Citrus Bergamot Side Effects

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Health Benefits of Bergamot

If you’ve ever had Earl Grey tea, then you’ve tasted the flavor of bergamot. It comes from the Citrus bergamia plant, a fruit tree believed to be native to the Mediterranean region.

A blend of the sour orange and lemon (or citron) plant, bergamot produces a fruit that looks like a round lemon. Although generally too sour to eat on its own, it’s been part of the Mediterranean diet since the early 18th century.

People use extracts from bergamot’s sour juice and oil from its peel for a variety of things including:

  • Scents for personal care products
  • Aromatherapy
  • Health supplements

Health Benefits

Bergamot has health benefits include:

Reducing Cholesterol

Several studies have shown that bergamot may help to reduce overall cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. It may also help to increase “good” HDL cholesterol and has the potential to be an effective supplement to cholesterol drugs.

Studies have shown that an aromatherapy blend that includes bergamot may help with depression symptoms in older adults, people with terminal cancer, and women who are at high risk of postpartum depression.

There hasn’t been enough research yet to confirm the results, and there’s no conclusive evidence that it can help with depression in other populations. However, there have been some promising early studies with animals.

Scientists have found that bergamot might protect the joints in people taking aromatase inhibitors as part of cancer treatment. More research is needed.

One study shows that taking bergamot supplements may help people with schizophrenia think more clearly. People in the study had better results on several cognitive tests after taking bergamot. Further research is needed.

Health Risks of Bergamot

Mild side effects. Some people experience side effects like dizziness, muscle cramps, and heartburn when they take bergamot with food.

Blood sugar issues. Bergamot may cause your blood sugar to drop. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar might reach unsafe levels. It’s important to monitor those levels if you choose to use bergamot supplements.

Even if you don’t have diabetes, bergamot could make it harder for doctors to control your blood sugar during surgery. Experts recommend that you stop using bergamot supplements two weeks before you have surgery.

Childhood seizures. Children have experienced more serious side effects from taking bergamot, including seizures and death. Serious side effects are more likely when children consume a lot of bergamot oil.

Sun sensitivity. Bergamot oil may be less safe as a skin treatment since it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. It may also be unsafe as a skin treatment for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Be sure to dilute bergamot oil before applying to your skin. Be particularly cautious about using it if you take a medication that can make you more sensitive to the sun, such as amitriptyline, ciprofloxacin, or tetracycline.

How to Use Bergamot

Inhale as aromatherapy. Because many people use bergamot as an aromatherapy ingredient, it’s relatively easy to find bergamot oil wherever you shop for essential oils. You can add a few drops of bergamot oil to:

  • An essential oil diffuser filled with water.
  • A water-based solution in a spray bottle.
  • A bowl of steaming water.

Always check the instructions on the bottle to determine how much to use.

Prepare a solution for your skin. Combine 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil — like a vegetable or nut oil — with three drops of essential oil. You can also use water, but it may not dissolve as well.

Take as a supplement. Always talk to your doctor before using any over-the-counter dietary supplement, including bergamot. Mention any other supplements and drugs you may be taking, and ask where you might look for a high-quality product.

Show Sources

University of Minnesota Taking Charge of Your Wellbeing: “How Do I Choose and Use Essential Oils?”

FDA: “Tips for Dietary Supplement Users.”

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: “Bergamot polyphenolic fraction supplementation improves cognitive functioning in schizophrenia: data from an 8-week, open-label pilot study.”

Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research: Prospective observational study: the role of a bergamot based nutraceutical in dyslipidaemia and arthralgia for subjects undergoing aromatase inhibitors based therapy.”

Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand = Chotmaihet Thangphaet: “Effect of Inhaling Bergamot Oil on Depression-Related Behaviors in Chronic Stressed Rats.”

Taehan Kanho Hakoe Chi: “Effects of Aroma Hand Massage on Pain, State Anxiety and Depression in Hospice Patients with Terminal Cancer.”

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: “The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in high risk postpartum women — A pilot study.”

The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: “Effectiveness of aromatherapy massage and inhalation on symptoms of depression in Chinese community-dwelling older adults.”

Integrative Food, Nutrition and Metabolism: “Clinical application of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) for reducing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease markers.”

