Bergamot Improves Schizophrenic Brain Function

Bergamot oranges are bitter fruits that grow in one of the world’s most beautiful coastal regions. Could the scenic ocean vistas be responsible for the calm, relaxing effects we derive from smelling and ingesting the bright, citrus essence of this amazing fruit?

A recent study aimed at developing new treatment strategies for cognitive dysfunctions like schizophrenia has hit upon promising potential for bergamot, the citrus extract best-known for flavoring Earl Grey tea. Cultivated exclusively on the coast in Southern Italy, the Bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia) yields a bitter fruit that possesses magical properties. The essential oils extracted from its thick rind are added to products as both a flavoring and a perfume, evidence that we can benefit from this natural wonder in many fruitful ways!

Medical science clearly acknowledges that extracts of bergamot have the power to protect human health. Currently, the GreenMedInfo search database has 112 scientific articles reflecting these potent abilities. Here are just a few of the proven health benefits of bergamot:

It is this intersection of mental health and potential uses for bergamot that our featured study explores. Non-pharmaceutical or otherwise novel approaches to treating schizophrenia are few, and in terms of medical research, far in-between. This study, performed by researchers from the Biomedical Department at the University of Messina in Italy, is a ray of hope for anyone dissatisfied with traditional pharmaceutical approaches. As you will see, bergamot shows great promise as a natural, health-supporting adjunct to preventing long-term disability in patients with schizophrenia.

Bergamot Boosts the Brain

Researchers studied twenty schizophrenic outpatients currently taking second-generation, also called atypical antipsychotics. Second-generation antipsychotics are a class of medication that are more recent in their development, as opposed to older, first-generation or typical antipsychotics. Both generations of medications function by blocking dopamine receptors, however atypical antipsychotics do not produce the motor-control disabilities that are frequently imparted by typical antipsychotics.

The outpatients were provided an oral supplement of 1000 mgs of “BPF,” bergamot polyphenolic fraction, in addition to their existing regimen of atypical antipsychotic meds. Participants were dosed daily for a total of 8 weeks and subjected to a battery of psychiatric, verbal fluency, and word-color association tests throughout the study period. Researchers were looking for the effect of BPF, if any, on cognitive/executive functioning in these patients.

At the study’s end-point after patients had received 8 weeks of BPF supplementation, psychiatric test results were analyzed. BPF had provided a measurable boost to scores: improvements were observed in tests of verbal fluency, and errors were significantly reduced on association tests. Moreover, an improvement trend was observed for other cognitive variables being measured. According to researchers, “The findings provide evidence that BPF administration may be proposed as a potential supplementation strategy to improve cognitive outcome in schizophrenia.”[1]

Bergamot’s Anxiolytic Effects

Mental health issues are increasingly being recognized as a public health crisis for which safe, cost-effective therapies are direly needed. Bergamot’s brain-enhancing power presents a unique opportunity for the development of nutraceutical treatments for several common mental health disorders.

Bergamot extract, made of highly concentrated polyphenolic compounds, possesses an invigorating, bright citrus essence that not only enhances cognitive function, it can also promote feelings of calmness and positivity. A 2017 pilot study using bergamot essential oil found that just 15 minutes of inhalation exposure improved participants’ positive feelings by nearly 20% over the control group. The study produced an additional, unexpected result: more individuals wanted to use the treatment over control (non-use), suggesting that even brief exposure to bergamot’s aroma may enhance a person’s willingness to participate in medical trials. Researchers considered these results to be solid preliminary evidence that bergamot aromatherapy can be an effective adjunct treatment to improve individuals’ mental health and well-being.

Other preclinical studies have reinforced that bergamot essential oil is “endowed with remarkable neurobiolological effects.”[2] It is believed that inhaling bergamot essence can affect synaptic transmissions, modulate electroencephalographic (EEG) brain activity, and imbue neuroprotective and analgesic properties. It’s use as aromatherapy is widely recognized to help minimize symptoms of anxiety and alleviate mild mood disorders, although hard clinical proof is still scant.

A 2017 animal trial added to the cumulative evidence by examining bergamot essential oil’s anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) effects on rats subjected to a forced swimming task. Results showed that the oil’s effects were calming, relaxing, and attenuated anxiety-like behavior in subjects in ways that the traditional anxiolytic drug, benzodiazepine diazepam, did not effect.[3]

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory

Bergamot’s mental health benefits may stem from potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2017 study mapped the flavanone profile of bergamot juice (the flavonoid responsible for the juice’s vivid, citrus aroma) and identified 16 unique compounds. A human study was then conducted to determine the bioavailability of each of these compounds when ingested. Up to 12 flavanones were detected in blood plasma and urine after consumption of bergamot juice, two of which were able to modulate inflammation in human tissues.

