What does eucalyptus do?


The health benefits of eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is believed to have a number of medicinal properties, although not all of them have been confirmed by research. Below we outline some of its potential health benefits.

Antimicrobial properties

Share on PinterestEucalyptus leaves and essential oil are commonly used in complementary medicine.

Interestingly, toward the end of the 19th century, eucalyptus oil was used in most hospitals in England to clean urinary catheters. Modern research is now starting to back this practice up.

In February 2016, researchers from Serbia found evidence supporting the antimicrobial action of eucalyptus.

They concluded that a positive interaction between E. camaldulensis essential oil (a tree in the Eucalyptus family) and existing antibiotics could lead to the development of new treatment strategies for certain infections.

They hope that this property could eventually reduce the need for antibiotics.

A study published in Clinical Microbiology & Infection suggests that eucalyptus oil may have antibacterial effects on pathogenic bacteria in the upper respiratory tract, including Haemophilus influenzae, a bacteria responsible for a range of infections, and some strains of streptococcus.

Colds and respiratory problems

Eucalyptus features in a range of preparations to relieve symptoms of the common cold, for example, cough lozenges and inhalants.

Herbal remedies recommend using fresh leaves in a gargle to relieve a sore throat, sinusitis, and bronchitis. Also, eucalyptus oil vapor appears to act as a decongestant when inhaled. It is a popular home remedy for colds and bronchitis.

It may act as an expectorant for loosening phlegm and easing congestion. A number of cough medications include eucalyptus oil, including Vicks VapoRub.

Researchers have called for further studies to clarify the possible therapeutic role of eucalyptus leaf extract in the treatment of respiratory tract infection.

Eucalyptus and dental care

The antibacterial and antimicrobial potential of eucalyptus has been harnessed for use in some mouthwash and dental preparations.

In promoting dental health, eucalyptus appears to be active in fighting bacteria that cause tooth decay and periodontitis.

The use of eucalyptus extract in chewing gum may promote periodontal health, according to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology.

Fungal infections and wounds

The University of Maryland Medical (UMM) Center describe how traditional Aboriginal medicines used eucalyptus to treat fungal infections and skin wounds.

Insect repellent

Eucalyptus is an effective insect repellent and insecticide. In 1948, the United States officially registered eucalyptus oil as an insecticide and miticide, for killing mites and ticks.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus is recommended by some as an insect repellant; it is effective at keeping mosquitoes away.

In 2012, researchers from New Delhi, in India, found that E. globulus oil was active against the larvae and pupae of the housefly. They suggested that it could be a viable option for use in eco-friendly products to control houseflies.

Pain relief

Eucalyptus extract may act as a pain reliever, and research indicates that the oil may have analgesic properties. In a study published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, scientists applied Eucalyptamint on the anterior forearm skin of 10 people.

Eucalyptamint, an OTC preparation with the generic name methyl salicylate topical, is used to treat muscle and joint pain linked to strains and sprains, arthritis, bruising, and backache.

The scientists concluded that “Eucalyptamint, produced significant physiologic responses that may be beneficial for pain relief and/or useful to athletes as a passive form of warm-up.”

Stimulating immune system

Eucalyptus oil may stimulate an immune system response, say findings published in BMC Immunology.

Specifically, the researchers found that Eucalyptus oil could enhance the immune system’s phagocytic response to pathogens in a rat model. Phagocytosis is a process where the immune system consumes and destroys foreign particles.

Other conditions that eucalyptus may help with include:

  • Arthritis – potentially due to its anti-inflammatory properties
  • A blocked nose
  • Wounds and burns
  • Ulcers
  • Cold sores – perhaps due to its anti-inflammatory properties
  • Bladder diseases
  • Diabetes – eucalyptus might help lower blood sugar
  • Fever
  • Flu

Top 20 Incredible Benefits of Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus essential oil has wonderful multi-faceted medicinal properties. So it’s not surprising that it’s used widely in many over-the-counter products available at your local grocery store or pharmacy including chest rubs for colds and congestion, cough and cold medicines, sore throat sprays, mouthwashes, inhalers, soaps, rash creams and topical pain relievers, just to name a few.

Native to Australia, and used for centuries by Aboriginal tribes for its healing properties, the eucalyptus tree, classified as Eucalyptus Globulus, is now grown world-over including China, India (where it is better known as Nilgiri oil), some parts of Europe and South Africa. The medicinal properties come from the leaves which are dried, and then crushed and distilled to extract the strong, colorless and potent essential oil.

Eucalyptus essential oil boasts many benefits including:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antispasmodic
  • Decongestant
  • Deodorant
  • Disinfectant
  • Antiseptic
  • Antibacterial
  • Insecticidal
  • Stimulant
  • …and more!
Here are top 20 health benefits and medicinal uses of Eucalyptus Essential Oil as well as tips and recipe blends on how to use this handy, multi-purpose healing oil:

1. Eucalyptus Oil for Cold and Congestion

Eucalyptus oil is known for its anti-viral and anti-bacterial healing properties. A 2010 study suggested that, “Eucalyptus oil (EO) and its major component, 1,8-cineole, have antimicrobial effects against many bacteria…viruses, and fungi.” And that, “…surprisingly for an antimicrobial substance, there are also immune-stimulatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and spasmolytic effects.”

The study recommended that vapor inhalation was an effective way to relieve congestion. Inhaling the strong aroma of eucalyptus oil helps to loosen phlegm and alleviate congestion associated with the common cold, flu or more severe conditions such as bronchitis.

How to use Eucalyptus oil for cold and congestion:

1. Steam inhalation: Add 10-15 drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of boiling water, place a towel over your head and breathe in the potent vapors for 5-10 minutes. The hot steam helps to thin and thereby drain mucus in the nasal passages and the decongestant properties of eucalyptus help to relieve cold symptoms.

2. Use in a Diffuser: Add several drops of eucalyptus oil in your diffuser and breathe in the medicinal vapors all night long.

2. Eucalyptus Oil for Cough

Eucalyptus oil’s decongestant properties can help to clear your chest by making your cough more productive. There’s nothing more annoying than a hacking cough with nothing coming up. Inhaling the vapor or applying a eucalyptus oil infused rub can help in loosening mucus, so that when you cough, the thinned mucus can be expelled out of your chest.

A 2004 study conducted on rats suggested that Eucalyptus oil has an “anti-inflammatory effect on chronic bronchitis.”
Many popular over-the-counter rubs contain eucalyptus and other cough suppressing substances.
Below is a home-made recipe for an all-natural rub (this is an excellent alternative to the chest rubs available in pharmacies that contain petroleum jelly).

Eucalyptus oil all-natural rub for coughs:

1/2 cup coconut oil or olive oil
2 tablespoons of beeswax pastilles
20 drops of Eucalyptus Oil (contains the active substance Eucalyptol, which acts as a cough suppressant).
15 drops of Peppermint Oil (contains the active substance Menthol, which makes it easier to breathe by opening up nasal airways).

Slightly melt beeswax and carrier oil over a double boiler and add essential oils. Stir well, pour in a container (small tins work well) and let set. Use as needed.

3. Eucalyptus Oil for Hair Nourishment

Need some instant hair nourishment? Moisturize your hair with a few drops of eucalyptus oil blended with a carrier oil like coconut oil (which is also an excellent hair moisturizer!). The active ingredients in eucalyptus oil help to stimulate hair follicles (the tiny holes where hair grows from) by stimulating blood vessels to constrict. This in turn gets more blood flow to the follicles and encourages healthy hair development.
How to use Eucalyptus oil for hair nourishment:

4 tablespoons carrier oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil
100 drops or 1 level tsp eucalyptus oil (20:80 essential oil to carrier oil ratio)

Mix eucalyptus oil and olive or coconut oil and gently massage the blend into the scalp. Comb your hair to further stimulate blood flow. Apply on the hair about an hour before taking a shower. Wash off with shampoo/conditioner.

4. Eucalyptus Oil for Itchy Scalp

Do you suffer from a dry, itchy scalp? Eucalyptus oil can help. Find instant itch relief by trying the recipe below:

4 tablespoons regular white vinegar
100 drops or 1 level tsp eucalyptus oil
4 cups water

Mix all of the above and rinse your hair with the blend making sure the liquid is evenly distributed across your scalp. Shampoo and condition your hair immediately to experience quick cooling itching relief.

Combining eucalyptus oil with neem oil (an excellent oil for treating dry, itchy scalp) is a great way to nourish and moisturize the hair.

1 teaspoon neem oil
4-5 drops eucalyptus oil (also helps to mask the strong smell of neem oil)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Blend and massage into the hair and scalp. Wash after a few hours, or leave overnight for better results.

5. Eucalyptus Oil for Lice

There’s nothing more embarrassing or annoying than having your scalp infested by head lice! Eucalyptus oil is a natural insecticide and many commercially available head lice sprays actually contain essential oils such as tea tree and eucalyptus (along with many harsh chemicals).

The next time you get an outbreak of head lice try this home-made blend that not only helps to nourish the hair with the moisturizing properties of eucalyptus oil but will also keep the tiny critters out of your hair:

3ml eucalyptus oil
2 tablespoons shampoo
1 teaspoon neem essential oil (Lice hate the strong, bitter, pungent smell of neem and neem oil contains the active ingredient azadirachtin, an insecticide, which prevents the reproduction of lice)

Alternatively, in a regular 60 ml shampoo bottle add 6 ml of eucalyptus oil and 2 teaspoons of neem oil. Shampoo hair and cover with a plastic shower cap for 10-15 minutes. Remove shower cap, wash hair and towel dry. Comb through hair with a lice comb (fine nit comb) which will help to catch the eggs.
Note: Please use the above recipe with caution if using it to treat children. Eucalyptus oil is strong and potent so make sure children do not get it in their eyes or mouth.

6. Eucalyptus Oil for Keeping Bugs Away

Want a natural and healthy alternative to chemically toxic bug sprays available commercially? The drug store contains many popular insect repellant options, but most contain DEET, which although approved by health agencies, has questionable health concerns.

As an effective alternative to store bought insect repellant, here’s a recipe for a natural easy to make at home bug spray that not only smells great but keeps the bugs away.

1. Eucalyptus oil bug spray:

20 drops eucalyptus oil or lemon eucalyptus oil
10 drops lavender oil or cinnamon oil
Natural witch hazel
Boiled water (or distilled water)

Fill an 8oz spray bottle half-way up with boiled/distilled water. Fill the rest of the bottle with witch hazel. Add the essential oils. Spray!
It is recommended to use this all-natural spray on clothing (especially when using on children) than directly on the skin.

