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Citrus aurantium ssp. Bergamia L.

Citrus aurantium ssp. Bergamia L.

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Bergamot, bergamotia, bitter orange, seville orange, zhi shi, sour orange, bigarade orange, daidai, oleum bergamottae.

Original Habitat

Citrus aurantium likely has origins in China, but is presently found throughout Asia, the Middle East and cultivated in many parts of the world. The essential oil from this sub-species is primarily obtained from the Mediterranean region. The tree is evergreen with scented flowers, and bears fruit in early to late fall depending upon growing region. The fruit differs slightly by sub-species with Bergamia having the thicker peel.

Plant Part Used

Zest (peel of the fresh fruit)


C. aurantium oil is used in various foods and beverages, candies and gums. All consumable items have an upper limit of coumarin that is allowed with different allowances for foods, chewing gums and alcoholic beverages.[1] The oil is primarily produced for the fragrance industry and is found in products for both men and women. In therapeutic aromatherapy, C. aurantium oil is used as a single oil, but more often in condition specific blends.

The process of obtaining the essential oil of C. aurantium is a process whereby the base oil is cold-pressed from the rind of the fruit of the tree. This is followed by steam distillation to remove unwanted properties such as furanocoumarins.[2]


The colour of the oil is indicative of the amount of furanocoumarins that are present in the oil. Basic expressed oils that have not been further steam-distilled are thinner in consistency and will darken with age from a yellow-gold to brown. The purified essential oils are much lighter in colour (clear to pale yellow) with a sweet citrus aroma and top note.

Chemical Constituents

Monoterpenes: Alpha inene, camphene, limonene

Esters: Linalyle acetate

Aldehydes: Citrals

Coumarins [3][4][5]


Note: Considerable chemical changes occur in the essential oil when stored below 21°C.[6]

Medicinal Uses

Antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic ++

Sedative +++

Antispasmodic ++

Anxiolytic: Animal studies have supported the traditional use of C. aurantium (Z) essential oil as a sedative. Using various experimental models, rats and mice were exposed to the essential oil both via inhalation and topical application. Task evaluations were conducted at relevant time intervals with results from both studies indicating anxiolytic activity from both methods of delivery.[7][8]

Insecticidal: A small laboratory analysis in East Africa found that the oil from the peel of C. aurantium demonstrated insecticidal activity against mosquito larvae.[9]

Antibacterial: In an in vitro analysis, C. aurantium essential oil was examined against three Arcobacter butzleri strains and demonstrated activity against the bacteria. The study suggested that linalool was the constituent responsible for the noted activity.[10] A separate laboratory analysis examined C. aurantium oil against several bacterial strains known to cause food poisoning. Of the oils examined, C. aurantium demonstrated the strongest activity, again with linalool identified as the constituent responsible for the action.[11]

Traditional Use

Loss of appetite ++

Spasmodic colitis +

Malaria +

Insomnia due to overexcitement +++

Note: Human clinical studies reviewing the essential oil of C. aurantium as a single oil are lacking. However the oil in combination with other essential oils has been studied.

Hypertension: In a small human, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 52 patients with essential hypertension, oils of Bergamot, Lavender and Ylang ylang were provided to patients via inhalation daily for four weeks. Markers of hypertension measured before and after treatment included serum cortisol levels, catecholamine levels and subjective stress. In addition, blood pressure and pulse were taken twice weekly. Researchers noted a statistically significant difference between the patient groups in all markers except catecholamine indicating a positive effect of inhaling these essential oils on some markers of hypertension.[12]

Depression: Fifty-eight terminal cancer patients were divided into two groups for daily hand massage with one group receiving massage with oils of Bergamot, Lavender and Frankincense (experimental group) and one group receiving massage with carrier oil only (control group). Both groups received a five minute massage once per day for seven days. The experimental group demonstrated a greater reduction in depression and pain as compared to the control group.[13]

Contraindications and Precautions

Bergamot oil is very phototoxic.[14][15][16]

Avoid any external use before exposure to the sun.

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

General Essential Oil Precautions (Notes)

[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]


  1. Lis-Balchan M. Aromatherapy science: a guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006

  2. Tisserand R, Balacs T. Essential oil safety: a guide for health care professionals. Churchill Livingston; 1995.

  3. Kirbaslar. Composition of Turkish bitter orange and lemon leaf oils. JEOR. Mar2004;16(2):105-108.

  4. Eleni M. High quality bergamot oil from Greece: chemical analysis using chiral gas chromatography and larvicidal activity against the West Nile virus vector. Molecules. 18 Feb2009;14(2):839-849.

  5. Veriotti T. High-speed characterization and analysis of orange oils with tandem-column stop-flow GC and time-of-flight MS. Anal Chem. 1 Nov2002;74(21):5635-5640.

  6. Njoroge SM. Changes of the volatile profile and artifact formation in Daidai (Citrus aurantium) cold-pressed peel oil on storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2 Jul2003;51(14):4029-4035.

  7. Pultrini AM. Effects of the essential oil from Citrus aurantium L. in experimental anxiety models in mice. Life Sci. 6 Mar 2006;78(15):1720-1725.

  8. Leite MP. Behavioral effects of essential oil of Citrus aurantium L. inhalation in rats. Rev Bras Farmacogn. 2008;18(2):661-666.

  9. Mwaiko GL. Citrus peel oil extracts as mosquito larvae insecticides. East Afr Med J. Apr1992;69(4):223-226.

  10. Fisher K. The survival of three strains of Arcobacter butzleri in the presence of lemon, orange and bergamot essential oils and their components in vitro and on food. Lett Appl Microbiol. May2007;44(5):495-499.

  11. Fisher K, Phillips CA. The effect of lemon, orange and bergamot essential oils and their components on the survival of Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus in vitro and in food systems. J App Microb. 101(6):1232-1240.

  12. Hwang JH. The effects of the inhalation method using essential oils on blood pressure and stress responses of clients with essential hypertension. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. Dec2006;36(7):1123-1134.

  13. Chang SY. Effects of aroma hand massage on pain, state anxiety and depression in hospice patients with terminal cancer. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi. Aug2008;38(4):493-502.

  14. Knott E. Purely natural: phototoxic dermatitis. MMW Fortschr Med. 8 Feb2007;149(6):36.

  15. Kejlová K. Phototoxicity of bergamot oil assessed by in vitro techniques in combination with human patch tests. Toxicol In Vitro. Oct2007;21(7):1298-1303.

  16. Placzek M. Evaluation of phototoxic properties of fragrances. Acta Derm Venereol. 2007;87(4):312-316.

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