The eucalyptus is a tall, fast-growing evergreen flowering-plant native to the Australian continent. It belongs to the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, with over 700 species around the world. Eucalyptus varies in size and habit from shrubs to tall trees. They usually either have smooth and fibrous bark and stringy leaves with oil glands. The fruit, commonly known as “gamnut” is a woody capsule which is a roughly cone-shaped and small in size. Outside the Australian continent, eucalyptus is mostly found and is widely cultivated in temperate and tropical regions, including, Europe, Africa, China, America, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
The medicinal properties of Eucalyptus have been utilized for over a thousand years as is evident in the Indian Ayurveda, Chinese traditional medicine, Greek and European styles of medicine. Eucalyptus Globulus, commonly known as Tasmanian Blue Gum, Southern Blue Gum or Blue Gum is the main source of eucalyptus oil used globally. It is one of the most popularly cultivated trees in Australia and India. The oil extracted from the leaves is a colourless liquid with a sweet yet strong woody scent containing 1, 8-cineole, called eucalyptol.The leaves contain tannins and flavonoids which are rich in antioxidants and aids in reducing inflammation. Eucalyptus oil has a wide range of health benefits and is incorporated in various ways and forms from antiseptic to cosmetic products, perfumes, food flavouring product, dental preparations, and industrial solvents.
Eucalyptus oil as a medicine has a high concentration of natural compounds that work in synergy to produce a variety of health-promoting effects and is traditionally used to reduce symptoms of colds, coughs, and congestion. It is also used as ointments to relieve joint and muscle pain. It is also consumed in the form of tea as a remedy for fever.
Health Benefits of Eucalyptus
Although scientific research may not confirm all the claims, Eucalyptus is believed to have a wide range of health benefits and below are some of its potential health benefits:
- Improves Respiratory System: Vicks VapoRub (VR), a staple household product in treating common cold and coughs is one of the most commonly used products containing eucalyptus oil. According to studies, products like VR which contain eucalyptus oil, camphor, and menthol have a significant improvement on coughs, common cold, sleep difficulty and congestion compared to a petroleum placebo. It is believed to reduce muscles spasms that can cause congestion to the airway causing breathing issues. It is also traditionally used in treating colds, bronchitis, and congested sinuses. The consumption of a eucalyptus leaf extract can improve respiratory tract infection.
- Relieves Pain: According to research, it is believed that eucalyptus oil contains analgesic properties essential in treating joint and muscle pain like sprains, bruising, backache, and arthritis. The anti-inflammatory compound, eucalyptol found in Eucalyptus plays an important role in relieving pain.
- Prevents Infection: The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of the Eucalyptus oil is believed to be an effective remedy for minor wounds and cuts. Studies show that when used as an antiseptic, it can reduce the risk of infection and even support wound healing when combined with olive oil. Traditional Aborigines are known to use Eucalyptus oil as a medicine to treat fungal infection and skin wounds.
- Enhances the Immune System: According to BMC Immunology, eucalyptus oil shows a stimulating response to the immune system. The oil enhances the immune system’s phagocytic ability toward unwanted foreign particles.
- Oral Care: The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of the eucalyptus plant have been utilized in the form of toothpaste and mouthwash and dental preparations. It is believed to play a significant role in preventing tooth decay and periodontitis. Studies show that chewing gum containing 0.3% to 0.6% eucalyptus extract can get rid of bad breaths and can even improve gingivitis in some people.
- Improves Asthma and Sinusitis: The eucalyptol presents in eucalyptus can break up mucus in people dealing with asthma. Eucalyptol also aids in lowering the dosage of steroid medications for some individuals with acute asthma. Cineole in Eucalyptus also helps in speeding the healing of severe sinusitis.
Although the aromatic and topical use of eucalyptus is generally safe for anyone over the age of two, a Doctor’s advice should be consulted before the consumption of any Eucalyptus products. And any internal use should be considered carefully and only in small doses, particularly with young children and elderly people