A 2014 animal study was conducted to determine if bergamot juice could be used to combat serious inflammatory diseases of the bowels, namely colitis and IBD, irritable bowel disease. Treatment with bergamot juice decreased the appearance of diarrhea and body weight loss in mice and reduced the flow of pro-inflammatory cytokines into the blood. It also reduced cellular damage in the colon and associated inflammation. Researchers concluded that the administration of bergamot juice created a health-supporting, anti-inflammatory response which may be beneficial for the treatment of IBD in humans.

Another animal study whose aim was to test the beneficial effects of bergamot juice on intestinal inflammation examined its use in cases of intestinal reperfusion or I/R injury. Reperfusion injury occurs when blood flow is halted to tissues, creating a period of lack of oxygen that results in inflammation and oxidative stress when blood flow returns to the area. Results demonstrated that bergamot juice was able to reduce the production of inflammatory markers, lower oxidative stress, and minimize overall damage to cells. The study concluded that bergamot juice could represent a new treatment option for the inflammatory events that occur during intestinal I/R injury.

This amazing anti-inflammatory effect is not limited to internal conditions. Bergamot extract was tested and found to efficiently block proinflammatory actions on human keratinocytes – skin cells containing keratin – giving rise to potential topical use in some inflammatory diseases of the skin.

Bergamot Levels Cholesterol

No article on bergamot would be complete without mentioning the eye-popping effects that have been observed on levelling out the human body’s cholesterol levels. Several recent human studies have proven that bergamot supplementation improves cholesterol metabolism via multiple pathways, including effectively lowering LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, while simultaneously increasing HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

In early 2015, the results of a six-month-long prospective study on this subject were published in the journal, Frontiers in Pharmacology. The study’s objective was to identify if bergamot extract can be an effective, alternative therapeutic approach for managing dyslipidemia, a condition characterized by an abnormal level of cholesterol and other fats (lipids) in the blood.[4] Eighty test subjects with a median age of 55 years who were all diagnosed with moderate hypercholesterolemia were studied for a period of 6-months. Hypercholesterolemia is characterized by plasma LDL-cholesterol concentrations between 160 and 190 mg/dl, whereas normal levels are <129 mg/dl. Participants were given a 150 mg dose of Bergavit R® each day during the study.

After 6 months, results showed that Bergavit R® had reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol, while HDL-cholesterol increased. Researchers concluded that bergamot extract supplementation lowered cardio-metabolic risk factors in dyslipidemic patients, and significantly reduced plasma lipids and improved the overall lipoprotein profile. Cellular integrity. Measured by arterial wall thickness, was also improved in this relatively short timeframe.

As if mental health and heart health benefits were not enough, research has even attributed anti-aging benefits to this miraculous supplement! Other studies have concluded that bergamot extract can be an effective support for the 100-million U.S. adults living with diabetes.[5] Therapeutic effects include helping to prevent diabetes-related osteoporosis, supporting a healthy liver by combating diet-related non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and protecting sensitive nerve endings that can become frail due to side-effects of diabetes.

In addition to the 100+ abstracts on bergamot essence and extracts, explore GreenMedInfo’s research abstracts on bergamot oranges to learn more about their amazing potential health benefits.

DIY Bergamot, Ginger, Apple Cider Vinegar Tea Tonic

By Dr. Mercola

Ginger water, apple cider vinegar and bergamot oil are all known for their health benefits, so what could be better than combining them all into a tasty tea tonic that can be consumed hot or cold? A simple recipe to try is as follows:

Health-Boosting Ginger, Bergamot and Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic


  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon freshly grated ginger root [like this]
  • 2 to 3 drops bergamot oil [find here]
  • 1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar [like this]


  1. Add freshly grated ginger to boiling water (1 tablespoon per cup) and steep for five to 10 minutes. The longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor
  2. Strain the liquid to remove the ginger
  3. Stir in the bergamot and apple cider vinegar
  4. For a cold beverage, chill in the refrigerator before consuming

Ginger — A Powerful Pain and Nausea Reliever

In addition to its delicious taste, ginger is associated with a long list of health benefits that have been known for at least 2,000 years or more. The most commonly used medicinal part of the plant is the rhizome, the root-like stem that grows underground. It’s a rich source of antioxidants, including gingerols, shogaols and zingerones. It also has powerful broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic and analgesic properties, just to mention a few.

In all, ginger has about 40 different pharmacological actions. Two of its most well-recognized health benefits are easing pain and nausea. In one study,1 adults suffering from episodic migraines with or without aura had better outcomes when ginger was used as an add-on therapy, compared to pain medication alone.

In this case, the treatment group was given 400 milligrams (mg) of ginger extract in addition to 100 mg of intravenous ketoprofen. After one hour, those who received ginger reported a “significantly better clinical response” than the ketoprofen-only group. According to the authors, “ginger treatment promoted reduction in pain and improvement on functional status at all times assessed.” It can also help ease menstrual pain (primary dysmenorrhea). In fact, ginger has been found to be as effective as ibuprofen for this common condition.2

A 2015 review3 of nine studies and seven meta-analyses investigating ginger’s effectiveness against nausea showed it can help reduce nausea and vomiting associated with postoperative nausea, chemotherapy, viral infection and morning sickness.

