Eucalyptus oil is one of must have essential oil for winter season due to its ability to provide relief from respiratory conditions like cold, flu, cough. It is popular not only in aromatherapy but also for medicinal and industrial use owning to its content.
Let’s discuss in details the characteristics, composition, properties and benefits of eucalyptus essential oils.
Eucalyptus is a diverse genus of flowering trees and shrubs that belongs to Myrtaceae family. There are more than 500 species in the Eucalyptus genus. Most of the species of eucalyptus are native to Australia, some belongs to neighbouring areas and islands. Nowadays eucalyptus trees are grown in Americas, Europe, Africa, Mediterranean, Middle East, China and Indian subcontinent.
The two well known species that are most used for eucalyptus oil are Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata.
Eucalyptus globulus is a tall and evergreen tree with usual height of 30-55 meters (some cases up to 90 m). When the tree is young, leaves are bluish-green in colour and oval in shape and as tree matures, leaves are long, narrow and yellowish in colour. The tree has creamy-white flowers and smooth, pale grey bark often covered in a white powder. It s native to South-eastern Australia and Tasmania and is now cultivated in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Brazil, China, California and India.
Eucalyptus radiata is a medium to tall tree with usual height of 30 meters. It has a persistent grey or grey-brown bark. The flowering season is from October to January with creamy-yellow flowers. It is also native Australia and is now widely cultivated in Australia and South Africa.
It is estimated that over 300 species of eucalyptus contain some form of volatile oil; however, around 20 of these species have been explored for commercial oil production. Essential oils from eucalyptus species vary in characteristics and composition and may be categorised as follow:
- Oils containing large amount of Cineol (or eucalyptol). Some the species that produces such oil are blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), blue malee (Eucalyptus polybractea), narrow-leaved peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata var. australiana) and the gully gum (Eucalyptus smithii). These oils have medicinal properties and are mostly used for such purposes.
- Oils containing piperitone and/or phellandrene. Some of the species that produce such oil are peppermint eucalyptus (Eucalyptus piperita), grey peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata var. phellandra) and broad-leaved peppermint (Eucalyptus dives var. Type).
- Lemon scented oils containing citronellal and/or citral. Some of the species that produce such oil are lemon-scented eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) and lemon-scented ironbark (Eucalyptus staigeriana). Major compound found in Eucalyptus citriodora oil is citronellal – between 65% to 85%. This oils is widely used as source of citronellal and for fragrance purposes in soaps, perfumes and disinfectants. Eucalyptus staigeriana is used primarily for fragrance purpose and is cultivated mainly in Brazil and Guatemala.
For our reference purposes, we will refer oil from both the species, Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata, as eucalyptus oil.
History of Use of Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus is native to Australia and Aborigines have been using eucalyptus as a traditional household remedy since centuries for various purposes including medicinal.
It was used to heal wounds, cuts, burn, ulcers and relieve from respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, croup, asthma. Eucalyptus leaves were burned and inhaled in cases of malaria, typhoid, cholera, etc. to reduce fever. In addition, eucalyptus was used for treating bacterial dysentery, ringworms, tuberculosis and other stomach illness.
The first commercial production of eucalyptus oil was started by Joseph Bosisto, a pharmacist, outside of Melbourne in 1852. By World War I, eucalyptus oil was used to control a meningitis outbreak and then again for the influenza outbreak in 1919.
- Eucalyptus globulus is known by many names including blue-gum eucalyptus, gum tree, southern blue gum, Tasmanian blue gum, fever tree and stringy bark.
- Eucalyptus radiata is known by many names including narrow-leaf eucalyptus, black peppermint eucalyptus and Forth River peppermint.
In India, eucalyptus oil is also known as Nilgiri oil.
Eucalyptus oil is extracted from fresh or partially dried leaves and young twigs using steam distillation. I kg of eucalyptus oil is produced from around 30-80 kgs of leaves.
