By Hwaa Irfan
Native to Australia there are over 700 varieties of the eucalyptus tree a few number of which can be found in Indonesia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. All belonging to the myrtle family, he native/aboriginal names vary according to clan and variety for example, Myrtaceae, the Nyungar clan word for Eucalyptus marginata is “jarrah”, in south-western Australia, the Eucalyptus diversicolor is known as karri, in Western Australia, “marri” for Eucalyptus calophylla, and “ballook/kino” refers to Eucalyptus globulus. The indigenous-aboriginal name “mallee” is actually a name for a growth formation rather than a particular variety of Eucalyptus which arises from growth under stress like shortage of water, bush fires, termites or from felling. Mallee is when many leaves grow from underground branch/trunk.
Different varieties have served different functions amongst the indigenous-aborigines as a tonic for the stomach, and for fevers from the peppermint variety, the gum mixed with water for diarrhea, as an antiseptic, and as an astringent for wounds for example. It is probably from the practice of burning the leaves for fevers that the European colonizers learnt to burn the leaves to help ease asthmatic conditions. It was in the 19th century that Eucalyptus was introduced to Europe. In Sicily, Eucalyptus has been used against malaria.
The many varieties can be found in the form of shrubs as well as large trees, which can grow to a height of 100m. This fast growing tree has strong thick roots, which befits its natural habitat as they are capable of absorbing large amounts of water to the extent that they can dry out a marshland, and turn swamps into rich agricultural land. The leaves are populated by oil secreting glands only visible when held up to the light. The leaves of the young tree of Eucalyptus globulus are bluish green, ovular in shape, as the tree matures the leaves become more elongated, narrow, yellow, and surround creamy white fragrant flowers. The name Eucalyptus is actually a Greek word meaning “well cover(ed)” referring to the buds which are well covered by a cone that opens as the flowers bloom.
The Eucalyptus tree can now be found in many countries including Africa, the Americas, China, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. The essential oil is extracted from fresh or partially dried leaves, and twigs through a process of steam distillation, which first occurred in Australia in the mid-19th century. The British Pharmacopeia approved the use of the oil in 1885. Now the essential oil is mainly produced in Brazil, California, China, Spain, Portugal, and Russia. Spain, However, Eucalyptus globulus is the favored one for its medicinal properties., and is the variety that exudes a blue gum rich in tannins.
When buying look for almost colorless oil, which not only yellows with age, but its therapeutic astringent quality increases with age. The smell should be camphor-like, which has a piercing aroma with a slight scent of wood. In general one can expect to find unadulterated eucalyptus essential oil as the cost is quite low, however there is on the market adulterated eucalyptus oil added to which is synthetic cineole.
Some of the constituents of Eucalyptus essential oil are:
- Aromadendrene (greater in Eucalyptus globulus/blue gum eucalyptus)
- Camphene (Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
- Cineol/ Eucalyptol (greater in Eucalyptus globulus/blue gum eucalyptus)
- Citronellal (greater in Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
- Citronellol (greater in Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
- Cymene (greater in Eucalyptus globulus/blue gum eucalyptus)
- Geraniol (greater in Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
- Limonene (greater in Eucalyptus globulus/blue gum eucalyptus)
- Phellandrene (greater in Eucalyptus globulus/blue gum eucalyptus)
- Pinene (greater in Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
- Piperitone (Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
- Terpinene (greater in Eucalyptus globulus/blue gum eucalyptus)
- Thujene (Eucalyptus dives /peppermint eucalyptus)
Eucalyptol is effective as an expectorant, decongestant, for pain relief, to reduce/eliminate coughs, and as a potent antibacterial. Cineol is a powerful germicide, but is most effective working as part of the whole rather than apart as is the tendency of modern Western allopathic medicine. In the research work of Dr. Javad Safaei-Ghomi of the Essential Oils Research Institute, Iran on the varieties Eucalyptus intertexta and Eucalyptus largiflorens, Eucalyptus intertexta was found to be a stronger antimicrobial than Eucalyptus largiflorens featuring the constituents eucalyptol/cineol. The antimicrobial properties were found to be effective against Candida albicans and Pr. vulgaris
Eucalyptus essential oil as an uplifting aroma that cools yet clears the head. The main varieties used in Aromatherapy are:
Eucalyptus globulus – blue gum eucalyptus
Eucalyptus dives – peppermint eucalyptus
Eucalyptus citriodora -lemon-scented eucalyptus
Eucalyptus radiate/Australiana -narrow-leaved eucalyptus
Some of the therapeutic properties identified so far are as a:
- Astringent – Eucalyptus globulus – blue gum eucalyptus
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents!
