By Dr. Mercola
Eucalyptus oil is a pure essential oil that has practical and industrial uses, as well as healing properties. It comes from a fast-growing evergreen tree species native to Australia,1 with global eucalyptus oil production mainly focusing on the Eucalyptus globulus or "Blue Gum" tree.2 Learn more about this essential oil — and how it can benefit your health and well-being.
What Is Eucalyptus Oil?
Eucalyptus oil is the distilled oil that comes from dried eucalyptus leaves, and is a colorless liquid with a strong, sweet, woody smell.3 According to an article published in the journal Chemistry of Natural Compounds, more than 700 different species of eucalyptus exist in the world, and at least 500 of which produce a type of essential oil.4 Some of the common types of eucalyptus plants used for essential oil production include:5
- Eucalyptus globulus — This is the species that has received widespread attention from botanists and chemists. Its oil is the best known and most used of all eucalyptus oils, with a cineole (a colorless, liquid terpene ether with a camphor-like odor) content between 60 and 70 percent. One thing to remember about the crude oil made from this plant is that it's often processed to raise the amount of cineole in the product.6
- Eucalyptus polybractea — This is commonly known as "Blue Mallee," a small mallee-type tree. Its crude or single-distilled oil is has a high cineole content, falling between 80 and 88 percent.7
- Eucalyptus radiata — Commonly known as "narrow-leaved peppermint," this is a tall, single-trunk tree with fibrous bark.8 Its crude oil is said to possess a refreshing aroma, and a cineole content of 65 to 70 percent.9
- Eucalyptus citriodora — Referred to as the "lemon-scented gum," this large tree has gone through a name change and is now called Corymbia.10 The principal constituent of the oil is citronellal, that's often used for industrial and perfume purposes.
Australian aboriginals used oil-containing eucalyptus leaf infusions and mixtures as a traditional medication for chills,11 body pains, fever, sinus congestions and colds.12
Surgeons also begun utilizing eucalyptus oil as an antiseptic during operations in the 1880s.13 Toward the end of the century, the oil was used in most hospitals in England to clean urinary catheters. Eucalyptus oil was then registered as both an insecticide and miticide (a substance that kills mites and ticks) in the U.S. in 1948.14
Uses of Eucalyptus Oil
Diluted eucalyptus oil may be helpful in addressing coughs, bronchitis, and sinus and respiratory infections.15 It can also act as an insect repellent and may help treat wounds, burns and ulcers. It is known to possess antiseptic, antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. The book "The Healing Art of Essential Oils" highlights that eucalyptus oil is often added to these items:16
- Perfumes and cosmetics (as a fragrance)
- Dental products like mouthwashes and toothpastes
- Liniments and ointments
- Cough drops and lozenges
Eucalyptus oil may help address pain and inflammation, and soothe your mucous membranes especially if they have been affected with conditions like allergies and asthma.17 In some cases, eucalyptus oil may be combined with other essential oils so your skin can absorb it easily.
One of the most popular ways to use eucalyptus oil is aromatically. Add a drop of eucalyptus oil on an organic cotton ball and sniff it multiple times within a day, or incorporate a few drops of oil into water or a nebulizer as steam therapy. You can mix it into your bath water too.
When applying topically, combine a drop of eucalyptus oil with 1 to 3 teaspoons of a carrier oil like coconut, sweet almond or jojoba oil, or add a few drops into your preferred massage oil blend. You may increase the amount of essential oil as necessary. As for taking eucalyptus oil internally, consult a holistic doctor first, so you can find the right dose for your particular health concern.18
Composition of Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oils are made up of more than 100 different compounds. Some of this oil's main chemical components are a-pinene, b-pinene 1,8-cineole or eucalyptol, a-phellandrene, limonene, terpinen-4-ol, aromadendrene, epiglobulol, piperitone and globulol.19,20
Take note that the double distillation process may cause crude or single distilled eucalyptus oil to have more compounds in different quantities. For instance, the eucalyptus globulus essential oil is usually composed of 60 percent cineole and 40 percent other compounds, but its composition changes after undergoing double distillation, resulting in the oil having 80 percent cineole and only 20 percent of other compounds.
