|| Eucalyptus globulus
|| Australian fever tree
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is a tall evergreen tree native to
Australia and Tasmania. Today, most commercial herbal preparations originate in
Mediterranean and subtropical regions, including Spain and Morocco. The leaves
and oil of the eucalyptus plant are used for medicinal purposes. Eucalyptus oil
consists of the volatile oil distilled from the fresh leaves and branch tops of
the eucalyptus plant.
Topical ointments containing eucalyptus oil have been used in traditional
Aboriginal medicines to heal wounds and fungal infections. Teas containing
eucalyptus leaves were also used to reduce fevers. The therapeutic uses of
eucalyptus soon spread to other traditional medicine systems, including Chinese,
Indian Ayurvedic, and Greco-European.
Throughout the 19th century in England, eucalyptus oil was used in hospitals
to clean urinary catheters. Laboratory studies later revealed that eucalyptus
oil contains substances with strong antibacterial properties. Studies in animals
and test tubes also found that eucalyptus oil acts as an expectorant (loosens
phlegm in the respiratory passages), antiseptic (prevents infection), and
deodorant. Like eucalyptus oil, the leaves of the eucalyptus plant contain
substances that have expectorant, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties, but
the leaves are also believed to help reduce inflammation and reduce fevers. In
fact, one study conducted in Russia found that an alcoholic tincture containing
eucalyptus leaves helps relieve chronic ear infections. Many researchers believe
that the beneficial effect of the eucalyptus tincture may have been due to its
In addition, eucalyptus has been used traditionally for diabetes. A few
animal studies suggests that this folkloric use may prove to have scientific
merit. Mice with experimentally-induced diabetes respond to aqueous extracts of
eucalyptus by increasing insulin production and reducing blood sugar. These
results suggest that it would be worthwhile to study eucalyptus as an adjunctive
treatment for diabetes further. Much more research is needed before it is clear
how this may apply to people with diabetes.
Today, eucalyptus is commonly used in remedies to treat coughs and the common
cold. It can be found in many lozenges, cough syrups, and vapor baths throughout
the United States and Europe. Herbalists recommend the use of fresh leaves in
teas and gargles to soothe sore throats and treat bronchitis and sinusitis.
Ointments containing eucalyptus leaves are also applied to the nose and chest to
relieve congestion. Eucalyptus oil helps loosen phlegm, so many herbal
practitioners recommend inhaling eucalyptus vapors to help treat bronchitis,
coughs, and the flu.
Because eucalyptus has such a sharp, pungent aroma, some aromatherapists
recommend using it like smelling salts to revive someone who has fainted.
Generally, most aromatherapists suggest placing a drop or two of eucalyptus oil
on a cloth and holding it under the nose of the individual who has fainted.
Eucalyptus oil is also rich in cineole (a potent antiseptic that kills bacteria
responsible for bad breath), so some professional herbalists may also recommend
eucalyptus tinctures to treat bad breath.
Eucalyptus is native to Australia, where it is the primary food in the diet
of koala bears. Today, eucalyptus is grown in Mediterranean and subtropical
regions around the world. There are many species of eucalyptus. Some are the
size of an ornamental shrub, and some grow to be giant trees. The type of
eucalyptus that is most often used medicinally is called blue gum or Australian
fever tree. It can grow as high as 230 feet. Its 4- to 12-inch leaves are dark
green and shiny. Its blue-gray bark peels to reveal a cream-colored inner bark.
|What's It Made Of?|
Eucalyptus leaves contain tannins (which are believed to help reduce
inflammation), flavonoids (such as quercetin which has antioxidants properties),
and volatile oils.
Eucalyptus oil is a rich source of the potent antiseptic substance cineole
(sometimes referred to as eucalyptol).
Eucalyptus oil is available in liquids or ointments and the leaves of the
eucalyptus plant are available fresh, dried (to be used in tea), and in
tinctures (solution made from herb and alcohol, or herb, alcohol, and water).