Through the medical research of German doctors in the late 19th century, eucalyptus was prescribed for cases of bronchitis, asthma, catarrh, coughs, colds and flu. Aromatherapist Dr. Jean Valnet applied the leaves as an infusion in cases of non-insulin dependent diabetes. Eucalyptus is famous for its ability to reduce mucous, and has a special affinity with the respiratory tract. In fact, the oil is more potent than herbal preparations pertaining to the respiratory tract. Interestingly, suppressed emotions are expressed physically on the first level through the lungs which reflect the other main therapeutic affinity of Eucalyptus i.e. the mind-body connection. Eucalyptus is also affective in and nervous or mental tensions. As a stimulant, Eucalyptus is effective in supporting the enzymes in the liver concerning detoxification.
Cooling and deodorizing, it is effective in hot, clammy weather, protects against malaria, and eases migraines.
The lemon scented variety Eucalyptus citriodora is effective in cases of rheumatic pains.
Eucalyptus essential oil is non-toxic externally and internally, but at levels of 3ml+ it is fatal. Given the different vulnerabilities of children and elderly people, it should not be used beyond vapor therapy. It should be avoided by those with high blood pressure, and epilepsy, and overuse has been known to cause headaches. The essential oil is not compatible with homeopathic treatment, and should not be used those on medication specific to the liver, as Eucalyptus promotes detoxification of the liver.
The oil can only be used for external use, and when used it should be diluted by means of Carrier Oils like Sweet Almond Oil. Drops of no more than 5 should be used for:
- Blood – Hypoglycemic, poor circulation, sluggish liver
- Cuts and wounds – A good antiseptic that eases blisters
- Head – Headaches
- Infections – Cystitis, herpes, respiratory, skin,
- Insects – Bites, lice, repels especially cockroaches, and silverfish.
- Menses – Leucorrhea,
- Mind – Concentration, study, homework, exhaustion, tension, nervous debility
- Nervous System – Neuralgia
- Musco-skeletal – Fibrositis, rheumatic pains,
- Skin – Burns, spots, greasy hair, dandruff
- Respiratory – Asthma, bronchitis, coughs, colds, flu, sinusitis
- A head steam bath – head and chest infections. At the first symptoms of flu/cold a couple of drops in a bowl of steaming hot water stops the progression of the flu/cold. In the midst of a flu/cold, it helps to clear the respiratory tract, and to prevent secondary infection. For a sore throat 1 drop in warm water makes a good gargle. If colds or flu is doing the rounds in the family, burning a couple drops as in vapor therapy. Also use vapour therapy to promote concentration
- Direct application with cotton wool for cuts, wounds, pain
- In a massage oil (almond or avocado)/bath for arthritis, dandruff, fatigue, fibrositis, greasy hair, respiratory tract infections, spots, and rheumatic pains.
- Ina cream for slow healing cuts, skin ulcers, spots, wounds
- In a spray/diffuser as an insecticide
A massage oil can be made using as a carrier like almond or avocado oils, at a ratio of 30ml essential oil for every 500ml of carrier oil.
Jones, C. “The Medicinal Properties and Bush Foods of Eucalypts.” http://anpsa.org.au/APOL9/mar98-2.html
Salvesen, C. “Aromatherapy for Natural Health and Beauty.” http://www.abundantlifeessentials.com/adulteration.htm
Safaei-Ghomi et al. “Antimicrobial and Antifungal Properties of the Essential Oil and Methanol Extracts of Eucalyptus largiflorens and Eucalyptus intertexta.” Pharmacogn Mag. 2010 Jul–Sep; 6(23): 172–175. PMCID: PMC2950377 doi: 10.4103/0973-1296.66930.
Yokose, H. “Aboriginal Words in Australian English.” http://nicholnl.wcp.muohio.edu/DingosBreakfastClub/Australia/Upfield/AboEnglish.pdf