2. Keep pests away: Ants, cockroaches and pests detest the smell of eucalyptus oil. Soak a few cotton balls with 3-5 drops of eucalyptus oil and place them in the pest-infested areas.

7. Eucalyptus Oil for Cold Sores

For most people who’ve had a cold sore, it’s likely the painful, unpleasant blisters will reoccur, so when you feel that tingling, burning sensation around your mouth, take action with this effective home remedy below and kill a cold sore in its tracks.

Studies suggest that the effects of eucalyptus oil against the “herpes simplex virus,” responsible for causing cold sores are promising, so it’s no surprise that over-the-counter balms for cold sores contain essential oils, including eucalyptus oil.

If you feel a cold sore coming on or need relief from a cold sore try the remedy below:
1 drop Eucalyptus Oil
1 drop Peppermint Oil / Tea Tree Oil
2-3 drops of a carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil
Mix all of the above and apply it to the sore 3-4 times a day. Speed up healing and feel instant cooling pain relief!

8. Eucalyptus Oil for Diabetes

There’s not enough research at this point to show how eucalyptus oil works in reducing blood sugar but a 2010 study conducted on rats suggests that the “treatment of diabetic rats with eucalyptus for four weeks compensated the diabetic state and significantly reduced blood glucose levels.”
It’s still not absolutely clear how eucalyptus oil works but since it might potentially decrease blood sugar you need to confer with your doctor and monitor your blood sugar levels closely if you are using eucalyptus oil along with your diabetes medication.

Studies show that eucalyptus oil is a vasodilator, meaning it helps to relax blood vessels and improve circulation. Since diabetics suffer from lack of good blood circulation, massaging eucalyptus oil or inhaling the vapors can reduce blood vessels from constricting and thereby help improve blood circulation.

9. Eucalyptus Oil for Reducing Fever

Eucalyptus oil is effective in reducing the body’s temperature during a fever due to its anti-inflammatory properties and its properties as a vasodilator, meaning it helps to expand blood vessels improving overall blood circulation, which is helpful when the body is trying to fight a fever. In fact, eucalyptus essential oil is also called “fever oil” for its fever-reducing properties.

How to treat and reduce fever with eucalyptus essential oil:
1. Body compress: Blend 10 drops of eucalyptus oil with 2 cups of tepid water. Soak washcloths and wrap the wet cloths around arms and legs and cover the areas with a dry towel.

2. Fever rub: Combine 3-5 drops of eucalyptus oil with one teaspoon carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond oil and rub into the temples, back of neck and bottoms of feet. Repeat every 15-20 minutes until the temperature goes down.
Note: For children it is best to modify the blend to a ratio of 1 drop of eucalyptus oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil and apply the blend only to the bottom of the feet.

3. Forehead compress: Mix 1 drop of eucalyptus oil and 3 drops of lavender oil in 1 cup of chilled water. Soak a small towel or washcloth and apply it on the forehead. Eucalyptus helps to break the fever and lavender assists calming and relaxation.

Please note: If a fever goes over 103 degrees, please consult a doctor and seek medical attention.

10. Eucalyptus Oil for Bad Breath

Along with the active ingredient Eucalyptol, research shows that, “eucalyptus oil is rich in cineole, an antiseptic that kills the bacteria that can cause bad breath.” For this reason you’ll find eucalyptus essential oil to be an active ingredient in some store bought mouthwashes and toothpastes.

Since eucalyptus fights bacteria, it can also potentially help avert plaque build-up and gingivitis.

Another study suggested that, “eucalyptus-infused gum reduced halitosis,” or bad breath, but the best way to probably use it to maximize its positive effect would be through a mouthwash or brushing.
How to beat bad breath with eucalyptus essential oil:

1. Add to toothbrush: Simply add a drop of eucalyptus essential oil onto your toothbrush before brushing.

A study published in the Journal of Dental Research stated that, “eucalyptol typically acts as an antiseptic only when mixed with other extracts, like menthol.”

2. Add to mouthwash: Add 1 drop of Eucalyptus oil and 1 drop of peppermint oil (with active ingredient menthol) into your daily mouthwash and experience instant fresh breath!

11. Eucalyptus Oil for Joint Pain and Arthritis

Eucalyptus oil is both an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic so it helps to soothe both the inflammation and pain that is associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and even muscle injury.

In fact a 2013 study conducted to investigate the “effects of eucalyptus oil inhalation on pain and inflammatory responses after total knee replacement” suggested that, “inhalation of eucalyptus oil was effective in decreasing patient’s pain and blood pressure following TKR.” So if you have knee pain, eucalyptus oil can help you find effective relief.

Many popular over-the-counter ointments for joint pain actually contain eucalyptus essential oil as an active ingredient.

How to use eucalyptus oil for joint pain and arthritis:

The cooling sensation of eucalyptus oil combined with peppermint oil (another analgesic) helps alleviate discomfort and offers effective pain relief. When you feel stiffness and pain rub the following blend into your joints:
8-10 drops eucalyptus oil
8-10 drops peppermint oil
3-5 teaspoons carrier oil, such as olive oil or moringa oil (Moringa oil is recommended as a study showed that it is a potent anti-inflammatory, making it an excellent carrier oil for relieving painful, arthritic joints).
Combine all of the above and store away from direct sunlight (preferably in a dark, glass bottle). Rub into aching joints and feel instant, cooling pain relief.

12. Eucalyptus Oil for Muscle Pain

Have sore muscles or suffered a muscle injury? Eucalyptus oil can help. Similar to the pain-relieving effects the oil has on joint pain, the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of the oil are also especially helpful when it comes to soothing tired, aching muscles.

Also since eucalyptus oil is a natural vasodilator, it helps to widen blood vessels and improve blood circulation encouraging a free flow of blood to the muscles.

How to use eucalyptus oil for muscle pain:

1. Massage Oil: Combine 5-7 drops of eucalyptus oil to 1-2 teaspoons of a carrier oil, such as jojoba, olive, or moringa oil (known to have strong anti-inflammatory properties) and massage into the muscles.

2. Hot Bath: Add 20-30 drops of eucalyptus oil to a hot bath. The hot water promotes muscle relaxation and the eucalyptus oil gives a tingling, cooling effect and helps to loosen stiff, aching muscles.

3. Spray: In a small spray bottle of water add 15-20 drops of eucalyptus oil. Spray and rub into sore muscles until the cooling feeling turns into a nice warm sensation. This is also a great way to warm muscles and prepare them prior to an exercise session.

13. Eucalyptus Oil for Sinus

There’s nothing like the clogged-head congested feeling of a sinus infection – you can’t breathe, possible can’t taste food, and your head feels like it’s about to explode. Essential oils like eucalyptus are excellent for reducing inflammation of the mucous membranes, thinning mucous in the sinus cavities and opening up the airways to help you find relief from blocked sinuses.

A 2004 study showed how eucalyptus oil improved symptoms in patients experiencing non-bacterial sinusitis. Eucalyptus oil has antifungal, antiviral and antimicrobial properties and is proven to be effective against, “colds, influenza, other respiratory infections, rhinitis, and sinusitis,” according to this 2010 study.

How to use eucalyptus oil for sinus congestion:

1. Breathe directly: Put 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil onto a handkerchief and breathe in for an instant feel good sensation

2. Steam Inhalation: Add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil and 5 drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of boiling water. Place a large towel over your head (to keep the steam in) and breathe in the strong vapors for 10 minutes or until the steam dies down. The hot steam and medicinal properties of both oils help to liquefy mucus and drain the airways. Blow your nose ever so often to drain the nasal passages and feel relief. Repeat every 3-4 hours.

3. Warm compress: Fill a bowl with 1-2 cups of hot tap water (never boiling water!) and add 1-2 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and swish around using a soft wash cloth. Wring it out completely. Lie down on your back and drape the washcloth over your nose and mouth (be careful not to get it in your eyes). Inhale deeply. The moisture from the water helps to get the mucous flowing and relieve congestion.

14. Eucalyptus Oil for Asthma

Do you or a loved one suffer from asthma? Shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing and difficulty breathing are all the tell-tale signs that asthma sufferers can identify with. The condition affects millions of people world-over and doctors usually prescribe inhalers with beta agonists and anticholinergics to effectively treat the condition.

So how can eucalyptus essential oil help soothe asthma symptoms? Since asthma causes inflammation in the airway walls (the airways thin, tighten and more mucus is produced), eucalyptus essential oil helps to widen the blood vessels, so that more oxygen can get into the lungs. The oil is also a natural anti-inflammatory, helping to thin and loosen mucous so it can be coughed up more easily, facilitating easier breathing and much needed relief. Another study suggested that 1,8 cineole, the active ingredient in Eucalyptus oil, promotes anti-inflammatory activity when treating bronchial asthma.

How to use eucalyptus oil for asthma:

1. Chest Rub: Blend 2-3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil with 1 teaspoon carrier oil, such as olive oil or jojoba oil and massage onto the chest. The strong aroma and soothing sensation will help open up the blood vessels and let more oxygen into the lungs for easier breathing.

2. Steam Inhalation: Add 5 drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head and breathe in the steam. The eucalyptus-infused steam helps to dilate blood vessels in the airways, loosen mucus and relax spasms in the lungs.

Word of Caution: Although eucalyptus oil’s medicinal properties can be quite effective, it may not be a good fit for every asthma patient and the aroma of the potent oil might even trigger an asthma attack with those who are extremely sensitive to smells. Asthma is an incurable ailment and is dangerous if left untreated. It is best to consult with your doctor before you start to use eucalyptus oil for relieving asthma symptoms.

15. Eucalyptus Oil for Building Immunity

There’s no doubt that diet, sleep and an overall health-conscious lifestyle are primary factors for a healthy immune system, however a 2008 study suggested that eucalyptus oil can be very effective in boosting the immune system by stimulating immune response on the cellular level.
Another study indicated that eucalyptus essential oil promotes phagocytic activity (stimulates white blood cells to ingest foreign particles), which helps in improving immunity. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of eucalyptus oil are well-known for treating the symptoms of many respiratory conditions such as cold, cough, sinusitis, influenza, bronchitis and more.

How to use eucalyptus oil for boosting immunity:

1) Diffuse: When flu season is around the corner or someone in the house is under the weather, prepare yourself by diffusing a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your diffuser and letting the healing vapors waft through the entire house benefiting everyone.

