Is Bergamot Good for You?

A pharmacist explains the health benefits of this aromatic citrus fruit and how to use it.

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Barnes, RDN

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a yellow-green citrus fruit that grows on the coast of southern Italy.

A fruit that's part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, bergamot has been studied for conditions ranging from anxiety to high cholesterol.

The following article covers the benefits of bergamot, its nutrition, and other considerations.

<p>Mario Krpan / Getty Images</p> Fruits of the bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia)

Mario Krpan / Getty Images

Fruits of the bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia)

What Is Bergamot?

Bergamot has traditionally been used to flavor food and to make scented deodorants and perfumes.

It's also been used historically for conditions like:

More recently, it's been investigated for its effects on heart protection and mental health.

Notable components (parts) of bergamot include the following:

  • Flavonoids, nutrients with antioxidant properties

  • Limonene and linalool, which give bergamot its fragrance, have been studied for their positive impact on anxiety and depression

  • Linalyl acetate, which has antibiotic effects

  • Coumarins, which can cause sensitivity to sunlight

What Does Bergamot Smell Like?

Bergamot has a spicy citrus scent. It's responsible for the distinct flavor of Earl Grey tea and has a bitter taste similar to grapefruit.

How Do You Use Bergamot?

Depending on its formulation, bergamot can be inhaled, taken by mouth, or applied to your skin or hair.

It's available in the following forms:

  • Essential oil, a highly concentrated product typically diluted in a carrier oil like olive oil to reduce toxicity. Essential oils may be applied to the skin or inhaled via a diffuser, often for 15 to 30 minutes daily. Essential oils are not to be taken by mouth.

  • Extract, high in flavonoid content, and either applied to the skin or taken by mouth

  • Polyphenolic fraction, available in tablet form and typically taken at 500 milligrams (mg) twice a day

  • Juice, which has antioxidants and can help with signs of aging effects, according to laboratory studies

For best results, follow the manufacturer's directions and suggested dosage. Discuss bergamot with a healthcare provider before using it to optimize safety.

Health Benefits of Bergamot


Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD or RDN), pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Bergamot essential oil has been studied in humans for the following conditions:

However, most of the research focuses on the role of bergamot in heart protection and mental health.

Here's what you need to know about bergamot's benefits.

May Lower High Cholesterol and Lipids

High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Keeping cholesterol levels at goal is a crucial way to protect the heart.

Bergamot is one of the most effective nutraceuticals (food-based products) for lowering cholesterol. It's thought to act on the HMG-CoA reductase pathway like statins (prescription cholesterol medications).

In adults, taking 500 to 100 mg per day of bergamot extract or bergamot flavonoids by mouth for up to 180 days improved the lipid panel by lowering the following:

For comparison, high-dose statin therapy aims to lower LDL cholesterol by about 50%.

Bergamot also increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good cholesterol"), lowering heart disease risk.

Bergamot's effects on cholesterol are typically seen after 30 days of use.

Remember that more large-scale clinical trials are still needed because most studies have used small sample sizes.

May Reduce Anxiety and Depression

In theory, bergamot essential oil has sedative properties similar to Valium (diazepam). Animal studies have shown that it lowers the body's stress response by blocking the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis.

Recent clinical trials have studied the effects of bergamot essential oil, mostly in females.

But so far, there's only limited evidence to recommend bergamot aromatherapy for either anxiety or depression.

One study of 41 healthy college-aged females showed that inhaling bergamot vapor (essential oil mixed with water in a diffuser) for 10 minutes improved mood. It also decreased fatigue and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It's unknown if other groups, including those with chronic health conditions, would have similar responses.

Another study of 57 adults (primarily females) at a mental health facility concluded that 15 minutes of bergamot aromatherapy improved positive feelings.

A small study of 60 females who were postpartum (after giving birth) showed that inhaled bergamot helped with depression. The participants breathed in vaporized essential oil (mixed with water in a diffuser) as an aromatherapy treatment for 15 minutes daily.

More large-scale studies are needed to determine bergamot's effects on mental health. And since most of the existing research comes from females, clinical trials in males are also needed.

May Help Sleep

Bergamot essential oil is commonly used as aromatherapy for insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep).

It causes drowsiness by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body relax.

Bergamot essential oil improved the quality and duration of sleep and morning alertness, according to a small study of 48 people. Keep in mind that about 90% of the people studied did not have trouble sleeping at baseline, so results may not be the same for people with sleep disorders.

A combination product containing essential oils of bergamot, lavender, and ylang-ylang improved sleep quality in people hospitalized in a cardiac unit. The product was kept on cotton balls by their bedsides, not applied to the skin. These results also come from a small study of 42 adults. Remember that we can't know for sure what effect, if any, bergamot had since a combination of oils was used.

Is Bergamot Good for Me?

Bergamot is a safe choice for many people because it has a low risk of side effects. That said, there are some precautions to be aware of if you use it. They include:

  • Avoid bergamot if you're allergic to it or its components (parts). Seek immediate medical attention if you have a severe allergic reaction (itching, hives, shortness of breath).

  • Bergamot essential oil can cause sunburns or skin damage if applied to your skin. If you use it this way, wait at least 12 hours before exposure to the sun.

  • Be careful when using bergamot while pregnant, nursing, or for children. There's not enough data to know if it's safe for these populations. Essential oils, in particular, may affect hormone levels.

  • Also, be careful when using bergamot with medications like statins for cholesterol. Studies show that bergamot can enhance the effects of statins but may also increase the risk of side effects like muscle pain.

  • Case reports suggest that very high doses of bergamot tea may be associated with muscle cramps and blurry vision.

Dietary Supplements

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements the way it regulates prescription drugs. That means some supplement products may not contain what the label says.

When choosing a supplement, look for third-party tested products and consult a healthcare provider, RD or RDN, or pharmacist.


Bergamot is a citrus fruit native to Italy used in food flavoring and cosmetics. It has also been studied for various health conditions.

Bergamot has lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels and enhanced the effects of prescription statin drugs.

In addition, limited research suggests bergamot may have benefits for anxiety, depression, and sleep. Since the existing trials are small, more large-scale clinical trials are needed to verify bergamot's effects.

Bergamot can be inhaled, taken by mouth, or applied to the skin. Note that essential oils are associated with risks like sensitivity to sunlight.

Before adding bergamot or any other supplement, discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.