Eucalyptus oil is an essential oil which is used as an antiseptic, in cosmetics like hand creams, and as a flavoring in dental products like toothpaste, mouth wash, and rinse to freshen breath. It can even be an antimicrobial to ward off bacteria to possibly help prevent sickness. Throughout history, it has been used as a musculoskeletal ointment and potentially has many other uses such as treating cold sores and in skin care, but just what is eucalyptus oil good for?
Eucalyptus oil may have many good therapeutic uses including helping to alleviate sinus congestion and helping to open airways. When applied to the skin in conjunction with a carrier oil, it could act as an analgesic in helping sooth sore muscles and joints, or possibly even help in doctoring pesky bug bites from insects like mosquitoes and ticks. Early research shows that eucalyptus oil can be potent repellent against rodents as well.
What is eucalyptus oil good for? The answers—and the effectiveness of the oil—may be surprising, so keep reading.
What Exactly is Eucalyptus Oil and Where Does It Come From?
Eucalyptus oil comes from the leaves of the fast-growing eucalyptus tree which is an evergreen. It’s native to Australia, but may also be found in different parts of the world. In an online article titled “The Health Benefits of Eucalyptus” on Medical News Today’s website, author Joseph Nordqvist explains: “There are over 400 different species of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus globulus, also known as Blue Gum, is the main source of eucalyptus oil used globally.”
For centuries, Aboriginal people in Australia, and other cultures around the world, have used eucalyptus as an herbal medicine or remedy to treat pain, inflammation, and various other ailments in holistic fashion. (Holistic medicine refers to the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.)
Eucalyptus Oil as “Bush Medicine”
In Australia and other places around the world, this type of traditional medical practice by native peoples is known as “Bush Medicine,” according to the Australian Geographic website, australiangeographic.com.au. In an article titled “Top 10 Aboriginal bush medicines,” written by Marina Kamenev, eucalyptus was the second most common Aboriginal bush medicine, behind only tea tree oil. Use of eucalyptus oil can be traced back many generations.
Kamenev writes: “When Aboriginal people did fall sick, they used plants in a variety of ways to quell their ills. Some plants, like goat’s foot, were crushed, heated and applied to the skin. Others were boiled and inhaled, and occasionally drunk. There were also saps which were directly smeared on the skin, and barks that were smoked or burned.”
She goes on to write: “Professor Joanne Jamie, a medicinal chemist from Macquarie University, in Sydney has compiled a database on Aboriginal plants. Many of those plants, she found, contained antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds that are known to Western medicine.”
“When plants are used in a customary way, there is a far greater success rate in them having biological activity,” she says. “The plants that were used by the Aborigines are very likely to be useful to us.” Research shows that other plants and herbs can be effective in improving our health as well.
The Aborigines used the infused oil from eucalyptus leaves to treat body pains, fevers, and chills and to help with congested sinuses. The healing oil was also used to repel bugs and rodents.
What About Other Cultures and Their Use of Eucalyptus?
“Chinese, Indian Ayurvedic, Greek, and other European styles of medicine have incorporated it into the treatment of a range of conditions for thousands of years,” Nordqvist explains in “The Health Benefits of Eucalyptus” article.
The author goes on to say that “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.” (The Medical News Today article was medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on January 5, 2018.)
How is Eucalyptus Oil Made?
Eucalyptus oil is made by steam-distilling the eucalyptus tree’s long, slender, oval-shaped leaves which taper to a point. The leaves, which grow in an alternating pattern facing downwards, range in color from a gray to a bluish-green and are covered with oil glands. The steam-distilling process extracts the oil—a colorless liquid with a strong, sweet, woody scent that’s sometimes mixed with cool peppermint to create a pleasing aroma, especially in burning candles.
Aren’t Eucalyptus Leaves Toxic?
Yes, if ingested, the leaves of the eucalyptus trees can be toxic to humans and animals such as house pets. Care should be taken when handling or placing a live eucalyptus or an arrangement of its leaves throughout your home. Remember, safety first. The eucalyptus leaf can be poisonous.
A safe way to enjoy the benefits of eucalyptus is to use it as an essential oil. The scent is calming and you may find that it helps you breathe better, too.
But What About the Koala Bears? Don’t They Eat Eucalyptus?
Koala is the only mammal (along with the Greater Glider and Ringtail Possums) whose diet consists primarily of the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, so why don’t they get sick? According to the Australian Koala Foundation on its website savethekoala.com, “Eucalyptus leaves are very fibrous and low in nutrition, and to most animals are extremely poisonous. To cope with such a diet, nature has equipment koalas with specialized adaptations.”
In a science article titled “The Koalas Diet & Digestion” on savethekoala.com, the writer states that “A very slow metabolic rate allows koalas to retain food within their digestive system for a relatively long period of time, maximizing the amount of energy able to be extracted. At the same time, this slow metabolic rate minimizes energy requirements. Koalas also sleep somewhere between 18 and 22 hours each day in order to conserve energy.”
