Herb Reference Guide

Eucalyptus

History

Eucalyptus is a tall evergreen tree native to Tasmania. It is the most important genus of trees found in the Australian forests comprising approximately 75% of all of the trees. Today, most commercially grown trees grow in the Mediterranean and subtropical regions, including Spain and Morocco. The leaves and oil of the eucalyptus plant have long been used for medicinal purposes. Eucalyptus oil consists of the volatile, or essential oil that is distilled from the fresh leaves and branch tops of the eucalyptus plant.

There are several species of eucalyptus; however the primary one used medicinally is the globulus species. Some are the species are the size of an ornamental shrub, and some grow to be enormous trees. The type of eucalyptus that is most often used medicinally (globulus) is called blue gum or Australian fever tree. It can grow as high as 230 feet. It has 4 – 12 inch leaves which are dark green and shiny. Its outer blue-gray bark peels to reveal an inner cream-colored bark.

Topical ointments containing eucalyptus oil have been used in traditional Aboriginal medicine to support wound healing. Teas containing eucalyptus leaves have long been used to support the body during fever and bronchial irritation. Various uses of eucalyptus have spread to other traditional medicine systems around the globe, including Chinese, Indian (Ayurvedic), and Greco-European medicine over the past centuries.

The French government planted eucalyptus trees in Algeria in 1857 as a potential remedy for tropical diseases. In just five years the trees turned a once marshy land where they were planted, into a drier region, which ultimately reduced the mosquito habitat, giving the eucalyptus the name "fever tree." The trees went on to be planted in other malaria endemic areas.
During the 19th century in England, eucalyptus oil was used in hospitals to clean urinary catheters. Many studies later revealed that eucalyptus oil contains substances with microbial properties, confirming the British use as a cleaning agent.

Function

Studies have found that eucalyptus oil acts to normalize expectoration in the respiratory passages, and acts to support healthy microbial balance. The leaves are also believed to help support normal levels of inflammation and support the body during a fever. In addition to oral use, topical ointments often contain eucalyptus leave oil and are applied to the nose and chest for support during times of occasional congestion.

Uses of Eucalyptus

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Essential oils such as cineol (sometimes referred to as eucalyptol), and pinene. It also contains cuminaldehyde, aromadendrene, flavonoids, and tannins. The "gum" material that oozes from knots in eucalyptus trees is called kino and contains tannins.

Parts Used

  • Leaves and essential oils

Important precautions

This plant should not be used in pregnancy. Large doses of the essential oil can lead to dizziness.

Additional Resources