The aromatic oil extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree is known as eucalyptus essential oil. Eucalyptus is a tree indigenous to Australia. The name eucalyptus is derived from the Greek word eukalypto, which means covered. The woody seed pods hanging from the branches of the tree almost cover the flowers, hence, the name eucalyptus. The deep green long sword-like eucalyptus leaves emit a camphor-like odor. About 50 pounds of eucalyptus leaves yield about 1 pound of eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus oil is clear or pale yellow in color. Its aroma is refreshing and stimulating and is known to vitalize the mind and the body. (1)
Though eucalyptus tree originated in Australia, more than 500 varieties of the tree now grows worldwide especially in Algeria, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, South Africa, India, California and Hawaii. Among the various eucalyptus species only a small number yields essential oils that are effective for aromatherapy. The oil derived from the most common eucalyptus species, Eucalyptus globulus is most popular for aromatherapy. The essential oil extracted from the leaves of Eucalyptus citriodora is known for its citrus-like odor. The Eucalyptus dives produces essential oil that smells like peppermint. (2) The aroma of the essential oil produced from Eucalyptus radiata is gentler than that extracted from Eucalyptus globulus and is therefore considered safer for children. (3)
Eucalyptus oil is produced by steam distillation of the fresh or partially dried leaves and young twigs of the eucalyptus tree. Eucalyptus globulus is the major source of the essential oil. Its principal constituent is cineol. It contains a number of other compounds. In addition to cineole, there are other minor constituents responsible for the distinct aroma and therapeutic properties of eucalyptus essential oil. (4)
What Is Eucalyptus Essential Oil Used For?
Because of easy availability of high-quality eucalyptus oil, the uses of eucalyptus oil are widespread in Australia. It is used as a main component in cough drops, salves, ointments, candy, vaporized liquids and cleaning products. The Australian Aborigines have been using eucalyptus oil for centuries for relieving upper respiratory tract infections. In folk medicines, it is used as a remedy for asthma, fever, viral infection and toothache and skin lesions. Experimental studies suggest the effectiveness of eucalyptus oil as natural mosquito repellant.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of eucalyptus oil in mouthwashes. It also seems to help in combating inflammation. In the USA, it is approved for use as synthetic flavoring agent in foods and beverages. Eucalyptus oil has limited use in the perfumery industry. (6) Nevertheless, the cineole rich oil is sometimes added to bath oils and soaps. In homes, eucalyptus oil is used as disinfectant and deodorizer. (7)
What Are The Benefits Of Eucalyptus Oil?
Eucalyptus oil provides a number of benefits.
- What Are The Benefits Of Eucalyptus Oil?
1. Alleviates Respiratory Conditions
Eucalyptus oil is best known for providing relief from the symptoms of obstructive respiratory conditions such as common cold, bronchitis and asthma and other respiratory conditions associated with excess build-up of mucus in the upper respiratory tract. Traditionally, it is used externally in nasal inhalation, chest rubs and vaporizers. The effectiveness of eucalyptus oil as nasal decongestant has been validated by clinical studies. Most people report improvement in breathing after inhalation of eucalyptus essential oil for 5 minutes. Eucalyptus oil works by thinning the mucus, assisting in dilation of the airways and reducing inflammation. These beneficial properties are attributed primarily to its key constituent cineole. Eucalyptus oil also seems to help in reducing asthma flare-ups in people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). (8)
To loosen the congestion and ease breathing, add 5 to 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of essential oils containing 2 drops each of eucalyptus essential oil, peppermint essential oil, rosemary essential oil and thyme essential oil and one drop of sandalwood essential oil to a pot of steaming hot water, and slowly inhale the aromatic steam for about 10 minutes. For vapor inhalation, inhale straight out of the bottle of eucalyptus oil or pour some oil on a cotton ball and smell the vapor. (9)
