In discussing the nutritional characteristics of bergamot juice,  with the aim of arriving at some helpful suggestions, let us start with the passage already quoted from Brillat-Savarin, as  it is the perfect expression of a well-entrenched prejudice which is so rooted in popular (and not only) opinion as to find numerous convinced  supporters.

In fact, as dieticians well know, the alimentary effect of lemon juice ( and thus also bergamot juice, which is less acid although it tastes more bitter) is alkalining, that is anti-acid. 

Indeed, in our organism the bergamot (or lemon) juice, with the weak acids which it contains (acetic, malic, citric and tartaric acids) causes the formation of carbonates and alkaline bicarbonates (mainly of potassium and calcium) which not only assist the intestinal  absorption of calcium but also contribute to the maintenance of our alkaline reserves.  

 Digressing slightly, let us recall that the acid-basic balance in our bodies, whilst it will tend towards acidity due both to the effect of catabolism but also due to the effects of most of our bodily processes,  is maintained just because of the influence of  our reserve of alkaline substances which can be metabolised  to keep that balance (principally the bicarbonates).
As far as other characteristics are concerned, we should mention that the presence of inosite and pectin (in the inner membrane and the pith) makes the bergamot  hypolipemic, hypocholesterolic and so anti-atherogenic.  The peel contains substances with an anti-mutagenic action ( that is, it is potentially anti-carcinogenic).

Thanks to its vitamin content  - C, B1 and B2, and P in its juice, A and E in the zest – the bergamot can be considered to have a good vitamin content 

which is helpful in bone disorders with altered calcium absorption, dental problems, collagen disorders,  muscular asthenia and also neuromuscular hyperactivity, cardiac erethism, anaemia caused by low iron absorption, hepatic-biliary congestion and various disorders in which altered  permeability of the blood vessels occurs.  

Bergamot juice can be helpful in a wide variety of cases, from various infectious states (bacterial, fungal) to the prevention of infection; from general asthenia to migraine, appetite loss, dyspepsia, meteorism, acute gastric acidity and slight or moderate hepatic-pancreatic failure; it is also useful in arthritic conditions in general.
More than the very few true side-effects of bergamot juice (serious in liver failure and chronic gastric hyperchloridria) it may be interesting to examine the ways in which it can be combined with other foods.    Those with severe digestive difficulties may find mixing bergamot juice (acid fruit) with farinaceous products(pasta, bread, rice, polenta, potatoes, chestnuts), tomatoes and sweet fruits (bananas, dates, figs, black cherries, sweet grapes, sultanas, dried prunes) difficult to digest.  However, other mixtures are much more digestible, for example with eggs (omelettes, crepes), with salads and with nuts ( walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, coconuts).

In discussing the properties of bergamot essence,  we cannot overlook the landmark clinical studies which we have already mentioned, on the use of bergamot essence as a surgical antiseptic carried out by Antonino Spinelli in 1932.  In his study he also quoted the experiences of another Reggio doctor, Vincenzo De Domenico (1854) who carried out observation experimentation on himself, taking increasing 15 drop doses.  He noted an overall sedative effect with somnolence and a lowered heart and breathing rate.   He later used bergamot essence as a malaria remedy in doses varying from 4 to 30 drops daily.   

Bergamot essence (today used in 1-2 drop daily doses,  not with meals, diluted in water or with a spoonful of honey, or in pearl form) stimulates the appetite and the hepatic-pancreatic functions.  It is useful in cholecystitis, tachycardia, and high blood pressure; applied locally it is useful for stomatitis, gingivitis, pharyngo-tonsillitis; it can be used against intestinal parasites, it is  disinfectant and astringent.  It is soothing for breathing difficulties and has a tonic, anti-depressant affect on the psyche.

And in this last context, it is pleasant to remember what Giuseppe Sergi wrote, in full  “D’Annunzio” style in his delightful monograph on the bergamot (1925):

"This precious product delights the senses and often inebriates the brain with iridescent images which make life beautiful and dreamlike and floods the soul with romantic sweetness. It is well-known that every perfume excites or provokes a psychic or intellectual sensation; thus the perfume of Opoponax leads to madness, that of Patchouli to listlessness and that of bergamot to the delight of the senses and to pleasure.
It is taken even in places of recreation, in public performances  and in many other places which in different towns are full of the highly delicate smell of this special essence which gives off all its fascinating power and seductive grace."

The “psychotropism” of bergamot essence can also be traced in literature, from D’Annunzio to Diego Valeri; whilst for Des Esseintes, the debauched, aristocratic, intolerably snobbish protagonist of Joris-Karl Huysmans’ (1848-1907) scandalous novel A Rebours, the odour of bergamot is a true hallucination,  to be sniffed during his erotic games.

From the psychophysical, or neuro-psychiatric, point of view, the complex and interlinked connections between smell and psyche have been investigated, with particular regard to the smell of bergamot, by Domencio de Maio, professor of Psychiatry and author of a monograph on “ Odour hallucinations in psychiatric patients”.

The properties of the bergamot had already been intuited by Renaissance alchemists and astrologists, for whom the bergamot possessed the characteristics of both air and fire; Mercury and the Sun  showed their influence through it while its zodiac sign was that of the ethereal Gemini

We should also remember, when discussing  bergamot essence, that the properties of an essential oil in aromatherapy – just as for a phytocomplex in phytotherapy – cannot be seen as the simple arithmetical or algebraic sum of its individual components, but rather as a complex inter-reaction between these components whose force may be increased or diminished on contact with the organism.

And when we consider cookery, let us not overlook the soothing effect of both limonene and pinene;  or the sedative and soothing effect of citrale; or the antiseptic and bacteriostasic  effect of monoterpenic alcohols such as linalool and nerol ; nor the sedative-balancing affect of linalilacetate which is lightly spasmolic and anti-inflammatory ; and finally of the various effects of 5-methoxy-psoralene or bergaptene which stimulates the appetite, is neuro-sedative and synchronises nictemeral rhythm, via the action  of the neuro-hormone pineal melatonin.  

All these properties, many of which are already well-known in popular medicine, are now finding confirmation in research being carried out by specialised institutes which have demonstrated, amongst other aspects, the neuro-sedative and anti-depressive nature of  a component of bergamot essence – 5-methoxy-psoralene or bergaptene; and, whilst not wishing to anticipate the results, it would appear that the essence is also useful in the symptomatic treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Other research studies have shown the effectiveness of bergamot essence in the treatment of psoriasis, and of  vitiligo and also its anti-HIV effect which may indicate it as a future treatment method for AIDS.

As far as we are aware, studies have not yet addressed the possible modifications in the level of endorphins or other liquor parameters in the body in the presence of bergamot essence although we may expect any future studies of this nature to reveal aspects of considerable interest.

From “Il bergamotto ed altri agrumi in gastronomia”
By Roberto Spinelli and Mariella Sandicchi
Laruffa Editore