different types of bergamot
Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)

Learn the difference between the fruit bergamot, bee balm, and bergamot mint in this short article by aromatherapist, herbalist, and gardener Sharon Falsetto Chapman.

Do you know how many different types of bergamot exist? In another article, The Difference Between Bergamot and Bee Balm, I talk about the difference between bergamot (the fruit) and bergamot (the herb). But did you know there is also another bergamot (the mint)? In this article we’ll look at the different types of bergamot by comparing and contrasting three bergamots – and learn why it is *so* important to use botanical names!

Bergamot the Fruit

Bergamot the fruit is the species Citrus × bergamia and it is in the Rutaceae plant family. Botanically, it is a small, round fruit that turns from green to yellow in color. Some say it looks a little bit like an orange (Citrus spp.).

Aromatically, bergamot (Citrus × bergamia) essential oil is fresh and citrus in aroma, with a slight peppery undertone. It is not your typical citrus aroma. Although its exact origins are unclear (but most certainly a hybrid as denoted by × in its botanical name), bergamot (Citrus × bergamia) has been used in Italian folk medicine for years. The essential oil is obtained by cold expression of the fruit’s peel. It contains monoterpenes, esters, and alcohols.

Bergamot (Citrus × bergamia) essential oil is used in skincare, with digestive complaints, and to uplift low mood. Bergamot (Citrus × bergamia) essential oil contains the chemical component of bergapten. Bergapten contributes to the essential oil’s phototoxicity. Avoid going out in sunlight or using other forms of ultra-violet light (such as tanning units) after use of bergamot (Citrus × bergamia) essential oil. As with all essential oils, always dilute bergamot essential oil in a base oil or lotion before applying to the skin.

Bergamot the Herb

Bergamot the herb is known botanically as Monarda didyma or Monarda fistulosa and it is a member of the Lamiaceae plant family. You may know it better by the common English name of bee balm because of its tendency to attract bees.

Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is a North American native and you’ll find it in woodlands and fields, although it grows quite prolifically in my northern Arizona garden. It has pink, lavender, or purple flowers with green, oval leaves.

Bergamot (Monarda didyma) has scarlet-colored flowers. It is also a North American native sometimes known by the name Oswego Tea. The differences between these two types of Monarda species are for another article.

The herb bergamot (both Monarda fistulosa and Monarda didyma) does actually produce essential oil. M. fistulosa essential oil is rosy-floral with lemon-like notes whereas M. didyma essential oil is woody-floral with both lemon-like and pine-like notes.1 It is not an essential oil that is commonly used in aromatherapy, but it does have uses in natural perfumery, too.

Bergamot (Monarda spp.) has herbal therapeutic properties. Use the leaf as a tea for sleep issues, nausea, and menstrual difficulties; use in a steam inhalation for sore throats.

Bergamot the Mint

Bergamot the mint has the botanical name of Mentha aquatica L. var. citrata. It too belongs to the Lamiaceae plant family. Its alternative English names include eau-de-cologne mint, lemon mint, and orange mint, weaving together its similarities with both the bergamot fruit and its Lamiaceae herbal family members. Eau-de-cologne contains the classic bergamot fruit (Citrus × bergamia) essential oil ingredient.

Botanically, bergamot the mint (Mentha aquatica L. var. citrata) resembles closely its mint (Mentha spp.) family members. As an essential oil, it has traces of mint, bergamot-like notes, hence its common English name. The essential oil is used for digestive issues, pain, and stress and anxiety, among others.2 The herb is used in culinary dishes as well.

For the full Materia Medica on bergamot the mint (Mentha aquatica L. var. citrata), check out the Botanical Aromatherapy™ school (sunflower level) later this summer 2024!

Different Types of Bergamot

This article just scratches the surface on the different types of bergamot available in the botanical, herbal, and aromatherapy worlds. However, I hope that it has helped you to learn the basic differences between them.

If you’d like to learn more about essential oils and herbs, consider the Sedona Aromatics Language of Aromatics™ Program!

References:

  1. Peace Rhind, Jennifer, 2016, Aromatherapeutic Blending, UK: Singing Dragon, pp.265-266.
  2. Sheppard-Hanger, S., 2000, The Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual, Volume II, US: Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, p.287.

Other References:

  • Bremness, Lesley 1988 The Complete Book of Herbs London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd
  • Lawless, Julia 2001 The Aromatherapy Garden London: Kyle Cathie Ltd
  • Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons 

About the Author:

The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is a UK-certified aromatherapist, a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®, a gardener, and a certified herbalist with several years of study. She is also a botanical perfumer.

Sharon is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, and custom blend formulator. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer homestead property.

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