Eucalyptus essential oil (EO) smells like the rub Mom used to put on your chest when you had a cold or the flu. It still works wonders.
Did you know that homemade disinfectants, hand sanitizers and mouthwashes made from eucalyptus EO will minimize exposure to the toxic chemicals found in many over-the-counter products? But before I get into how to make these inexpensive, effective household products, let’s review some background.
The eucalyptus tree is native to Australia, where it is the preferred food for Koalas, but is now found around the world. Aboriginal Australians crushed and then soaked eucalyptus leaves to make medicine and used the bark for everything from canoes to bowls.
A eucalyptus tree was brought back from Tasmania to the British Museum in London In 1777 at which time it was given a scientific name. There are more than 500 species of eucalyptus now. However, only a few are used to make the essential oil–Eucalyptus odorata and Eucalyptus globulus. The colorless essential oil is obtained through complex extraction processes that involve either distilling or cold-pressing the eucalyptus leaves.
Six Ways Eucalyptus Oil Works
Eases upper respiratory irritation and congestion
Besides doing battle against microbes, eucalyptus can reduce redness and swelling. Researchers at Zhejiang University in China found that eucalyptus oil hinders the body’s toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) response, a reaction that produces cytokines that lead to irritation and swelling. By limiting these TLR4 reactions, eucalyptus oil may boost your immune system, allowing your body to heal more quickly and efficiently.
Effective against many common cold germs
Eucalyptus oil placed in a petri dish along with various microbes was effective against virus and bacteria species that cause cold sores, fever, acne, and sore throat. One of the main components of eucalyptus oil, 1,8-cineole, is a natural monoterpene also found in tea tree oil and rosemary–both are potent antivirals and antibacterials. Isolated 1,8-cineole is less effective than the oil itself, which supports a common finding in natural medicines–an entourage effect in which the various components work together to be more effective.
Fights bad breath and tooth decay
Eucalyptus globulus has antibacterial effects against mouth microbes linked to tooth decay and is more effective at preventing the growth of bacterial biofilm than commercial-grade fluoride. Eucalyptus flavored chewing gum helps with bad breath, also known as halitosis.
Fights ringworm & other skin/nail fungus infections
Brazilian researchers found that the high concentration of the compound 1,8-cineole fights harmful organisms that can infect the skin of humans, cats, and dogs. Eucalyptus oil also naturally repels nail fungus, making a great foot soak.
Soothes dry scalp and nourishes hair
According to research in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, hair products with eucalyptus help improve bounce and elasticity, starting at the roots. The healing properties of eucalyptus also help with an itchy scalp by boosting the production of ceramides, lipids that help form the skin’s barrier and help skin retain moisture. Reduced flakiness and irritation, as well as improvements in hair gloss and hair fiber properties, were seen regardless of race, age, or gender.
Combats resistant head lice
Some lice species are resistant to traditional treatments like permethrin-based head lice shampoos. However, recent research published in Phytomedicine found that eucalyptus essential oil is an effective treatment for head lice. There was one reported case of a preschooler who developed seizures after treatment with eucalyptus, so always test a skin patch to rule out an allergic reaction.
Six Thrifty and Effective Ways
To Use Eucalyptus Oil
Inhale for chest and sinus congestion
Add boiling water to a medium size heat-safe bowl and add 5-10 drops each of eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils.
Place a towel over the top of your head and the bowl and inhale the vapors for a few minutes.
You can get a similar effect by placing a few drops of eucalyptus and rosemary oil in your hot shower. The oils will naturally rise with the heat of the water, entering your nose, throat, and lungs for an invigorating lift. If you prefer, replace rosemary with peppermint essential oil.
Make your own vapor rub
Mix 3-5 drops each of eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint essential oils with an eighth of a cup of either raw shea butter or organic coconut oil in a small bowl.
Spread on your chest to feel the warmth and breathe in the vapors.
Any leftover rub can be transferred to a clean glass container for safe storage. Use dark glass for optimal shelf life.
BONUS: This mixture also can be used on aching muscles and joints.
Hand sanitizer without chemicals or alcohol
Fill three-fourths of a small (4 oz.) spray bottle with distilled water.
Add one tablespoon aloe vera gel, 10 drops each of eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, and clove essential oils, plus 20 drops of either lemon, orange or grapefruit essential oil.
Shake before each use and spray your hands or hard surface two or three times. You may want to test this on an inconspicuous place before using on a table or countertop to avoid possible discoloration.
Effective mouthwash and toothpaste
Mix two drops each of eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils plus two teaspoons baking soda in a medium-sized (8-oz) airtight bottle filled with distilled water.
Shake, then gargle with a mouthful.
Rinse mouth out completely.
You can also brush your teeth with baking soda mixed with a couple of drops of eucalyptus and any other favorite essential oil, such as peppermint or spearmint.
DIY insect repellent
Add 3-5 drops each of lavender, lemon, and eucalyptus oils to 8 oz. of distilled water.
A plastic spray bottle works fine but a dark-colored glass bottle will keep the oils potent longer.
Shake before each use.
Non-toxic air freshener
Mix half a cup of baking soda (or coffee beans) in a small container with a few drops of eucalyptus oil.
Add a few more drops of eucalyptus oil to your mixture when the scent fades.
Cautions When Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are extremely concentrated, and therefore you should always take precautions when using eucalyptus or any essential oil due to their potency and strength. Most essential oils can irritate if placed directly on the skin or hair, so it’s important to dilute them with a carrier oil like almond, jojoba, olive or coconut oil before using. Essential oils should never be used on an open wound. Only food-grade essential oils should be taken internally. Unless your healthcare provider recommends it, avoid using eucalyptus oil with young children.
Eucalyptus oil is an effective and beneficial essential oil that has a long history of use for congestion-related ailments from bronchitis to asthma and for relieving symptoms typical of a cold or flu. It can also be used in everything from hand sanitizers and deodorants to mouthwash and conditioner, thanks to all of its antiseptic, antibacterial, and inflammation-reducing properties.
For these and many other reasons, eucalyptus essential oil should be part of your natural medicine chest.
Have you tried eucalyptus essential oil before? Any uses I haven’t covered or good/bad experiences you care to share with other readers?