Additionally, according to the article, “The Koala’s digestive system is especially adapted to detoxify the poisonous chemicals in the leaves. The toxins are thought to be produced by the gum trees as a protection against leaf-eating animals like insects.” This prevents the koala bears from being affected by the eucalyptus.
Also, “Trees which grow on less fertile soils seem to have more toxins than those growing on good soils. This could be one reason why koalas will eat only certain types of eucalyptus, and why they will sometimes even avoid them when they are growing on certain soils,” according to the article.
What Is Eucalyptus Oil Good For?
In an online article titled “Top 10 Eucalyptus Oil Uses and Benefits” on the website draxe.com, author Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS, writes: “[Eucalyptus oil] is one of the best essential oils for sore throats, coughs, seasonal allergies and headaches. Eucalyptus oil benefits are due to its ability to stimulate immunity, provide antioxidant protection and improve respiratory circulation.”
In the same article, Axe says that “The best quality eucalyptus essential oils are CO2-extracted, which means that they’re extracted with as little heat as possible. CO2 extraction doesn’t involve using chemicals like hexane or ethanol.) Eucalyptol or 1,8-cineole accounts for 70-90 percent of the content of eucalyptus oil.” This process improves the oil’s quality.
The oil may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. It might also help improve respiratory issues, may help relieve coughs, could help fight infection, may reduce pain and inflammation, may possibly serve as a headache reliever, could aid in wound care and in first aid of small cuts, might help boost mental clarity, and may improve the symptoms of earaches, among many other uses. Possibly, it may also help in reducing fever.
Additionally, in the same article, Axe writes that “Eucalyptus oil should not be used internally. It’s only for aromatic and topical use, and it should be diluted with a carrier oil before being used on children.” Good carrier oils include apricot, coconut, jojoba, grapeseed, avocado and rosehip. This type of carrier oil has many benefits.
When you use essential oils, be sure to keep all ingredients out of reach of children. Take caution when using any essential oil on children, especially infants. Always consult your physician before use. Also, it’s important to remember that more research is needed to better understand the effects of essential oils on human health.
How Is Eucalyptus Oil Used in Aromatherapy?
In an online article titled “Eucalyptus Essential Oil Aromatherapy Benefits” on the website aromatherapyhealthyessentialoils.com, the writer states: “. . .the Eucalyptus essential oil functions as an effective analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic and expectorant.”
“It’s a promising constituent to treat and manage allergies, burns, cuts, colds, congestion, arthritis, gout, flu, cramps, pain, rheumatoid arthritis, sore throat, herpes, sinusitis, bronchitis and many more,” the article continues. “Furthermore, eucalyptus oil is used in making perfumes, flavoring beverages, baking and cooking. It is also present in shampoos, soaps, lotions, toothpaste, mouthwashes, air fresheners and antiperspirants.”
An insect bite may become less bothersome and the itching sensation might be relieved if a small amount of eucalyptus oil is placed on a cotton ball and then dabbed onto the bite. Eucalyptus oil may also be used as an insect repellent by placing a few drops of the oil into a spray bottle with water. Spritz the air around you when outside. It makes a mild insecticide that’s cost effective, easy to use and works well.
The article also states that “Although eucalyptus essential oils have numerous benefits, the use of this oil should be avoided among infants. Pure eucalyptus or unmixed eucalyptus oil possesses much strength which can be harmful if taken internally. Pregnant or lactating women are not allowed to use eucalyptus oils.”
There are also contraindications, according to the article. “Additionally, there are certain drug medications which can negatively interact with this particular oil. Individuals with asthma, liver disease, seizure disorders, low blood pressure, and kidney disease are advised to meet with their doctor before undergoing eucalyptus essential oil aromatherapy.”
What is Eucalyptus Essential Oil?
In the same online article titled “Eucalyptus Essential Oil Aromatherapy Benefits,” the writer explains the properties of eucalyptus essential oil. “[It] comes in a clear liquid with a refreshingly antiseptic and cleansing camphor aroma. This oil gives warmth during winter, while providing a cooling effect in the summer.”
“It can be taken in the form of tea, or in vapor inhalation,” according to the article. “In addition, the essential oil can be incorporated in massage oils, herbal baths and aroma oil lamps. . .” The attributes of eucalyptus essential oil can be described as revitalizing, invigorating and clarifying. Sprinkle a few drops in a hot shower to help relieve congestion. The slightly hot vapor—also known as steam inhalation—with its relaxing smell, may have an overall soothing effect as well.
Can Eucalyptus Essential Oil Be Used to Treat Headaches?
In an online article titled “Five effective essential oils for headaches” on the website medicalnewstoday.com, eucalyptus essential oil is one of five essentials oils listed which may help relieve headaches. The other oils are lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and chamomile. These essential oils may help relieve sinus or nasal infections; however, scientific researchers need to further investigate any headache remedies associated with using eucalyptus.