2) Steam Inhalation: If you feel a cold coming on, inhaling a warm steam by combining some hot water and a few drops of eucalyptus oil with a towel over your head, can help control congestion and stop a cold from turning into a full-blown infection.

3) Hand Sanitizer: One of the best ways to avoid getting a bug is to wash your hands. For a chemical-free hand sanitizer that you can keep in your purse, fill a small mist-spray bottle with distilled water and 10 drops of eucalyptus oil, 5-7 drops of lavender essential oil and 5-7 drops of tea tree essential oil. Shake gently and spray!

16. Eucalyptus Oil for Skin

Eucalyptus essential oil has many innate properties that make it an excellent choice for treating many skin conditions. It is a natural antiseptic with antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties making it highly effective in treating wounds, minor cuts, acne, boils, insect bites, skin infections and more.

1,8 cineole, one of the active ingredients in eucalyptus oil, is known for its anti-bacterial properties. Research published by the University of Maryland listed the many benefits of eucalyptus oil and included the benefits it had on the skin by stating, “on the skin, eucalyptus oil has been used to treat arthritis, boils, sores, and wounds.”

How to use eucalyptus oil for skin:

1. Natural sunscreen: Eucalyptus oil has a natural SPF 3, and when combined with olive oil with SPF 8 it can make a natural moisturizing sunscreen.

2. Chemical-free moisturizer: Mix 3-5 drops of eucalyptus oil with 1 tablespoon jojoba oil olive oil or sweet almond oil and massage into the skin. This helps to rejuvenate and soften the skin. Great if you have dry, itchy skin!

How to use eucalyptus oil for treating wounds:

Antiseptic cleaner: For minor cuts, wounds and boils mix 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with 5-7 drops of eucalyptus oil and dab with a clean cotton ball.

17. Eucalyptus Oil for Skin Fungus

Have an annoying itch that refuses to go away? You might have a fungal infection. Spread by spores, fungal infections can be contagious and some of the most notorious ones include ringworm, jock itch, athlete’s foot, onychomycosis (destruction of fingernails and toes), thrush and more.

Eucalyptus oil is a natural anti-fungal and studies including a 2015 study indicate that when used topically for treating fungal infected toenails and superficial onychomycosis, it may “provide an acceptable and cheaper alternative to prescription topical antifungal agents.”

How to use eucalyptus oil for fungal infections:

1. Cool Compress: Fill a bowl with 1 cup of cold water and add 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and 3 drops of tea tree essential oil (another natural fungicidal) and swish around using a soft wash cloth. Wring it out and apply it to the affected area. For more effective relief soak a gauze in the solution, squeeze out the extra liquid and wrap it around the area lightly. Leave overnight.

2. Athlete’s foot wash: Soak the affected foot for 15-20 minutes in a solution of warm water combined with 1/2 a cup of Epsom salts and 1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil. Do this twice a day for best results.

3. Nail infections: Combine 2-3 drops eucalyptus oil with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Dab and soak a cotton ball in the blend and apply it on the infected nails, really rubbing it in. Repeat 2-3 times a day.

18. Eucalyptus Oil for Acne

Eucalyptus oil helps in destroying bacteria clogging the pores and preventing it from spreading, making it an excellent natural treatment for acne. As an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory the oil not only helps to kill bacteria, but also to dry the blemished area and provide healing relief to irritated skin.

How to use eucalyptus oil for acne:

1. Acne blemishes: Mix 1 drop eucalyptus essential oil with 3 drops of water. Soak a cotton swab in the blend and apply liberally to pimples and oily areas of the face. Make sure the solution does not get in the eyes, mouth or nose. Leave overnight for optimum results.

2. Use under makeup: Add 2-3 drops of the oil in your daily face moisturizer.

3. Acne boils and cysts: Combine 1 drop eucalyptus oil with 3 drops of apple cider vinegar. Dab a cotton swab in the blend and apply on the affected area. The solution dries out the blemishes and helps the infection clear. Leave overnight for best results.

19. Eucalyptus Oil for Cleaning and Deodorizing

Eucalyptus oil is a natural anti-bacterial making it a powerful germ cleaner and a terrific grease buster. Being an anti-fungal, it’s also excellent as a deodorizer. It works wonders for general household cleaning and disinfecting, diminishing musty smells, cleaning the bathroom, shower, kitchen counters, floor and more.

How to use eucalyptus oil for cleaning:

1. Antibacterial Cleaning Spray: For a natural home-made disinfectant mix 1 1/2 cups water with 1/2 cup of vinegar, and 20-25 drops of eucalyptus oil. Fill in a spray bottle (16oz. works great) and use for general cleaning of kitchen and bathroom sinks and countertops, spraying and mopping floors and as a natural air freshener.

2. Chemical-Free Grease Remover: Add two teaspoons of eucalyptus essential oil and 1 tsp of dish washing liquid to a 16oz. spray bottle filled with water. Shake gently and spray onto greasy, grimy kitchen countertops, spray and clean the microwave oven, or scrub and shine the kitchen sink.

3. Natural Mold-killer: To prevent mold build up in the shower, mix 5-7 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and tea tree essential oil (another natural fungicidal) in a spray bottle filled with 2 cups of water (16oz. bottle works well) and spray your shower with this solution after use. Also great for cleaning the fridge. Smells great as well!

4. Instant Deodorizer: Add 5-7 drops of eucalyptus oil to 2 cups of hot soapy water and use to deodorize things around the house like the garbage can and toilet bowl. Dabbing 1-2 drops on your hanging room or car air freshener will instantly help revitalize it. You can also add a dab of lime essential oil or grapefruit essential oil for a fresh citrus aroma.

5. Dust-mite Killer: The next time you wash your towels, blankets, pillows and bed linen add 1-2 teaspoons of eucalyptus oil to your washing machine before starting your washing cycle. Great for removing musty smells too and inhibiting moths and silverfish.

6. Stain Remover: To remove grease marks, spots and stains from clothing, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil straight to the soiled area and leave for 3-5 minutes. Wash normally.

7. Adhesive Eliminator: Apply eucalyptus oil directly on glass to remove sticker and decal residue left behind from sticky adhesives. Leave for 30 seconds and scrub off.

20. Eucalyptus Oil for Stress

Eucalyptus oil is an excellent pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired and exhausted. It’s potent aroma is great for stimulating both the mind and the body.

How to use eucalyptus essential oil for stress:

1. Diffuse: Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil and a few drops of peppermint oil to your diffuser and let the clarifying, minty aroma waft through the air and refresh your senses.

2. Inhale Directly: For those situations where you need an instant pick-me-up (like that lazy afternoon at work where you just can’t keep your eyes open), take a deep breath directly from the bottle for instant eye-opening refreshment.

3. Apply topically: Rub a few drops directly on your wrists, under the feet and into your temples and let the cooling effect invigorate your mind.

Side Effects and Warnings

Essential oils are natural but powerful. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to any oil so it’s always best to try a little by doing a small skin patch test on your arm or leg (never your face or neck) to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction.

If you’re pregnant or nursing, or on any kind of medication please check with your doctor before using essential oils.

What to Look for When Buying Essential Oils?

When buying essential oils make sure the bottle says 100% pure essential oil, and has the proper name of the species mentioned on the label of the bottle. Example for Eucalyptus: (Eucalyptus Globulus). If you see the word ‘fragrance’ it almost always means there are other additives.

Ideally it’s always best to buy essential oils from an organic source that are labeled as “Therapeutic grade,” meaning they are free of toxins and chemicals and are unfiltered and undiluted.

Also beware of genetically modified ingredients and choose Non GMO essential oils.

Last Words

Any natural therapy that can help calm the mind and nerves can help to relieve stress and anxiety. There is no fixed recipe when it comes to essential oils and what might work for you might not work for someone else. Since we are all biochemically exclusive, it’s best to experiment with a variety of essential oils, pay attention to your body, and find the “personal blends” that work most optimally for you.

Back to you! What’s your experience with using eucalyptus essential oil? What are your favorite blends? We’d love to hear what you have to say!

Eucalyptus is a popular ingredient used in ancient systems of medicine all over the world, especially in China, India, Greece and Europe. Leaves of the evergreen eucalyptus tree that is native to Australia are used to treat several conditions due its antioxidant and antiseptic properties.

According to Medical News Today, there are over 400 eucalyptus tree species. But the leaves botanically classified as Eucalyptus Globulus is the source of the well-known and commonly consumed eucalyptus oil.

The leaves are good for overall health since they contain flavonoids, the largest group of phytonutrients that is filled with antioxidants. They also contain tannins, which is known for antimicrobial activities. Some of the major health benefits highlighted by Healthline are as follows:


The best way to derive the benefits of eucalyptus leaves, not in oil form, is by making use of one dry leaf to prepare tea. The leaves rich in flavonoids have antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress and free radical damage from accumulating in the body.

The flavonoid compounds found in the leaves are quercetin, phloretin, catechins, luteolin and kaempferol. All of which prevent cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Relieves Cold Symptoms

Eucalyptus is used as an ingredient in medicine to treat the common cold, such as inhalants and cough lozenges. An herbal remedy used to relieve throat congestion, bronchitis and sinusitis is made from the addition of fresh leaves in a gargling mixture.

Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled to decongest the throat and ease congestion. Leaf extracts have been proven to play a role in helping relieve infected respiratory tracts.

Keeps Teeth Clean

Due to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, the leaves are useful ingredients in mouthwash as well as dental procedures. It can also help fight tooth decay and periodontitis.

Treats Dry Skin

“Ceramides are the body’s natural moisturizer that prevents the skin’s dehydration,” said Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist based in Kansas City. Using topical eucalyptus leaf extracts can boost the skin’s ability to produce ceramide, since it contains a compound called macrocarpal A, which is needed to stimulate ceramide production.

The reason many hair and skin care products have eucalyptus leaf extracts is because it can reduce dryness, itchiness and scaliness.

Relieves Chronic Pain

The extract of the leaves is used to relieve muscle and joint pain as a result of sprains or stress. However, the research on this is mixed and not conclusive. Many studies said that eucalyptus leaf extracts could possibly be beneficial for pain relief, though not always.

Eucalyptus oil dissolved in almond oil was given to patients who had undergone knee replacement surgery in one study. It decreased their perceived levels of pain and blood pressure within half an hour.

© Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The sharp aroma of its trees or perhaps the common household item VapoRub are probably images that first come to mind when someone mentions eucalyptus. The common belief that eucalyptus oil is an effective decongestant is true, but it can also be dangerous. Read on to learn the benefits, dangers, and how to use it for the best results.

