that bergamot also protects the human body cells from the oxidative stress caused by UVB (Ultraviolet B) radiation (1).
2. Anti-inflammatory effect: Studies, both in vitro and in vivo, have shown that bergamot helped to reduce the oedema volume in rats’ paws, especially when using a dose of 0.10mL/kg. Likewise, another study performed on human cells showed that both bergamot extract and juice significantly reduce the expression of inflammation markers, which in turn prevents the accumulation of inflammatory cells, like leukocytes and monocytes (1).
In fact, other studies showed the same anti-inflammatory effect of bergamot in other diseases that cause significant inflammation like cystic fibrosis, skin inflammation (keratinocytes), neuroinflammation (like Alzheimer’s disease – glial cells), inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal ischemia/reperfusion injury and lung oxidative stress (1).
3. Lipid-lowering effect: Studies have showed that patients who take statins experience a significant reduction in the biomarkers that detect vascular oxidative damage (1).
This effect may also result in a reduction of the cardiovascular risk because it prevents the lipid adhesion to the endothelium (2).
4. Reduces the stress and anxiety: People who underwent to 10–15 min of bergamot essential oil aromatherapy experienced an activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed” activities that occur when the body is at rest (2,3).
Said in other way, the parasympathetic nervous system reduces both blood diastolic and systolic pressure and the heart rate. The same effect was observed when bergamot essential oil was applied directly on the skin (3).
Likewise, bergamot reduces the activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPA) and reduces the salivary cortisol levels, a hormone that is closely related to stress (2,3).
5. Reduces the hunger sensation: The presence of polysaccharides and the fibrous-woody fraction seems to be the responsible of this effect (2).
6. Potential anti-depressant effect: Some studies say that bergamot can act through the monoaminergic mechanism and relieve the symptoms of depression (2).
7. Possible ability to control glucose levels: Studies in animals confirm promising data on glucose control when taking, at least, an oral dose of 150 mg/day of flavonoids for 6 months or an oral dose of bergamot polyphenolic fraction (BPF) from 500 to 1000 mg/day for 30/60 days (2).
1. Ferlazzo, Cirmi, Calapai, Ventura-Spagnolo, Gangemi, Navarra. Anti-Inﬂammatory Activity of Citrus bergamia Derivatives: Where Do We Stand?. Molecules 2016, 21, 1273; doi: 10.3390/molecules21101273
2. Perna et al. Efficacy of bergamot: From anti- inflammatory and anti- oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations. Wiley Food Science and Nutrition. November 2018. DOI: 10.1002/fsn3.903
3. Watanabe, Kuchta, Kimura, Rauwald, Kamei, Imanishi. 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. Forsch Komplementmed 2015;22:43–49 DOI: 10.1159/000380989