Should You Use Bergamot Oil?

Research says it’s okay, just not on your skin.

By Michael Bohl
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How to Use Bergamot Oil for Stress Relief (1:56)

Bergamot oil is an essential oil that comes from the bergamot orange, a type of citrus fruit. It is commonly used in cosmetics (such as perfumes), as aromatherapy, and as a flavoring added to beverages (such as tea). The oil comes from the rind of the fruit and has a distinctive taste, somewhat similar to orange and lemon.

Like many essential oils, when aerosolized, bergamot oil has been said to have a calming effect and to improve positive feelings. In fact, one study found that when bergamot oil was used as a scent in a waiting room, 17 percent of people reported positive feelings after just 15 minutes of exposure. To achieve this effect, all you need is a diffuser that can spread the oil’s scent around your room. Then, the next time you’re feeling stressed, just turn it on and let the positive feelings take over.

Many online sources also claim that bergamot oil is good for a variety of skin conditions, however you should be more cautious when using bergamot oil this way. Websites talk about bergamot oil’s efficacy at treating psoriasis, vitiligo, body lice, other pigment conditions, and even a type of cancer called mycosis fungoides. However, evidence supporting these claims is currently lacking. There is one study that found that bergamot oil in combination with UV therapy can reduce the dose and duration of treatment for psoriasis. However, in general, bergamot oil is considered a phototoxic substance: This means that, when put on the skin, bergamot oil can make you especially sensitive to light and can cause a painful inflammatory reaction similar to a very bad sunburn.

So, what does this mean for you? If you want to add some flavor to your tea or want a safe way to improve your mood, drinking or smelling bergamot oil may be a good choice for you. However, if you’re thinking about using the oil on your skin, it’s best you decide not to and instead talk to your doctor about safer ways to manage your symptoms.

Related: 

Essential Oils 101: Everything You Need to Know

The Guide to Essential Oils

The Essential Oils Buyer’s Guide

Article written by Michael Bohl