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The History, Sources, And Medicinal Effects of Eucalyptus Essential Oils
It is said that the Eucalyptus tree is one of the most useful trees in the world. Belonging to the Myrtacae family (the same family as Tea tree), the name Eucalyptus means ‘well-covered’ which refers to the little cap that covers the flower before budding. A tall, water-loving tree, Eucalyptus is one of the fastest growing trees in the world, reaching heights of between 300- 480 feet. Growing in damp marshy areas on moist land and clays Eucalyptus is often found in hilly country or moist valleys in deep rich soils.
Natives of Australia, where it was regarded as a general ‘cure-all’ by the Aborigines, there are over 300 species and 700 varieties of Eucalyptus. The trees have been used for everything from paper, to mulch, shade, fuel, hardwoods, wind breaking andmalaria-fightingg. Its extensive root system absorbs vast amounts of water. It is due to this phenomenon that it has been intentionally planted in marshy, malaria infested areas in an attempt to dry up and purify the soil and air. The German botanist and explorer, Baron Ferdinand Von Muller suggested that the fragrance of the trees might prove antiseptic. It was in 1855 that the French government sent seeds to Algeria and consequently many of the disease-ridden areas were converted to healthy dry ones. Eucalyptus oil was in huge demand during World War 1, as it was used to control a meningitis outbreak and for the influenza of 1919. Today the major eucalyptus producing countries include China, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Russia, and Chile.
With over 50 pounds of plant material needed for one pound of oil, Eucalyptus was first distilled in 1788, when Doctors White and Cossiden used its oil in aleviating problems of the chest. The first works of the antiseptic and bacterial properties of the oil were published in Germany by Doctors Cole and Homeyer. They classified it as being “sudorific, a stimulant anticatharral and astringent”. It was prescribed for all respiratory system conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, coughs, and flu. Extracted from Eucalyptus peperita the original oil introduced to E was was called ‘Sydney peppermint’ and quickly became popular. Traditional household remedies use both the leaves and oils for relief from respiratory ailments, feverish conditions, as well as for skin problems like burns, ulcers, and wounds.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil Varieties
Eucalyptus radiata is widely considered one of the most important sources of eucalyptus as well as one of the most fragrant of all eucalyptus oils. Also known as narrow-leafed and peppermint gum, it has a fresh and somewhat moderate scent with light citrus overtones. Radiata has strong antibacterial, antiviral, and expectorant properties and is often used in diffusers as well as topically for flues, sinusitis, and bronchitis.
Historically used for its powerful natural medicinal qualities. Eucalyptus globulus (also known as Tasmanian blue) is both an antiseptic and an analgesic. Interestingly, when seen from an aerial view the blue gum forest emits an ethereal blue haze. A refreshing scent with rich cineole-rich slightly camphoraceous but typical eucalyptus smell, Blue gum blends well with other essential oils such as Lavender, Lemongrass, Melissa, Pine, Tea tree, and Juniper.
Eucalyptus is one of the most universal and versatile of essential oils. Some of its many properties include analgesic, antiseptic, deodorant, expectorant, and vermifuge (anti-parasitic). The active therapeutic and principal constituent of the medicinal oils is 1,8-cineole. Eucalyptus has a predominately stimulating effect on the nervous system and therefore should assist those suffering from depression and lethargy. Known as a ‘stimulating’ expectorant due to its invigorating action on the mucous membranes, it is widely considered an effective remedy for respiratory ills. Additionally, Eucalyptus is used to relieve muscular aches and pains, in particular those of a ‘cold’ nature such as rheumatic pains.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eucalyptus is an exceptional remedy for clearing lung-phlegm and wind-heat. It is classified as a tonic of the lung Qi and it’s used to enhance the breathing function thus making it beneficial during the onset of flu or fever, sore throat, the common cold, sinusitis, and bronchitis. Various modes of application include topical such as massage, compress, bath, and skin care as well as direct inhalation, diffuser, and vaporizer.
World-renowned medical aromatherapist, Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt suggests that aromatherapy is ‘ideally suited to the treatment of viral infections because of its connection with the immune system and mind/body connection’. A very cleansing plant, Eucalyptus is considered an herb of purification. Associated with the moon and feminine energy, Eucalyptus is both cool and moist by nature and is thought to help those who are vulnerable to becoming ill due to emotional stress or anxieties. The psychological properties of Eucalyptus oils are closely related to the action of the lungs which are associated with grief and depression. The aroma helps to dispel melancholy while lifting the spirits and restoring vitality, harmony, and balance. Eucalyptus may also be useful on a subtle level to cleanse any place where conflict or negative energies have collected.
Although Eucalyptus is considered generally safe for aromatherapy, it is prudent to avoid use in infants. Today Eucalyptus Oil continues to be a familiar ingredient in chest rubs, general antiseptics, decongestants, cough remedies and muscle and joint ointments. When used externally, Eucalyptus is both non-toxic and non-irritating and is a must for every natural first aid kit and home medicine chest.*