The eucalyptus plant is indigenous to Tasmania and Australia. It is also grown commercially in some parts of the Mediterranean region. Eucalyptus essential oil is derived from the leaves and stems of this plant through a process known as steam distillation. It is considered one of the best essential oils because it has medicinal, therapeutic, and antibacterial properties. This oil has been used in a number of natural products including deodorants, insect repellents, and expectorants.
Although there are many different species of eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus is most commonly used in the distillation of eucalyptus essential oil. Also known as the blue gum tree, or the Australian fever tree, Eucalyptus globulus grows up to 230 feet (70 meters). Its leaves contain eucalyptol, flavonoids, tannins, and volatile oils. Eucalyptol gives eucalyptus essential oil its antiseptic quality. Flavonoids contribute antioxidant properties, and tannins may be anti-inflammatory. Volatile oils feel like fatty oils, but evaporate like water.
Because eucalyptus essential oil is antiseptic, it may promote the healing of wounds and help to cure fungal infections. This same property makes it an effective deodorant by retarding the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Eucalyptus essential oil has been used in medicine in China, India, and Europe for centuries. It has been applied to boils, carbuncles, and sores to promote healing.
Similar in scent to both pine oil and camphor, eucalyptus essential oils are sometimes combined with other types of aromatherapy oils. It is paradoxically both calming and invigorating. Aromatherapists recommend using eucalyptus oil to revive a person who has fainted. To enhance the stimulating properties of eucalyptus essential oil, it can be blended with orange or bergamot essential oils while lavender may increase its relaxing effects.
Applied topically, eucalyptus essential oil has been known to alleviate arthritis and cramps. Salve or ointment containing the oil can be applied to the chest to loosen phlegm, soothe coughs, and relieve discomfort associated with the common cold. Like other essential oils, eucalyptus essential oil can be diluted in carrier oils such as olive oil, apricot kernel oil, or jojoba oil to ensure it does not irritate the skin. Alternatively, it may be added to lotion, dissolved in an Epsom salt bath, or added to a humidifier.
Taken internally, eucalyptus oil may be toxic. It can also interfere with prescription medications, over the counter remedies, and homeopathic regimens. Anyone with liver disease, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, or asthma should avoid taking eucalyptus internally. For these reasons, it is important to consult a physician prior to beginning any course of treatment which contains any part of the eucalyptus plant.