Bergamot

The fruit itself with a leaf on the stem

Bergamot Oil is extensively used as a fragrance in cosmetics, perfumes and other toiletries, and is a classic ingredient of the famous eau-de-cologne. It is also used by the food industry in food and beverage preparations, and most notably as one of the main ingredients of Earl Grey tea. Recent studies have shown that the oil can be useful in alleviating skin, mouth, respiratory and urinary tract infections. Alternative medicine practitioners use it for such purposes. Citrus bergamia, the Bergamot tree, also known as the Bergamot Orange tree, is a small tree. With smooth oval leaves and star-shaped flowers, the tree can grow up to 4.5 metres tall. The tree bears a small fragrant citrus fruit; each around the size of an orange but shaped more like a pear. Depending on its ripeness, the fruit can range in colour from green to yellow. Bergamot Essential Oil is a greenish to yellow liquid which, after aging turns into an olive to brownish color. It holds a basic citrus aroma that is sweet and fruity with a warm and slightly spicy, balsamic undertone. The essential oil content can be cold-pressed from the peel of the nearly ripe fruit of the tree resulting in up to 0.5% oil content. There are around 300 constituents found in the pressed oil. The main ones are linalyl acetate (30-60%), linalol (11-22%), other alcohols, terpenes, sesquiterpenes, alkanes and furocoumarins (including bergapten, at around 0.4%). Bergamot Essential Oil is reported to have analgesic, anthelmintic, antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, deodorant, febrifuge, laxative, (pulmonary, genito-urinary) parasiticide, rubefacient, stimulant, stomachic, tonic, vermifuge and vulnerary properties.

History

The Bergamot tree and its fruit got its name after the Italian city of Bergamo, where the fruit was first sold. It was also referred to as “beg-armudi”, a Turkish word meaning “prince’s pear”, relating to the pear-like shape of the Bergamot fruit. The oil was used in Italian folk medicine for centuries, mainly for treating fever, malaria and worms. It became increasingly popular due to its unique pleasant aroma and the first reference to its use in perfumery comes from 1714 and can be found in the Farina Archive in Cologne, Germany. Johann Maria Farina used it at the beginning of the 18th century to formulate the original Eau de Cologne, of which Bergamot Essential Oil is still its original component today. Bergamot has been known in England since the 1820’s where it was first used to flavour tea, which later became known worldwide as Earl Grey.

Geography

The evolution and the origin of the Bergamot tree are not clear. There are different theories as to where and how it came to be. There are two opinions about the “how”. Some experts say it is a cross-species between a lime and an orange tree, while others say it is crossbred from an orange and grapefruit tree. The origin of this strange yet beautiful cross-species is also not set in stone. The majority of experts say that the tree originated in Southeast Asia and it was introduced to Europe sometime later by travelling merchants. There are also speculations that it could be native to Greece, Spain or even the Canary Islands. Today the cultivation and the production of the essential oil are almost entirely (more than 80%) focused on the coastal areas of Reggio Calabria in the South most point of Italy’s mainland, facing the Ionian Sea. There is also some Bergamot cultivation in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory coast-west Africa), but the quality of the essential oil is not comparable to what is produced from the Bergamots in Reggio Calabria.

Skin & Body Care

Bergamot essential oil is used as a remedy for acne, eczema, psoriasis, cold sores, boils, insect bites, and insect repellant. Great for oily skin complexation.