What is bergamot?

Citrus bergamia (bergamot), a citrus tree native to tropical Asia, is now cultivated throughout the Mediterranean, with significant production in southern Italy. The cultivation of bergamot in the Calabria region of Italy is highly regulated to preserve the quality and consistency of the fruit. The yellow-green bergamot fruit, the size of a small orange, is a hybrid of bitter orange and lemon. You might be most familiar with bergamot as an ingredient in Earl Grey tea. The essential oil from the inner peel is mixed with tea leaves, providing Earl Grey tea’s unique floral, citrus aroma and flavor. Both the essential oils in the peel, as well as the polyphenols/flavonoids in the juice, have been used for medicinal purposes.

Essential oil of bergamot

Bergamot oil is cold-pressed from the rind. It takes 440 pounds of ripe bergamot fruit, which ripens between December and March, to yield two pounds of essential oil. The essential oil provides scent to a variety of personal care products and food-grade versions are used to flavor foods and drink (like Earl Gray tea, for example).

The oil can be added to shampoos, lotions, and aromatherapy diffusers to provide a pleasant scent. Anecdotal reports suggest several drops added to shampoo helps soften dry, wiry hair. The oil is also reported to have anti-microbial activity.

Bergamot essential oil might also provide stress reduction. Used as aromatherapy, rest plus water vapor with bergamot lowered salivary cortisol levels, compared to rest alone – providing a possible way that bergamot aromatherapy might lower response to stress.Several other studies indicate aromatherapy with bergamot oil reduces stress responses, blood pressure, and heart rate.2

NOTE: Do not use bergamot oil specifically meant for topical use, internally. In addition, it can be caustic if applied to the skin without dilution in coconut or some other oil.

Health benefits of bergamot juice constituents

Although bergamot essential oils have been used in traditional Italian medicine since 1725, research on the therapeutic benefits of constituents in the juice is more recent. Although the juice can be consumed straight, it is very sour and can cause heartburn, so it is often diluted with water or another juice. It has gained particular popularity in the United States because of its specific polyphenol and flavonoid content – plant constituents that act as antioxidants and benefit cardiovascular, metabolic, and liver health.*

Two recent studies found bergamot polyphenols are superior to placebo for their effects on fat metabolism, which in turn supports healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.*3,4 Additional studies show similar results in maintaining healthy lipid and blood sugar levels.*5-7

In addition to supporting healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, bergamot can benefit individuals working on weight management.* Extracts have been shown to support healthy visceral fat (the kind of fat stored around organs) by supporting efficient fat metabolism.*Bergamot has also been shown in clinical trials to promote healthy liver function, clearance of fat from the liver, and a normal balance of liver enzymes.*7

Bergamot may have beneficial effects on the gut microbiome, too. Researchers conducted an interesting study where they exposed fecal samples from healthy women to a specific bergamot phytosome extract in a simulated intestinal model to see what effect it had on the microbiome. Interesting findings associated with metabolism were:

              / Increased Blautia, a genus correlated with improved glucose and lipid balance

              / Decreased Granulicatella, a genus associated with moderating metabolic syndrome

Specific polyphenol fractions

The above studies were not conducted with straight bergamot juice, but with a specific standardized extract high in flavanones, including neoeriocitrin, naringin, and neohesperidin. The extract also contained two statin-like glucosidic flavonoids: melitidin and brutieridin – apparently found only in bergamot.

Like other polyphenols and flavonoids, bergamot polyphenols can be difficult to absorb and utilize. Therefore, Indena, the Italian company that develops and researches phytosome technology – the binding of a flavonoid or other poorly absorbed constituent to a phospholipid for enhanced absorption – has created a bergamot phytosome called Vazguard™.

Check out Thorne’s Metabolic Health, which contains Vazguard™, along with curcumin phytosome, for supporting weight management, and blood sugar, lipid, and liver health – to provide nutritional support to individuals with any of these issues, cumulatively referred to as metabolic syndrome.*


  1. Watanabe E, Kuchta K, Kimura M, et al. Effects of bergamot (Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) essential oil aromatherapy on mood states, parasympathetic nervous system activity, and salivary cortisol levels in 41 healthy females. Forsch Komplementmed 2015;22(1):43-49.
  2. Navarra M, Mannucci C, Delbò M, Calapai G. Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application. Front Pharmacol 2015;6:36. 
  3. Rondanelli M, Peroni G, Riva A, et al. Bergamot phytosome improved visceral fat and plasma lipid profiles in overweight and obese class I subjects . . . : A randomized placebo controlled trial. Phytother Res 2021;35(4):2045-2056. 
  4. Mollace V, Sacco I, Janda E, et al. Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: From animal models to human studies. Fitoterapia 2011;82(3):309-316. 
  5. Toth PP, Patti AM, Nikolic D, et al. Bergamot . . . A 6-month prospective study. Front Pharmacol 2016;6. 
  6. Gliozzi M, Maiuolo J, Oppedisano F, Mollace V. The effect of bergamot polyphenolic fraction . . . . PharmaNutrition 2016;4:S27-S31. 
  7. Gliozzi M, Carresi C, Musolino V, et al. The effect of bergamot-derived polyphenolic fraction on LDL small dense particles . . . . Adv Biol Chem 2014;04(02):129-137.