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3 unexpected benefits of bergamot orange

3 unexpected benefits of bergamot orange

Integrative healthcare providers and dietitians often advise citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges as a great source of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidant bioflavonoids.  But, one specific type of orange - the bergamot - is so rich in health-promoting nutrients that it deserves special mention.

Botanically known as Citrus bergamia, the bergamot orange has been used for centuries in herbal medicine to treat sore throats, fevers, and arthritis – and in Traditional Chinese Medicine to promote the flow of energy in the body.  While fresh bergamot oranges are too bitter to make an enjoyable snack, you may detect a hint of their rich, opulent flavor in Earl Grey tea and their fragrant scent in many commercial lotions and perfumes.  Fortunately, you can access bergamot's benefits in convenient supplements, extracts, and oils.  Find out what bergamot can do for you!

Promote heart health with bergamot

In a recent review published in Food Science and Nutrition, the authors cited studies suggesting that bergamot extracts can improve cholesterol and levels of triglycerides, or fats, in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.  For example, in a study of people with type 2 diabetes, bergamot extract lowered harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol.

Bergamot extract has also been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure.  Another "plus" for bergamot is that it contains polysaccharides that may help reduce the sensation of hunger and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.  Finally, bergamot extract contains a potent antioxidant known as naringenin, believed to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.  These bergamot benefits may add up to a healthier heart – and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Elevate mood naturally through bergamot essential oil aromatherapy

Aromatherapists sometimes advise the essential oil of bergamot to reduce anxiety and promote a positive outlook.  Researchers put bergamot oil's calming effects to the test in a 2020 controlled study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.  The research involved volunteers who were having pre-op jitters before undergoing gallbladder surgery.  Participants received aromatherapy using either 3 percent bergamot orange essence or unscented grapeseed oil as a control.  The group given bergamot experienced reduced anxiety and had lower levels of salivary cortisol - the "stress" hormone - compared to the control group.

A separate study found that a blend of lavender and bergamot oils decreased pulse rate, lowered blood pressure, and eased anxiety.  And an animal study showed that naringenin found in bergamot helped to alleviate anxious behaviors.  Bergamot essential oil is certainly worth a try to soothe jangled nerves and promote a sense of calm.

Bergamot has beautifying benefits for skin and hair

Bergamot oil has natural antibacterial qualities and has been shown in laboratory studies to inhibit notorious "nasties" such as E. coli, S. aureus, and the yeast Candida albicans.  In addition, the compounds limonene and linalool in bergamot oil have natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help them speed wound healing.  As if this weren't "skin-friendly" enough, bergamot oil may increase collagen content in the skin.  You can use diluted bergamot oil as a spot treatment for minor skin "glitches" such as pimples, cysts, and minor cuts and scratches.  Mix 2 or 3 drops of bergamot oil with a teaspoon of your favorite carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, or jojoba.  Apply, and leave on overnight. 

By the way, bergamot oil's benefits don't end at the skin.  It can be rubbed into the scalp with a carrier oil to soothe irritation and itching.  It is also believed to promote hair growth while adding softness and luster to existing hair.  Some natural beauty experts even advise adding a few drops of bergamot essential oil to your favorite body wash, shampoo, or facial scrub.  You can also dilute it with water and splash it on as a fragrant facial rinse.

Bergamot is available in a variety of formulations

Bergamot extract is available in the form of BDP (bergamot-derived polyphenol fraction), made from the fruit's juice and pith.  For the best absorption of naringenin, one of the bergamot's most active principles, look for a phytosomal bergamot preparation.  

If you use bergamot essential oil for topical applications or aromatherapy, look for a high-quality oil from a reputable vendor.  If you have sensitive skin, use bergamot essential oil with caution.  Dilute and apply to a small area 24 hours before use to ensure you're not allergic.  Don't leave bergamot oil on your skin during the day - especially if you're going to be in the sun.  It can cause photosensitivity, which could lead to skin irritation or an allergic reaction.

Important: Never take bergamot essential oil internally, and keep it out of the reach of children.  Before using bergamot essential oil or supplementing with a bergamot extract, consult your integrative healthcare practitioner.

The exotic bergamot orange only grows in certain parts of southern Italy, France, and Turkey.  But its health benefits can be enjoyed by people around the globe.

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