Eucalyptus is one of the most recognizable fragrances, which is surprising given that the eucalyptus plant is native only to Australia—though it is now exported around the world. Minty with a citrus backbone, the eucalyptus plant is soothing all on its own. However, when broken down to its essential oil components, it becomes a powerful antiviral and antibacterial solution.
People have used eucalyptus essential oils for hundreds of years. Researchers believe that the eucalyptus tree is one of the most useful tree species on the planet, with an ability to grow more than 480 feet tall in rough and rocky terrain.
Throughout history, eucalyptus has been used to alleviate respiratory issues, disinfect and heal wounds, or eradicate mental exhaustion, confusion, and fatigue.
The History of Eucalyptus
Before modern explorers, adventurers, and penal colonists arrived in Australia, the aborigines native to Australia used eucalyptus oil and eucalyptus leaves in their traditional folk medicine for as long as anyone can remember. More than 700 different varieties of eucalyptus exist, and almost all of them can be used to produce eucalyptus essential oil with similar healing and regenerative properties.1
Considered to be a “cure-all” by the ancient aborigines, eucalyptus trees were harvested by tribes throughout the year and processed in a number of different ways to produce oils, salves, pastes, and medications to be prescribed by the local medicine man.
The rest of the world wasn’t exposed to the benefits of eucalyptus until Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, one of Australia’s most prominent 19th-century scientists, began to experiment with its antiseptic properties. Later, he encouraged commercial distillation of eucalyptus oil and export of eucalyptus seeds to India, Algeria, and California. In 1955, eucalyptus seeds were sent to French Algeria by the French government in an effort to reduce malaria rates in swamp areas, which proved to be an overwhelming success.2
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During World War I, the Allies used eucalyptus essential oil to help fight meningitis. The essential oil was also a key remedy during the 1919 influenza epidemic, providing military units running low on medical supplies with a helpful alternative.
Today, eucalyptus oils are most commonly used to help alleviate respiratory issues, as well as a remedy for burns, cuts and abrasions, ulcers, stress, and headaches.
Eucalyptus essential oil is popular is because of the diversity in its use, proving time and again that it is the “real deal” when it comes to all-natural medicine. The reason eucalyptus offers so many benefits for the human body is that of its unique terpene composition: eucalyptus essential oil is made up of more than 100 different terpene compounds. On its own, each of these terpene compounds is powerful enough to provide significant health benefits, but they are even more powerful when combined together.3
Eucalyptus oil is also unique in that the “crude” form of this essential oil—an essential oil that has only been distilled once—is actually more potent and beneficial than eucalyptus oil that has undergone double distillation. Single distillation eucalyptus oil is made up of 60% cineole and 40% other biochemicals. After the second distillation has been completed, however, the compound makeup of the oil becomes 80% cineole and only 20% other biochemicals. Despite the decrease in the potency of cineole, single distillation eucalyptus oil can provide more benefits across a broader range than double distillation eucalyptus oil.4
Other terpene compound components in this essential oil include:
These compounds are all bioavailable, meaning they can be rapidly absorbed by the human body, leading to faster results from the benefits of eucalyptus essential oil than from oils made up of less bioavailable compounds.
Uses for Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Because of the hundreds of diverse biochemicals in eucalyptus essential oil, researchers are still discovering all of the positive health benefits that eucalyptus provides.
So far, it has been shown to help heal wounds and fights infection, alleviate respiratory issues, eliminate mental exhaustion, reduce muscle pain, and fight acne. Let’s dive deeper into all that eucalyptus essential oils offers by highlighting some of its key benefits.6
Treats Wounds, Cuts, Abrasions, and Burns
Ancient aborigines used eucalyptus to help heal wounds they suffered while hunting, a practice paralleled today by individuals using eucalyptus essential oil as a germicide. The antiseptic and antibacterial properties in eucalyptus make it particularly effective for relieving pain, killing bacteria, and fighting off infection in cuts, wounds, and abrasions.