The largest producer of eucalyptus oil is China. However, most of eucalyptus oil from China is derived from Cineole fractions of Camphor laurel rather than true eucalyptus species. Other largest producer of eucalyptus oil are South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Chile, India and Swaziland.
Characteristics of Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is a colourless mobile liquid with camphoraceous odour and woody-sweet undertone. The colour of oil changes to yellowish on aging. ISO 770 describes the basic characteristics of eucalyptus oil.
|Botanical Name||Eucalyptus globulus | Eucalyptus radiata|
|Colour||Clear to Pale Yellow|
|Aroma||Fresh, Woody, Sweet, Camphoraceous|
Out of two well known species of eucalyptus, globulus and radiata, oil from radiata is gentler with sweeter and softer aroma. Oil from radiata contain piperitone, a compound also found in peppermint oil, that imparts oil a pleasant and soothing aroma. In addition, oil from radiata has gentler approach to sinus and respiratory illness.
There are six known chemotype of Eucalyptus radiata oils.
Composition of Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is composed of more than hundreds of compounds. Some of the main compounds found in eucalyptus oil are Cineol, pinene, limonene, cymene, phellandrene, terpinene, aromadendrene, among others.
The main compounds found in oil from Eucalyptus globulus are as follow:
- Oxide (1,8-cineole 59–75%)
- Monoterpenes (incl. alpha-pinene 3–27%, limonene 2–10%, cymene 1–4%, para-cymene 4%)
- Sesquiterpene (aromadendrene 0.1–6%)
- Monoterpenones (incl. pinocarvone, fenchone, carvone)
- Monoterpenols, sesquiterpenols, transpinocarveol
- Ester terpenyl acetate <2% aldehydes (incl. myrtenal, geranial, valeric/butyric aldehyde)
The main compounds found in oil from Eucalyptus radiata are as follow:
- Oxides (incl. 1,8-cineole 63–72%, caryophyllene oxide)
- Monoterpenes (incl. alpha-pinene 4–14%, limonene 5%, myrcene 2%, alphaphellandrene 0.12%)
- Monoterpenols 20% (incl. alpha-terpineol 3%, geraniol 2–3%, isoterpineol-4 2%, linalool, borneol)
- Monoterpenals 8% (incl. myrtenal, citronnellal, neral, geranial)
Adulteration of Eucalyptus Oil
There are NOT very high chances of adulteration of eucalyptus oil since eucalyptus oil has good yield and relatively low on prices. However, at times eucalyptus may be adulterated with 1,8-cineole from various Cinnamomum varieties. It is difficult to detect such adulteration in eucalyptus oil.
In addition, most eucalyptus oil available in the market are redistilled or rectified. This leads to reduction of terpenes and volatile aldehydes in oil. This reduction makes oil safer for internal use purpose.
Eucalyptus oil blends well with basil, black pepper, cajeput, cedar-wood, german chamomile, roman chamomile, cypress, frankincense, ginger, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, marjoram, peppermint, pine, rosemary, tea tree and thyme oil.
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Eucalyptus oil have analgesic, anti-anxiety, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antineuralgic, antipyretic, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, balsamic, cicatrisant, decongestant, deodorant, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, mucolytic, parasiticide, prophylactic, rubefacient, stimulant, vermifuge and vulnerary properties.
Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil was used by Aborigines for centuries for it medicinal values. There are numerous benefits of eucalyptus oils including in treatment of colds and flu, relieving respiratory conditions, boosting immunity, healing wounds and infections and hair care.
Respiratory Conditions: Eucalyptus oil is one of the most effective essential oils for a number of respiratory conditions including bronchitis, cough, asthma, sinusitis and COPD.
A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study found Cineole to be effective in treating acute bronchitis due to its proven pharmacodynamics and pharmacological properties. Cinole, main compound present in eucalyptus oil has mucolytic, expectorant, bronchodilating and anti-inflammatory properties.