Commercial cough drops, syrups, vaporizer fluid, liniments, toothpaste, and
mouthwash may contain eucalyptus oil or its active ingredient, cineole.
|How to Take It|
Children should not ingest eucalyptus leaves or oil. Cough drops containing
eucalyptus should only be given to children older than 6 years of age.
Use of eucalyptus as steam, salve, or chest rub may be appropriate for
children. The doses for these uses are similar to those identified below for
adults. Eucalyptus oil should not be applied to the face or nose of children
under 2 years of age.
- Eucalyptus leaf as infusion (tea): 1 to 2 grams per cup three times
- Eucalyptus leaf tincture (for congestion): 10 to 30 drops per day
- Eucalyptol: 0.05 to 0.2 mL (1 to 2 drops per cup boiling water) daily
- Eucalyptus oil (for topical application): add ½ to 1 mL (15 to 30
drops) of oil to 1/2 cup of carrier oil (sesame, olive, etc.). For inhalation,
add 5 to 10 drops of oil to 2 cups boiling water; place towel over head and
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and
treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger
side effects and that can interact with other herbs, supplements, or
medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the
supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.
The American Herbal Products Association gives eucalyptus leaf a class 2d
safety rating, indicating that there are restrictions to its use. Individuals
with inflammation of the kidneys or gastrointestinal tract, bile duct
inflammatory disease, liver disease, or high blood pressure should not use
eucalyptus leaf extract. Tannins in the leaves may cause stomach upset or kidney
and liver damage if leaf preparations are ingested in large amounts.
Never apply eucalyptus oil to the face or nose of a child under 2 years of
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use eucalyptus.
When used externally, eucalyptus oil is nontoxic. When taken internally,
however, eucalyptus oil is toxic and must be diluted.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you
should not use eucalyptus without first talking to your healthcare provider.
In an animal study, topical eucalyptus oil
enhanced the absorption of topical 5-fluorouracil, a medication used to treat
Eucalyptus may increase the clearance of pentobarbital,
a barbiturate used for seizures, and amphetamine, a stimulant used for
narcolepsy and, sometimes, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This means
that these medications may be eliminated from the body more quickly than they
are supposed to be.
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penetration of 5-fluorouracil through rat skin. Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao.
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Chao SC, Young DG. Effect of a diffused essential oil blend on bacterial
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Gray AM, Flatt PR. Antihyperglycemic actions of Eucalyptus globulus
(eucalyptus) are associated with pancreatic and extra-pancreatic effects in
mice. J Nutr. 1998;128(12):2319-2323.
Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, et al, eds et al, eds. PDR for Herbal
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Jori A, Bianchetti A, Prestini PE, et al. Effect of eucalyptol (1,8-cineole)
on the metabolism of other drugs in rats and man. Eur J Pharmacol.
Kumar A, et al. Antibacterial properties of some Eucalyptus oils.
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from the Leaves of Eucalyptus globulus. J Nat Prod.
Swanston-Flatt SK, Day C, Bailye CJ, Flatt PR. Traditional plant treatments
for diabetes. Studies in normal and streptozotocin diabetic mice.
Tovey ER, McDonald LG. Clinical aspects of allergic disease: A simple washing
procedure with eucalyptus oil for controlling house dust mites and their
allergens in clothing and bedding. J Allergy Clin Immunol.
Webb NJ, Pitt WR. Eucalyptus oil poisoning in childhood: 41 cases in
south-east Queensland. J Paediatr Child Health. 1993;29(5):368-371.
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|Review Date: April 2002|
|Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Jacqueline A. Hart, MD,
Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University
and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh
(Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven
Ottariono, RPh, Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; R. Lynn
Shumake, PD (March 1999), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue
Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center,
Glenwood, MD; David Winston (March 1999), Herbalist, Herbalist and Alchemist,
Inc., Washington, NJ; Tom Wolfe (March 1999), P.AHG, Smile Herb Shop, College
Park, MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts
including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works,
Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown,
CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant
Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your
Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000),
President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine,
Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc
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