Eucalyptus Oil, Leaf and Plant Benefits

Eucalyptus Oil, Leaf and Plant Benefits

Eucalyptus is native to Australia, but today can be found growing in subtropical regions worldwide. One of the first recorded medicinal uses of Eucalyptus was by the Australian aborigines, who not only extracted valuable water from its roots, but used its leaves to relieve fevers. It has been reported that early Australian developers were able to successfully treat and cure fever using Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus is sold as both a supplement and is an ingredient in over-the-counter products. Eucalyptus supplements have been promoted for cough/bronchitis and rheumatism. Eucalyptus as an ingredient in over-the-counter drugs is used for temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and for temporary relief of nasal congestion and coughs associated with a cold.

The medicinal properties of Eucalyptus reside in its oil, which is extracted from the fresh leaves and branch tips, as well as dried leaves. Eucalyptus leaf (Eucalypti folium) is an approved remedy of the German Government's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Commission E) for catarrhs of the respiratory tract. Eucalyptus oil (Eucalypti aetheroleum) is approved for internal and external catarrhs of the respiratory tract and externally for rheumatic complaints. Approval by Commission E should not be considered the equivalent of FDA approval. The FDA has a much higher standard and requires the establishment of absolute certainty of safety and efficacy of any product intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease and demands that such products be classified as a drug.

Health Benefits of Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus supplements are derived from the fresh leaves and branch tips as well as the dried leaves of the tree known as Eucalyptus Globulus, Eucalyptus fructicetorum, and Eucalyptus smithii. The primary active constituent in eucalyptus leaves is the volatile oil euclyptol. For eucalyptus to provide an effective expectorant and antiseptic action, the volatile oil should contain at least 70 eucalyptol. Eucalyptus oil has been compared to menthol because it acts on receptors in the nasal mucosa, which help to alleviate nasal congestion.

Cautions and Side Effects

Eucalyptus supplementation is inadvisable for children, adolescents, older or chronically ill people, pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding, and anyone with low blood pressure, kidney problems, stomach problems, intestinal or biliary inflammation, or liver disorders. Insulin-dependent diabetics should carefully monitor blood sugar since eucalyptus may affect blood sugar levels.

Eucalyptus may affect the metabolism and clearance of drugs like phenobarbital, aminopyrine, and amphetamine by the liver. Anyone taking such medication should avoid the use of eucalyptus.

Precautions and Side Effects

Unlike pharmaceutical companies, the manufacturers of herbs and supplements do not have the same mechanism for reporting adverse effects associated with the use of their products. Therefore data on adverse effects is limited. Life-threatening poisonings have been reported from overdoses of eucalyptus oil. Initial symptoms of toxicity are epigastric pain and vomiting, followed by central nervous system depression, and coma. Other potential adverse effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Only a few drops of Eucalyptus oil are enough to cause life-threatening poisoning in some children. Adults have been poisoned with only 4 to 5 milliliters. Symptoms of overdose include a drop in blood pressure, circulation problems, collapse, and asphyxiation. In the event of overdose, you should seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

Supporting Literature

Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, Ore: Eclectic Medical; 1998:69-70.
Castleman M. The Healing Herbs. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1991, 162-163.
Kumar A, et al. Antibacterial properties of some Eucalyptus oils. Fitoterapia. 1988;59:141-144.
McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press; 1996.
Wren RC. Potter's New Cyclopedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. Essex, England: C.W. Daniel Co., 1988, 110-111.