What is Eucalyptus Oil?

Derived from Eucalyptus Globulus, eucalyptus essential oil is a liquid rich in 1,8-cineol (eucalyptol) and other beneficial components .

At diluted concentrations, the oil is effective against infections. It can kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It also has antioxidant and muscle-relaxing effects .

People use eucalyptus oil to reduce symptoms of colds, the flu, and other respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) .

Different species of eucalyptus differ widely regarding chemical composition, but all contain a high concentration of 1,8-cineol .

Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled, ingested, and put on the skin topically in highly diluted forms. Do not use a pure/undiluted solution on your skin or ingest it .



  • Long history of traditional use
  • Relieves nasal and chest congestion
  • May reduce pain
  • Has a relaxing effect


  • Toxic in pure form and higher doses
  • Clinical research is limited
  • Can irritate the skin

Components and Mechanisms

Eucalyptus oil’s primary constituents are 1,8-cineole and α-pinene.

1,8-cineol is responsible for the thinning of mucus in the respiratory tract and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects .

Αlpha-pinene is what gives eucalyptus oil its antimicrobial properties against bacteria and viruses .

They both inhibit the growth of both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria .

Health Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil

1) Nasal and Chest Congestion

Inhaling eucalyptus oil vapors can help relieve uncontrollable coughing, as the vapors provide a calming and soothing effect .

According to pre-clinical trials, eucalyptus oil loosens mucus buildup, which reduces the possibility of extreme allergy attacks. This is accomplished by reducing cytokine levels in the bloodstream and consequently producing less mucus buildup in the sinuses .

Traditionally, eucalyptus oil inhalation has been used to relieve nasal congestion caused by asthma, respiratory infections, colds, and other conditions .


In 242 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), oral intake of eucalyptus oil helped prevent the sudden worsening of symptoms involving shortness of breath and mucus production .


In two trials of over 500 subjects, a combination of diluted pine, lime, and eucalyptus oil extracts by oral intake helped to reduce frequent bronchitis flare-ups .


Eucalyptol (cineol), a constituent of eucalyptus oil, significantly reduced the use of oral steroids in 32 patients with severe asthma .

2) Pain

Eucalyptus oil is an efficient rubefacient, which means it mildly irritates the skin to reduce joint or muscle pain .

Rubbing a few drops of diluted eucalyptus oil at the temples region or forehead region can provide pain relief. The same effects can also be felt by inhaling the oil’s vapors, known as aromatherapy .

Along with other essential oils, it helped reduce nerve pain by combining aromatherapy and massage in 46 diabetic patients .

In a study of 52 knee replacement patients, inhaling eucalyptus oil after total knee replacement surgery significantly reduced pain and blood pressure, allowing for faster recovery .

Insufficient Evidence:

No valid clinical evidence supports the use of eucalyptus oil for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.

3) Relaxation

Inhaling eucalyptus oil can help increase concentration and also provide a calming, soothing effect.

In a study of 32 participants, a combination of diluted ethanol, eucalyptus oil, and peppermint oil rubbed near the temples and forehead area can help induce a muscle and mentally relaxing effect. The participants also had an increase in brain function .

Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of eucalyptus oil for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based studies; they should guide further investigational efforts but should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.


In animal and cell-based experiments, eucalyptus oil increased monocyte-derived macrophages in the blood, thus increasing immunity and faster recovery from infections. Macrophages are white blood cells that work by engulfing harmful organisms .

Microbial Infections

Eucalyptus oil combined with thermal treatment effectively prevented food spoilage caused by yeast and bacteria. This is because of the oil’s bactericidal (killing the bacteria) and bacteriostatic (prevention of bacterial reproduction) properties .

Eucalyptus oil can help inhibit germination and spore production of fungi, and thus has antifungal properties .

Side Effects & Precautions

This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Eucalyptus oil is likely safe in the amounts present in foods and possibly safe when used in appropriate doses, orally or topically. However, severe adverse effects may occur if one overdoses or has an allergic reaction to the substance.

Possible side effects include :

  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Burning throat
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness and/or disorientation
  • Itchy hives
  • Swelling of face, hands, mouth, or throat
  • Tingling mouth or throat
  • Chest tightening
  • Breathing trouble


For children under 2 years, eucalyptus ointments/salves or oil are not advised.

Do not give cough drops containing eucalyptus oil to children under 6 years of age.

Eucalyptus oil can slow down how fast the liver breaks down medications, so be cautious and consult physicians regarding specific drug interactions .


Consuming more than 1.7 mL of oil in a dose can cause severe neurological adverse effects, so make sure to not consume this oil in high amounts. Intake of 3.5 mL or more can be fatal .

Overdosing on this oil can lead to harmful effects on brain function, such as slurred speech. If you are directly handling this oil (in a diluted form), just 2-5 drops will suffice .

Never ingest eucalyptus oil orally in an undiluted form, and never rub an undiluted form of eucalyptus oil on the body.



The below doses may not apply to you personally. If your doctor suggests using eucalyptus oil, work with them to find the optimal dosage according to your health condition and other factors.

The main warning associated with eucalyptus oil is to not take high doses. This oil is meant to be taken in a diluted form. If you are buying a product that contains this oil, do not exceedingly use the product. Follow the dosage recommendations. Remember, more is not better.

Never ingest eucalyptus oil orally in an undiluted form, and never rub an undiluted form of eucalyptus oil on the body. Instead, ensure that the oil has been diluted in another carrier, such as olive oil. A suggestion is 3:50 (mL) ratio in liquid form or 5-20% concentration in a salve/ointment form .

For inhalation or physical application of the diluted oil, stick to just 2 to 5 drops. Do not overuse .

Methods of Inhalation

Method One:

  1. Obtain a cup heater and a large mug.
  2. Heat them up for 8 minutes.
  3. Add 2 to 4 drops of diluted oil to the warmed mug.
  4. Take off glasses, if any, and close eyes.
  5. Inhale through mouth and nose for 3-5 minutes.

Method Two:

  1. Take a loosely woven fabric, a small wooden skewer, and a glass vial.
  2. Stuff the fabric into the vial in a cylinder shape and use a skewer to balance it.
  3. Drop the oil so that the cloth can absorb without becoming saturated.
  4. Hold vial close to lips or nostrils.
  5. Inhale for 3-5 minutes.

User Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely from the users who may or may not have a medical background. SelfDecode does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment. Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on SelfDecode.

Users have used eucalyptus oil in aromatic diffusers for a refreshing ambient atmosphere in the house and helped reduce cold symptoms. Many consider it a better version of Vicks and find 5 drops or under to be an effective dosage to treat coughs and allergies.

For some, the smell is too overpowering or bitter, so it is advisable to buy a quality aroma diffuser.


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(Eucalyptus globulus Labill.)
Click on graphic for larger image

Botanical: Eucalyptus globulus (LABILLE.)
Family: N.O. Myrtaceae

  • Description
  • Constituents
  • Medicinal Action and Uses
  • Preparations
  • Other Species
  • Ointments

—Synonyms—Blue Gum Tree. Stringy Bark Tree.
—Part Used—The oil of the leaves.
—Habitat—Australia. Now North and South Africa, India, and Southern Europe.

The tree is indigenous with a few exceptions to Australia and Tasmania. The genus contains about 300 species and is one of the most characteristic genera of the Australian flora.

—Description—The leaves are leathery in texture, hang obliquely or vertically, and are studded with glands containing a fragrant volatile oil. The flowers in bud are covered with a cup-like membrane (whence the name of the genus, derived from the Greek eucalyptos well-covered), which is thrown off as a lid when the flower expands. The fruit is surrounded by a woody, cupshaped receptacle and contains numerous minute seeds.

Eucalyptus trees are quick growers and many species reach a great height. Eucalyptus amygdalin (Labille ) is the tallest known tree, specimens attaining as much as 480 feet, exceeding in height even the Californian Big Tree (Sequoia gigantea). Many species yield valuable timber, others oils, kino, etc.

There are a great number of species of Eucalyptus trees yielding essential oils, the foliage of some being more odorous than that of others, and the oils from the various species differing widely in character. It necessarily follows that the term Eucalyptus oil is meaningless from a scientific point of view unless the species from which it is derived is stated.

The Eucalyptus industry is becoming of economic importance to Australia, especially in New South Wales and Victoria. Many of the old species which give the oil of commerce have given way to other species which have been found to gave larger yields or better oils. About twenty-five species are at the present time being utilized for their oil.

The oils may be roughly divided into three classes of commercial importance: (1) the medicinal oils, which contain substantial amounts of eucalyptol (also known as cineol); (2) the industrial oils, containing terpenes, which are used for flotation purposes in mining operations; (3) the aromatic oils, such as E. citriodora, which are characterized by their aroma.

The British Pharmacopoeia describes Eucalyptus Oil as the oil distilled from the fresh leaves of E. globulus and other species.

E. globulus, the best-known variety (its name bestowed, it is said, by the French botanist De Labillardière, on account of the resemblance of its waxy fruit to a kind of button at that time worn in France), is the Blue Gum Tree of Victoria and Tasmania, where it attains a height of 375 feet, ranking as one of the largest trees in the world. It is also called the Fever Tree, being largely cultivated in unhealthy, low-lying or swampy districts for its antiseptic qualities.

The first leaves are broad, without stalks, of a shining whitish-green and are opposite and horizontal, but after four or five years these are succeeded by others of a more ensiform or sword-shaped form, 6 to 12 inches long, bluish-green in hue, which are alternate and vertical, i.e. with the edges turned towards the sky and earth, an arrangement more suited to the climate and productive of peculiar effects of light and shade. The flowers are single or in clusters, almost stalkless.

The Eucalyptus, especially E. globulus, has been successfully introduced into the south of Europe, Algeria, Egypt, Tahiti, South Africa and India, and has been extensively planted in California and also, with the object of lessening liability to droughts, along the line of the Central Pacific Railway.

It thrives in any situation, having a mean annual temperature not below 60 degrees F., but will not endure a temperature of less than 27 degrees F., and although many species of Eucalyptus will flourish out-of-doors in the south of England, they are generally grown, in this country, in pots as greenhouse plants.