University of California Riverside Citrus Variety Collection: “Bergamot sour orange hybrid.”

The Benefits and Side Effects of Drinking Bergamot Tea

Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.

Updated on September 30, 2021
Medically reviewed

Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and nutrition and exercise healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Melissa Rifkin is a Connecticut-based registered dietitian with over 15 years of experience working in the clinical setting.

Bergamot tea

Bergamot tea is usually a combination of black tea and bergamot fruit extract. The tea is commonly referred to and sold as Earl Grey tea. Bergamot—also known as the bergamot orange—is a citrus fruit grown in the Mediterranean that has been rumored to have medicinal qualities. 

Wild bergamot tea is usually prepared at home using an unrelated wild herb and may provide different health benefits, although studies are lacking.

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What Is Bergamot Tea?

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a pear-shaped citrus fruit grown primarily in Calabria, Italy, but also in Argentina, Brazil, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and parts of Asia. The rind of the green or yellow fruit is pressed for oil that is used for medicinal or dietary purposes. Some believe that the bergamot is a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. The word “bergamot” is derived from a Turkish word that means “prince’s pear.”

Bergamot tea is not made solely from the fruit. Usually, it is made from black tea and bergamot extract. Also called Earl Grey tea, bergamot tea can be purchased with caffeine or without caffeine. Earl Grey tea may also be produced using other tea leaves including green tea or rooibos tea. The amount of caffeine in the tea will depend on the leaves used to produce it.

Bergamot tea may also refer to a type of tea made with leaves from the wild bergamot plant, sometimes called bee balm. Wild bergamot may grow in parts of the United States and also in Europe. Wild bergamot tea was reportedly used by Native Americans to treat cold symptoms and for other medicinal uses.

How to Make Bergamot Tea

Many familiar brands, like Twinings, Bigelow, and Stash make bergamot tea. Bergamot tea bags can be purchased online and in many health food stores or markets.

Tea bags should be steeped for 3-5 minutes in hot water or about 190-209 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are interested in making wild bergamot tea, you may have a hard time finding the ingredients. According to sources, the tea can be made with fresh or dried bergamot leaves or even from the seeds. Some people grow wild bergamot at home.

If you are using fresh ingredients to make wild bergamot tea, you’ll need to use more of it (up to one-half cup of leaves). If you are using dried leaves or seeds, use about two tablespoons. Leaves should steep for about five minutes. Strain before drinking the tea.

Bergamot Tea Health Benefits

Bergamot ( Citrus bergamia) is often consumed for its health benefits.   Some people drink tea to boost mental alertness or prevent certain types of cancer. Bergamot oil may also be used topically (on the skin) to protect the body against lice, relieve psoriasis, and manage the appearance of vitiligo.

Some research studies have investigated the health benefits of bergamot. One study published by Phytotherapy Research was conducted by several employees of a company that makes the essential oil.   They found that inhaling the aromatic oil may help reduce anxiety before radiation treatments.

Another study investigated the use of bergamot juice to reduce cardio-metabolic risk factors.   Researchers in that study concluded that bergamot juice extract supplementation reduced plasma lipid levels and improved lipoprotein profiles in study subjects.

Scientific studies regarding the health benefits or safety of wild bergamot are lacking.

Risks and Side Effects

Bergamot oil is likely safe for most people when consumed in the small amounts typically found in food. 

It is possibly unsafe when used topically on the skin because it can make the skin sensitive to the sun and may make you more vulnerable to skin cancer

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Navarra M, Mannucci C, Delbò M, Calapai G. Citrus bergamia essential oil: from basic research to clinical application.Front Pharmacol. 2015;6:36. Published 2015 Mar 2. doi:10.3389/fphar.2015.00036
  2. Britannica The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Bergamot. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. USDA. Wild Bergamot. Plants Profile for Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot).
  4. Nauman MC, Johnson JJ. Clinical application of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) for reducing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease markers. Integr Food Nutr Metab. 2019;6(2):10.15761/IFNM.1000249. doi:10.15761/IFNM.1000249
  5. Han X, Gibson J, Eggett DL, Parker TL. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Essential Oil Inhalation Improves Positive Feelings in the Waiting Room of a Mental Health Treatment Center: A Pilot Study. Phytother Res. 2017;31(5):812–816. doi:10.1002/ptr.5806
  6. Perna S, Spadaccini D, Botteri L, et al. Efficacy of bergamot: From anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations. Food Sci Nutr. 2019;7(2):369–384. Published 2019 Jan 25. doi:10.1002/fsn3.903

