The Australian aborigines have used eucalyptus for
hundreds of years as a remedy for fever, wounds,
coughs, asthma, and joint pain. Australian settlers
named the eucalyptus the fever tree because of its disease-
fighting properties. Baron Ferdinand von Miller, a
German botanist and explorer, was responsible for making
the properties of eucalyptus known to the world in
the mid-1800s. Likening eucalyptus’ scent to that of cajaput
oil (a disinfectant), von Miller suggested that eucalyptus
might also be used as a disinfectant in fever districts.
Seeds of the tree were sent to Algiers, France and
planted. The trees thrived and, because of the drying action
of the roots, turned one of the marshiest areas of Algiers
into a dry and healthy environment, thereby driving
away malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Eucalyptus trees
were then planted in temperate areas around the world to
prevent malaria. As a result, eucalyptus trees are now
cultivated in China, India, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, South
and North Africa, Algeria, South America, and in the
southern portion of the United States.
Commercial production of eucalyptus began in Victoria,
Australia in 1860. The nineteenth century eclectic
doctors adopted eucalyptus as a treatment for fevers,
laryngitis, asthma, chronic bronchitis, whooping
cough, gonorrhea, ulcers, gangrenous tissue, edema,
and gastrointestinal disturbances. European doctors used
eucalyptus oil to sterilize their surgical and medical
equipment. Eucalyptus leaves were often made into cigars
or cigarettes and smoked to relieve asthma and
Modern medicines around the world have included
eucalyptus in their practices. Indian ayurvedics use eucalyptus
to treat headaches resulting from colds. Eucalyptus
is listed in the Indian Pharmacopoeia as an expectorant
and in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia as a skin irritant
used in nerve pain. In France, eucalyptus leaves are applied
topically to relieve congestion from colds and to
treat acute bronchial disease. A standardized eucalyptus
tea is licensed in Germany to treat bronchitis and throat
inflammations. Eucalyptus is also an ingredient in German
herbal cough preparations. The German Commission
E has approved the internal use of eucalyptus to
treat congestion of the respiratory tract, and the external
use to treat rheumatic complaints. In the United States,
eucalyptus is a component of many decongestant and expectorating
cough and cold remedies, such as cough
drops, cough syrups, and vapor baths. Eucalyptus is
often used in veterinary medicine. It is used to treat horses
with flu, dogs with distemper, and to treat parasitic
Eucalyptus is most popular for its ability to clear
congestion due to colds, coughs, flu, asthma, and sinusitis.
The tannins found in eucalyptus have astringent
properties that reduce mucous membrane inflammation
of the upper respiratory tract. Eucalyptol, the chemical
component of the oil, works to loosen phlegm. Cough
drops containing eucalyptus promote saliva production,
which increases swallowing and lessens the coughing
impulse. Earaches can also be treated with eucalyptus.
When inhaled, the eucalyptus fumes open the eustachian
tubes, draining fluids and relieving pressure. Eucalyptus
enhances breathing, which makes it an effective
remedy for asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, whooping
cough, and colds.
Eucalyptus is a component of many topical arthritis
creams and analgesic ointments. When applied to the skin,
eucalyptus stimulates blood flow and creates a warm feeling
to the area, relieving pain in muscles and joints
The oil extracted from the eucalyptus leaf has powerful
antiseptic, deodorizing, and antibacterial properties. It is especially
effective in killing several strains of Staphylococcus
bacteria. A mixture of 2% eucalyptus oil evaporated in
an aroma lamp has been shown to destroy 70% of the
Staphylococcus bacteria in the affected room. When the oil
is applied to cuts, scrapes, and other minor wounds, it inhibits
infections and viruses. A 2002 report out of Australia
made researchers around the world take note when two
cases of patients with staph infections resistant to traditional
antibiotic therapy responded to a mixture of eucalyptus leaf
oil abstract. The Australian researchers recommended formal
clinical trials to test the therapy, based on an ancient
aboriginal remedy. Eucalyptus also fights plaque-forming
bacteria and is used to treat gum disease and gingivitis.
In large doses, the oil can be a kidney irritant and
can induce excretion of bodily fluids and waste products.
Eucalyptus oil added to water may be gargled to relieve
sore throat pain or used as a mouthwash to heal mouth
sores or gum disorders. Consequently, eucalyptus is an
ingredient in many commercial mouthwashes.
Eucalyptus’ pain-relieving properties make it a good
remedy for muscle tension. One study showed that a
mixture of eucalyptus, peppermint, and ethanol oils successfully
relieved headache-related muscle tension.
