The eucalyptus tree has the ability to adapt effortlessly to different environments. This property is due to the genetic composition of the tree which also ensures that it produces wood easily and more quickly, resulting in more rapid growth. Some refer to the eucalyptus as a gum tree, in fact this reference is incorrect as the secretion from the bark is a tannin-like substance called kino.
Kino is a red, aromatic, sticky substance released from the bark. This tonic has an astringent effect, the Aborigines used it for diarrhoea and topically for sore throats, fever, wounds and ulcers – the astringent tannin stops bleeding.
The eucalyptus tree also provides manna. Manna is caused by insect damage that causes bark and leaves to secrete a sweet edible substance – red gum or manna. This substance contains many sugars (arabinose, raffinose, dextrose and sucrose), has a pleasant sweet taste and is slightly laxative. It was picked up or scraped from the leaves by the Aborigines, and heavily covered leaves were crushed and baked.
The eucalyptus globulus is the most common among the 800 species of eucalyptus. This tree has the ability to fight the anophelic mosquito responsible for malaria, which raised the nickname “Fever Tree”’. Its larvicidal properties suggest that eucalyptus essential oil is a potential source of valuable larvicidal compounds against malaria vectors and an ideal alternative to synthetic insecticides.
Eucalyptus Origin & Characteristics
The name Eucalyptus refers to the operculum or cap on the flowers that protect the stamens – derived from the Greek ‘eu’, meaning good, and ‘calyptos’ which means covered. Under favourable conditions, the fast-growing eucalyptus tree can reach a height of more than 110 meters.
The tree is native to Australia, where about three quarters of the vegetation is formed by eucalyptus trees or shrubs. They grow all over Australia, except in the driest areas, where the Acacia takes its place. After being introduced in Europe as an ornamental tree during the 19th century, the eucalyptus tree developed certain characteristics that were not present in its native soil – for example, it secretes chemicals that poison the surrounding soil, preventing other plants from growing nearby.
The appearance of the trunk and bark comes in many different shapes and forms – ranging from flaking to smooth, ribbed or split, and some even have beautiful colours, from white and grey to pink in some varieties. Its numerous beautiful flowers are colourful and contain a lot of nectar, the fruit is a woody small capsule.
During growth, the shape and colour of the leaves change. Young leaves are blueish and round, without a stem, they grow opposite each other and are directed upwards. Their appearance becomes leathery, elongated and sickle-shaped with age, the colour changes to green. To minimize oil or water loss through evaporation, the toughened leaves start drooping, protecting from sunlight. Although the high content of volatile oils in the leaves make the eucalyptus vulnerable to forest fires, special adaptations in bark and trunk provide protection.
The eucalyptus industry claims that the better the wood, the less oil the tree contains – on the other hand, the wood from a tree that produces a lot of good oil, is of little importance. There are about 10 to 20 types of the latter.
Eucalyptus Oil & Benefits
Nowadays eucalyptus trees are grown all over the world and used for their healing properties. The high cineole content is responsible for the sharper scent of the eucalyptus globulus compared to that of other eucalyptus types. The oil from this genus is the most famous, and an ingredient in many products, including toothpaste, cough syrup and chewing gum.
Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the dried, crushed and distilled leaves and twigs. This oil has a light yellow colour and the volatile aldehydes may irritate the mucous membranes. It is a disinfectant and very effective against athlete’s foot, inflammation, colds, and rough dry hands. Essential oil from eucalyptus is suitable for external use only.
Relieves Cold and Flu Symptoms
Eucalyptus oil has long been used to relieve coughs, it is one of the active ingredients in some over-the-counter cough syrups and popular rub products, which can be applied to the chest and throat to relieve cough symptoms from a cold or flu. Eucalyptus oil can silence a cough as well as help to loosen and get rid of mucus from the chest by inhaling its vapour. Using a rub containing eucalyptus oil will have the same effect. These properties may also be beneficial to reduce the symptoms of asthma.
Following in the footsteps of the Australian Aborigines, who used eucalyptus leaves to treat wounds and prevent infection, eucalyptus oil in diluted form is suitable for topical use on the skin. This essential oil can fight inflammation and promote healing of the skin. It is suitable for the treatment of superficial cuts, minor burns or other injuries.
Soothes Cold Sores
The anti-inflammatory properties of eucalyptus can ease symptoms of herpes. Applying eucalyptus oil to a cold sore may reduce pain and speed up the healing process.
Research suggests that eucalyptus oil relieves joint pain. In fact, many popular over-the-counter creams and ointments, designed to soothe pain from conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, contain eucalyptus essential oil. Eucalyptus oil helps reduce pain and inflammation associated with many conditions. It can also be useful for back pain or when recovering from joint or muscle injuries.
As an effective and 100% natural alternative to commonly available repellents, eucalyptus oil is ideally suited to keep mosquitoes and other biting insects at bay.
Due to its antibacterial properties, eucalyptus oil can be used to fight the germs that cause unfortunate mouth odour. Common mouthwashes and toothpastes already contain this oil as an active ingredient. Use this oil diluted as a mouthwash or toothpaste (don’t swallow any!), it may help prevent plaque build-up on the teeth and protect the gums from bacterial infections.
Eucalyptus Oil & Aromatherapy
Eucalyptus essential oil is a purifying, cleansing, brightening and immune-boosting oil that is ideal for use on the skin, in aromatherapy, and as a surface cleaner and fabric freshener.
The cooling scent of eucalyptus oil relieves mental exhaustion by promoting circulation to the brain, stimulating and rejuvenating the mind. With sinus congestion, spreading eucalyptus vapour throughout the night in the bedroom can clear the nasal passages and eliminate harmful bacteria in the air.