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Tips for Using and Formulating with Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil

Bergamot or Citrus bergamia essential oil is derived from the peel of the citrus fruit. It's bright, citrusy, and relaxing. Bergamot is not a citrus fruit most Americans are likely to encounter in the grocery store. Lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, even kumquats may line the produce isle but most likely you'll encounter bergamot in Earl Grey tea.

Bergamot essential oil is most often rich in limonene, linalool, and linalyl acetate. Which means it offers the brightness and benefits of citrus oils and the relaxing benefits of lavender. Yes, lavender is rich in linalool, and linalyl acetate which makes bergamot a unique aromatic "relative".

I love using bergamot in relaxing spa blends but bergamot does have a dark side -- or should I say an excessively light side? Bergamot essential oil is phototoxic. What that means is that if bergamot essential oil is used in topical products and the user is exposed to sunlight they could get a very nasty burn.

Bergaptene is a furocoumarin present in bergamot that increases ones sensitivity to UV radiation. When blending with bergamot essential oil the dermal limit is 0.4% and personally I don't like to take any chances and don't use bergamot essential oil in topical blends UNLESS it's furocoumarin free.

When I have clients who want to incorporate the amazing aroma and benefits of bergamot in topical blends I personally look for FCF or furocoumarin free essential oils. And some aromatherapist feel comfortable creating blends with bergamot if they are used in areas that will not be exposed to the sun. For example a topical digestive blend to be applied to the abdomen under a shirt.

Bergamot offers analgesic, anti-inflammatory, relaxing, and anti-spasmodic benefits. It uplifts, soothes, and calms. And it smells amazing. But care is needed in using it in formulations.

When creating diffuser blends I typically use expressed bergamot essential oil. Topically I use FCF (furocoumarin free) to ensure the safety of my clients.

Are you a fan of bergamot essential oil? How have you used it? Did you realize it was phototoxic? Let us know what you think.

Aromatic blessings, Tricia


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