It was Baron Ferdinand von Müller, the German botanist and explorer (from 1857 to 1873 Director of the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne), who made the qualities of this Eucalyptus known all over the world, and so led to its introduction into Europe, North and South Africa, California and the non-tropical districts of South America. He was the first to suggest that the perfume of the leaves resembling that of Cajaput oil, might be of use as a disinfectant in fever districts, a suggestion which has been justified by the results of the careful examination to which the Eucalyptus has been subjected since its employment in medicine. Some seeds, having been sent to France in 1857, were planted in Algiers and thrived exceedingly well. Trottoir, the botanical superintendent, found that the value of the fragrant antiseptic exhalations of the leaves in fever or marshy districts was far exceeded by the amazingly powerful drying action of the roots on the soil. Five years after planting the Eucalyptus, one of the most marshy and unhealthy districts of Algiers was converted into one of the healthiest and driest. As a result, the rapidly growing Eucalyptus trees are now largely cultivated in many temperate regions with the view of preventing malarial fevers. A noteworthy instance of this is the monastery of St. Paolo à la tre Fontana, situated in one of the most fever-stricken districts of the Roman Campagna. Since about 1870, when the tree was planted in its cloisters, it has become habitable throughout the year. To the remarkable drainage afforded by its roots is also ascribed the gradual disappearance of mosquitoes in the neighbourhood of plantations of this tree, as at Lake Fezara in Algeria.

In Sicily, also, it is being extensively planted to combat malaria, on account of its property of absorbing large quantities of water from the soil. Recent investigations have shown that Sicilian Eucalyptus oil obtained from leaves during the flowering period can compete favourably with the Australian oil in regard to its industrial and therapeutic applications. Oil has also been distilled in Spain from the leaves of E. globulus, grown there.

In India, considerable plantations of E. globulus were made in 1863 in the Nilgiris at Ootacamund, but though a certain amount of oil is distilled there locally, under simple conditions, little attempt has hitherto been made to develop the industry on a commercial scale, Australia remaining the source of supply.

A great increase in Euealyptus cultivation has recently taken place in Brazil as a result of a decree published in 1919 awarding premiums and free grants of land to planters of Eucalyptus and other trees of recognized value for essence cultivation.

—Constituents—The essential Oil of Eucalyptus used in medicine is obtained by aqueous distillation of the fresh leaves. It is a colourless or straw-coloured fluid when properly prepared, with a characteristic odour and taste, soluble in its own weight of alcohol. The most important constituent is Eucalyptol, present in E. globulus up to 70 per cent of its volume. It consists chiefly of a terpene and a cymene. Eucalyptus Oil contains also, after exposure to the air, a crystallizable resin, derived from Eucalyptol.

The British Pharmacopoeia requires Eucalyptus Oil to contain not less than 55 per cent, by volume, of Eucalyptol, to have a specific gravity 0.910 to 0.930 and optical rotation -10 degrees to 10 degrees. The official method for the determination of the Eucalptol depends on the conversion of this body into a crystalline phosphate, but numerous other methods have been suggested (see Parry, Essential Oils,

A small amount of medicinal oil is still distilled from E. globulus, but Its odour is less agreeable than those of many others. Today, E. polybractea (Silver Malee Scrub which is cultivated and the oil distilled near Bendigo in Victoria), containing 85 per cent of Eucalyptol, and E. Smithii (Gully Ash) are favourites for distillation. Among others frequently employed, E. Australiana yields a valuable medicinal oil and also E. Bakeri, a large shrub or pendulous willow-like tree, about 30 to 50 feet high, with very narrow leaves, found from northern New South Wales to central Queensland, known locally as the ‘Malee Box.’ The oil from this species is of a bright reddish-yellow and contains 70 to 77 per cent of Eucalyptol and other aromatic substances identical with those found in E. polybractea.

The oil used for flotation purposes in the extraction of ores is known as that of E. amygdalina, and is probably derived from this tree as well as from E. dives. It is an oil containing little Eucalyptol and having a specific gravity from 0.866 to 0.885, and an optical rotation -59 to -75 degrees, its chief constituent is phellandrene, which forms a crystalline nitrate and is very irritating when inhaled. There is a considerable demand in New South Wales for the cheap phellandrene Eucalyptus oils for use in the mining industry in the separation of metallic sulphides from ores.

Of the perfume-bearing oils, that of E. citriodora, the CITRON-SCENTED GUM, whose leaves emit a delightful lemon scent, contains up to 98 per cent of citronellol and is much used in perfumery, fetching four times as much as the medicinal oils. E. Macarthurii (‘Paddy River Box’) contains up to 75 per cent of geranyl acetate, and as a source of geraniol this tree would probably repay cultivation: it is now receiving special attention in Australia, as it is a very rapid grower. E. odorata yields also an odorous oil used by soapmakers in Australia. E. Staigeriana, the Lemon-scented Iron Bark, has also a very pleasing scent, and the fragrance of the leaves of E. Sturtiana is similar to that of ripe apples.

There are a number of Eucalypts which contain a ketone known as piperitone, such as E. piperita. This body can be used in the synthesis of menthol, but it remains to be seen whether the process can be made a commercial success. E. dives (Peppermint Gum) and E. radiata (White Top Peppermint) yield oils with a strong peppermint flavour.

Details of an enormous number of the oils of Eucalyptus can be found in A Research on the Eucalypts, by Baker and Smith.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—Stimulant, antiseptic, aromatic.

The medicinal Eucalyptus Oil is probably the most powerful antiseptic of its class, especially when it is old, as ozone is formed in it on exposure to the air. It has decided disinfectant action, destroying the lower forms of life. Internally, it has the typical actions of a volatile oil in a marked degree.

Eucalyptus Oil is used as a stimulant and antiseptic gargle. Locally applied, it impairs sensibility. It increases cardiac action.

Its antiseptic properties confer some antimalarial action, though it cannot take the place of Cinchona.

An emulsion made by shaking up equal parts of the oil and powdered gum-arabic with water has been used as a urethral injection, and has also been given internally in drachm doses in pulmonary tuberculosis and other microbic diseases of the lungs and bronchitis.

In croup and spasmodic throat troubles, the oil may be freely applied externally.

The oil is an ingredient of ‘catheder oil,’ used for sterilizing and lubricating urethral catheters.

In large doses, it acts as an irritant to the kidneys, by which it is largely excreted, and as a marked nervous depressant ultimately arresting respiration by its action on the medullary centre.

For some years Eucalyptus-chloroform was employed as one of the remedies in the tropics for hookworm, but it has now been almost universally abandoned as an inefficient anthelmintic, Chenopodium Oil having become the recognized remedy.

In veterinary practice, Eucalyptus Oil is administered to horses in influenza, to dogs in distemper, to all animals in septicaemia. It is also used for parasitic skin affections.

—Preparations—The dose of the oil is 1/2 to 3 minims. Eucalyptol may be given in similar doses and is preferable for purposes of inhalation, for asthma, diphtheria, sore throat, etc.

As a local application for ulcers and sores, 1 OZ. of the oil is added to 1 pint of lukewarm water. For local injections, 1/2 OZ. to the pint is taken.

The Fluid Extract is used internally, the dose 1/2 to 1 drachm, in scarlet fever, typhoid and intermittent fever.

Eucalyptol, U.S.P.: dose, 5 drops. Ointment, B.P.

—Other Species—
E. nostrata and some other species ofEucalyptus yield Eucalyptus or Red Gum, a ruby-coloured exudation from the bark (to be distinguished from Botany Bay Kino).

Red Gum is a very powerful astringent and is given internally in doses of 2 to 5 grains in cases of diarrhoea and pharyngeal inflammations. It is prepared in the form of tinctures, syrups, lozenges, etc.

Red Gum is official in Great Britain, being imported from Australia, though the Kino generally employed here as the official drug is derived from Pterocarpus Marsupium, a member of the order Leguminosae, East Indian, or Malabar Kino, and is administered in doses of 5 to 20 grains powdered, or 1/2 to 1 drachm of the tincture.

In veterinary practice, Red Gum is occasionally prescribed for diarrhoea in dogs and is used for superficial wounds.

E. globulus, E. resinifera and other species yield what is known as Botany Bay Kino, an astringent, dark-reddish, amorphous resin, which is obtained in a semi-fluid state by making incisions in the trunk of the tree and is used for similar purposes

J. H. Maiden (Useful Native Plants of Australia, 1889) enumerates more than thirty species as Kino-yielding.

From the leaves and young bark of E. mannifera, E. viminalis, E. Gunnii, var. rubida, E. pulverulenta, etc., a hard, opaque sweet substance is procured, containing melitose. The Lerp Manna of Australia is, however, of animal origin. See KINOS.

A good ointment for the skin, containing antiseptic and healing properties. It produces very satisfactory results in scurf, chapped hands, chafes, dandruff, tender feet, enlargements of the glands, spots on the chest, arms, back and legs, pains in the joints and muscles.

Apply a piece of clean cotton or lint to wounds after all dirt is washed away. For aches and pains rub the part affected well and then cover with lint. Repeat two or three times, taking a blood-purifying mixture at the same time.

Purchase from Richters Seeds
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) Seeds
Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) Seeds
Apple Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus bridgesiana) Seeds
Honey Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus melliodora) Seeds
Peppermint Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) Seeds
Silver Dollar Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus cinerea ‘Pendula’) Seeds
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) Plants
Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) Plants
Apple Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus bridgesiana) Plants
Honey Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus melliodora) Plants

Common Name Index

Bear in mind “A Modern Herbal” was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900’s. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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Scientific Name: Eucalyptus Globulus.

Common Names: Tasmanian blue gum, blue gum, eucalyptus tree, ironbark, bloodwood and gum tree.

Distribution and Habitat: Eucalyptus globulus is native to the state of Tasmania, Australia.

It prefers gentle, sloping coastal hills or protected valleys, good quality coastal soils and plenty of sun. It is adverse to lower temperatures, once established it is drought tolerant, and it can often regenerate after wildfires.

Eucalyptus globulus is one of the few medicinal plant species adopted by the European settlers in Australia. It has spread globally and is now cultivated in California, in Florida, and in many of the Mediterranean countries.

It has been planted in some African countries on the assumption that it can help to combat malaria outbreaks because of the trees ability to remove large amounts of water from the soil and to dry out moist areas where mosquitoes would usually inhabit. But as a result, some species of eucalyptus trees have become weed-like, like in South Africa.

Plant Description: The eucalyptus tree can grow up to 70 meters in height and has a trunk diameter of 2 meters. Much of the trunk is smooth as the bark sheds in strips.

The mature leaves are narrow and dark green, with blue-grey juvenile leaves, which is where the ‘blue gum’ name originates. Between September to December it flowers with single flowers, which are followed by woody fruits.