Additional Reading

  • Bergamot. Therapeutic Research Center. Natural Medicines Database.
  • Cleveland Clinic. Heart and Vascular Team. Bergamot Extract May Lower Your Cholesterol.
  • Toth, P. P., Patti, A. M., Nikolic, D., Giglio, R. V., Castellino, G., Biancucci, T., Rizzo, M. (2016). Bergamot Reduces Plasma Lipids, Atherogenic Small Dense LDL, and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Subjects with Moderate Hypercholesterolemia: A 6 Months Prospective Study. Frontiers in Pharmacology

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.

What are the benefits of bergamot supplements?

Bergamot is a citrus fruit that grows primarily in southern Italy. Supplementing with bergamot may help reduce inflammation, lower blood glucose, and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Citrus fruits such as bergamot are rich in flavonoids, which promote immune response and heart health. Bergamot may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may help lower cholesterol.

This article looks at bergamot supplements, including their benefits and potential side effects, and how to take them.

Bergamot fruit on a tree.

Bergamot, or Citrus bergamia, is a yellow citrus fruit the size of an orange. It grows primarily in Calabria, in southern Italy. The skin and juice of the bergamot are common ingredients in Italian folk medicine. Bergamot is also an ingredient in Earl Grey tea.

According to a 2019 review , the fruits contain various phytochemicals, flavonoids, and other health-promoting compounds.

Bergamot is available in supplement form or as an essential oil, juice, or extract. A person can also buy aroma sticks for inhaling the scent of bergamot.

Bergamot may have several health benefits, including the following:

Reducing cholesterol

A 2019 review cites several studies that suggest bergamot can help reduce lipids in the body and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The studies found that taking a daily supplement of bergamot-derived polyphenol fraction (BPF) reduced total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels and increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol.

BPF is a powder with high concentrations of polyphenols and is made from the juice and pith of bergamot.

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A 2021 study notes that combining bergamot phytosome, or phyto, with artichoke leaf extract leads to similar decreases in cholesterol and a reduction in waist circumference and fat tissue in adults with overweight. This might be more effective than supplementing with bergamot alone.

However, this was a small, short duration study with only 60 participants. Larger scale studies are necessary to verify these findings.

Managing blood glucose

Various studies have looked into the effect of bergamot supplements on managing blood glucose levels in people with metabolic syndrome, which causes symptoms such as high:

  • blood glucose levels
  • HDL cholesterol
  • blood pressure

A 2019 study recruited 60 people with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia. The researchers assigned the participants to one of three groups:

  • Group 1 took a BPF supplement.
  • Group 2 took a BPF phyto supplement, a formulation rich in polyphenols with enhanced bioavailability, which means the body can absorb and distribute it more easily.
  • Group 3 took a placebo.

People in groups 1 and 2 showed a considerable reduction in fasting plasma glucose, serum LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides and an increase in HDL cholesterol.

However, BPF phyto may be more beneficial than standard BPF. People in group 2, who took BPF phyto, absorbed 2.5 times as much naringin as those who took standard BPF. Naringin is the major component of BPF.

These results suggest that the specific formulation of BPF could impact the benefits a person derives.

However, this was a small study, and more research is necessary to verify its results.

Reducing inflammation

Bergamot may help reduce inflammation in the body.

The authors of a 2015 study looked at the effect of bergamot on reducing inflammation in mice. The mice showed fewer markers of inflammation following a daily dose of bergamot juice.

The researchers conclude that the anti-inflammatory properties of bergamot might be beneficial for treating conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease in humans.

However, there is currently not enough evidence that bergamot can have similar anti-inflammatory effects in humans.

Alleviating anxiety

Bergamot is a common ingredient in many aromatherapy oils and preparations.

One 2020 study tested people’s anxiety levels before they underwent gallbladder surgery. The researchers asked 30 participants to inhale bergamot orange essence, and another 30 to inhale odorless grapeseed oil.

