Bergamot Essential Oil
Do you know the difference between a cold pressed bergamot essential oil and a steam distilled essential oil? If you don't, you should!
With so many places to buy essential oils from, we forget to take the time to ask important questions about essential oils. Important questions include how is the essential oil made? Is it an essential oil or is it an absolute? Does it have any contraindications? What is the botanical name? What is the shelf life?
The answers to these questions can lead to a great experience with the essential oil depending on the intended use or an accidental injury. For example, an essential oil is not the same as an absolute. In other words if what you are ordering says it is solvent extracted, it is not an essential oil. Essential oils are made through cold press distillation or steam distillation. Anything listed as solvent extracted or carbon dioxide extracted are just that-extracts. The difference in the oils are not just in smell, but also in chemical components. The differences in the chemical components can ultimately affect the potential therapeutic properties as well.
In regards to Bergamot essential oil, it is more commonly obtained through cold press or steam distillation. In a cold press distillation, the chemical components that can create phototoxicity reactions on the skin are found. In steam distillations, these components known as furanocoumarins are not found or are in such trace amounts that they do not offer a high risk for phototoxicity. For someone looking to make a skincare product with Bergamot, the steam distilled essential oil is a much safer option.
Because there are so many species of the same plant, it is important to know which one you are getting. The only way to know is to look at the botanical name. The bergamot essential oil we are looking into is Citrus Bergamia. If you are looking at getting this one, it is important that you do not confuse it with Bergamot Mint. Bergamot Mint is not the same plant and is botanically named Mentha Citrata. With these two oils, clearly they are not the same, however if you do not know the difference when purchasing a Bergamot essential oil, you can see where you could potentially get the wrong one. Most reputable companies will post the botanical name for you. If it isn't listed, ask!
Another big question mentioned is in regards to contraindications. This simply put, means are there any possible negative affects from use of the essential oil. Bergamot essential oil that is obtained from the cold press process contains the chemical component bergaptene. This component makes the essential oil phototoxic. What does this mean? If you use this in any skin care product or apply this in any dilution to your skin and then are in the sun, you will notice a reaction on your skin like a rash or burn. When bergamot essential oil is obtained through steam distillation, the chemical component bergaptene is absent. The bergaptene free bergamot essential oil does not have this contraindication. This oil can be diluted and applied with no pototoxicity concerns.
One last thought to keep in the back of your mind is shelf life. I know many companies have promoted their oils as not having a shelf life but that is simply not true. Due to the true nature of what an essential oil is (a highly volatile compound used for purposes of aromatherapy), they do have a shelf life and vary from one oil to the next. As a general guideline, the essential oil Bergamot has a suggested shelf life of about 3-4 years. For this reason, I am getting a new batch in June 2015! If it isn't listed on their website, ask when the batch of essential oil was harvested. This will give you the shelf life. Some companies that test their essential oils or get them direct from the distiller will have this information.
With this in mind if you are looking into getting a wonderful Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia) essential oil, check out our new batch when it arrives in June! It was obtained from steam distillation in the fall of 2014 in Italy. Once I have it in hand I will have it available for purchase, but will not have GCMS testing results for a few weeks after that, so check back frequently!
Tisserand, Robert and Young, Rodney. Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition. Edinburgh, London, New York, Oxford, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Sydney, Toronto: Churchill Livingstone, 2014. Print.