Plant Parts Used: It is the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree that contain the ingredients used for therapeutic purposes, such as the essential oil. It is usually collected from the dried leaves.

The oil is clear or pale yellow and is very strong smelling.

Eucalyptus Globulus Fruits

Therapeutic Uses, Properties and Benefits of Eucalyptus Globulus

The primary product from the Eucalyptus globulus is its essential oil, which has a diverse range of therapeutic uses. The oil contains eucalyptol (1,8-cineol).

It is also a valuable source of kinos, a plant gum produced by various plants and trees, widely used in medicine and tanning lotions.

The essential oil is a popular decongestant remedy for upper respiratory infections and inflammatory infections, such as bronchitis. In these instances, it is used as an inhalant, where it reaches the lungs and bronchioles to help soothe congestion and chest infections.

It is also used in this way for colds and influenza or externally as a chest rub. If taken internally as in a lozenge or as cough mixture it is in very diluted state and smaller dosages.

Eucalyptus globulus is also used as a rubefacient, a topical treatment that causes redness of the skin because the capillaries dilate and blood flow increases to the skin. It creates a warming, comforting sensation and in some cases a slight pain relief.

It is often used in an ointment, cream or gel as a topical treatment for muscle and joint pain and acne.

Eucalyptus Herb – Illustration

It has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and is used in cold sore creams, as a remedy for malaria, to help with fevers, and has been shown to complement antibiotics.

In a study looking at the combined effect of antibiotics, essential oils and extracts from Eucalyptus globulus, healing was improved by 55%, when compared to using the antibiotic alone.

Further studies were carried out on antibiotic-resistant bacteria where the essential oil was found to have an inhibitory effect on the bacteria. This suggests that the plant has beneficial bioactive compounds.

The eucalyptol found in the oil is responsible for many of the health benefits of the plant. It has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can be very helpful in the treatment of upper and lower airways diseases, such as asthma.

The plant contains tannins and phenolic compounds, ingredients used extensively in disinfectants.

It also contains terpenoids, which have been shown in some studies to have an anti-HIV effect. Research on its therapeutic value on HIV is dated and should be approached with caution.

Eucalyptus has been thought to have an anti-diabetic effect since the early 1900s; however modern studies have only studied this using animal models where it has been shown to lower plasma glucose levels, enhance insulin secretion, reduce blood glucose, inhibit intestinal fructose absorption and suppress adiposity.

While it has been demonstrated numerous times that it has a hypoglycemic effect, further studies need to be carried out with human subjects.

Preparation and Dosage

Used internally, the essential oil can be highly poisonous and even deadly given a large enough dose. There have been reports of fatalities when only 4-5 ml had been ingested, and 30 ml of the oil will most likely cause death.

Because the safe daily dose is so small, between 0.3 to 0.6grams, it is not advised to use eucalyptus oil in home-made preparations which are to be ingested, unless the measurement is very accurate.

Also, it is not safe to take eucalyptus oil over a long period, e.g., a year or more.

The daily dose of eucalyptus in infused tea, tincture or inhalant varies in the literature, from 2.5 grams to 4 to 6 grams for oral use.

The tea is to be mixed with hot water and left to steep for about 10 minutes.

A tincture is produced with 45% ethanol, and the safe daily dose is 5 to 20mls daily.

Eucalyptus Leaves

Safety and Side Effects

The essential oil from Eucalyptus globulus is usually safe when used externally, but it is highly toxic if taken internally in too larger dose.

It can cause nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, bronchospasm, convulsions, cyanosis, delirium, dizziness, epigastric burning, myosis, muscular weakness, respiratory problems, tachypnea with severe respiratory depression, and a feeling of suffocation.

Eucalyptus oil can interfere with hypoglycemic therapy and with type II diabetes treatment due to its glucose-lowering effect.

It can also interfere with the foreign substance degrading enzyme system in the liver, affecting the efficiency of other medicines.

It can affect the central nervous system, producing a loss of reflexes, loss of consciousness and may cause progression to a coma.

Eucalyptus oil should not be used when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Supporting References

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Thordur Sturluson

Thor Sturluson has a BS in Biology, majoring in Botany, from the University of Maine and a masters degree in Zoology from the Open University in London. He’s an experienced Biologist with a history of working in the environmental services industry. A trained scuba diver and researcher, Thor’s has a keen interest in nature conservation and animal/plant protection. His work and botany passion has made The Herbal Resource what it is.

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Many generations of children remember the strong, aromatic smell of eucalyptus. Our mothers were quick to bring out the family supply of whatever eucalyptus product was available at the time and liberally slather it on our chests when we were in the throes of a bad cold or had the croup or bronchitis.

While Mom may not have understood the chemical activity that helped us to breathe easier, the relief that eucalyptus provided was enough to continue the practice. Today, there are multiple brand-name products that contain eucalyptus oil for medicinal uses.


Australia is the world’s main producer of eucalyptus oil.1 Also called the “gum tree,” eucalyptus is an evergreen, and its leaves are broad, whitish-green, and waxy. It is the leaves of Eucalyptus globulus that are harvested for the distillation of its essential oil. The active ingredient of eucalyptus oil is 1.8-cineol, or eucalyptol.2


The actual mechanism of action in eucalyptus oil is still unclear. Generally, eucalyptus oil is thought to be anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. There is some evidence that it can be used as an antifungal agent.3

One study examined the effect of eucalyptus oil on human monocytes, specifically its ability to stimulate protective macrophage activity.4 The substance was also studied for its effect on the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Eucalyptus oil significantly induced macrophage activation and reduced the release of inflammatory cytokines.4

Steroid-dependent asthma patients were studied to determine the potential for steroid reduction when treated with an oral preparation of eucalyptus oil.5 After randomization, patients’ daily steroid doses were reduced by 2.5 mg every three weeks. At the end of 12 weeks, 36% of the patients on the active eucalyptus-oil therapy tolerated an average of 3.5 mg/day reduction in oral steroid use while only 7% of the placebo-treated patients were able to decrease their daily dose with an average reduction of 0.91 mg/day.

Eucalyptus oil has also been studied for its potential as an antimicrobial. A study of 56 respiratory isolates from 200 symptomatic patients showed definite antimicrobial activity with eucalyptus oil.6 Isolates included Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae. With the rise in antimicrobial resistance, a potential new method for treating these infections is welcome news.

A separate study examining the use of eucalyptus oil in asthmatic patients explored the extract’s effect on nitric oxide in respiratory cells.7 Previous studies have shown an increase in exhaled nitric oxide in cases of eosinophilic inflammation and other indices of asthma-related inflammation. If eucalyptus oil is found to mitigate inflammation in such patients, this could lead to significant nonsteroidal treatment options for asthma. This trial showed that the extract was highly effective at inhibiting the induction of nitric oxide and the concomitant pro-inflammatory effects, further suggesting that eucalyptus extract may be a clinically viable option for asthmatic patients.

E. globulus has also been tested to determine its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in rat models.8 Eucalyptus-oil extract induced analgesic effects in this animal cohort, and was designed to show both peripheral and central pain relief. Another arm of the same trial measured—and confirmed—the anti-inflammatory benefits of eucalyptus oil.

Safety, interactions

Eucalyptus oil is unsafe when taken by mouth or applied directly to the skin without being diluted.3 Fatal allergic reactions have occurred with ingestion of eucalyptus products. Even though eucalyptus use in asthma and bronchitis has been shown to be beneficial, bronchospasm can result with inhalation.3

Eucalyptus oil is not recommended for use in pregnant or nursing women or in infants. If using a topical formulation for the first time, a patch test is recommended. This involves applying the extract to the upper arm. If no rash occurs after 24 hours, it is typically safe to proceed. Clinicians considering the use of diluted oral eucalyptus should proceed with caution. There is little data regarding drug interactions.

How supplied, dosage

There is no standardization for the dosing of eucalyptus oil. The literature states that for the oil to be medicinally effective, it must contain at least 70% to 85% of 1.8-cineol.9 Eucalyptus extract is supplied in multiple formulations, most for topical or inhaled use.


Developing research suggests that a chemical in eucalyptus may be able to break up mucus in persons with severe asthma, thus allowing for lowered steroid maintenance in such patients.3 But overall research to date ­suggests that more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of eucalyptus as complementary therapy.

Sherril Sego, FNP-C, DNP, is a staff clinician at the VA Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where she practices adult medicine and women’s health. She also teaches at the nursing schools of the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas.

  1. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research: The history of Eucalyptus page. Euclid website.
  2. University of Maryland Medical Center. Eucalyptus.
  3. MedlinePlus. Eucalyptus.
  4. Serafino A, Sinibaldi Vallebona P, Andreola F, et al. Stimulatory effect of Eucalyptus essential oil on innate cell-mediated immune response. BMC Immunol. 2008; 9:17.
  5. Juergens UR, Dethlefsen U, Steincamp G, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of 1.8-cineol (eucalyptol) in bronchial asthma: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Respir Med. 2003;97:250-256.
  6. Salari MH, Amine G, Shirazi MH, et al. Antibacterial effects of Eucalyptus globulus leaf extract on pathogenic bacteria isolated from specimens of patients with respiratory tract disorders. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2006;12:194-196.
  7. Vigo E, Cepeda A, Gualillo O. Perez-Fernandez R. In-vitro anti-inflammatory effect of Eucalyptus globulus and Thymus vulgaris: nitric oxide inhibition in J774A.1 murine macrophages. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004;56:257-263.
  8. Silva J, Abebe W, Sousa SM, et al. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of essential oils of Eucalyptus.
  9. Sartorelli P, Marquioreto AD, Amarol-Baroli A, et al. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oils from two species of Eucalyptus. Phytother Res. 2007;21:231-233.

All electronic documents accessed October 15, 2012.

From the November 01, 2012 Issue of Clinical Advisor

7 Remarkable Facts About Eucalyptus Trees

What do you know about eucalyptus trees? Beyond knowing they’re native to Australia and koala bears love munching their leaves, that is.

When it comes to this magnificent genus of trees commonly called gum trees, there’s a lot to know. On the dull-ish end of the spectrum, we have facts about the word “eucalyptus”. It comes from a combination of Latin (eu meaning “from”) and Greek (kalyptos meaning “covered” and kalyptein meaning “to conceal”) used to describe the seed pod. Good to know but not the kind of info worth sharing at your next dinner party.

Thankfully, there’s more to this millennia-old tree.

