Recently, my life was turned upside down. I’d been renting a nice little home near my son’s school, and my landlord decided it was time for him to sell the place. It came as a shock; we were unprepared for a move or to buy the house. It sent us scrambling for a solution that would suit everyone involved. That, in turn, opened a floodgate of old injury and wounding I knew was there but hadn’t yet addressed. I found myself vacillating from hope to despair, anger to relative peace, indignation to pride, and weeping to…not-weeping. Just like my family couldn’t easily and quickly make a clear discussion about buying or renting, moving or staying, my heart couldn’t settle on how to feel or what to do with all the energy this news had unleashed within me.
Bergamot essential oil is a classic for helping regulate or balance. It’s adaptogenetic, in my opinion. Aromatherapists have used bergamot for decades to help balance or stabilize swings relating to the heart or emotions as well as the digestive tract. Emotional conditions and those rooted in the nervous system, like bipolar disorder and ADHD, are brought into balance when bergamot is part of the formula as are digestive complaints including nervous indigestion and nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset. The common thread in most of bergamot’s uses is its ability to harmonize the nervous system, especially when it’s thrown off by stress of a temporary or longer-term nature.
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. For me, the temptation to lose myself in something else, work or watching movies or reading books or studying, rather than being present and facing whatever I need to face creeps up on me. When I notice myself spiraling into thought patterns that take me to the extreme possibilities of my situation or trying to escape it, 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.
To get through my family’s housing crisis, I blended 22 drops of bergamot essential oil with 6 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 ounces of lemon balm hydrosol. That, I kept handy in a spritzer bottle. Off and on through out the day, I spritzed myself with a bit of that to help me stay relatively calm and balanced. I also added a few drops of bergamot to my night time aromatherapy blend in my nebulizer. There, Atlas cedarwood, lemongrass, vetiver, and bitter orange partnered with a little thuja helped me sleep more restfully so I had the energy to do what needed doing the next day.
Bergamot is a member of the citrus family, most likely a cross between bitter orange and sweet lime hybridized in Italy’s Calabria region that’s been distilled commercially since around 1690. The essential oil is steam distilled from the rind of the bergamot fruit, which looks like a rather round light green to yellowish-orange lime or ugli fruit. In the early 19th century, tea importers began scenting their black Ceylons and other dark, hearty black teas with Italian bergamot oil, which is actually bergamot essential oil. When I was young in my career, I worked in an office under artificial lights and no windows. For a sensitive individual like myself, that environment was utterly depressing. I woke early every morning to brew myself a pot of Earl Grey that I carried to work and sipped from my giant thermos throughout the day. It helped lift my spirits and keep me positive so I could do good work. Then, like many modern Earl Grey lovers today, I didn’t realize that daily dose of bergamot in a cup was good herbal medicine for a situation that was essential to my well-being (in that it was a career and paid!) and yet detrimental to my well-being (in that the environment was depressing and exhausting for me).
Perfumers have often included bergamot essential oil in their blends as a heady, uplifting scent that dissipates quickly. It offers a quick burst of fruity, fresh scent, then fades fast. In my blends, I often pair bergamot with base notes that will linger and will be well supported by that burst of citrusy scent. I think of bergamot as a lovely little opening act to some of the heavier hitters who are there to do deeper work. When bergamot is at centerstage, as it was for my Family Housing Crisis blend, I think of it as more a traffic manager who’s prime responsibility is to ensure energies keep moving at exactly the right pace while the supporting players offer what’s needed to allow those energies to go where they need to go and become what they need to become to best support the action at hand.
Ideas for Incorporating Bergamot Essential Oil into Your Life
- Blend your own bergamot tea: Sprinkle one to two drops of bergamot essential oil in a well-sealable tin of your favorite loose black tea or drop one or two drops onto a napkin or tissue and tuck that into a well-sealed tin of your favorite black tea bags. In either case, be sure you’re using high quality bergamot essential oil and adjust the proportions based on your tastes. Also, in either case give the blend a day or two to synergize before you brew it up.
- Incorporate bergamot essential oil into your favorite lotion, massage oil, or salve. Use a dilution rate of about 1 percent, or up to 6 drops of bergamot essential oil for approximately 1 ounce of carrier (6 drops per 30 ml). Add other essential oils to promote optimism, general well-being, and balance in your life.
- Add a little bergamot to your cocoa or coffee. One or two drops will be plenty for the average 12 ounce (355 ml) sized mug. Lattes offer a perfect zing to pair with bergamot’s uplifting nature for a mid-winter pick-me-up. Cocoa, especially made nice and dark, offers a sunny, relaxing yet stimulating adult-style comfort, too.
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 using a steaming process 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: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance with Essential Oils by Gabriel Mojay
- The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss