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Healing Properties of Eucalyptus

Known as “Al Kiina” in Arabic, eucalyptus is a fast growing evergreen tree famously native to Australia and Tasmania (Koala bears mainly feed on its leaves). You might be more surprised to discover that you can find it in many warm countries, including Lebanon!. In fact, there are over 800 species of eucalyptus in the world, but Eucalyptus globulus, also known as Blue Gum, is the main source of the eucalyptus oil used worldwide. Yes, it is the oil from the leaves which is highly sought after. The Aborigines, indigenous to Australia, discovered the healing properties of the oil derived from the leaves to treat wounds and fungal infections. Teas made from the leaves were also used to reduce fevers. We also know that the Indians (Ayurvedic medicine), Greeks and Chinese have also incorporated it for a range of conditions over thousands of years.

Fast forward to today and eucalyptus is widely used in medicines and in many consumer products, ranging from chewing gum, mouth wash, and muscle relief ointments to perfume. One of the most well known products using eucalyptus are vapor rub ointments.

So, how are the useful bits extracted from this tree? We can use its leaves or its oil, which is extracted from the leaves when they are steam distilled. The oil in its pure form is colourless with a strong, sweet and woody scent. Its main ingredient is 1.8 cineole (also known as eucalyptol), which acts as a natural antiseptic. The essential oil must be diluted properly and applied topically, correctly and safely, so that we can benefit from its goodness! To use it safely on the skin in diluted form, the ratio should be 1-5% eucalyptus oil to 95-99% carrier oil, such as olive oil. In other words, that equals one to five drops of pure eucalyptus essential oil in 30 milliliters (or 6 teaspoons) of a carrier oil. It’s also important to note that doctors advise that an oil, salve or chest rub with eucalyptus should not be used on the face or nose of children under 2.

Please also note that eucalyptus leaves must not be ingested. If eaten, they are highly toxic and can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and in extreme cases, can lead to a coma. Koalas, on the other hand, will munch on them all day as their bodies can safely ingest the harsh leaves, unlike us!

Now let’s explore the different benefits offered by this versatile plant:

Relief from Cold Symptoms
Congestion and a stuffy nose during a cold can be helped by inhaling steam with added eucalyptus oil. The eucalyptol in the oil seems to work as a natural decongestant and cough suppressant by helping the body break down mucus and phlegm and opening up the airways.

Ease Joint and Muscle Pain
There are a range of over-the-counter creams and ointments with eucalyptus essential oils that are made for treating pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. It is well known that eucalyptus oil helps to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation associated with back pain, joint or muscle injury. You can also use (diluted) eucalyptus oil to relieve sore muscles after a strong physical workout. Just massage the sore area with the oils (eucalyptus mixed with a carrier oil) and you’ll feel relief from the tension as your muscles relax.

Clear up Cold Sores
If you have a persistent cold sore on your mouth, eucalyptus oil might actually help, thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Just make sure you dilute it properly with a carrier oil to avoid irritating your skin and be sure to wipe it off before heading outdoors to avoid any burns resulting from exposure to UV rays.

Disinfect Wounds
The oil’s antimicrobial properties can help prevent infection and even support healing of minor wounds, cuts, scrapes and bruises when combined with a carrier oil. The germicidal properties in eucalyptus protect open wounds from infection (for deep wounds and cuts, it is always best to seek your doctor or the medical emergency room). The oil can also be used as an ointment for insect bites or stings as well as an insect repellant.

Dental Care and to Freshen Breath
You might have noticed that eucalyptus is often added to mouthwash and dental products. That is because eucalyptus appears to be active in fighting bacteria that cause tooth decay, gum disease and mouth odor. It is also added to chewing gum as it can promote periodontal health according to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology.

Wards off Bugs
Yup, they ward away the creepy crawlies in your home too. In fact, oil of lemon eucalyptus is highly recommended as an insect repellant. If you can’t get hold of the oil, you can try a DIY version at home which you can read about further below.

                                        Picture credit: https://www.ecoparent.ca/eco-wellness/clear-congestion-easy-steam-inhalations

Here are some ways eucalyptus can be safely used in your homes whether you use the leaves or its oil.

  • Aromatherapy. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a diffuser or a steam bowl.
  • Whole leaves. Get a twig with the leaves and hang them in your shower or your bath. It adds a relaxing spa-like vibe to your routine! The scent of eucalyptus from the leaves can be calming too. You can also add the leaves to a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Hang your head (draped with a towel) over the bowl with steaming vapors.
    The aforementioned aromatherapy and whole leaves usages can help ease cold related congestion.
  • Bath Infusion. You can add just a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to your warm bath. It can help to relieve inflammation and/or pain. Again, remember that eucalyptus is stronger and sharper than other essential oils so make sure not to use too much or else you can blend it with other oils into your bath.
  • Bug repellent. As we said earlier, you can make it at home. Here is what you need to do: Fill a jar with eucalyptus leaves and add to it your choice of oil (we recommend olive, jojoba or almond). Place the jar in direct sun for two weeks and then strain the leaves out. You can use it liberally anywhere in the house to ward off the insects.
  • Topical. You simply need to add a few drops of eucalyptus oil into a carrier oil (such as olive oil or fractionated coconut oil) with the previously mentioned proportions. You can add this oil mixture to your chest and it can ease cold related congestion. Alternatively, you can put it on your skin to soothe sore muscles or to heal mild wounds.

                   Picture credit: https://deadplantclub.com/eucalyptus-shower-bouquet/

Well hope you enjoyed reading about the benefits of eucalyptus. While it is by no means a replacement for conventional medicine, it can be a good alternative if you are looking for something natural to relieve muscle pain and cold symptoms or to prevent infection from mild wounds. It just takes a tiny amount of this oil to do the trick. However, the important thing is to use it in moderation. While too much exposure to eucalyptus can have some unwelcome side effects, in small amounts it can do wonders. Have you already tried eucalyptus? If so, did you have favorable results? Why don’t you tell us about your experience? We would love to hear about it!

First picture credit:

https://aromaticstudies.com/about-eucalyptus-globulus-and-18-cineole/

References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266580#eucalyptus_health_benefits

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eucalyptus-leaves#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/eucalyptus

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/trees/eucalyptus/eucalyptus-leaf-uses.htm