Eucalyptus is a genus of trees including more than 700 species. Almost all eucalyptus species grow on the Australian continent. Eucalyptus oil has been used as a traditional health remedy for hundreds of years, so much so it is known as “Australia’s miracle plant.” Eucalyptus oil is a clear, slightly viscous liquid with an easily recognizable taste and aroma, produced by steaming fresh eucalyptus leaves. Eucalyptus globulus or the blue gum tree is the most common source.
Eucalyptus oil is a common natural nasal, chest, and sinus decongestant. The organic compound cineole is largely responsible for this property. Many people add several drops of eucalyptus oil to hot water or a nebulizer and inhale the steam to relieve their congestion. Eucalyptus oil also breaks up mucus in the lungs and respiratory tract. Some people use eucalyptus as a chest rub to ease coughing and congestion related to COPD, asthma, and chronic sinus infections. Commercial cough suppressant medications and sore throat lozenges often contain the oil.
Eucalyptus oil may decrease the severity of grass, dust, pollen, and other seasonal allergies. The anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties relieve symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, congestion, nasal drip, and headaches. Mix two or three drops of eucalyptus oil into two cups of warm water and soak a soft washcloth. Lay the washcloth across both eyes for 20 minutes to relieve redness and swelling. Soothe a sore throat by gargling with fresh, crushed eucalyptus leaves in warm water or mouthwash.
Eucalyptus oil reduces inflammation throughout the body and dilates blood vessels. These effects enable blood to flow freely to help the body recover from illness or infection. Eucalyptus oil also acts against some disease-causing micro-organisms. Fevers break to help the body control infection because the elevated temperature is part of the immune response. Administer eucalyptus oil during illness with a diffuser or a muscle and chest rub.
Eucalyptus oil contains several compounds with antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Athletes’ foot, ringworm, and onychomycosis, or fungus of the toenails, can benefit from a soak in warm water with a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus oil negatively affects bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae and several strains of streptococcus. Some people use the oil to clean medical supplies and equipment for home use, but any change in cleaning or sanitary measures should be approved by a doctor first.
Strengthen Immune System
Eucalyptus oil is full of antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and help protect cells from damage. It also increases the activity of immune system cells such as phagocytes, leukocytes, and cytokines. Some studies are investigating the effects of eucalyptus oil or its components on people with compromised immune systems due to medications or medical treatment. Eucalyptus may help people with artificially weakened immune systems fight off illness without interfering with other medical treatments.
Relieve Arthritis and Joint Pain
Eucalyptus is an ingredient in many commercial creams and ointments for arthritis, sprains, rheumatism, and other aches and pains. It contains numerous substances with analgesic properties. Camphor is a mild anesthetic and astringent that causes warming and cooling sensations that soothe sore muscles, joint pain, and bruises. Limonene, camphene, and sabinene have anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic effects. Eucalyptus oil (in a lotion or carrier) also works well as a pre-workout muscle rub.
Eucalyptus is a common ingredient in mouthwash, toothpaste, and other oral hygiene products. The antibacterial properties control bad breath, prevent dental cavities, and treat or prevent gum diseases such as gingivitis. Some types of chewing gum make use of the antimicrobial capabilities and the refreshing citrus and mint flavor. Eucalyptus oil or crushed leaves mixed into a paste are home remedies for cold sores and abscesses in the mouth, but should not be swallowed.
Elevate Mood and Improve Cognition
Eucalyptus leaves, roots, bark, and berries contain aromatic compounds and other substances that influence the brain and central nervous system. Globulol is an antioxidant that encourages cell regeneration. Citronellol is an anti-spasmodic and anticonvulsant that helps control epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Cineole also has antispasmodic effects and causes mild vasodilation that lowers blood pressure. This combination of effects can help relieve tension headaches and migraines. Eucalyptus oil helps manage stress and anxiety, as well.
Eucalyptus oil or extracts are frequently in skincare products. The essential oil itself can be added to bathwater or mixed with mineral oil to rub onto the skin after a shower. Antioxidants protect skin from sun damage and pollutants, while anti-inflammatory properties reduce redness or swelling caused by various skin conditions. Eucalyptus oil has antimicrobial effects that control acne and prevent the infection of minor cuts and scrapes. It also soothes bug bites and helps skin retain moisture.
Eucalyptus oil was officially registered as an insecticide in the United States in 1948. It is a registered miticide, as well — an insecticide that also kills mites and ticks. Outdoor eucalyptus candles and diffusers discourage insects at picnics and other outdoor events with a pleasant scent instead of harsh chemicals. Oil from the E. globulus species of the eucalyptus tree is a natural way to kill housefly larvae.