Essential oil of Bergamot has a deliciously uplifting scent called for in particular when you’re feeling down or finding you can’t quite seem to kick the blues. This citrus relative has an affinity for regulating or bringing balance to conditions that swing, like bipolar disorder or less pathological mood swings as well as ones of extreme functioning like ADHD and addictive behaviors. Folks who suffer from conditions that swing from balance toward only one side of the scale, as with depression or irritability, can benefit from a dose of Bergamot’s steadying influence, as well. Bergamot’s uplifting and renewing scent is called for in situations where energies have been unbalanced, as often happens when we’re overworked, stressed-out, and generally exhausted by the race of life. Look to Bergamot when you’re feeling like you can’t quite get your mind right, thinking is either incessant or so fuzzy you feel like you’re living in a fog, and similar stress-induced states.
Physical conditions rooted in stress or ongoing stressful situations are also in Bergamot’s arena. Digestive upsets, like diarrhea and constipation, or skin problems, like acne, are examples of ways stress can wreak havoc on our bodies by unbalancing the systems that help us feel calm and healthy. Bergamot’s affinity is particularly for the upper digestive system, so conditions of unbalance in the stomach, upper intestinal tract, and gallbladder are best candidates for Bergamot.
Bergamot’s ability to help us find balance comes in part from its ability to regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Those are the systems that manage the brunt of stress, moving us from calm and life-nurturing functioning into fight-or-flight and back as our situation requires. When these systems are overburdened or overworked, they no longer work in harmonious partnership. Bergamot helps those systems to regain their balance.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TMC) perspective, Bergamot’s scent is sweet and lemony. Its energy is circulating and neutral to warming with affinity for the Liver, Spleen, Stomach, and Heart meridians. Bergamot is connected with the wood and fire elements. By helping to regulate the Qi and harmonize the Shen, Bergamot balances the body’s energies much like an adaptogenetic herb. It works to reduce constraint in the liver, which is the organ and meridian that helps to maintain smooth and even flow of energy through the body and mind.
Liver disharmony that’s connected to the Stomach or Triple Warmer can look like flu-like symptoms, especially when you know you’re not actually fighting off the flu. Nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and constipation, bloating, and loss of appetite are all indicators the Liver is overacting on the Spleen. This is common through stressful periods of life, including PMS and perimenopause, and can happen through adolescence…all times when the hormonal system can be thrown out of balance regardless of your gender.
Conditions like anxiety or anxiety that vacillates with bouts of depression, irritability, mood swings, distraction and confusion, restlessness, heart palpitations, restlessness and insomnia, overstimulation are all indicators of disharmony in the Shen that can be helped with Bergamot. In these cases, you’ll often find Liver and Heart constraints that are causing or contributing to disharmony in the Shen. One of the keys here is the vacillation from one extreme to another, as in bipolar disorder or when you feel full of energy one moment or day then your motivation drops off to nothing the next. From a more emotional-mental perspective you’ll likely see a distinct loss of optimism, as if you’ve lost sight of your center and can’t quite regain the insightful focus that helps you move forward with a positive attitude. Bergamot can help you return to a level of harmony that helps you navigate whatever challenges lay before you.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Bergamot is balancing to Vata energy and can help reduce Pitta while increasing Kapha energies. Its affinity is for the Heart Chakra. Here, Bergamot helps to balance the fire, or driving force, of the body, which warms and dries the system with the solidity, or Kapha, of the body. In doing so, Vata energy, which is associated with the Air element, is given freedom to move once again. Bergamot’s action is through the heart or chest, where we manage our emotions. Bergamot helps the Heart center to balance and regulate the connection between thinking and feeling in a way that supports the whole system. By bringing Pitta into balance, Bergamot offers the heart the energy to heal past and current traumas, heal old wounds, and find compassion and nurturing for ourselves and those around us. Bergamot helps us to clear the heavy, clouded emotional energies of excess Kapha so our Vata or mind can see more clearly and create new patterns of thought based on that new insight.
Bergamot can be used internally or externally. As an internal preparation, such as gel caps, Bergamot is often used for digestive complaints, especially those that are flu-like, and for reducing fevers. It has been a long-standing Italian remedy for both fever and intestinal parasites or worms as such. Topically, Bergamot can be photosensitizing. If you include it in your massage oil, lotion, or salve blends it’s wise to keep areas you’ve applied them to out of the sun for 18-24 hours. As part of an inhaled blend disbursed through a nebulizer, an aromatherapy burner, or a spray, Bergamot is non-toxic and generally considered safe for all ages.
I like to pair Bergamot with others that enhance the relax-its-only-Life perspective, like Lavender or Atlas Cedarwood. Together, they offer a gentle, uplifting energy that helps me to regain perspective when I’ve lost it to the current challenges or crisis in my life. When I notice myself spiraling into thought patterns that take me to the extreme possibilities of my situation, Bergamot partnered with a stabilizing, centering team helps bring me back to my own center. Lemongrass and Vetiver are another set I’ve blended with Bergamot to help particularly when I feel overheated, either in my thinking or in my body’s temperature, as when hot flashes or night sweats (or both!) accompany the negative thought patterns or attitudes I’m experiencing.
Bergamot can increase photosensitivity. In many cosmetics and other manufactured body-care products Bergamot’s constituent, bergapten, that contributes to photosensitivity has been removed from the oil to prevent this effect. If you’re using Bergamot essential oil therapeutically, you’ll likely stick to the pure, natural version, so caution with applying it to your skin is wise.
- Aromatica: A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics. Volume 1: Principles and Profiles by Peter Holmes
- Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by Kathi Keville and Mindy Green
- Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: A Guide to Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance Through Essential Oils by Gabriel Mojay
- Annette Zoe Fallian, L. Ac.