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Health Benefits of Eucalyptus

Smita Dongre

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Externally, the antiseptic, slightly anesthetic, anti-bacterial, and warming properties of Eucalyptus make it a valuable resource treatment of burns, sores, ulcers, scrapes, boils, and wounds.   Applied topically as an oil or ointment, it also helps relieve the pain of rheumatism, aching, pains, stiffness, and neuralgia.  For outdoor enthusiasts, Eucalyptus rubbed into the skin seems to work well as an insect repellant, especially for mosquitoes and fleas.   Rubbed into the chest, it relieves congestion and cough.  Indeed, the Vick’s VapoRub smell is a familiar one to most of us, and with good reason - it works!

For relief of congestion, asthma, and respiratory problems, boil Eucalyptus leaves in water in a tightly covered pot, and then remove from heat and inhale the vapors.   For an antiseptic bath, place Eucalyptus leaves in a mesh bag and hang under the bath faucet as you run a hot bath.

Cough and cold: Eucalyptus is used in many medicines to treat coughs and the common cold. It can be found in many lozenges, cough syrups, rubs, and vapor baths throughout the United States and Europe. Herbalists often recommend using fresh leaves in teas and gargles to soothe sore throats and treat bronchitis and sinusitis.

Ointments containing eucalyptus are also applied to the nose and chest to relieve congestion. Eucalyptus oil helps loosen phlegm, so many people inhale eucalyptus steam to help treat bronchitis, coughs, and the flu.

Plaque and gum disease: Eucalyptus oil is also rich in cineole, an antiseptic that kills bacteria that can cause bad breath. Eucalyptus is used in some antiseptic mouthwashes, along with other oils, and the mouthwashes have been shown to help prevent plaque and gingivitis.

Other uses: On the skin, eucalyptus oil has been used to treat arthritis, boils, sores and wounds. The oil is also used in some insect repellents, and one study found that an oil of lemon eucalyptus product may also keep ticks away.

How to Take It

Pediatric: Do not give a child eucalyptus orally (by mouth), as it is toxic. Do not give cough drops containing eucalyptus to children under 6.

For a cold, don’ t apply eucalyptus oil, salve or chest rub to the face or nose of a child under 2. Ask your doctor before using eucalyptus oil as a chest rub for your child or to inhale steam for congestion.

Adult: Do not take eucalyptus oil orally (by mouth) except under your doctor’ s supervision, as it is toxic.

Eucalyptus oil (for topical application): add ½ - 1 mL (15 - 30 drops) of oil to 1/2 cup of carrier oil (sesame, almond, olive, etc.). For inhalation, add 5 - 10 drops of oil to 2 cups boiling water. Place towel over head and inhale steam

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and that can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.

Eucalyptus oil is generally safe when applied to the skin of adults. Don’ t apply eucalyptus oil, salve or chest rub to the face or nose of a child under 2.

People with asthma, seizure disorders, liver or kidney disease, and low blood pressure should not use eucalyptus without first talking to their doctors.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus oil is toxic when taken by mouth. Do not take eucalyptus oil except under your doctor’s supervision.

Contraindications

When not taken in excess, Eucalyptus is reasonably safe, but it does appear to be somewhat difficult to eliminate from the kidneys, so if you have kidney or liver problems, or if you are pregnant, it would be best to avoid it or use in extreme moderation.  Never take continuously for more than a few days at a time.

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