What this may mean is that the single-distilled oil may have more activities or capabilities compared to the refined oil.21
Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil
Medical News Today expands on the various medicinal uses and benefits of eucalyptus:22
- Antibacterial properties — According to a Clinical Microbiology and Infection study, eucalyptus oil may help combat pathogenic bacteria in the upper respiratory tract because of its antibacterial capabilities.23
- Dental health — This oil exhibits antibacterial activity against cariogenic (tooth decay-causing) and periodontopathic bacteria. Research published in the Journal of Periodontology also highlighted that the addition of eucalyptus extract to chewing gum may aid in improving oral health.24
- Pain relief — Eucalyptus oil was revealed to have analgesic properties. Researchers of a study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation applied eucalyptamint on the anterior forearm skin of 10 subjects. Results showed that it "produced significant physiologic responses that may be beneficial for pain relief and/or useful to athletes as a passive form of warm-up."25
- Stimulating immune system response — A BMC Immunology article highlighted that eucalyptus oil extract may promote an innate cell-mediated immune response.26
Eucalyptus oil was shown to help people who are mentally exhausted, attributed to its cooling and refreshing effects. As the book "Restorative Yoga" highlights, this essential oil works as a stimulant that helps eradicate exhaustion and mental sluggishness, and "rejuvenates the spirits of the sick." Eucalyptus oil may also help increase mental activity and blood flow to the brain. Because of these findings, eucalyptus oil has been added to some classrooms as a form of aromatherapy.27
How to Make an Eucalyptus Oil Infusion
Eucalyptus oil is extracted from fresh or partially dried leaves and young twigs, and undergoes steam distillation.28 You can make an oil infusion from eucalyptus leaves on your own, saving you money and allowing you a fresh supply of the oil. Here are steps how:29
Eucalyptus Oil Infusion
Things You'll Need:
• Kitchen weight scale
• Eucalyptus leaves
• Olive oil or another carrier oil
• Crock pot
• Small-gauge mesh strainer
• Airtight jar made of dark glass
1. Gently crush 2 ounces of fresh eucalyptus leaves with your fist to release the oil. You may use more or less depending on the size of your crock pot.
2. Place the eucalyptus leaves in the crock pot.
3. Add 1 cup of olive oil for every 1/4 ounce of leaves in the crock pot.
4. Place the lid on the crock pot and turn it on at low heat. Let the mixture steep for six hours.
5. Strain the eucalyptus oil through a small-gauge mesh strainer and into an airtight jar made of dark glass.
6. Seal the jar and date it.
Store the eucalyptus oil in a cool, dry spot, where it will remain viable for six months. If needed longer, store the oil in the vegetable crisper drawer in your refrigerator, where it will last for about a year.
How Does Eucalyptus Oil Work?
This essential oil works in different ways.30 In vapor therapy (using burners and vaporizers), eucalyptus oil may be used for targeting respiratory problems,31 helping improve concentration32 or repelling insects.33 You may also dilute a few drops of essential oil onto bath water or blend them with a massage oil to potentially address health issues like:
Muscle aches and pains
Topical use of eucalyptus oil is also possible, as you can add some of it into an antiseptic or therapeutic cream or lotion to assist with pain relief, or speed up wound and ulcer healing. You may apply eucalyptus oil on insect bites or wounds, but be very careful to avoid adverse effects.34 If your doctor allows you to take eucalyptus oil internally, you may add very diluted eucalyptus oil to a gargle as a soothing remedy for sore throat.35
You can combine eucalyptus oil with any of these other essential oils to make a harmonious blend: benzoin, thyme, lavender, lemongrass, lemon, spearmint, rosemary, peppermint, sandalwood and pine.36
Is Eucalyptus Oil Safe?
Essential oils like eucalyptus oil are generally safe to use, but with specific precautions. Before using it, consult a holistic doctor to see if your condition would allow you to do so, and undergo an allergen patch test to check for possible allergic reactions and lower your risk for developing side effects.
In general, adults should not take eucalyptus oil orally except under a doctor's supervision, and this oil mustn't be given to children, especially those under 2 years old.37 While eucalyptus oil is generally safe when applied to adult skin, refrain from applying the oil, salve or chest rub on the face or nose of baby because of its potential side effects.38,39 Lastly, pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid using the oil as evidence is lacking regarding its safety for these groups of women.40