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(Risso) Wright & Arn.
(Risso) Wright & Arn.
Citrus bergamia, the Bergamot orange (pronounced standard English: /ˈbɜːɡəˌmɒt/ or GenAm /ˈbɝɡəˌmɑt/), is a fragrant fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon. Genetic research into the ancestral origins of extant citrus cultivars found bergamot orange to be a likely hybrid of Citrus limetta and Citrus aurantium.
Citrus bergamot is commercially grown in southern Calabria (province of Reggio), southern Italy, where more than 80% are produced. It is also grown in southern France and in Côte d'Ivoire for the essential oil and in Antalya in southern Turkey for its marmalade. The fruit is not grown for juice consumption. However, in Mauritius where it is grown on small scale basis, it is largely used for juice consumption by the locals.
Citrus bergamia is a small tree that blossoms during the winter. The juice tastes less sour than lemon, but more bitter than grapefruit. The distinctive aroma of bergamot is most commonly known for its use in Earl Grey tea. The juice of the fruit has also been used in Calabrian indigenous medicine to treat malaria, and its essential oil is popular in aromatherapy applications.
The bergamot orange is unrelated to the herbs known as bergamot or wild bergamot, Monarda didyma and Monarda fistulosa, which are in the mint family, and are named for their similar aroma. The active ingredients in bergamot juice are neoeriocitrin, naringin, neohesperidin, ponceritin, melitidin, and brutieridin. Melitidin and brutieridin, only recently discovered, exist only in citrus bergamot, and exhibit statin-like properties. Synephrine is not present in citrus bergamot.
Citrus bergamia is sometimes confused with (but is not the same as)
Production mostly is limited to the Ionian Sea coastal areas of the province of Reggio di Calabria in Italy, to such an extent that it is a symbol of the entire city. Most of the bergamot comes from a short stretch of land there where the temperature is favourable. It is also cultivated in Côte d'Ivoire, but the quality of the obtained essence is not comparable with the essence produced from the bergamots of Reggio due to the argillite, limestone and alluvial deposits found there.
Adulteration with cheaper products such as oil of rosewood and bergamot mint has been a problem for consumers. To protect the reputation of their produce, the Italian government introduced tight controls, including testing and certificates of purity. The Stazione Sperimentale per le Industrie delle Essenze e dei Derivati dagli Agrumi (Experimental Station for Essential Oil and Citrus By-Products) located in Reggio di Calabria, was the Quality Control Body for the essential oil Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria DOP. During World War II, Italy was unable to export to countries such as the Allied powers. Rival products from Brazil and Mexico came on to the market as a substitute, but these were produced from other citrus fruits such as sweet lime.
An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavour Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas, and confectionery including Turkish delight. It is often used to make marmalade, particularly in Italy. In Sweden and Norway, bergamot is a very common flavourant in snus, a smokeless tobacco product. Likewise in dry nasal snuff it is also a common aroma in traditional blends. Carpentierbe, a company based in San Giorgio Morgeto, near Reggio Calabria, makes a digestive liqueur derived from bergamot marketed under the name Liquore al Bergamotto.
The actual fruit of the bergamot orange itself is not known to be edible.
Bergamot peel is used in perfumery for its ability to combine with an array of scents to form a bouquet of aromas which complement each other. Approximately one third of all men's and about half of women’s perfumes contain bergamot essential oil. Bergamot is a major component of the original Eau de Cologne composed by Farina at the beginning of 18th century Germany. The first record of bergamot oil as fragrance ingredient is 1714, to be found in the Farina Archive in Cologne. One hundred bergamot oranges will yield about three ounces (85 grams) of bergamot oil.
Citrus bergamia has aromatic roots that are thought to mask other nearby plants from pests that attack their roots, and so are sometimes grown as a companion in vegetable gardens.
In several patch test studies, application of some sources of bergamot oil directly to the skin was shown to have a concentration-dependent phototoxic effect of increasing redness after exposure to ultraviolet light (due to the chemical bergapten, and possibly also citropten, bergamottin, geranial, and neral). This is a property shared by many other citrus fruits. Bergapten has also been implicated as a potassium channel blocker; in one case study, a patient who consumed four liters of Earl Grey tea per day suffered muscle cramps.
Bergamot contains extremely large amounts of polyphenols, as compared to other citrus species. Two of these, brutieridin and melitidin, directly inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis in a similar way to statins and they are not found in any other citrus derivatives.
Bergamot is also a source of bergamottin which, along with the chemically related compound 6',7'-dihydroxybergamottin, is believed to be responsible for the grapefruit juice effect in which the consumption of the juice affects the metabolism of a variety of pharmaceutical drugs.
Bergamot is used in many skin care creams.
In the past, psoralen extracted from bergamot oil has been used in tanning accelerators and sunscreens. These substances were known to be photocarcinogenic since 1959, but they were only banned from sunscreens in 1995. These photocarcinogenic substances were banned years after they had caused many cases of malignant melanoma and deaths.
There is insufficient evidence bergamot oil is of medical benefit for a variety of claimed uses. Use on the skin can be unsafe, particularly for children and pregnant women. Potential side effects of drinking large amounts of bergamot oil can include convulsions and death in children.
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