Another benefit of eucalyptus is its ability to fight viral and bacterial infections. In 2010, a clinical study discovered that the main terpene components in eucalyptus have antimicrobial properties that defend against many of the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that may attack the human immune system. The study found that the antiviral properties in eucalyptus often destroyed these disease-causing agents while providing for an extra layer of protection to rapidly heal the body and stave off further infection.7
Research has also found that inhalation of eucalyptus is the most effective delivery mechanism: the benefits of eucalyptus increased significantly with internal inhalation when compared to topical application to the chest area in the form of a eucalyptus cream.
Eucalyptol, one of the key components of eucalyptus essential oil is mucolytic, meaning it relaxes the flow of mucus. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil in steam inhalation relaxes the mucous membranes and clears nasal passages.
Since its discovery, eucalyptus essential oil has been used for relieving sore throats, runny noses, colds, and chest congestion. Because of this, the benefits of eucalyptus essential oil can be most effectively enjoyed through aromatherapy in a room diffuser or a personal essential oil diffuser.
Combining inhalation of eucalyptus essential oil with a topical application can provide double the benefits in trying to fight a cold, delivering immune stimulation, anti-inflammatory benefits, antioxidants, and general relief across the board.
Maintains Healthy Respiratory Function
Recent research has shown that asthma can be effectively alleviated with the help of eucalyptus oils inhaled with the assistance of a vaporizer. Vaporization serves as both an effective delivery method for experiencing the antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus essential oil, while also allowing the oil’s decongestant benefits to shine.8
Some have found it useful to “gargle” with eucalyptus oil mixed with warm water to soothe a sore throat, while others massage a few drops of eucalyptus oil onto their chest to help relieve sore throat pain, dilate the blood vessels, and improve circulation to open up blocked airways.
By creating a warming effect on the skin, eucalyptus essential oil relieves pain quickly in afflicted parts of the body. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties can be used for anything ranging from a headache to muscle and joint pain. The oil can be used for pain relief when mixed with a carrier oil and massaged onto the affected area, inhaled through a diffuser, or in a few drops added to a warm bath.
Eucalyptus essential oil has been found to induce a cooling effect on the mind, allowing for improved coping with negative emotions as well as help in alleviating stress, anxiety, or mental fatigue. These benefits can be experienced by mixing 10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a spray bottle with 2.5 ounces of water and spraying it into a workspace or by inhaling it through a personal essential oil diffuser.
Safety and Precautions
Though eucalyptus essential oil is considered quite safe, it is important to be mindful of using the oil properly to allow for individuals safety and best results.
Eucalyptus leaves are safe when consumed in small amounts, such as when added sparingly to food, but the leaves should not be consumed in large amounts.
Eucalyptol—one of the primary terpenes in eucalyptus oil— can be safely taken internally for up to 12 weeks, though you want to discontinue use after that threshold and allow the body time to rest, recover, and rejuvenate from exposure before starting the cycle again.9
If you are planning on ingesting the oil, it is important to dilute it before doing so. Consuming even 3.5 mL of undiluted eucalyptus oil can prove fatal, and signs of eucalyptus poisoning include stomach pains, burning sensation in the intestines, dizziness and confusion, general muscle weakness and fatigue, pupil dilation, difficulty to breathe, and nausea and vomiting.
Women who are pregnant or nursing are discouraged from using eucalyptus essential oils.
The benefits highlighted above only scratch the surface of the benefits eucalyptus essential oil offers. It really is one of the most powerful and potent essential oils available today, as well as one of the most reliable when used correctly.
Eucalyptus essential oil can be combined with other essential oils, as well as neutral “carrier oils” to improve its efficacy or extend the time of use. Additionally, it can be ingested in small amounts, or inhaled in a candle, room diffuser, or personal essential oil diffusers such as Zen and Ocean MONQ.
All things considered, whether you’re looking to fight mental and physical exhaustion, relieve stress and anxiety, or reduce the pain from a headache or a migraine, eucalyptus essential oil is a beneficial addition to your medicine cabinet.