Whether you’re a newbie or a eucalyptus expert, read on! You could learn 7 lesser-known and somewhat remarkable facts about eucalyptus trees, like did you know that eucalyptus flooring is a thing? You won’t believe the benefits of eucalyptus flooring!

1. Eucalyptus Flowers Have No Petals

From a distance, the flowers on most species of eucalyptus trees look like fluffy bursts of color, kind of like a dandelion flower gone to seed.

Get closer and you’ll see why. These breathtaking blossoms have no petals. The entire “bloom” consists of hundreds of stamens emerging from a central cone-like bud.

They come in a range of colors including white, bright red, vibrant orange, deep pink, and lime green.

The abundance of stamens translates to an abundance of pollen. And, eucalyptus trees can use as much pollen as possible. They have few natural pollinators because of high concentrations of cineole. (See #3 on this list for more about that). Most often, eucalyptus trees count on the multitude of stamens for self-pollination.

2. Square Stems and Uncommon Leaf Formations

Small branches of eucalyptus trees and shrubs are popular in flower arrangements. Why? In part because of their sturdiness and the visual appeal of their leaf formation.

While most trees have round stems, eucalyptus stems are closer to square. The natural advantage of this shape is unclear, but that doesn’t detract from its beauty.

What also makes the stems and branches of eucalyptus trees compelling is the way the leaves grow. They grow in pairs on opposite sides of the stem. But the neighboring pairs of leaves are at right angles to each other. So a pattern of A-C, B-D, A-C, B-D, etc. emerges where A, B, C, and D are the four sides of the stem.

There are other plants with this kind of leaf formation, but it isn’t common.

3. Cineole: The Secret Ingredient

Eucalyptus essential oil has been used in Indigenous Australian medicine as an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent for centuries. In India’s Ayurvedic medicine, it’s often used in the treatment of respiratory ailments. In 17th century England, it was used to disinfect hospitals.

Why? Because eucalyptus leaves and bark contain high concentrations of cineole.

Cineole is a colorless, liquid organic compound. It’s sometimes also called eucalyptol because there’s so much of it in eucalyptus trees and shrubs. The fragrance of eucalyptus is primarily that of cineole.

We don’t want to sound like a high school chemistry tutorial, so let’s simply say that cineole is the eucalyptus’ secret weapon against predators.

Only the koala bear, ring-tail possum, and a few insects can eat eucalyptus leaves and bark. No other creature, including humans, can withstand the high levels of cineole. In fact, in high concentrations, it’s toxic. That’s why it makes an effective and natural insect repellent.

Clinical research has proven the anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anti-fungal properties of cineole. Using eucalyptus essential oil in topical wound treatment, skincare, and other disinfecting applications makes sense.

4. Eucalyptus Trees Can Help Prevent Malaria

It’s no secret that eucalyptus trees love water. They thrive in marshy and flooded areas.

That’s why they’re sometimes planted in areas with high malaria rates.

Malaria, a disease found on every continent but Antarctica (another factoid to impress your dinner companions), relies on a specific kind of mosquito for its survival. The malaria parasite lives in female mosquitoes who bite humans. During the bite, the malaria parasite is transferred to the human.

And what do we know about mosquitoes? They love standing water. From swamps to puddles in the backyard, mosquitoes need stagnant water to breed.

In areas of the world with high populations of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, eucalyptus trees are sometimes planted. Not only do they reduce the amount of stagnant water, their secret weapon, cineole, helps reduce mosquito populations.

5. Eucalyptus Trees Can Help Manage Wastewater Issues

Much like using eucalyptus trees to help manage malaria, there’s ongoing exploration into using this remarkable tree to reduce wastewater issues.

In several parts of the world, wastewater carrying heavy metals, bacteria, and other toxins into the groundwater is a concern for agriculture. In response, environmental engineers and agri-forestry professionals plant eucalyptus trees in strategic locations. There’s a wealth of evidence that the eucalyptus absorbs and filters many elements we don’t want in the water used on crops.

While there’s still more research needed to know the right balance of eucalyptus trees to agricultural land, the outlook is promising and is another remarkable fact about the gum tree.

6. Eucalyptus Wood Makes the Best Didgeridoos

Didgeridoos are a long, trumpet-like instrument with a deep history among the Indigenous people of Australia. Traditionally, it’s played during ceremonial dancing and singing. Today, it’s also played for recreation.

But no matter why it’s played, many who know about these things contend that the best didgeridoos are made from eucalyptus wood.

Traditional production involves finding a tree trunk or major branch that’s been hollowed out by termites. The trunk or limb is then cut down, cleaned inside, and stripped of its bark. The hardness of eucalyptus wood helps create pleasing acoustics when played.

7. Eucalyptus Grows Super Fast

One of the reasons it’s an environment-friendly choice is the rate at which the trees grow. Many varieties reach early maturity ten years after planting.

That’s super-fast, compared to other hardwoods, which can take 18-25 years to reach early maturity. Provided they have enough water and are in the right climate, eucalyptus trees are a renewable resource. That’s a remarkable and important fact for the sustainability of the flooring industry and for consumers who want to make better choices for the environment.

Whether you use eucalyptus trees for essential oils, didgeridoos, or flooring, you get value. And in ten years, someone else can also enjoy the benefits of another eucalyptus tree.

So, how many of these 7 facts about eucalyptus trees did you know? Do you use eucalyptus or have it in your home? Let us know in the comments!

If you would like to see a sample of our incredibly beautiful and durable eucalyptus flooring, click on the box below. If you have any questions, please call one of our flooring professionals today at (866) 710-7070.

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It seems harmless enough; how can releasing just a few plants or animals into a new area hurt anything? But again and again, we’ve seen just how devastating introducing a foreign organism can be, whether it was on purpose or inadvertent. This has led to declining populations of bats, honeybees, and amphibians, among others, and explosive population increases among garden snails in California. Even when it doesn’t look like the non-native organism is doing any harm, it’s still tilting a biological scale that had carefully balanced itself over millennia.

The blue gum (<em>Eucalyptus globulus</em>) has become embedded in much of California’s scenery, though how this came to be is a cautionary tale that emphasizes the importance of thinking before planting.Courtesy Photo

When we think of organisms being introduced to new lands and wreaking havoc upon the natives, animals more readily come to mind than plants do. But the often over-looked plant invaders have significantly sculpted the California landscape to become what we know it to be today. Europeans started to settle in California in the late 1700s, and soon many non-native plant species made their way to California as well. By the early 1800s, there were 16 non-native plant species, but this jumped to about 134 species by 1860. The number has been increasing ever since; today, there are over 1,000 non-native plant species living in California (and nearly 5,000 native species). While less than 10 percent of these non-native plants are considered to be a “serious threat” to native organisms, every new plant affects its environment in ways both subtle and profound.

Introducing “aliens”: Just how much damage can a few non-native plants do? A great deal. For example, they compete with native plants for nutrients. They can in some cases alter nutrient levels in the soils (such as nitrogen levels) such that the entire local environment becomes changed and undesirable for native plants and animals. This can in turn prompt even more non-native plants, animals, and microorganisms to become established in these “disrupted” areas. The entire ecosystem’s balance can be thrown off.

While not all non-native plants and animals cause such noticeable damage to their new environments, the potential for serious disruption is always present, and each should be introduced with premeditation and educated planning. The story of how the eucalyptus came to be embedded in much of California’s scenery is a great example of lack of forethought when introducing a plant to a new area.

Australian roots: In 1770, eucalyptus specimens made their way to Europe for the first time. On his first Pacific Ocean trip, Captain James Cook explored part of the Australian coast. Botanists onboard catalogued and collected several different species along the way, taking them back to London. European botanists gave the trees the name “eucalyptus” because of how the flowers are in hard, protective cup-like structures: The Greek root “eu” means “well” and “calyptos” means “covered.”

Soon, interest in the eucalyptus swelled in Europe. In the early 1800s, wealthy merchants and aristocrats were excited about rare or “exotic” plants and, together with people in the plant business, made cultivating eucalyptus trees popular. Horticulturists also wanted to better study such novelties, to understand them scientifically and see what their potential economic value might be. And of course, the new European settlers in Australia were eager to make some money selling the abundant eucalyptus. Promoters touted the trees as not only aesthetically pleasing, but as capable of satisfying many practical needs. The eucalyptus quickly spread in Europe.

Eucalyptus is a very large genus that consists of over 600 species, which natively live in Australia, Tasmania, and some surrounding islands, in a range of soil conditions and temperatures (though prolonged frost is usually detrimental). They do very well in Australia; 80 percent of Australia’s open forests are eucalyptus trees. With some aromatic species majestically soaring over 300 feet tall, as a hardwood tree their height is second only to California’s coastal sequoias. It’s easy to see their appeal.

On an economic level, many early promoters believed the eucalyptus could be used for making a number of materials: timber, fuel, medicine, wood pulp, honey, and both medicinal and industrial oils. Not only could eucalyptus grow quickly in many conditions, but, in several species, when the tree’s cut down even to the roots new stems sprout back up. It all seemed too good to be true. Later, it turned out, it was.

The eucalyptus goes to California: Following its spread throughout Europe, northern Africa, India, and South America, settlers in California became increasingly interested in the eucalyptus. Not only was eucalyptus a fascinating novelty, but the California Gold Rush of the late 1840s and early 1850s created high demand for wood for constructing buildings and for fuel. Deforestation had become a serious concern, so much so that the California Tree Culture Act of 1868 was created to encourage people to plant more trees, particularly along roads. Many entrepreneurs rushed to capitalize on the situation.

Ellwood Cooper’s role in spreading eucalyptus: Ellwood Cooper, educator, entrepreneur, and one of the key individuals who helped the eucalyptus take off in California, is a local legend here in Santa Barbara. After seeing eucalyptus in the San Francisco area, Cooper settled down in Santa Barbara in 1870. On his ranch, among many different types of produce trees (including olives, walnuts, and figs), he grew over 200 acres of eucalyptus. The eucalyptus forest he started lives on to this day at the Ellwood Bluffs. Cooper became a vocal advocate for the eucalyptus, emphasizing its unique, aesthetically pleasing appearance, as well as its useful qualities. He even wrote the first book in the U.S. on the trees. Eucalyptus became very appealing to foresters in the 1870s and 1880s as native hardwoods were being severely depleted.

Starting in the 1870s, the first large-scale commercial planting of the blue gum eucalyptus (E. globulus) began. The blue gum, a mid-sized eucalyptus reaching around 150 to over 200 feet tall, is the most common eucalyptus in California. These trees are easily recognized by their waxy blue leaves and a grayish bark which reveals a smooth, contrasting yellowish surface when the bark sheds off in long strips. As with many other eucalyptus species, sprouts can grow back from a fallen tree stump.