2. Relieves Headache
Eucalyptus oil is especially effective in relieving headache associated with sinus or nasal congestion. It also seems to help in alleviating premenstrual headache. For fast relief, put few drops of eucalyptus essential oil on a handkerchief and slowly inhale the vapor. (10) To relieve mild headache, such as tension headache, mix a drop of eucalyptus oil with a teaspoon of almond oil and rub it on the temples, neck and shoulder. Soaking in a warm bath to which 4 to 7 drops of the essential oil has been added can also provide relief. (11)
3. Good For Oral Health
Eucalyptus oil with 80 to 85% cineole content is known to possess moderate antimicrobial property. It is traditionally added to oral health care products such as mouthwashes, toothpastes and chewing gums. It is believed to kill bacteria that cause bad breath. It is also known to reduce bad breath produced by consuming strong-smelling food and drink. (12) The germicidal property of eucalyptus oil seems to help in fighting dental plaque, gingivitis and cavities. (13)
4. Remedy For Herpes Virus Infections
The antiviral property of eucalyptus oil helps in providing relief from herpes virus infections. Studies suggest that the essential oil inhibits replication of the viruses before they are absorbed in the host cells. (14) Eucalyptus oil is believed to be effective against Herpes zoster that causes chickenpox and shingles as well as Herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores. To speed up the healing process and reduce the pain, eucalyptus oil can be used alone or blended with bergamot essential oil. (15) You can apply 0.2 to 0.3 grams of eucalyptus essential oil directly to the affected area or dilute the oil in a few teaspoons of water before application to avert irritation. Apply the oil 2 to 3 times a day for a week. (16)
5. Eradicates Head Lice
As a natural pesticide, eucalyptus oil is known to help in killing head lice. Usually it is combined with other essential oils such as tea tree oil and applied to the scalp and hair. Mix 5 ml each of eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil with 50 ml olive oil. Leave the oil mixture on the hair for an hour and then wash your hair. Eucalyptus oil combined with olive oil and Azadirachta indica or neem oil can also give the same result. (17)
6. Fever Reducer
Traditionally eucalyptus was used in Australia for reducing fever. Hence, the eucalyptus tree was also known as the ‘fever tree’. (18) The cooling effect of eucalyptus oil helps in lowering the high body temperature. It is therefore considered an effective antipyretic agent or fever reducer. A cooling compress with few drops of eucalyptus oil helps in breaking the fever. (19)
7. Reduces Arthritis Pain
Massaging the joints affected by arthritis with eucalyptus oil helps in reducing the pain and stiffness of the joints. Before use, slightly warm a small amount of eucalyptus oil. Gently massage the painful joint with the oil for a few minutes. Leave the oil on the area and apply a hot compress. (20) Because of its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, eucalyptus oil also works for rheumatism, sprained ligaments and lower back pain. (21)
8. Combats Body Odor
Eucalyptus oil reduces body odor. Take a small amount of eucalyptus oil on a cotton ball and dab it onto your underarms. This helps in killing the bacteria that thrive in the area and feed on the dead skin and sweat. (22) Eucalyptus oil can also help in fighting unpleasant foot odor. Mix a cup of cornstarch with equal amount of baking soda. Add 6 drops of eucalyptus oil and mix well. After bathing, deodorize your feet with the mixture. (23)
9. Fights Fungal Infection
Eucalyptus oil is considered an effective remedy for fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and Candida infections of the skin and nails. However, compared to the cineole-rich eucalyptus oil, essential oil derived from eucalyptus species that contain less cineole such as Eucalyptus citriodora seems to be more effective as an antifungal agent. (25)
10. Assists Would Healing
As a natural antiseptic and antimicrobial agent, eucalyptus oil accelerates healing of wounds. It works for cuts, scrapes, abrasions, burns and insect stings. (26) According to a study, eucalyptus oil blended with olive oil, which works as carrier oil, exhibits antimicrobial activity and promotes wound repair. (27)