Eucalyptus may lower blood sugar levels. Placing a
drop of the oil on the tongue may reduce nausea. The oil
has also been used to kill dust mites and fleas.
Eucalyptus oil is one of the most well-known fragrances
in aromatherapy. Two species of eucalyptus are
used in aromatherapy oils: E. globulus and E. citriodora.
The essential oil of eucalyptus is used to relieve cramps,
cleanse the blood, heal wounds, disinfect the air, and to
treat conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, throat and
sinus infections, fevers, kidney infections, rheumatism,
bladder infections, and sore muscles.
The essential oil can be diluted and added to a massage
oil to ease aching muscles. The oil can be added to
hot water and inhaled to reduce nasal congestion. It can
also be diffused in the room of a sick patient to disinfect
Some believe that inhaling the diffused oil can enhance
concentration and thought processes. Studies have
shown that inhalation of the cineole compound of eucalyptus
stimulates coordination and motor activities in
mice. Eucalyptus oil may also uplift the spirit during
times of emotional overload or general sluggishness.
Applying a diluted oil to the skin instead of inhaling
it increases the rate of absorption into the blood. Often
the speed with which it is absorbed is so fast, the odor
can be detected on the breath within minutes
The oil is also an effective febrifuge, and a cold
compress with eucalyptus oil added to it has a cooling
effect that is useful in helping to reduce a fever. The essential
oil of eucalyptus is also used to treat wounds, herpes
simplex virus, skin ulcers, and acne. Combined with
water, the oil makes an effective insect repellant. Because
of its skin-moistening properties, the oil is often an
ingredient in dandruff shampoo.
Eucalyptus oil may be combined with other oils that
have similar properties, such as niaouli, pine, Swiss pine,
hyssop, and thyme oils. It also mixes well with lemon,
verbena, balm, and lavender oils.
Eucalyptus is available as a tincture, cream, ointment,
essential oil, or lozenge. Many health food stores
carry fresh or dried eucalyptus leaf in bulk. Eucalyptus
can be ingested through the use of teas or tincture preparations,
inhaled, or applied externally.
Eucalyptus infusion is ingested to treat coughs,
colds, bronchitis, congestion, and throat infections. To
create an infusion, 1 cup of boiling water is poured over
1-2 teaspoons of crushed eucalyptus leaves. The mixture
is covered and steeped for 10 minutes and is then
strained. Up to 2 cups can be drunk daily.
Inhaling eucalyptus vapors is beneficial for sinus
and bronchial congestion that occurs with bronchitis,
whooping cough, colds, asthma, influenza, and other
respiratory illnesses. A drop of eucalyptus oil or two to
three fresh or dried leaves are added to a pan of boiling
water or to a commercial vaporizer. The pan is removed
from the heat, a towel is placed over the pan and the patient’s
head, and the patient inhales the rising steam. Patients
should close their eyes when inhaling the steam to
protect them from eucalyptus’ strong fumes.
For healing wounds and preventing infection, the
wound is washed and then diluted eucalyptus oil or
crushed eucalyptus leaves are applied to the affected area.
For relief of muscle aches or arthritis pain, several
drops of the diluted oil are rubbed onto the affected area,
or a few drops of diluted oil are added to bath water for a
healing bath. Adding eucalyptus leaves wrapped in a
cloth to running bath water is also effective.
For gum disease, a few drops of diluted oil are
placed on a fingertip and massaged into the gums.
Tinctures should contain 5-10% essential oil of eucalyptus.
A person can take 1 ml three times daily.
Ointments should contain 5-20% essential oil of eucalyptus.
The person should use as directed for chapped
hands, joint and muscle pains, and dandruff.
Children or infants should not be treated with eucalyptus.
Of special note, eucalyptus oil should not be applied
to the facial areas (especially the nose or eyes) of
small children or infants. Pregnant or breast-feeding
women should not use eucalyptus.
People with digestive problems, stomach or intestinal
inflammations, biliary duct disorders, or liver disease
should not take eucalyptus.
Undiluted eucalyptus oil should never be ingested.
Small amounts of undiluted oil (even in amounts as little as
one teaspoon) are toxic and may cause circulatory problems,
collapse, suffocation, or death. Eucalyptus oil should
always be diluted in a carrier oil such as almond, grapeseed,
or other vegetable oil before applying to the skin.
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea may occur in rare
cases. Applying eucalyptus to the skin may cause a rash
in those who are sensitive or allergic to eucalyptus.
Eucalyptus works to detoxify the body. If it is used
simultaneously with other drugs, the effects of those
drugs may be weakened.