“Eucalyptus is traditionally used to clear sinuses and reduce inflammation,” according to the article. “People experiencing headaches due to blocked sinuses may find inhaling eucalyptus reduces their symptoms. One study found that eucalyptus oil was effective for relieving pain and lowering blood pressure when it was inhaled.”
How to Use Eucalyptus Essential Oil to Help Treat a Headache
The writer of the same article on the Medical News Today website recommended the following ways to help treat a headache:
- Applying oil to the temples or forehead: Essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, before they can be applied to the skin. Once diluted, the oil can be massaged into the temples and across the forehead. Apply liberally;
- Inhaling oil: Essential oils can be inhaled by adding a few drops to a tissue, holding the tissue under the nose and breathing deeply. A few drops can also be added to the water in a humidifier or a vaporizer;
- Using a compress: Create a compress by soaking a towel in cold water with a few drops of essential oil. The compress can be applied to the forehead or neck; and,
- Adding oil to the bath: Adding a few drops of essential oil to a hot bath can be a relaxing way to treat a headache.
Are There Any Risks Associated with Using Essential Oils?
In the same article on Medical News Today, the writer states that there are a few risks associated with using essential oils. “As with many alternative remedies, essential oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Association (FDA), so it is important to buy a reputable brand. Essential oils are generally safe when used properly.”
“It is important to dilute them with a carrier oil before applying them directly to the skin,” the article continues. “They may cause skin irritation if used undiluted. Some people are allergic to essential oils even when diluted, so it may be helpful to put a small amount on a patch of skin first to test for an allergic reaction. If there is no reaction within 48 hours, then the oil is safe to use.”
As with any alternative medicine, it’s suggested to talk with your physician first, especially when applying essential oil to any minor wounds. This article does not provide medical advice. Your physician will be able to better tell you the benefits of eucalyptus oil.
How to Make Your Own Vapor Rub Using Drops of Eucalyptus
For more than a century, many parents have used a menthol, commercial vapor rub to help their children breathe better. But, did you know you can make your own vapor rub using eucalyptus, the active ingredient in the commercial brand? Unlike the commercial brand, this natural rub contains no petroleum by-products.
Natural Vapor Rub Recipe
A soothing and petroleum-free version of the classic cough and cold soother.
Natural Vapor Rub Ingredients
- 1/2 cup olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil
- 2 TBSP beeswax pastilles (level, not heaping)
- 20 drops of eucalyptus oil (use only 4 drops for use on babies and young children)
- 20 drops peppermint oil (substitute 4 drops for essential oil for use on babies and small children)
- 10 drops rosemary oil (omit for use on babies and small children)
- 10 drops cinnamon or clove oil (optional – omit for use on babies or small children)
1. Melt beeswax with oil of choice in a double boiler until just melted.
2. Add the essential oils (use half the amount for a baby version or dilute with coconut oil before using)
3. Stir until well mixed and pour into some type of container with a lid to store. Small tins work well as do little jars. I also always make a few in empty lip chap sticks to keep in my purse or to use on baby feet.
4. Use as needed to help reduce coughing and congestion.
The article and recipe were medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis who is board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, it is recommended to seek the advice of a medical professional before using essential oils on children and infants.
Can Eucalyptus Oil be Used on Hair?
Yes. Many shampoos and conditioners on the market contain eucalyptus oil. Not only do the products have a nice scent because of the eucalyptus, but they also may help the hair itself. In the online article titled “Eucalyptus Oil for Hair” on the website healthline.com, advocates of using eucalyptus oil to apply on hair suggest the following potential benefits of using eucalyptus-treated products:
- May stimulate hair follicles;
- Oil might improve hair health;
- May promote hair growth;
- Might relieve itchy scalp; and
- May help treat head lice.
The article goes on to say that “Before using eucalyptus oil, proceed carefully. Like most essential oils, it’s important to dilute eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil, before applying it directly to the skin.” The article was written by Scott Frothingham and medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN.
Is There an Eucalyptus Salve Available?
Yes. Champion Supplies offers McNess Krestol Eucalyptus Gel, which is a traditional formula that has been used in homes and on farms for many generations. The McNess Krestol Salve utilizes the same famous original formula from 1908. It comes in a large 11 oz. circular metal tin.
We cannot make any claims ourselves concerning the product’s effectiveness or how to use this product. We do recommend that users research themselves by looking into what each ingredient is.
In terms of historical anecdotal information, during the early 1900s, McNess Krestol Salve may have been used as a draw salve to support a person’s skin health. Reading into some of their former catalogs from the early 1900s, McNess does mention that this item may have been used in first aid for superficial scratches, minor cuts, pain relief, and very minor burns.
The salve, along with other eucalyptus ointments, may also help relieve minor muscle and joint pain.
*Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.