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Phytother Res. 2014 Aug;28(8):1232-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5121. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

The essential oil of bergamot stimulates reactive oxygen species production in human polymorphonuclear leukocytes.

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Center for Research in Medical Pharmacology, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy.


Bergamot (Citrus aurantium L. subsp. bergamia) essential oil (BEO) is used in folk medicine as an antiseptic and anthelminthic and to facilitate wound healing. Evidence indicates that BEO has substantial antimicrobial activity; however its effects on immunity have never been examined. We studied the effects of BEO on reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) and the role of Ca(2+) in the functional responses evoked by BEO in these cells. Results show that BEO increased intracellular ROS production in human PMN, an effect that required the contribution of extracellular (and, to a lesser extent, of intracellular) Ca(2+) . Bergamot essential oil also significantly increased ROS production induced by the chemotactic peptide N-formyl-Met-Leu-Phe and reduced the response to the protein kinase C activator phorbol myristate acetate. In conclusion, this is the first report showing the ability of BEO to increase ROS production in human PMN. This effect could both contribute to the activity of BEO in infections and in tissue healing as well as underlie an intrinsic proinflammatory potential. The relevance of these findings for the clinical uses of BEO needs careful consideration.


bergamot essential oil; polymorphonuclear leukocytes; reactive oxygen species

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