Last Updated July 12th, 2019
Quick Facts on Eucalyptus oil
- Because of its antimicrobial properties, it was used to clean urinary catheters in 19th-century. Modern research is slowly bringing back this practice.
- There are over 400 different species of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus globulus, also known as Blue Gum, is the main source of eucalyptus oil used globally.
- Eucalyptus oil is extracted after steam distillation of the leaves.
- Eucalyptus oil is a colorless liquid with a sweet but strong woody scent. It contains 1,8-cineole, also known as eucalyptol.
- Eucalyptus leaves contain both flavonoids and tannins. Flavonoids are natural anti-oxidants while tannins have anti-inflammatory properties.
History of Eucalyptus Use
The eucalyptus tree is native to Australia. However, it is now grown all over the world. The healing power of eucalyptus comes from eucalyptus oil, which is obtained from the crushed leaves of the tree. The Aborigines used it to treat colds, diarrhea, influenza, toothache, snake bites, etc.
Chinese, Greek, and Indian Ayurvedic medical systems have incorporated it into their practice since thousands of years.
European explorers may have known about eucalyptus earlier, but the first reported botanical collection of them from the west was when James Solander and Joseph Banks reached Botany Bay with James Cook in 1770.
On Cook’s third expedition, in 1777, the botanist David Nelson collected a eucalypt in Tasmania. The specimen was taken to the British Museum in London. Once there, it was inspected by Charles-Louis L’Héritier, a French botanist. He named it Eucalyptus Obliqua. The name is derived from the Greek roots “eu” and “calyptos”, meaning well and covered, respectively. He used it to imply that it was well covered during reproductive growth by a “cap” or a “lid” referred to as an operculum.
Eucalyptus leaf extract has been added to the list of natural food additives approved for use in food preparation in Japan.
The Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is very beneficial to the body. It is obtained by drying, crushing, and distilling of the leaves of eucalyptus. Some of its benefits are summarized below. There are 14 benefits listed here. They are:
Helps to treat sleep disorders
There are several herbal remedies, such as eucalyptus, roman chamomile, and valerian root, which help in inducing sleep naturally.
Improves creativity and reduces stress
When you are still awake and not yet asleep, and quite alert or in a meditative state, the alpha waves are active in your brain. Alpha waves have a frequency from 8 to 13 Hz. The alpha brain waves are said to be associated with cognitive performance. In a state of calmness, higher alpha activity has been observed. It was observed in a study that a mixture of eucalyptus and other essential oils helped increase alpha wave activity. It is said to cause this through the sedative effect of its aroma.
Relief from coughing
For several years, eucalyptus oil provided much-needed relief from cough. The active ingredient in many OTC medications is eucalyptus oil. It can be present up to 1.2% in certain medications among other ingredients that aid in suppressing coughs.
A popular rub makes use of eucalyptus oil and when rubbed on the chest provides relief from the symptoms of both the flu and common cold.
Clears mucus from your chest
Sometimes you might be having a dry cough, a cough with no mucus. The mucus in your chest could be released by eucalyptus oil.
Mix a few drops of eucalyptus oil in water and then heat it to steam. Too many drops of eucalyptus oil must not be added as it can irritate the lungs. You could inhale the resulting vapor or use a rub to expel the mucus accumulated in your chest.
Keeps insects away
Several insects cause diseases in human beings when they bite. You can use popular insecticides such as DEET to keep them away. But they are made with pretty strong chemicals.
In addition to DEET, there are other botanical compounds that may also work when there are not too many mosquitoes or you are indoors. Eucalyptus oil with a hint of lemon is used by many brands in their mosquito repellents.
Helps treat cold sores
The symptoms of herpes could be improved by the application of eucalyptus oil. When eucalyptus oil is applied to a cold sore, it will not only reduce pain but also might speed up the healing process.
Over-the-counter balms and ointments are available for the treatment of cold sores. Eucalyptus oil is an active ingredient in many of them.
In a study conducted using the compounds obtained from the ethanolic extracts of eucalyptus globulus, it was observed that several were highly effective against the Herpes virus. Some compounds were more effective than acyclovir, which is the anti-viral medication used to treat a case of Herpes.
Treatment of head lice
One of the most common parasitic infections that affect humans worldwide is infestation with head lice. A solution of eucalyptus oil with Leptospermum Petersonii in a test tube led to 100% mortality in lice and lice eggs. It was also found to be twice as effective as traditional methods such as the use of neurotoxins for the treatment containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide. In addition, though initially causing irritation on the skin, later tests reported no sensitization in children or adults with the eucalyptus oil mixture.
Disinfection of wounds
Eucalyptus oil was used by the Australian Aborigines to treat several ailments. One of them was the disinfection of wounds. Today, you might still find it used for the treatment of inflammation and to help with healing. Many creams and ointments containing eucalyptus oil are available for purchase all over the world, especially in medical stores. Only use them for very minor burns or injuries that can be treated easily at home. Always read the warnings labeled on the creams or ointments before you use them on the skin, and make sure you are not allergic to them.