By the early 1900s, the get-rich mindset had caused many aspiring forest tycoons to plant countless acres of eucalyptus in hopes of selling the timber for a tidy profit. It’s estimated that there were over 100 companies involved in the eucalyptus industry at this time, and they changed the landscape of much of California.

But investors were soon to discover that the eucalyptus weren’t all they’d hoped them to be.

Sadly, most of these schemes went the way they infamously did for Frank C. Havens. Havens was an Oakland developer who opened a mill and planted eight million eucalyptus trees in a 14-mile-long strip from Berkeley through Oakland. But when he came to sell the timber, it was found that the trees were too young to make suitable wood; the young wood had an irregular grain and it bent, cracked, and shrank when dried. It is true that eucalyptus trees from Australia could make good timber, but those trees were decades or sometimes centuries old. It was soon found that eucalyptus trees would need to be at least 75 or 100 years old for good lumber. The young wood didn’t even make useable fence posts or railroad track ties, both of which decayed rapidly. Havens closed shop.

Other options for selling California-based eucalyptus products were grim. In the early 1920s, it was realized that California eucalyptus oil wasn’t nearly the same quality as foreign-made oil, again mainly from Australia. The wood became increasingly sold just for fuel, but cheap electricity and gas soon replaced it. By 1950, eucalyptus trees were primarily grown in California as ornamentals or windbreaks. The trees had failed to live up the many premature claims and hopes.

Eucalyptus recently: Today, millions of acres globally are covered by eucalyptus, as forests, shade trees, anchors along canals, ornamentals, windbreaks, or plantations. Their adaptability allows them to grow where other plants can’t, such as lands that have been ruined by mining or poor agricultural practices. They’re still used in medical products (including antiseptics, decongestants, and stimulants), foods (such as cough drops and sweets), perfumes, toothpastes, industrial solvents, menthol cigarettes, and more. (But be careful, because eucalyptus bark and leaves, and consequently eucalyptus oil, are toxic if ingested or absorbed through the skin at high doses. It’s especially poisonous to cats.) Eucalyptus is also a source of quality pulp. In a controversial case of history potentially repeating itself, these factors have caused eucalyptus plantations to crop up in many developing countries, particularly in Thailand. Due to the contentious social and environmental impacts of this, much criticism has been cast upon the international corporations spearheading these projects.

In addition to these new plantations, there are other divisive issues surrounding the eucalyptus today. Blue gum can be invasive in California, aggressively spreading from its original planting if enough water is present, such as in the form of fog. The bark strips dropped by the blue gums are extremely flammable, which can lead to intense fires, such as the Oakland Firestorm of 1991.

Additionally, in eucalyptus groves outside of their native homes, ecosystem development faces many challenges. Because most eucalyptus trees were grown from seeds from Australia, few eucalyptus insect pests traveled with the eucalyptus to their new homes. Fifty-seven Australian mammal species that normally live in eucalyptus groves, including koalas, wallabies, and pandemelons, as well as over 200 bird species, didn’t make the voyage either. Because the eucalyptus leaves and bark are poisonous, the mammals that feed off of it had to evolve mechanisms to deal with these toxins. Other mammals won’t eat the eucalyptus. Overall, this results in a small degree of species diversity in eucalyptus groves. Australian plants and animals never arrived; native plants and animals are pushed out. While the eucalyptus is certainly not as devastating to its new home as some non-native plants and animals have been, its story should still serve as a cautionary tale: Think before you plant.

For more on eucalyptus and non-native plants, see Robin W. Doughty’s book The Eucalyptus: A Natural and Commercial History of the Gum Tree, Carla C. Bossard, John M. Randall, and Marc C. Hoshovsky’s book on Invasive Plants of California’s Wildlands, California Invasive Plant Council’s website on Invasive Plant Inventory, the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources’ website on Invasive Plants, California’s Department of Fish and Game website on Invasive Species Program, a previous Santa Barbara Independent article on Ellwood Cooper and other Santa Barbara Pioneer Horticulturists, and Wikipedia’s article on Eucalyptus.

Biology Bytes author Teisha Rowland is a science writer, blogger at All Things Stem Cell, and graduate student in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at UCSB, where she studies stem cells. Send any ideas for future columns to her at [email protected]

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Eucalyptus: How California’s Most Hated Tree Took Root

Reaching heights of more than 100 feet, the main kind of eucalyptus you’re likely to see here is Tasmanian blue gum, eucalyptus globulus. They feature sickle-shaped leaves hanging from high branches, and deciduous bark that is forever peeling from their shaggy trunks. Some people experience the smell of eucalyptus as medicinal; others say the trees just smell like California.

The trees are deciduous, shedding their bark every year. (Samantha Shanahan/KQED)

So how did eucalyptus trees get here?

“They came here as envelopes of seeds on boats coming to California in the 1850s,” explains Jared Farmer, author of “Trees In Paradise: A California History.”

During the Gold Rush, Australians were among the throngs flocking to a place where wood was in short supply.

“This was the era of wood power,” Farmer says. “Wood was used for almost everything. For energy, of course, but also for building every city, for moving things around, all the things where today we use concrete and plastic and steel.”

Besides the practical need to plant more trees, settlers who were used to dense forests also felt that the lack of trees in California’s grassy, marshy, scrubby landscape made it feel incomplete. So within a few years, nurseries in San Francisco were selling young eucalyptus grown from seed.

The trees grew remarkably quickly here, even in poor soil.

“In an average rainfall year here in California, these trees probably put on 4 to 6 feet in height and maybe, in their early growth years, a half-inch to an inch in diameter,” says Joe McBride, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of landscape architecture and environmental planning.

Beyond the drive to change the landscape and provide firewood, Californians also planted eucalyptus (mainly blue gum) to serve as windbreaks.

Eucalyptus trees grow fast, sometimes putting on 4 to 6 feet in height in a single year. (Samantha Shanahan/KQED)

In fact, that was the original purpose of what’s now the largest, densest stand of blue gum eucalyptus in the world, on campus at Berkeley, says McBride. It was planted around 140 years ago to provide a windbreak for an old cinder running track — to keep its fine ashen gravel from blowing into athletes’ faces.

The trees’ success in California owed to a lack of enemies here. Because they were grown from seed, they hadn’t brought along any of the pests or pathogens (or koalas) they contend with back in Australia.

An early 20th century boom

Within a few decades of its arrival, many Californians grew disenchanted with eucalyptus. Blue gum proved terrible for woodworking — the wood often split and cracked, making it a poor choice for railroad ties. The trees also proved thirsty enough to drain nearby wells.

“If you go back to California farm journals of the 1870s, ’80s, ’90s, there’s just report after report of disappointment, like ‘these trees are no good,’ ” says Farmer, the historian.

But things changed in the early 20th century when U.S. Forest Service officials grew concerned about a looming timber famine. They feared forests in the eastern United States had been overexploited and wouldn’t grow back, and predicted the supply of hardwood would dwindle over the next 15 years.

The bark sheds often, peeling in large strips. (Samantha Shanahan/KQED)

Investors saw an opportunity: California had a tree capable of growing to full size within that time frame. If hardwood was about to be scarce, they reasoned, such trees could be in high demand and yield sizable returns within a few short years. (These people, Farmer says, were not reading blue gum’s lousy reviews in old farm reports. “And even if they did read them, maybe they wouldn’t care because they just wanted to make a buck; they were just flipping land.”)

This played out as a speculative frenzy — a bubble. Boosters began selling plantations dense with eucalyptus — hundreds of trees per acre. Farmer writes in his book that claims were made like: “Forests Grown While You Wait,” and “Absolute Security and Absolute Certainty.” In just a few years, millions of blue gums were planted from Southern California up to Mendocino.

The anticipated timber famine never came to pass. Forests further east proved more resilient than expected, and the need was offset by concrete, steel and imports, like mahogany. Ultimately, the thousands of acres of eucalyptus planted around California were not even worth cutting down. Much of what you see today is a century-old abandoned crop.

What’s fire got to do with it?

Eucalyptus trees have lovers and haters in California. A big part of the debate over whether the trees should be allowed to persist here traces back to the East Bay firestorm of 1991, which left 25 people dead and thousands homeless. Vast swaths of eucalyptus burned.

“People at the time, I don’t think, associated that with a planted plantation; it was just a eucalyptus forest,” says CalPoly botanist Jenn Yost. “And then when the fire came through — I mean that fire came through so fast and so hot and so many people lost their homes that it was a natural reaction to hate blue gums at that point.”

Because the trees shed so much bark, critics argue they worsen the fire hazard and should be cut down. Defenders point out California’s native plants also have a tendency to burn. Both say the science is on their side, but so far no landmark study has shut down the dispute.

That ongoing dispute is also politically entrenched. A few years ago, federal funding to cut down trees in the East Bay hills was rescinded, after protesters got naked and hugged the eucalyptus trees on campus at Cal.

To some, the scent of eucalyptus trees is simply the scent of California. (Samantha Shanahan/KQED)

Are they here to stay?

Blue gums can’t reproduce on their own just anywhere in California; Yost says they need year-round moisture. They’re able to regenerate in places like California’s coastal fog belt, but elsewhere “there are some plantations that don’t reproduce at all. When you go there, the trees are all in their rows, there’s few saplings anywhere to be seen, and those trees are just getting older.”

Not all non-native plants capable of reproducing on their own do it enough to have an ecological impact, Yost says.

“As soon as it starts outcompeting native species or fundamentally changing the environment so that native species can’t grow there, we would consider that an invasive species,” she says.

Blue gum is classified as a “moderate” invasive, putting it a tier below such uncharismatic weeds as yellow star-thistle and medusahead. McBride, the retired Berkeley professor, says “although there’s been marginal expansion of some eucalyptus stands, it’s really not well adapted for long-distance dispersal. It hasn’t really spread very much on its own.”

With an estimated 40,000 of eucalyptus planted across the state, the trees aren’t easy to get rid of. Slicing down a large blue gum near a building can require a crane, at an expense of thousands of dollars. And keeping them from resprouting can also be its own chore.

Long term, as the climate changes over the coming decades, it’s possible the aging eucalyptus groves that don’t get enough water to reproduce will begin to die.

Then again, if the state becomes hotter and drier, it may become the type of place where some Australian species are able to thrive.

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