Who doesn't love Koalas? The adorable, fluffy, wild marsupials are one of a handful of animals that can live off a diet of mostly Eucalyptus. While these endangered animals are a great reason to learn about this wonderful plant, there are a number of other reasons as well. Though it’s really amazing to find out that fresh Eucalyptus (and large quantities of the oil) is toxic to most species of animal on Earth, but that 3 marsupials in particular have not only developed the ability to consume it without harm, but have made the Eucalyptus trees their primary food source. The Koala, Greater Glider, and Ringtail Possum are these animals. Other animals use Eucalyptus to line their nests, gather pollen for honey, and a number of other uses.
Eucalyptus is actually a large genus of more than 660 species of shrubs and tall trees of the Myrtaceae, or myrtle, family. They are native to Australia, Tasmania, and a few other nearby islands. In Australia the eucalypti are commonly known as Gum Trees or Stringy Bark Trees. Many species are cultivated widely throughout the temperate regions of the world as shade trees or in forestry plantations. About 500 of these species are used for producing essential oils for medicinal, industrial, and aromatic uses. These trees grow rapidly, and many species get quite tall. The Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), of Victoria and Tasmania, is one of the largest species and attains a height of about 90 metres (300 feet) and a circumference of 7.5 metres (24.5 feet). Many species continually shed the dead outermost layer of bark in flakes or ribbons (giving rise to the common name of Stringy Bark Tree), however, certain other species have thick textured bark. The leaves are leathery and often hang vertically and most species are evergreen. The flower petals fuse together to form a cap which is shed when the flower expands, exposing the fluffy stamens that make up the major portion of the decoration of these unusual flowers. These stamens can be white, cream, yellow, red, or pink. The fruit is surrounded by a woody cup-shaped capsule and contains a large number of small seeds. Possibly the largest fruits, about 5 to 6 cm (2 to 2.5 inches) in diameter, are borne by Mottlecah, or Silverleaf Eucalyptus (E. macrocarpa).
So how is Eucalyptus helpful for us? It’s a great medicinal herb that helps in a large number of conditions, predominantly those that have to do with the respiratory system. Certain species are also a major source of nectar and pollen for honey. The trees produce wood that is used in a number of ways, for building material, paper, etc. And areas that are commonly swampy and riddled with malaria can be dried up naturally, in a few years, by planting Eucalyptus trees, that also repel those pesky, malaria carrying, mosquitoes.
Common Names- Tasmanian Blue Gum, Blue Gum Tree, Stringy Bark Tree, Strawberry Gum, Fever Tree Leaf
Scientific Name- Eucalyptus globulus is the most commonly used for medicinal purposes, however all Eucalyptus species have similar medicinal properties.
Edibility- Most Eucalyptus trees are inedible, however where they are native, Eucalyptus flowers are significant producers of honey, flower nectar, and “manna” sweet dripping directly from the tree or scraped from leaves, and in some cases even edible bark and seeds.
Summary of Actions- Analgesic, anodyne, antibacterial, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, bitter, decongestant, deodorant, depurative, disinfectant, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, refrigerant, stimulant, and vulnerary
Energetics and Flavors- Aromatic, Pungent, Slightly Bitter, Cool, Dry, Moist
Parts Used- Dried Leaves and Essential Oil
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as An Shu (whole tree) and An Ye (leaf only), Eucalyptus effects the Lung and Bladder meridians. It promotes sweating, releases to the exterior, and relieves wind heat. This means that it’s used to treat sore throat, cold, aches, pains, sinusitis, headaches, and acute rheumatism. It soothes the lungs and expels phlegm, making it useful for bronchitis, asthma, and tuberculosis. It clears toxins and supports immunity, so it’s often called on for lung infections, urogenital infections, and skin eruptions. It reduces inflammation, helping to relieve nerve pain, neuralgia, wounds, and burns. Eucalyptus also expels parasites and repels Insects, so it’s useful to treat roundworm, pinworm, lice, and is used as an insect repellent.