According to other research, Cineole might be able to break up the congestion and remove excess mucous. In addition, its anti-inflammatory properties help relieve swollen and painful nasal passageways, thus making it a useful natural remedy for respiratory issues.
One of the best method to get relief from respiratory conditions is vapour inhalation. Inhaling vapour with eucalyptus oil helps to loosen phlegm and alleviate congestion associated with the common cold, flu or more severe conditions such as bronchitis. Put some drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot boiling water and inhale the vapour. Another way is to message few drops of eucalyptus oil on chest, back or throat. You may also use diffuser for inhalation.
Eucalyptus oil is used in many OTC medication for treatment of cough including popular Vicks VapoRub.
Hair Care: Eucalyptus oil is a powerful natural hair care remedy that helps in dealing with dandruff, itchy scalp, lice and provide follicle stimulation. Eucalyptus oil promote blood vessel constriction and cleansing. It remove build-up of germs around hair follicles leading to hair growth and prevent conditions like dandruff, itchy scalp, and psoriasis.
According to study conducted, a combination of eucalyptus oil and Leptospermum petersonii was shown to be more than twice as effective in curing head lice infestations as compared to a neurotoxic treatment.
Mix in a carrier oil and apply to scalp for best results.
Treat Wounds: Eucalyptus oil is a natural remedy to fight inflammation and promote healing for skin irritations such as wounds, cuts, burns, sores and insect bites because of its antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
Infections: According to research, eucalyptus oil is effective against a number of bacteria including Mycobacterium tuberculosis and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), viruses, and fungi (including Candida).
Another study suggest that eucalyptus oil (Eucalyptus globulus) has antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Escherichia coli is present in human intestine and causes lower urinary tract infection, coleocystis or septicemia and Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for post operative wound infection, toxic shock syndrome and food poisoning.
Pain and Inflammation: Eucalyptus oil is useful in case pain and inflammation because of its analgesic, anti-oxidant and stimulant properties. Eucalyptus oil helps in circulation of blood and relief from pain. In addition, antispasmodic action makes eucalyptus oil helpful for relieving from aches or pains.
Use eucalyptus oil in case of arthritis, ligament sprain, tendon sprains, fibrosis, nerve pain and muscle pain.
Massage a few drops of eucalyptus oil evenly over the affected area to ease the pain.
Other Usages: Eucalyptus oil may also be used for alleviating anxiety, reducing fever, killing germs, stoping bad breath, repelling rats, improving earaches and alleviating headaches due to congestion or poor digestion.
As an antipyretic, eucalyptus may be used as natural remedy for both intermittent fevers (e.g. malaria) and eruptive fevers such as measles. Eucalyptus oil is also useful as vermifuge, clearing intestinal parasites including roundworm, pinworm.
Products: Eucalyptus oil is used in many over-the-counter products, room fresheners, soap, pain relievers, household cleaners and others. It is widely used in topical preparations for relieving inflammatory conditions like fibromyalgia, nerve pain, muscle cramps and joint pain and in liniments, inhalants, cough syrups, ointments, toothpaste and as pharmaceutical flavourings.
Eucalyptus oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing oil. However, please conduct a patch test before using topically. Dilute with a carrier oil before each use. Eucalyptus oil is a safer choice in case of use for sensitive people and children.
Consult your healthcare provider if you’re pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or being treated for other health challenges. Keep out of reach of children. Do NOT use on children under ten years of age. Care needs to be taken with asthmatics.
Care must be taken in storing eucalyptus oil. Keep eucalyptus away from homeopathic remedies as it may antidote them. Must be stored in a cold and dark place. Shelf life is up to three years.
It is contraindicated for internal use in inflammatory disease of the GI tract or bile ducts and in severe liver disease.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only, it is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or, diagnose any disease or condition. Nor is it intended to prescribe in any way. This information is for educational purposes only and may not be complete, nor may its data be accurate.