The Theme of Eucalyptus
We immediately associate Eucalyptus oils with respiration, and perhaps this is no surprise bearing in mind that the oil is derived from the leaf of these immensely tall elegant trees.
There are in fact over 700 varieties of eucalyptus, nearly all indigenous to Australia, but only a few are used commercially, and of these there only a dozen or so which give an essential oil that is used at all widely. Eucalyptus trees need a lot of water, and are frequently planted where the soil needs to be dried. The effect of the oil on the body is similarly drying. If there is one theme that runs through the family of eucalyptus oils, it is the high concentrations of 1,8 cineole (also known as eucalyptole). This can vary from as much as 88-90% in species such as E. smithii and E. polybractea to about 50% in E. phellandra. (There are exceptions such as E. citriodora which contains 80% citonellal, and also E. dives which contains high concentrations of the ketone piperitone).
Combine this with a rich array of anti-infectious monoterpenols and terpenes, which also have a warming drying influence on the skin and mucous membranes, and the theme of these oils immediately becomes clear.
Eucalyptus radiata or globulus?
Of all the eucalyptus oils, Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus radiata have a similar theme and similar components. Although E. globulus is the more commonly used, the radiata variety may frequently be a better choice, and perhaps for us as practitioners should become the ‘reach for first’ eucalyptus. The aroma is softer and less insistent, sweeter and gentler. It lends itself more effortlessly into a blend, since it does not stand out as dominantly and overtake the other components. It is more pleasant for children, and is less likely to irritate the skin. It is a brilliant immunostimulant and therefore useful for anyone who is tired and run down.
Respiratory — Obviously the first use we would think of is for coughs and colds, catarrah, bronchitis, etc. But as well as inhalation, try rubbing a dilution into the clavicular notch (the little cavity in the middle of the collar bone). This can be very effective.
Muscular aches and pains — It has a pain killing effect, and can be used on insect bites, muscular aches and pains, neuralgia, rheumatic pain, stiffness, etc.
Bactericidal and antiviral — e.g. herpes simplex, shingles, and for dressing wounds and burns
Lethargy — An instant ‘pick-me-up’ to cut through ‘cold heaviness’.
Insect repellant — and gentler on the skin than E. globulus
Other Eucalyptus Varieties
Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon scented eucalyptus) has calming, anti-fungal and general anti-infectious properties
Eucalyptus dives (Broad-leaved Peppermint) is relatively high in the ketone piperitone. Opinions vary as to its safety, so proceed with caution. But try using in a similar way to E. radiata, especially as a support for respiration.
You can download an excellent review which summarises research on eucalyptus oils. Here are the main findings:
– Antimicrobial effects against many bacteria (including tuberculosis, and MRSA), viruses, and fungi (including Candida).
– Immune-stimulatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and spasmolytic effects.
– Application by either vapor inhalation or oral route provides benefit for respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
– Long history of folk usage with a good safety record.