Treatment of asthma
You can prepare your own “breathe-easy” vapor by adding eucalyptus oil to the water and inhaling it as steam. When the vapor reacts with the mucus, it breaks it down, so that it easily comes up through the throat.
It might be possible that eucalyptus helps with asthma as well. Though it has been found beneficial for people with asthma, in certain cases it can worsen asthma if the person is allergic to eucalyptus oil. More studies will help shed light on whether eucalyptus oil can continue to be used in the treatment of asthma. However, it is definitely recommended when you only have a cold.
Helps ease joint pain
You can ease joint pain with a few drops of Eucalyptus oil. Several creams and ointments used to treat rheumatoid arthritis contain this cream.
If you are recovering from a joint or muscle injury, or if you have back pain, the application of eucalyptus oil will help relieve the inflammation and the pain in these conditions. However, always consult a doctor before you start using eucalyptus oil for this purpose.
Helps treat obesity
Currently, orlistat is the only drug recommended for long-term treatment of obesity. Lipase is the protein that helps in the hydrolysis of fats. Orlistat works by inhibiting the action of gastrointestinal and pancreatic lipases. This, in turn, reduces caloric intake and reduces the risk of obesity.
However, due to the loss of fat-soluble vitamins from the body, people using orlistat must take multivitamin tablets at least once a day. The other side effects are associated with its mode of the action itself. They are flatulence (gas build-up), diarrhea, liquid stools, fecal urgency, and abdominal cramping.
However, such anti-lipase activity is not restricted to just inorganic drugs alone. Many natural products have anti-lipase activity. In a study conducted in 2010, it was proven that a methanol extract of Eucalyptus galbie was able to inhibit the action of lipases by 50%. It is also speculated that unlike orlistat, the use of eucalyptus extract for the treatment of obesity may have no side effects.
Helps in treating diabetes
Eucalyptus extract helps in treating diabetes. Although research is still not conclusive in this regard, many studies have observed that eucalyptus extract helps in reducing blood sugar levels. The aqueous extract of Eucalyptus citriodora leaf was administered in diabetic rats at 250 and 500 mg/kg over a course of 21 days of treatment. It was observed that the blood glucose levels fell significantly, thereby demonstrating the anti-diabetic potential of eucalyptus extract.
Works as a breath freshener
The antibacterial properties of eucalyptus oil may be just as useful as mint in combating odor in the mouth. This is the reason why eucalyptus oil is an active ingredient in many kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes.
Products containing eucalyptus oil prevent the buildup of plaque on both gums and teeth and reduce the possibility of decay (dental caries). In a study conducted to assess the role of natural products in the treatment of dental caries, extracts derived from eucalyptus twigs showed antibacterial properties.
Helps in the treatment of acne
In a study, the antimicrobial properties of eucalyptus leaf extract have proven its effectiveness in the treatment of acne in female patients. This was mainly due to the presence of flavonoids in the eucalyptus leaf extract. More studies are required, however, before recommending extensive use in all patients.
Side effects of Eucalyptus Extract and Oil
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) has stipulated that the use of certain essential oils may be hazardous. However, those that are available commercially, and obtained from reputable sources, may be safe to use. NAHA says that pure, authentic, and genuine essential oils must be used.
Never take eucalyptus oil orally. It is poisonous.
Eucalyptus oil can generally be used safely on the skin. However, never apply it undiluted on the skin. It must always be used in combination with a carrier oil. The dilution of the oil must be such that there are only one to five drops of eucalyptus oil in an ounce of carrier oil.
Do not use eucalyptus oil, diluted or undiluted, around the eyes.
You can do an allergy test for the eucalyptus oil to be sure that it is safe for topical use. You must apply the eucalyptus oil, diluted with the carrier oil, to the skin. This must be left on for 24 hours. You must observe the results after 24 hours to make sure that there is no allergic reaction. If there is no allergic reaction, it is safe for use.
Certain cases of asthma get better with the application of eucalyptus oil, whereas it gets worse in other cases of asthma.
Side effects of using eucalyptus oil or extract may include:
Signs of eucalyptus poisoning include feelings of suffocation and dizziness. Eucalyptus is also known to interact with certain medications and could affect the liver.
Since children are more sensitive than adults are to essential oils, use eucalyptus oil with great care for children. Use of eucalyptus oil must be avoided during pregnancy.
Eucalyptus Oil: Is it good for you?
Eucalyptus oil has been in use since centuries and modern science has only just started to realize its importance in the treatment of certain ailments. These ailments range from something as simple as a cough to as serious as obesity. With improvements in research methods, science may uncover the reasons behind all of the eucalyptus’ wonderful properties. Is eucalyptus oil good for you? You are the best judge of that. If there is no allergic reaction when applied undiluted to the skin, there is no reason to doubt its benefits.
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