Ayurveda- Known as Nilgiri in Hindi, and Tailpama in Sandskrit, Eucalyptus is known for increasing pitta dosha and pacifying kapha and vata dosha, making it ideal for clearing breathing pathways, opening airways, and promoting vigor and vitality.
Essential Oil and Aromatherapy- Eucalyptus Essential Oil is inhaled and perceived as refreshing and can be inhaled to promote a sense of vitality. It’s also invigorating and helps to relieve stress. It has traditionally been used to relieve the discomforts associated with fatigue, headaches, colds, sinusitis, mucous congestion, muscle aches and pains, and asthma. A few drops can also be diluted and used as an effective mouthwash.
Respiratory and Allergies- Research has shown that Eucalyptus can decrease mucus and expand the bronchi and bronchioles of your lungs. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory and may help improve asthma symptoms. It’s also soothing to the mucus membranes, so it helps reduce pain and inflammation in the sinus cavities, helping reduce some of the symptoms of hay-fever and sinusitis. This is especially effective if you add a drop or two of the essential oil to a sinus irrigation treatment such as the Neti Pot.
Insect Repellent- Research has shown that it’s effective at warding off mosquitoes and other biting insects for up to eight hours after topical application. The higher the eucalyptol content of Eucalyptus oil, the longer and more effectively it works as a repellent. Eucalyptus oil may also treat head lice. In one randomized study, this oil was twice as effective as a popular head lice treatment at curing head lice.
Cold, Flu, & Malaria- A tea made from this herb relieves cold symptoms like cough, nasal congestion, and headache by decreasing inflammation and mucus buildup. The vapors and essential oil act as a decongestant. This herb also is said to help reduce fevers and stimulate the immune system. The tree has also been used to transform swampy environments infested with malaria into habitable neighborhoods.
Blood Sugar- Eucalyptus oil has potential as a treatment for diabetes. Experts believe that it may play a role in lowering blood sugar in people with diabetes, but caution should be taken as it may interfere with certain medications.
Burns, Cuts, & Wounds- The Australian aborigines used Eucalyptus leaves to treat wounds and prevent infection. Today the diluted oil may still be used on the skin to fight inflammation and promote the healing of burns, cuts, fungal infections, and other minor wounds.
Muscle & Joint Pain- Current research suggests that Eucalyptus oil eases joint pain. In fact, many popular over-the- counter creams and ointments used to soothe pain from conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis contain this essential oil.
Household Uses- During the 19th century in England, Eucalyptus oil was used in hospitals to clean urinary catheters. Many studies later revealed that Eucalyptus oil contains substances with microbial properties, confirming the British use as a cleaning agent. Eucalyptus Oil effectively removes grease and grime, making it an excellent cleaning product for the kitchen. It may also be mixed-in with homemade hand soaps and laundry detergents. Added to natural homemade sprays as a cleaning agent, it can be used for washing toilet bowls, floors, counter tops, and windows, just to name a few surfaces. The clean scent makes an effective fabric freshener, and it can be mixed with Lemon or Tea Tree Essential Oils, diluted with water, then applied to odorous materials such as the insides of shoes. Furthermore, as an air cleanser, Eucalyptus Oil is beneficial for eliminating mold that could contribute to respiratory issues.
Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Eucalyptus Essential Oil is extremely stimulating to the brain, anyone who experiences seizures and similar issues should avoid this oil as it may induce a seizure.
While eucalyptus leaves are generally recognized as safe, there are some serious health risks associated with consuming eucalyptus oil, as it can lead to toxicity. It’s also important to note that children are at higher risk of toxicity. Seizures, difficulty breathing, a lowered level of consciousness, and even death have been reported.
Avoid Eucalyptus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some people experience contact dermatitis upon applying eucalyptus oil to their skin. Use a carrier oil, such as olive oil or jojoba oil, to reduce your risk of skin irritation. Before using the oil, do a patch test to ensure you don’t have a reaction.
Finally, eucalyptus oil may interact with certain medications, such as those for diabetes, high cholesterol, acid reflux, and psychiatric disorders. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before using it
I only included a basic introduction to this highly aromatic and exotic plant. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!
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