11. Beauty Uses
Eucalyptus oil is known to reduce excessive oiliness of the skin. It helps clear acne and lightens blemishes. It relieves sunburn pain and encourages regeneration of skin tissues. (28) When a zit is just starting to erupt, put a drop of eucalyptus essential oil on a cotton swab and apply it directly to the affected area. To make your skin less greasy, mix three drops of eucalyptus oil with your regular lotion and then apply it to your skin. To revitalize your troubled skin, wash your face with a homemade face wash prepared by blending one drop of eucalyptus oil, one drop of chamomile oil, 5 drops of peppermint oil and two drops of sage oil with 4 ounces of liquid soap. (29)
12. Hair Care
Eucalyptus oil provides moisture to the hair. It is known to relieve dandruff and scalp itching. Add few drops of eucalyptus oil to olive oil or coconut oil and use the oil mixture as your regular hair oil. (30) Because of its cleansing property, you can add a small amount of eucalyptus oil to your regular shampoo. It soothes and cools the scalp. (31)
13. Insect Repellent
The aroma of eucalyptus oil is known to repel biting insects and live mites. To prepare a natural insect repellant, add 30 ml or 1 fl oz of eucalyptus oil to 2 to 3 cups of lukewarm water. Apply this mixture topically to avert insect bites. (32) To deal with flea infestation, spray this mixture on your pets and their beddings and around the home three times a week. (33)
14. Boosts Mental Function
The aroma of eucalyptus oil is known to stimulate the brain. Its cooling and refreshing effect seems to help individuals experiencing mental exhaustion. It helps reduce stress and lifts the spirits. The vasodilatation effect of the essential oil increases blood circulation in the brain, which helps in improving brain function. (34)
Is Eucalyptus Oil Toxic To Humans?
Eucalyptus oil is considered non-toxic to humans when applied externally. It is usually considered non-sensitizing and non-phototoxic. (35) Though eucalyptus oil is not known to cause skin irritation in most individuals when used topically, nevertheless, hypersensitivity to the essential oil has been reported in a small number of cases. In people unusually sensitive to eucalyptus oil, topical application causes rash. (36) When used in an appropriate manner, eucalyptus oil is generally safe for external use. To avert adverse reactions, the condition of the skin and the user’s susceptibility to atopic conditions such as eczema and asthma should be taken into account prior using the essential oil. (37)
However, internal use of eucalyptus oil can be highly poisonous and even fatal. Harmful side effects have been reported by taking even small amount of eucalyptus oil, as little as one teaspoon. Therefore, to minimize risk of side effects, not more than two drops of eucalyptus oil should be ingested. It is advisable to take eucalyptus oil internally under the supervision of an expert. Reduce the dosage or stop taking the essential oil even when you experience minor discomfort such as diarrhea or stomach upset. (38) Before oral ingestion, dilute the oil. Undiluted eucalyptus oil when ingested is known to cause severe reactions. (39)
Is It Safe To Use Eucalyptus Oil On Babies?
Eucalyptus oil should not be used topically on babies. (40) External use of essential oils is not recommended for infants as it takes almost three months for their skin barrier function to develop properly. The vapor of eucalyptus oil when inhaled is known to cause transient apnoea in infants. Topical use of eucalyptus oil is also not recommended for children. It especially should not be applied to the face. (41)
Is It Safe To Inhale Eucalyptus Oil?
Inhalation of eucalyptus oil in low concentration is usually considered safe. Adverse reaction following inhalation, though rare, has been reported in a small number of cases. (42) Though eucalyptus oil is inhaled for alleviating breathing difficulties but in a small number of cases exposure to the vapor of the essential oil exacerbates asthma, causes vocal cord dysfunction and worsens rhinoconjunctivitis.
Side Effects Of Eucalyptus Oil
Side effects, though rare, have been reported usually following internal intake of eucalyptus oil. Severe and deadly side effects of eucalyptus oil include slowing of the central nervous system and the brain function, drowsiness, seizure and coma. (43)