The group that inhaled bergamot orange essence experienced lower anxiety levels.

The researchers suggest that people could use bergamot orange aromatherapy to alleviate their anxiety before other surgical procedures.

Bergamot is generally safe to use. There have been a few reports of adverse side effects, which are mostly related to applying bergamot essential oil to the skin.

Excessive intake of bergamot may be harmful. In a 2015 case study, a man experienced a range of symptoms after drinking up to 4 liters of Earl Grey tea every day for 5 weeks. Earl Grey tea contains bergamot extract oil, which in large quantities was acting as a potassium channel blocker.

A 2021 report notes that there is no research into the effects of bergamot supplements on children, older adults, or pregnant or lactating people. Therefore, individuals in these groups should be cautious before taking bergamot supplements or avoid them altogether.

Bergamot-derived products are available in many forms, including:

  • liquid extract, which people can add to tea or use as a cooking ingredient
  • pills or capsules ranging between 500 and 1,200 milligrams (mg) per serving
  • powder, which a person can add to juices or smoothies
  • juice, which people can dilute with water or drink as is

A person should read product labels carefully to ensure they do not exceed the recommended dose.

If a person is taking other medications, they should check with a doctor before supplementing with bergamot, to avoid drug interactions.

In clinical research , supplementing with bergamot in various forms has produced beneficial health effects.

Researchers are still investigating how exactly bergamot helps and whether results from animal studies can be replicated in human studies.

Bergamot is likely to have different effects on different people. If taking bergamot fits with a person’s lifestyle, they feel good when taking it, and they do not exceed the recommended dose, it should be a safe supplement to take.

Bergamot is a citrus fruit growing mainly in southern Italy. People have been using it in traditional Italian medicine to treat symptoms such as sore throat and fever. Bergamot is also an ingredient in Earl Grey tea.

Research suggests that bergamot may be useful in reducing inflammation and cholesterol and may help prevent cardiovascular disease.

A person can supplement with bergamot by taking pills or capsules, adding powder to drinks, or adding an extract to baking.

Bergamot is generally safe, but excessive amounts may have adverse health effects. Children, older adults, and pregnant or lactating people should be cautious about taking bergamot supplements or avoid them altogether.

Last medically reviewed on May 25, 2022

  • Cholesterol
  • Supplements
  • Complementary Medicine / Alternative Medicine

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Cai, Y., et al. (2017). Effects of 12-week supplementation of Citrus bergamia extracts-based formulation CitriCholess on cholesterol and body weight in older adults with dyslipidemia: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
  • Carresi, C., et al. (2020). The effect of natural antioxidants in the development of metabolic syndrome: Focus on bergamot polyphenolic fraction.
  • Impellizzeri, D., et al. (2014). The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of bergamot juice extract (BJe) in an experimental model of inflammatory bowel disease [Abstract].
  • Maiuolo, J., et al. (2021). Effects of bergamot polyphenols on mitochondrial dysfunction and sarcoplasmic reticulum stress in diabetic cardiomyopathy.
  • Mollace, V., et al. (2019). Hypoglycemic and hypolipemic effects of a new lecithin formulation of bergamot polyphenolic fraction: A double blind, randomized, placebo- controlled study [Abstract].
  • Nauman, M. C., et al. (2019). Clinical application of bergamot (Citrus bergamia) for reducing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease markers.
  • Navarra, M., et al. (2015). Citrus bergamia essential oil: From basic research to clinical application.
  • Pasyar, N., et al. (2020). The effect of bergamot orange essence on anxiety, salivary cortisol, and alpha amylase in patients prior to laparoscopic cholecystectomy: A controlled trial study [Abstract].
  • Perna, S., et al. (2019). Efficacy of bergamot: From anti‐inflammatory and anti‐oxidative mechanisms to clinical applications as preventive agent for cardiovascular morbidity, skin diseases, and mood alterations.
  • Riva, A., et al. (2021). Artichoke and bergamot phytosome alliance: A randomized double blind clinical trial in mild hypercholesterolemia.
  • Valussi, M., et al. (2021). Bergamot oil: Botany, production, pharmacology.

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Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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