According to the authors, “recent evidence has provided … support for 5-HT3 receptor antagonism as a mechanism by which ginger may exert its potentially beneficial effect on nausea and vomiting.” Many also use it to ease nausea associated with motion sickness and sea sickness.

Additional Health Benefits and Usage Tips

Other health benefits of ginger include but are not limited to:

Prevention4 and treatment5 of Type 2 diabetes, in part by improving blood sugar control6 and limiting diabetes complications7,8 Neuroprotective effects,9 including slowing the loss of brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s disease,10 and improving cognitive function11
Mitigating brain damage and reducing memory impairment caused by cerebral ischemia (stroke)12 Lowering your risk of several types of cancer, including cancer of the lungs, ovaries, colon, breast, prostate, pancreas and skin13,14,15,16,17,18
Counteracting fructose damage such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease19 Aiding weight loss by promoting satiety20 and enhancing digestion of fats21
Improving digestion, reliving gas and improving symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome Reducing exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness22
Relieving heartburn Protecting against respiratory viruses23 and drug-resistant bacterial and fungal infections24

Ginger is an excellent cooking staple worth keeping on hand at all times, and will keep fresh stored in the freezer. You can freeze the ginger either whole or pre-shredded. There’s no need to thaw it, as you can easily shred it frozen. Simply peel off the skin with a knife or peeler, then shred using a microplane or ceramic grater. The latter will give you a smoother, creamier consistency.

Find a ceramic grater HERE

Bergamot Health Benefits and Contraindications

Bergamot oil, which has a sweet fruity orange-blossom aroma, is what gives Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas their distinct flavor. The fragrance alone has been shown to ease anxiety and depression. Like ginger, it also helps improve digestion and has powerful antimicrobial action. Bergamot oil is extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, which is native to Italy.

It should be used sparingly, however, as it contains a compound called bergapten, which acts as a potassium channel blocker. While rare, you could potentially end up with an electrolyte imbalance should you consume too much of it. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle cramps and twitches, tinging sensations and blurred vision.

A 2002 case study25 published in The Lancet discusses the case of a man who drank up to 4 liters of black tea per day. As his favorite brand sometimes caused gastric pain, he switched to Earl Grey and developed muscle cramps after drinking it for one week.

His condition, “Earl Grey intoxication,” was deemed due to its potassium blocking effect. If you already have potassium deficiency, forgo adding bergamot to the recipe above.  With that caveat, bergamot does have a number of valuable health benefits. For example, bergamot oil has been shown to:

  • Alleviate symptoms and complications of bacterial infections, including Enterococcus faecium and Enterococcus faecalis bacteria, which are resistant to the potent antibiotic vancomycin26
  • Speed the healing process for cold sores, mouth ulcers and herpes.27 It also has a similar antibacterial effect on shingles and chickenpox, which are also caused by the varicella zoster virus from herpes
  • Prevent and improve skin conditions from fungal infections when used topically28
  • Reduce anxiety and stress when used in aromatherapy29
  • Research30 also shows bergamot has statin-like principles and carries the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid (HMG) moiety. In other words, it acts much like a statin does

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is another kitchen staple with myriad uses and benefits. Traditionally, apple cider vinegar is made through a long, slow fermentation process that renders it rich in bioactive components like acetic acid, gallic acid, catechin, epicatechin, caffeic acid and more, giving it potent antioxidant, antimicrobial and many other beneficial properties.

“Mother” of vinegar, a cobweb-like amino acid-based substance found in unprocessed, unfiltered vinegar, indicates your vinegar is of the best quality. Most manufacturers pasteurize and filter their vinegar to prevent the mother from forming, but the “murky” kind is actually best, especially if you’re planning to consume it. Health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar consumption include but are not limited to:

Improved blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity in those with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes31
Easing sore throat when gargled (mixed with warm water) or consumed with honey and ginger32
Improved heart health. Polyphenols such as chlorogenic acid help inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol,33 while acetic acid helps lower blood pressure.34 It’s also been shown to lower triglyceride levels and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol in animals35
Easing digestive ailments such as acid reflux, intestinal spasms and Candida overgrowth. For everyday gut health, a mixture of 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon of raw honey in 1 cup of warm water can be helpful
Improved weight management by increasing satiety36
Boosting energy. Apple cider vinegar contains potassium and enzymes to help banish fatigue. Plus, its amino acids may help prevent the buildup of lactic acid in your body, further preventing fatigue37
Easing sinus congestion when used as a nasal rinse,38 as it helps break up and reduce mucus. It also has antibacterial properties, making it useful for infections
Supporting detoxification and healthy immune function. According to the website The Truth About Cancer,39 “Especially in patients who are immunosuppressed, apple cider vinegar is an excellent natural antimicrobial tonic to rid the body of harmful bacteria and provide immune support”