Many people associate eucalyptus leaves with koalas, since they are the main food source of these cute marsupials. They are one of only three animals able to eat the raw leaves, which contain toxic chemicals. Besides being koala food, eucalyptus leaves and essential oil have many benefits for humans as well.
Although the raw and whole leaves aren't safe for consumption as is, they can be made into a tea used for fevers, pain, and colds. The essential oil has also become very popular and is frequently used in respiratory and muscle blends.
Here's more about the benefits of eucalyptus oil and tea, plus ways to use them.
All About Eucalyptus Oil & Leaf
Eucalyptus trees are native to Tasmania and other parts of Australia. These trees have many nicknames including Blue Gum Tree, Fever Tree, Stringy Bark Tree, and Blue Mallee.
Today, eucalyptus trees are grown for commercial use in the Mediterranean and other subtropical regions. Depending on species, trees can range anywhere from the size of an ornamental shrub to almost 200' tall.
There are hundreds of species of eucalyptus trees, but the most commonly used species medicinally is known as Eucalyptus globulus. These trees and their leaves are incredibly important to the traditional medicinal practices of Australia. They were used for fevers, to wrap wounds, and much more. The bark was also used to make bowls, dishes, and canoes.
Eucalyptus essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves and tops of branches. It's common to see the oil as an ingredient in muscle rubs, dental care products, vapor rubs, and cleaning products.
The main active compound in the essential oil is eucalyptol, which has strong antimicrobial properties.
Top Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil & Leaf
Cough and Cold Support
Eucalyptus oil and tea are frequently used because of their benefits for cough and cold symptoms.
Applying the oil to your chest helps to loosen and expel mucus. Using it like a vapor rub also helps to clear a stuffed up nose, allowing you to breathe better. Studies done on one of the main compounds in eucalptus oil, cineole (also called eucalyptol), show that it can even decrease the frequency of coughing when used for consecutive days. (1)(2)
Another way eucalyptus provides cold support is by strengthening your immune system. It has traditionally been taken as either a tea or tincture to fend off sickness before it takes hold. The essential oil has also shown an ability to stimulate immune response. (3)
Eucalyptol also has antimicrobial properties that can help your body against certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi. (4)
Eucalyptus oil may just be one of the most beneficial essential oils for your respiratory system. The compounds found in it can help to open up your chest and act as a decongestant. It also has potential to help with asthma and other respiratory conditions. (5)
Eucalyptus oil is so effective that it's found in products like Vick's VapoRub, and you can easily use it to make a homemade chest rub to use as needed. It can also be effective when inhaled, either in a diffuser or added to hot water to make a steam.
Helps Soreness and Inflammation
Besides respiratory support, one of the top benefits of eucalyptus oil is to naturally relieve pain and inflammation. It contains compounds like cineole and limonene that can bring pain relief even when just inhaled. (6)
However, you'll probably get the most relief by applying eucalyptus topically to sore areas. You can do this simply by diluting the essential oil with a carrier oil and rubbing it into muscles or joints. Or you can mix it with other pain-relieving oils and ingredients to make a rub like this Muscle Mend salve.
Skin and Scalp Health
Eucalyptus has a number of benefits for helping dry, irritated, and itchy skin. The essential oil and extracts from the leaves help keep moisture in your skin by strengthening your skin's protective barrier. They may also help with dermatitis, psoriasis, and dandruff. (7)
Eucalyptus also makes a good ingredient in shampoos and scalp care products. It can help with dry, itchy, red, and scaly scalps. (8)
The antimicrobial and antiseptic nature of eucalyptus also makes it beneficial for wound protection and healing. The leaves were traditionally used to wrap wounds, burns, etc. Today, the essential oil can be used diluted or in a cream, salve, or ointment.
Supports Healthy Teeth
Eucalyptus oil and eucalyptus leaf extract both have demonstrated benefits for oral health. Compounds in the extract can fight the type of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. The essential oil also has strong antibacterial properties. (9)(10)
You can find eucalyptus, or its extract eucalyptol, in dental products like toothpaste, mouthwash, and chewing gum.
The natural antimicrobial properties of eucalyptus means that it makes a great household disinfectant. You can use the essential oil to make a cleaning solution or cleansing spray.
Use about 20 drops of the essential oil for every 1-2 cups of liquid. Combine it with water in a spray bottle to clean surfaces or mix with water and vinegar for more power. You can also diffuse it regularly to cleanse the air.
Helps Repel Pests
Eucaylptus oil is also a natural insect repellent. It can repel mosquitoes and other biting insects, which is good news if you don't like the harsh chemicals of DEET and other conventional repellents. (11)
Using Eucalyptus Oil and Leaves
You can look for eucalyptus tea bags or the loose leaves to make your own tea. Combine one or two teaspoons of the dried, crushed leaves with 8 ounces of hot water and steep for 10-15 minutes to make a tea. Strain out the herbs and add honey if desired.
If you need to decongest your sinuses or lungs, you can make an herbal steam with eucalyptus. Use 1-2 tablespoons of the dried herb and combine with 4-6 cups of hot water in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it steep and cool for 5-10 minutes.
Then, cover your head with a towel and lean your face 8-10 inches over the bowl. Remove the towel covering it, close your eyes, and breathe in the steam. Use the towel over your head as a tent to keep as much steam in as you can.
To use the essential oil, dilute with a carrier oil before applying to your skin or use it in a diffuser. You can rub it on your chest, throat, or sore muscles and joints.
Eucalyptus is generally safe, but the essential oil can irritate sensitive skin. Be sure you dilute it with a carrier oil and do a patch test on your skin.
It's also recommended that you keep eucalyptus oil away from young children, since it may be too strong for them. The essential oil is toxic when ingested and should be kept out of the reach of little ones.
Eucalyptus tea is not known to cause problems during pregnancy or breastfeeding, but you may want to talk to a qualified health practitioner before using. Never consume the leaves raw.
Not Just for Koalas
There's a reason eucalyptus has become one of the most popular essential oils. This powerful herb can support your respiratory system, fight colds, soothe sore muscles, keep insects away, and much more.
Whether you want to try it as an ingredient in natural products or make your own remedies with it, eucalyptus is definitely something to check out!